Newsletter Foreword



1998 was probably the most traumatic year of my adult life. When I think back to that year and what we as a family went through, I am surprised that the black depression didn’t hit me then.

My beloved mom, Ray Treges passed away after numerous strokes. She died alone in a stroke victim rehabilitation facility in Johannesburg on March 15th, a few days after her 67th Birthday on 8th March.

Both my sister Margie and myself were devastated by her death as were most of the our family, we all loved her very much and miss her so much to this very day. I don’t think there is a day that goes by that I don’t think of her.

I had no sooner got back to work after the funeral in Johannesburg, when I was told that the MD of the company would be coming up from head office to have a meeting with me. I was then general manager of a packaging factory in Isithebe- Northern KwaZulu Natal.

Our MD arrived and in a private meeting I was informed that a decision had been made by the board of directors to close down the Woven’s division of the factory and sell all the machinery and assets to a Taiwanese company and that the Woven’s division will only operate as a sales and marketing company and will contract all the manufacturing to the Taiwanese company who were opening in the Isithebe area. In the sale agreement with the new company, an agreement had been reached that they, the Taiwanese company would undertake to employ some of our staff and that I was not one of them. However they, DBC Wovens would still retain me on full salary until everything was wound up and the doors of the old factory were closed. They needed me to negotiate the best redundancy package (from management perspective) with the trade unions representing the workers. I did this to the best of my ability and am proud to say that all were happy with the outcome. As far as I was concerned, my redundancy package involved six months on full salary while alternate employment was sought for me within the group. I had no alternative but to agree and on April 1st I moved into a position with the computer company which we had started a couple years prior and was being run by my wife Irene and business partner Joe Náude. This arrangement was okay while I was still earning my full salary from DBC but the computer company was not big enough to sustain me as well. I was beginning to get very anxious indeed.

The third factor to add to 1998 being my most traumatic year was that on June 2nd I turned 50. Where was I going to find a job at the age of 50? I had been trying to find alternate employment but the moment any employment agent heard my age they would smile politely and say sorry, they don’t really have anything for me or that I was far too “qualified” for the job. I was trying to remain positive and my wife was a pillar of strength but inside the black depression was starting to take hold. I was becoming more and more terrified about what was going to happen.

I was probably at my lowest when I received a phone call from a good friend, Monty Munstermann who was the MD of Ultrapak in East London, one of the other packaging factories within the DBC group. He asked me to go in to see him at the DBC head office in Durban. I promptly agreed and headed off to a meeting with him.

The board of director had found a position for me at Ultrapak but I would have to relocate to East London. The position would involve liaison between customers who were largely Dairy farmers and Bakeries and the Factory. It would also involve production planning in which I was quite experienced. I had met the GM of Ultrpak before and liked him a lot so was sure I could fit in well. However, I was not too keen to move to East London as we had the computer business which was ticking over very nicely and was giving Irene a good salary as well as giving a good living to all who were working for her. I told Monty that I would have to discuss it with Irene and asked if he would hold the position for me for a few days. He readily agreed and offered to send me down to EL to have a chat to John Wilmers the GM of Ultrapak. He also suggested I take Irene down to have a look.

Irene and I had a long discussion and decided that it would be a good idea to go to East London, have a look at the factory and the town and chat to John. I could then decide if I should take the position or not. Well I did just that and found that I could probably be very happy in East London and anyway nobody was pounding at my door to offer me any kind of job in Durban. So after a further family discussion it was decide that I should take the job and move to East London. So at the end of August 1998 I moved down and took up my new position at Ultrapak. The Company had agreed that Irene and Evan could continue to stay in the company house in Blythedale Beach until the beginning of 1999 when they planned to sell the house. Evan was to join me in EL and Irene would get a small flat until she could sell the business and join us in EL.

Bradley, our eldest son who had been living in London since 1996, had come over with his girlfriend to spend Christmas with us. The factory closed for the Christmas holidays so I joined the family, Darren, our middle boy had just completed matric and was contemplating going over to London to join his brother Brad. In the meantime he had moved into our bachelor flat in Durban with a friend.

After spending a great Christmas with the Family, Evan, Nancy (our domestic housekeeper) and I headed off to EL. I had found a nice four bed roomed house in Beacon Bay and the furniture was packed in a container and shipped down. Irene had found a little flat in Ballito and moved there. She would start the process of selling the Computer Company.

Evan was enrolled into his new school and so began our new life in East London. Irene would join us every second weekend or we would drive up to Ballito when we could. It was quite a trying time for all of us and particularly difficult on little Evan. He was only 9 years old and having to live without the comfort of his mom around. He was a very brave little boy. I was and am very proud of him.

It was about midyear that Darren set off for London. It was particularly hard on Irene as she was now left alone in Durban; also she had lost her beloved dad, Willy Maine earlier that same year as well as finding out that her brother Bert was diagnosed with cancer.

The previous two years had put a huge strain on us all so we decided to treat ourselves and spend Christmas and the Millennium in London with our sons and other family. It was just before we left for London that we got the bad news of the death of Bert. It was a real sad time for all. However the wonderful family reunion and Christmas and New Year helped to brighten us all up.

On our return to SA in January 2000 I decided to start sending out News Letter from EL and also we had decided that when Irene finally sold the business in Isithebe she would move down and we would start making arrangements to immigrate to New Zealand. Irene had applied and received NZ citizenship through her grandfather being a New Zealander. Bert had been very keen to immigrate but unfortunately was never able to fulfill that dream. We thought that to honour his memory we would make the move.

What follows is a collection of most of the News Letters from East London and New Zealand to family and friends in SA and around the world. The News Letters were co-authored by Irene and hopefully take the reader on a journey of discovery and history of our lives in EL and New Zealand.

We tried to make them as amusing and interesting as possible. Please enjoy.

Alf Wood

This is a great story. Reposted with kind permission of John Feintuch

I guarantee you will remember the tale of the Wooden Bowl tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now.
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man”s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.
The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather”s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about father,” said the son. “I”ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.”
So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.
When the family glanced in Grandfather”s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.
One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?”
Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.”
The four-year-old smiled and went back to work. The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.
That evening the husband took Grandfather”s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every on-line slots meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
On a positive note, I”ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
I”ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things: A rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
I”ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.”
I”ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
I”ve learned that you shouldn”t go through life with a catcher”s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back sometimes.
I”ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But, if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.
I”ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
I”ve learned that even when I have pains, I don”t have to be one.
I”ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch — holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
I”ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.

Lest we forget…

Thank you to my sister Desiree for this article:

Remember this lady!…. Irena Sendler
Died: May 12, 2008 (aged 98) Warsaw, Poland
During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist.

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She had an ulterior motive.
Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the toolbox she carried.
She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids.
Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when  the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.
The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.
Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi”s broke both her legs and arms and beat her severely.
Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, in a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard.
After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family.
Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped were placed into foster family homes or adopted.

In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected – Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming.
Later another politician, Barack Hussein Obama, won for his work as a community organizer for ACORN.

I was sent this article by my sister Desiree Wood Johnston, I”m now doing my small part by reposting it. I hope you”ll consider doing the same.
It is more than 65 years since the Second World War in Europe ended.
This article is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians, and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated!

Now, more than ever with Iran and others claiming the HOLOCAUST to be “a myth”, it’s imperative to make sure the world never forgets because there are others who would like to do it again.

A father’s love.

I read a letter from a father to his son the other day on Facebook . The letter was in response to the father overhearing his son talking on the telephone to his friend about how nervous he was about coming out to his parents. Well this got me thinking.
With all the hype in the press about the same sex marriage bill, which recently passed its second reading (77 votes to 44) in the New Zealand parliament, I got to thinking about all those young men and women who have “come out” to their families and friends and to those who publicly made submissions to the parliamentary sub-committee. How brave they are to risk the ridicule, bullying, mental, and physical abuse for something they have no choice about and believe in passionately. Then I thought about my own situation and my family.
Our youngest son came out to us during his last year at high school. It was very difficult for him to come out but he knew that whatever we felt about it, we would always love and support him, as did his brothers. However, I feel perhaps that I have let him down to a certain extent, though I will always support him I have not been entirely open with my own “coming out” of my son’s sexuality. I have kept it a secret from certain ‘friends’ and colleagues, always afraid of what they would think and say. Well, for that I apologise profusely and now, it is my turn to say to the world that my son is gay and I could not be more proud of him. Not only is he intelligent and handsome, he is caring and loving and has a wonderful sense  of humour. His mother, brothers and their wives adore him as do all his friends, the majority of which are heterosexual. I no longer care what anyone thinks, if they have a problem with me because of this then that is their problem and they are not true friends. The love I have for my boy outweighs what others think of me.

A loving Dad.

2012 Newsletter

Click here to read

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Newsletter 122012(1)

The girl with the apples. (True story)

I was clearing my spam file in my gmail when I came across an e-mail from an old friend, Morris Harris. Why this particular e-mail ended up in the “Spam Box” I have no idea. It was pure luck that my eye picked it up just as I was about to hit the delete key. Or was it luck or something more?

I read this amazing story and found myself having to stop every so often to fight back the tears. This story is meant to be distributed around the world so I’m sure that the author will not mind me re-posting it.

The girl with the apples.

August 1942. Piotrkow, Poland
The sky was gloomy that morning as we waited anxiously.
All the men, women and children of Piotrkow’s Jewish ghetto
Had been herded into a square.
Word had gotten around that we were being moved. My father had only recently died from typhus, which had run rampant through the crowded ghetto. My greatest fear was that our family would be separated.
‘Whatever you do,’ Isidore, my eldest brother, whispered to me, ‘don’t tell them your age. Say you’re sixteen.
‘I was tall for a boy of 11, so I could pull it off. That way I might be deemed valuable as a worker.
An SS man approached me, boots clicking against the cobblestones. He looked me up and down, and then asked my age.
‘Sixteen,’ I said. He directed me to the left, where my three brothers and other healthy young men already stood.
My mother was motioned to the right with the other women, children, sick and elderly people.
I whispered to Isidore, ‘Why?’
He didn’t answer.
I ran to Mama’s side and said I wanted to stay with her.
‘No, ‘she said sternly.
‘Get away. Don’t be a nuisance. Go with your brothers.’
She had never spoken so harshly before. But I understood: She was protecting me. She loved me so much that, just this once, she pretended not to. It was the last I ever saw her.
My brothers and I were transported in a cattle car to Germany.
We arrived at the Buchenwald concentration camp one night later and were led into a crowded barrack. The next day, we were issued uniforms and identification numbers.
‘Don’t call me Herman anymore.’ I said to my brothers. ‘Call me 94983.’
I was put to work in the camp’s crematorium, loading the dead into a hand-cranked elevator.
I, too, felt dead. Hardened, I had become a number.
Soon, my brothers and I were sent to Schlieben, one of Buchenwald ‘s sub-camps near Berlin.
One morning I thought I heard my mother’s voice.
‘Son,’ she said softly but clearly, I am going to send you an angel.’
Then I woke up. Just a dream. A beautiful dream.
But in this place there could be no angels. There was only work. And hunger. And fear.
A couple of days later, I was walking around the camp, around the barracks, near the barbedwire fence where the guards could not easily see. I was alone.
On the other side of the fence, I spotted someone: a little girl with light, almost luminous curls. She was half-hidden behind a birch tree.
I glanced around to make sure no one saw me. I called to her softly in German. ‘Do you have something to eat?’
She didn’t understand.
I inched closer to the fence and repeated the question in Polish. She stepped forward. I was thin and gaunt, with rags wrapped around my feet, but the girl looked unafraid. In her eyes, I saw life.

She pulled an apple from her woolen jacket and threw it over the fence.
I grabbed the fruit and, as I started to run away, I heard her say faintly, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’
I returned to the same spot by the fence at the same time every day. She was always there with something for me to eat – a hunk of bread or, better yet, an apple.
We didn’t dare speak or linger. To be caught would mean death for us both.
I didn’t know anything about her, just a kind farm girl, except that she understood Polish. What was her name? Why was she risking her life for me?
Hope was in such short supply, and this girl on the other side of the fence gave me some, as nourishing in its way as the bread and apples.
Nearly seven months later, my brothers and I were crammed into a coal car and shipped to Theresienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia .
‘Don’t return,’ I told the girl that day. ‘We’re leaving.’
I turned toward the barracks and didn’t look back, didn’t even say good-bye to the little girl whose name I’d never learned, the girl with the apples.
We were in Theresienstadt for three months. The war was winding down and Allied forces were closing in, yet my fate seemed sealed.
On May 10, 1945, I was scheduled to die in the gas chamber at 10:00 AM.
In the quiet of dawn, I tried to prepare myself. So many times death seemed ready to claim me, but somehow I’d survived. Now, it was over.
I thought of my parents. At least, I thought, we will be reunited.
But at 8 a.m. there was a commotion. I heard shouts, and saw people running every which way through camp. I caught up with my brothers.
Russian troops had liberated the camp! The gates swung open. Everyone was running, so I did too. Amazingly, all of my brothers had survived. I’m not sure how. But I knew that the girl with the apples had been the key to my survival.
In a place where evil seemed triumphant, one person’s goodness had saved my life, had given me hope in a place where there was none.
My mother had promised to send me an angel, and the angel had come.
Eventually I made my way to England where I was sponsored by a Jewish charity, put up in a hostel with other boys who had survived the Holocaust and trained in electronics. Then I came to America, where my brother Sam had already moved. I served in the U. S. Army during the Korean War, and returned to New York City after two years.
By August 1957 I’d opened my own electronics repair shop. I was starting to settle in.
One day, my friend Sid who I knew from England called me.
‘I’ve got a date. She’s got a Polish friend. Let’s double date.’
A blind date? Nah, that wasn’t for me. But Sid kept pestering me, and a few days later we headed up to the Bronx to pick up his date and her friend Roma.
I had to admit, for a blind date this wasn’t so bad. Roma was a nurse at a Bronx hospital. She was kind and smart. Beautiful, too, with swirling brown curls and green, almond-shaped eyes that sparkled with life.
The four of us drove out to Coney Island . Roma was easy to talk to, easy to be with. Turned out she was wary of blind dates too!
We were both just doing our friends a favor. We took a stroll on the boardwalk, enjoying the salty Atlantic breeze, and then had dinner by the shore. I couldn’t remember having a better time.
We piled back into Sid’s car, Roma and I sharing the backseat.
As European Jews who had survived the war, we were aware that much had been left unsaid between us. She broached the subject, ‘Where were you,’ she asked softly, ‘during the war?’
‘The camps,’ I said. The terrible memories still vivid, the irreparable loss..I had tried to forget. But you can never forget.
She nodded. ‘My family was hiding on a farm in Germany, not far from Berlin ,’ she told me. ‘My father knew a priest, and he got us Aryan papers.’
I imagined how she must have suffered too, fear, a constant companion. And yet here we were both survivors, in a new world.
‘There was a camp next to the farm.’ Roma continued. ‘I saw a boy there and I would throw him apples every day.’
What an amazing coincidence that she had helped some other boy. ‘What did he look like? I asked.
‘He was tall, skinny, and hungry. I must have seen him every day for six months.’
My heart was racing. I couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t be.
‘Did he tell you one day not to come back because he was leaving Schlieben?’
Roma looked at me in amazement. ‘Yes!’
‘That was me!’
I was ready to burst with joy and awe, flooded with emotions. I couldn’t believe it! My angel.
‘I’m not letting you go.’ I said to Roma. And in the back of the car on that blind date, I proposed to her. I didn’t want to wait.
‘You’re crazy!’ she said. But she invited me to meet her parents for Shabbat dinner the following week.
There was so much I looked forward to learning about Roma, but the most important things I always knew: her steadfastness, her goodness. For many months, in the worst of circumstances, she had come to the fence and given me hope. Now that I’d found her again, I could never let her go.
That day, she said yes. And I kept my word. After nearly 50 years of marriage, two children and three grandchildren, I have never let her go.

Herman Rosenblat of Miami Beach , Florida

A Tribute to a VERY Special Lady.

The tears blur my vision as I remember a very special lady, a special lady not only to me but to all who knew her.

Avis Doreen Zock, nee Thomas nee Lavenski.

My Aunty Avis.

Aunty Avis or Ave as I used to call her is one of my Mom’s elder sisters. I say “is” and not “was” because she and Mom live on in all our hearts. All of us who are related to her and all who have had the privilege of knowing this remarkable lady will agree that she was very special. She was one of the kindest, sweetest ladies I have ever known. Whenever anyone, family or friend, moved house, Avis was the first to be there to help. She would arrive with her portable sewing machine and her suit-case full of pre-loved curtains and in no time she would have the curtains up and furniture arranged. Avis had enormous energy. Work never ever scared her; in fact I would say that she thrived on it.

What a lot of people may or may not know is that Avis was an accomplished dancer. She danced in many stage productions as a young woman and also was an excellent dancing teacher. When in my early teens, I remember how she would come home and teach us all the latest dance steps, the Bossa Nova, the Twist, Jive and so many more. Put on music and Avis would start dancing. She was full of rhythm. I even danced with her on our last visit to SA when she was about to celebrate her eightieth birthday.

I remember Avis’ sense of humour; she very seldom had a scowl on her face. She would laugh a lot and had such an infectious laugh that we would soon all be laughing with her. I’m sure she would not mind me telling this story: Avis had a weak bladder and if she laughed too much she would pee herself. To prevent her from peeing she would sit on the edge of a chair or stool, after a minute or so the urge would ease and she would then run to the toilet. One Saturday morning we were all sitting in the dining room chatting while the African cleaning man was on his knees polishing the floors. We were all laughing and joking. Avis was telling us about her date and laughing so much she was about to pee herself. She sat on the edge of one of the dining-room chairs and waited for the urge to subside. Finally she got up to rush to the toilet but the cleaner was on his hands and knees right in her path! She realised at the last minute and in her haste, jumped over him. As she leapt over him she let go and accidentally peed all over his head. You can imagine the hilarity; everyone was in stitches except perhaps the poor cleaning gentleman, he was certainly not amused. He picked up his brushes and polish and we never saw him again. Avis always felt very bad about what had happened and tried for weeks to find and apologise to the gentleman.

Avis was so full of life and love and has touched the hearts of everyone she has come into contact with; I am going to miss her so much. At noon (SA time) on Saturday 14th January 2012 My Aunty Avis will be laid to rest. Go in peace, my beautiful Aunt, go and meet your two sisters and your mom and dad. We all love you and will carry you in our hearts forever.

To my dear cousin Avril and her daughters Audrey and Kelly and their families and all our family in South Africa and abroad, please accept the most heartfelt condolences from all of the Wood and Maine families around the world.

God Bless.

Integrity by Trevor Romain

It happened a long time ago boet.
A time when people actually did what they said they were going to do. I was driving along a dirt road in the Drakensburg mountains with my stukkie.
In the distance I noticed a speck on the horizon. A speck that would teach me something that, until then, I did not know even existed.
Ja, I know it’s a big word and hard to explain but I will try none the less.
You see that speck on the horizon was a very old, toothless, Basotho toppie with a white beard and a Basotho hat and blanket, riding a clapped out old bicycle.
I slowed down so that I didn’t gooi dust all over the poor oke.
I waved at him and he waved back as we passed. I swear he did not have a single tooth in his head but his smile was lekker warm and friendly. He looked about eighty and too bloody old to be driving a bicycle.
I watched the toppie in my rear view mirror and then looked up to see a #%#@$ bakkie coming towards me at full speed. That thing was wikkeling ek se. There was a dust cloud billowing behind it like you’ve never seen. The driver must have thought he was at Kayalami racing against ou Jackie Stewart or Jody Schechter.
As the bakkie passed me I saw three young okes with borsel-kop haircuts in the front seat. One of them had a Lion lager in his hand. (I’m skaam to say but I could spot a Lion Lager from a mile away. That’s something I learned in the weermag.)
I checked the bakkie in my rear view mirror and my heart almost stopped ek se. The driver was heading straight for the toppie on the bicycle. I saw the old man nervously look over his shoulder as the bakkie came up from behind him.
I closed my eyes because I knew that were going to try and moer that oke off his bike.
I opened my eyes to see that they swerved towards him and missed him by inches. I could also see them gesticulating and shouting kak at the man as they drove past.
Shame man. The old oke wobbled on that bike and I saw him drive off the road and crash down a little donga.
I slowed down and turned the car around.
My stukkie was vloeking the okes in the bakkie like you won’t believe.
I got to the old man and he was sitting down in the veld rubbing his knee. The front wheel of his bike was buckled and buggered.
The old man looked so sad. “Haai eh-eh,” he said, shaking his head. “What is wrong with those kids?”
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Ja, kelinbaas,” he replied. “It is just my heart that is sore.”
He told us he was a gardener at the Champaign Castle Hotel and was on his way to work.
I put his bicycle in the boot and we took him to the hotel, which was about four miles away. Apparently he drove his rattletrap bike to work every day rain or shine.
As we were leaving, I gave the man about forty rand in cash that I had in my wallet and a few rand my stukkie had in her purse. “It’s to fix your bike,” I said.
“Sorrie my kleinbaas,” he said, “I can’t take your money.”
My stukkie charfed him to take the money because I was just going to use it to buy dop and get vrot anyway.
The old man chuckled and told me I had a wise girlfriend. “I will pay you back my baasie,” he said.
“That’s okay,” I said. “You don’t have to.”
But he insisted that I give him my address and I did on a little scrap of paper knowing that he would lose it in about ten seconds.
Needless to say I had the resources to find more dop money. And me and my goose had a lekker weekend in the berg and I forgot about the old man.
The scuffed and wrinkled little white envelope arrived at my little flat in Sandringham one month later.
In it was one rand twenty-five!
Ja the old toppie did what he said he was going to do.
I swear china, at the end of every #$#@% month, an envelope arrived with a one rand and twenty-five cents in it. No note, no return address, just the tom the oke promised to pay back to me.
I was mos in advertising in those days and a year later I went back to the Drakensburg to shoot a television commercial with Sarel van der Merwe, the rally driver. It was for Jurgens caravans and he was towing the caravan through the berg showing how rough and tough those caravans were.
The filming took place very close to where that old ballie had fallen off his bike and I decided to go and find him and to charf him he didn’t need to send me the money every month because I was doing fine.
I found out that he had retired from the hotel. They told me that he lived in the village near where I first saw him and they told me where to find the old oke.
My art director John and I went

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to the hut. Bru, it was exactly what you’d imagine. A thatched mud rondawel with missing windowpanes covered in Spar bags to keep the wind out. The floor was hardened mud and swept clean. There was a primus stove, a galvanized tub with a bar of sunlight soap in it, a rickety old table with a clean cloth on it, a little cupboard and a bed with white sheets on bricks. That’s all boet!
An grey old, old granny answered the door. She was also toothless and she had a doek on her head that was tied under her chin like people used to in the olden days when they had toothache.
The woman was the old man’s wife.
I asked if he was around so I could tell him that he didn’t have to pay the money back to me.
What she told me stopped me cold.
The old man had died six months before and she had continued paying his debt.
I mean, #$#@# it china. She had nothing. Nada. Fokkol. Bogger all. Yet she was doing what she considered was the right thing. Paying their debt as promised.
She kept his word. She sent the money every month despite the fact that her husband had died.
I told her I didn’t need the money and gave her a little more that I had in my pocket.
She was so grateful and would not stop hugging me.
Talk about integrity boet.
That’s integrity.

To read some more of Trevor Romain’s lovely stories go to:

Seasons Greetings


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The Greatest Realization.

One of the greatest realizations in a man’s life, well in my life actually, is when I realized that the children have overtaken their parents in intelligence and acumen. I do not mean the usual computer skills in which most kids outdo their parents, I mean in all other aspects of life. Now, for some this may be intimidating and a little harrowing. Not for me, I am in total awe of my sons, all three of them. I get such a kick out of their achievements. I know that what they have achieved has little if anything to do with me; it is their hard work, which has got them to where they are. However, I think, maybe, just maybe the love, support and encouragement, which their Mom and I have shown them over the years has contributed, even slightly, to their success. We have always encouraged them in whatever they have attempted, even if they sucked at it, which they sometimes did.

Our boys have always done us proud, each with their own unique skill. Brad’s amazing mathematical skills got him a partnership in a London based financial consulting company. Darren’s wonderful artistic and web development skills has been instrumental in him becoming one of New Zealand’s foremost web developers. Evan’s linguistic and musical ability earned him a full scholarship to study Chinese language and culture in one of China’s leading Universities. The one thing that they all have in common is their wonderful sense of humour and sense of love for their parents and each other. Whenever we are together, which is not often enough; we have a great time with many laughs. We miss all our boys terribly but only have ourselves to blame, we gave them wings and encouraged them to fly. We also gave them roots so hopefully they will always consider our home, theirs.

Oh well,

Life is…

Guilty or Not Guilty?

How do I plead? Guilty or Not Guilty?

Two things that REALLY piss me off.

One, people trying to make me feel guilty for emigrating from South Africa and two, ex-pat South Africans badmouthing my country of birth and my new adopted country.

The decision to leave our country of birth, which we love dearly and will always love, was certainly not taken lightly. Initially we did not go out actively pursuing ways and means of emigrating, we did not have any intention of leaving, however when the opportunity arose for Irene, my wife, to be granted New Zealand citizenship, she decided to take it. (Her grandfather was a born Kiwi, which entitled her to citizenship). We agonized for many months before we finally made the decision to move. We felt, rightly or wrongly that the crime rate was getting worse and more violent and the Aids epidemic was causing a huge financial drain on the country. The future for our youngest son and us was not looking too promising. After all we were not getting any younger and job security and old age pensions were not a given. Our two older boys had already left to pursue their futures in the UK.

In November 2000, we left the shores of our beloved homeland to make a new life in New Zealand. Over the last eleven years, we have built a successful new life in the Land of the Long White Cloud (Aotearoa). It has not been easy; we have worked hard at it, sometimes feeling guilty for leaving but at the same time feeling grateful that we were accepted by New Zealand. Darren (our middle boy) has since joined us, is married to a lovely Kiwi girl, and has made a good life for himself here in Auckland. Evan, our youngest, who was only eleven when we arrived, has forged an amazing life for himself, graduating from Auckland University with a linguistics degree and winning a full scholarship to study in China where he still is. Now my critics may say that this is all well and good but could have been achieved in SA, who really knows but I have my doubts.

I am always thrilled when hearing positive things happening in SA but saddened when hearing negative stuff. As I have already mentioned, what really bugs me is ex-pat South Africans who consistently spread negative stories about the place, never seeing the positives. In my humble opinion it was them and their ancestors who caused the problems facing SA today. If ALL the people of SA were given the same opportunities and rights, then just maybe we would have seen a much more positive outcome.

I don’t know what the future holds for South Africa but my heart will always be there. Having said that, New Zealand is a great place and when people come here to make a new life for themselves and can find nothing nice to say about the place then I would like to say to them, Fuck off back to where you came from.

So how do I feel, guilty or not guilty? Well, I do feel guilty for not doing more to help improve the lives of my fellow South Africans but I am certainly not guilty for wanting and achieving a better life for my family. I have reached the stage in my life when I can say that my heart lies in numerous places. In the bush of the Northern Transvaal, the green hills of Natal midland, the Sugar plantations of Zululand, the wine land of the Cape and the beautiful Bay of Islands in the North of New Zealand, Mt Ruapehu in Central North Island of NZ and of cause my new home town of Auckland. I love both countries deeply and feel a great pride when I hear both National Anthems.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika – God of Nations…

Putco Bus – by Trevor Romain

This is an article by Trevor Romain – I found it on Facebook and enjoyed it so much that I got Trevor’s kind permission to re-blog it. Trevor is not only a gifted writer but an accomplished artist. Enjoy..

Putco Bus

(Disclaimer. What you are about to read is a simple story about a personal awakening up Louis Botha Avenue from the Doll House. It is not meant as a political statement, a judgment of others, acceptance of wrongs or a righteous soapbox holier-than-thou rant. The following just came to mind while drawing this Putco bus. I’m just saying…)

When I was in high school waiting for the bus to go home, a bunch of us were talking the usual kak that schoolboys do when a Putco bus pulled up. One of the boys took a bet that none of us would jump on the bus and take it the four stops down Louis Botha Avenue to where we normally got off.

For some reason the bus stopped right in front of me. I mean, there it was. An open door. If you stepped into that green monster you could expect a bicycle spoke in the ribs, robbery, dismemberment and certain death. It was simply not done. Taboo. Verboten. Eewww, dirty.

As a child, ‘they’ said don’t drink out of those enamel, chipped, tin mugs that Africans drink out of. (Why they had tin and we had glass I’ll never know.) Wash you hands twice if you touch an African. Don’t get too close you might get a disease. And for goodness sake, never get on a Putco bus because you will be robbed and killed instantly. Oh man, that propaganda machine worked us didn’t it? The indoctrination got us all scared and hateful.

Well, I was a renowned fraidy cat who stole a rat, but my friend Mark and I got on the friggin’ Putco bus, didn’t we?

The bus driver raised his eyebrows and before he could say a word I blurted out, “The okes took a bet. They dared someone to get on the bus. Errr sorry.”

My buddy Mark said, “It’s only a few stops. We’re going to Thelma’s Fish and Chips.”

The driver smiled and nodded. (He must have laughed really hard afterwards explaining to his buddies how these two white lighties were shitting bricks on his bus. I must admit I almost had a thrombosis with fear. I about kaked myself.) I tried to give the driver my bus ticket and he said, “Those tickets, they do not work on this bus, kleinbaas. Stand here,” He pointed to a spot just behind his seat. Then he put his foot down and the green monster lurched forward leaving the boys at the stop coughing and spluttering in a cloud of black diesel fumes. (The bike ous like Joe and Scotch and Francesco, experienced that cloud of smoke I’m sure. And so did the cyclists who used to hang on to those #@$&*$# buses on the way UP death bend. Did the words ‘Death Bend’ not register?)

Surprisingly, when I got onto the bus, nobody killed me. (At least not to my knowledge. I may be dead and not know it.) Nobody handed me the dreaded Ebola virus. Nobody scowled at me. Nobody robbed me. In fact the riders on the bus, both sitting and standing, didn’t give a crap. This ‘big dare’ we took didn’t faze anybody on the bus. My actions meant absolutely nothing, china. Nada, Niks. Bogger-all. The people on the Putco bus just wanted to take their hungry tummies, weary eyes, slumped shoulders and go home to Alexandra Township.

I learned something very interesting and enlightening in Orange Grove that day. By breaking the rules and stepping onto that Putco bus (and into the jaws of certain death) I saw the enemy! And I learned, very clearly, that the enemy…was ME!

Thank you Trevor for allowing me to re-blog this beatifully written essay.

Check Trevor’s Blog Site

Life is…remembering

Saigon (Ho Chi Min)

At the urging of my old friend Morris Harris, I have added a bit more on this incredible city.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Vietnam is incredible, in particular Ho Chi Min City (Saigon). The place is rundown, dirty, busy and noisy. Yet there are signs of growth emerging around the city. There are a great number of new buildings going up, offices and apartments. The traffic is something that takes getting used to though; I have never seen so many mopeds and motor bikes in my life. One of our tour guides told us during a city tour; if a young man wants a girlfriend in Vietnam all he has to do is buy a motor bike, otherwise he’ll stay a virgin.
One afternoon I was making my way to meet Irene and Evan who were out shopping, when I tried to cross over a busy road. I waited at a pedestrian crossing trying to get a gap to cross (they take no notice of pedestrian crossings in Vietnam). There were literally thousands of mopeds, motorbikes and taxis moving in both directions. I thought I would never get across when after ten to fifteen minutes a young guy pulled up on his moped, got off, grabbed my arm and proceeded to walk me over the road. After reaching the other side, he told me in broken English that the only way to cross busy roads in Saigon was to look straight ahead and just walk across slowly. He said that the traffic would move around me like a flow of a river, and that is exactly what happened. I never had trouble crossing again.

We did a lot of walking in Saigon, and were fortunate enough to stay in District 1 of the city. District 1 is the so-called “fun centre” of Saigon with its thousands of pubs, restaurants and clubs around a central park. It is also within walking distance of many of the tourist places of interest like the main market and night market, war museum, Reunification Palace and of course the famous Saigon River (which by the way is fucking filthy). In the evenings, you can see hundreds of young guys with their moped/motor bikes parked on the sidewalks next to the central park with their girl friends and themselves draped over the bike making out, very cute. How they manage to stay on the bikes is beyond me but I suppose when the pheromones are flying anything is possible.

For me the Highlight or should I say the Lowlight of the city tour was the war museum, not because it was bad or boring but because it was so touching. By the time I came out, I was in tears; the poor people of Vietnam have gone through such hell. America has a lot to answer for with their use of Agent Orange and napalm. Absolutely heartbreaking, and yet they bear no malice. Vietnamese people are friendly, always smiling and very welcoming and hospitable, they are fiercely proud, patriotic, and tough; one cannot help but fall in love with them.

Street food is the way to eat not only in Vietnam but also in most countries in Asia. The local population do not seem to cook at home, so buying food from street vendors is the way to go, and the food is delicious if one can get past the hygiene. The best food we had in Asia, i.e. China, Vietnam and Thailand was from street vendors and street side restaurants. A street side restaurant is an informal restaurant set up on the sidewalks. They put up a tarpaulin and bring out a few plastic tables and chairs. They cook the food on LPG cookers on the pavement right in front of the patrons. In addition, they don’t have anything like liquor licenses, (What’s that? They ask) they serve a variety of different local beers with your meal. It is wonderful. Moreover, there are hundreds of these street side restaurants all over to choose from all specializing in one type of meal or another.

The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong’s base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968.
The tunnels were used by Viet Cong guerrillas as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, through which they secured an American withdrawal from Vietnam and ultimate military success. (ex Google)

Right next door to the tunnel area where we visited is a shooting range where one can try out all the old war weapons, such as AK47’s MMG’s as well as throw hand grenades. The noise was deafening, with the rat-a-tat of machine gunfire and the explosion of hand grenades adding to the atmosphere. It reminded me so much of my stint in Angola in 1976. I went into one of the tunnels, crawled about 50 metres before I got claustrophobic, and had to get out quick. The smell of the cordite and explosives was pretty eerie, again the experience brought a huge lump to my throat. The Vietnamese people as well as the young American soldiers must have had it hard in those days.

We also went up the Mekong Delta, which was very interesting and very beautiful. The Mekong is a subsidiary of the Saigon River. It is hard to believe that only 40 years ago they were in the middle of one of the bloodiest wars in history and have no bitterness towards the Yanks.

Another place of interest, which we visited, was a place called Mui Ne. Mui Ne is a seaside resort and quite amazing, with beautiful white beaches and hundreds of fancy resort hotels and hostels, a real holiday paradise attracting thousands of young yuppies from the UK and Europe. It is supposed to be the Kite Surfing capital of the world. We spent two day there and enjoyed it a lot but preferred the authentic Vietnamese culture in Ho Chi Min. I suppose that that kind of resort town is good for Vietnam as it attracts a lot of Western tourist who have money so it helps build up their poor economy.
Anyway, friends, that is about it, I highly recommend Asia as a tourist destination, generally most of Asia is cheap, with the exception of Japan, which I believe is a bit pricey.

Many people asked me if I liked Saigon and Vietnam, my answer has to be…


I FUCKING LOVED Saigon and Vietnam.

Watch this space for more exciting theories on whether Life is…


Family holidays…

I love family holidays, and the family holiday, which we have recently been on, must be up there as one of the best of my lifetime.

Our eldest son Brad and his lovely partner Denise tied the knot in London on August 13th and he gave us the choice of going to London for the wedding, which he said, would be a low-key affair or meet with the rest of the family in Koh Samui in Thailand. After some thought and discussion with the rest of the family, we decided to choose the latter.

With Evan studying in China it was logical to meet him there and do some touring, his knowledge of Mandarin, made Evan a perfect tour guide and we had an amazing time in China.

We visited Shanghai, Hangzhou (where Evan attends the Zhejiang University) and Beijing, all of which we found to be not only fascinating but beautiful too. Each city has its own unique fascination. We did the usual tourist visits like the Riverbanks and French concession in Shanghai, as well as the Propaganda museum and enjoyed the ballroom and Chinese line dancing on street corners in the evenings. Westlake with its beautiful “Three Pools Mirroring the Moon Island”, the Botanical Gardens in Hangzhou, as well as Evan’s Uni (Zhejiang University). We also stayed in the Student hostel where Evan lives. We partook in a sample of Hangzhou’s nightlife but at our age, we didn’t do much of that.

The bullet train trip from Hangzhou to Beijing was quite remarkable; the distance between the two cities is 1320 km. The trip including a few stops on the way took us just under six hours, which is an average of over 200 km per hour; at times, it reached speeds of 360kph.

As expected, our stay in Beijing was fantastic. Beijing is an amazing city not only very modern but in many ways it is still very traditional. It is a very busy city with a population of nearly 20 million. We travelled extensively on the underground, which is very efficient and surprisingly easy to understand even for foreigners. Since the Olympics all street signs, Subway stations and shops have English signage.

We stayed at a hostel/guest house in an old traditional “Hutong” (are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences.) The place was beautiful, very quaint, all the rooms surrounding an enclosed courtyard. Our room was lovely and clean, with comfortable beds and our own ensuite bathroom. The staff was very friendly and helpful. All in all a very enjoyable experience.

For me the highlight of our stay in Beijing must be, without exception, our visit to the Great Wall of China. It was so awe inspiring that it was humbling. Another awesome experience was strolling around Tiananmen Square, the huge and infamous square in front of the Forbidden City. (Infamous because of the protests of April 1989 when a large number of people were shot dead for protesting against the Communist Government)

The only complaint I had about our Chinese experience was the air pollution and the oppressive heat it brought on. As an African I thought that the heat would not worry me, well I was wrong, I have never felt heat like that in my life, draining to say the least.

China is a fascinating place, which we enjoyed immensely, the food was incredible and the nice thing about touring China is that it is so cheap. We absolutely loved it!

We thought China was cheap until we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam. Now that place is cheap.

We met Darren and Amanda there; they were staying with an old school friend of Darren’s, Remy Jauffret and his lovely partner Sabrina and their beautiful daughter Yukiko who live and work in Saigon. It was great seeing Remy and Family again. They showed us a good time in HCMC. Darren, Amanda, Remy, Sabrina and Yukiko all went to Cambodia for a few days and we, Irene, Evan and I stayed on and explored Saigon, the Mekong Delta, the Cu Chi Tunnels and Mui Ne Beach.

Vietnam is poor, run down, hot and sticky, dirty, but an incredibly beautiful country. HCMC (Saigon) has traffic like I’ve never seen in my life before. There are over 4 million motor cycles in Saigon, which has a population of just over 9 million people. The city is an extremely busy hub, with motorbikes and taxis whizzing around every which way. The roads are in disrepair as are most of the sidewalks and old buildings. Yet there is no air of doom and gloom, the people are optimistic and friendly. I must admit that I fell head over heels in love with the place especially Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) I will definitely be visiting there again.

On Darren and Amanda’s return from Cambodia, we sadly had to say farewell to Remy, Sabrina, Kiko and Saigon, my favourite city, and head off to meet Brad, Denise and the kids and Denise’ family in Koh Samui Thailand.

Koh Samui, simply Samui as it is referred to by locals, is an island off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus in Thailand, close to the mainland Surat Thani town. It is Thailand’s second largest island, with an area of 228.7 km2 and a population of over 50,000. It is rich with natural resources, white sandy beaches, coral reefs and coconut trees, and tourist. It is an absolute tropical paradise.

Brad booked us into a huge villa, right on the beach near the village of Lamai. The villa had six luxury bedrooms each with their own bathrooms. There was also a fully equipped kitchen a lovely dining room and lounge/TV room. The Villa had its own infinity swimming pool right on the beach. Absolute luxury!

Apart from the obvious pleasure of seeing Brad, Denise and the grand kids again, we got to meet Denise’s lovely family. Briege (Mom), Siobhan (Sister), Dermot (Brother-in-law).

The weather could not have been better, beautiful sunshine and nice and hot, but if it were snowing it would not have dampened our joy at being together. I cannot describe the joy of having the whole family together albeit just for a short time. It was fantastic. Unfortunately, Darren and Amanda could only spend four days with all of us as they had used up their leave and had to get back to work. However, we still all had a great time together.

There was an incident, which unfortunately put a bit of damper on the holiday. Brad had hired three mopeds and a little Suzuki Jeep for the duration of our stay; these were to be our transport around the Island. The very first day we were all going to travel in convoy around the Island. Brad and Denise on one bike, Siobhan and Dermot on another and Irene and Evan on the third, and I was to drive the little Jeep with the kids and Briege. Both Irene and Evan had never been on a bike before and this inexperience proved disastrous, as we pulled off Evan, with Irene on the back lost control of the bike and they both came off, hurting themselves quite badly. We had to get them to the local hospital where Irene received eight stitches in her head and Evan badly grazed on his arms and legs. That put an end to the third moped. From then on they both travelled in the jeep with Briege, the kids and me.

All too soon, the day arrived for all of us to pack and return to our respective homes, Auckland, London, Belfast and Hangzhou. The farewells were heartbreaking and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried like a baby. The older I get the more and more sentimental and emotional I get. I only wish that we could all live in the same city, oh hell I’ll just settle for the same country.

We are already saving and planning for the next family holiday. Where will that be? Life is… a holiday with all the family.

Lost relatives.

A couple of weeks ago, I opened my e-mail inbox to find an email from Paypal, the site that I use to sell my book. It said that a woman in South Africa had purchased the book and had transferred the money into my account.. The address for despatch was a box number in Modderfontein Gauteng. There was also the name and e-mail address of the purchaser. As is my custom, I immediately e-mailed the lady as follows:

“Hi Vivienne,
Thank you very much for purchasing my book “Life is…a coming of age memoir“.

I have received your payment for which I thank you too. I will be posting your book on Saturday morning. Post from NZ to SA takes between 6 to 10 days so please keep an eye out for it and let me know when it arrives.
Please would you tell me how you heard about the book, I am always interested and thrilled to find out how the word gets around.
My late dad used to live in Illiondale, which is near Modderfontein, what a small world.
Kind regards
Alf Q Wood”

To my utter surprise, I received this reply the next day:

“Hi Alf
I am Vivienne your half sister, I found you on Facebook. At first, I could not find you, but found Margie and Bradley and then from their profiles found you. Your book looks very interesting and I would love to read it.
Vivienne (nee Wood)”

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

Apart from Margie, I have two half sisters from my dad’s third marriage to Dorothy Hawley.

Shortly after Dad died in 1981, Dorothy had a severe stroke leaving her partially paralysed and debilitated. At the time, Desiree was sixteen and Vivienne was nine. Dot’s unfortunate illness made it impossible for her to take care of the girls so after a family discussion it was decided that Des would come and live with us and Viv would go and live with an Aunt and Uncle of Dot’s in Springs. Irene, my wife managed to organise a job for Des at the company where she worked. This arrangement was not ideal for little Vivienne but was thought to be the best solution because Dot was to stay with her mom who lived in Springs and that Viv would be near her mom so would see her often.

In 1983, I transferred to my company’s head office in Pinetown Natal. We asked Des to come with us but understandably, she declined saying she needed to be close to her mom and sister.

Well, inexcusably, over the years I lost contact with the girls. I thought of them often but was always too busy or too lazy or too something to get off my bum and make contact. On occasions, I would hear the odd bit of news from here or there.

The older one gets the more one realises how important it is to treasure family. I am so grateful that Vivienne made contact and bears no animosity. I have now discovered that I have a lovely new niece called Kaylee who is eleven and a handsome nephew called Brandon who is seventeen years old.

My only regret is that we did not make contact sooner while we were still living in SA, we are now so far away from each other. I hope that we will all get together before I depart this earth plain. Fortunately, they are all still young and energetic enough to visit NZ one day.

Chat soon

Easter Eggs for my kids

As old age creeps up on me, I’m finding it more and more difficult voicing my feelings without crying like a wimp. I’ve become a sentimental old fart. It has always been a tradition in our family to give chocolate Easter eggs to the kids on Easter Sunday. Unfortunately, with Brad and family being in the UK and Evan in China and Darren and Amanda in Taupo for the weekend, I thought I’d share with you what it is like to be a father of three wonderful boys. This is my “Easter Eggs” to them.

My Precious Sons

You are all very special to me, each with your own unique personalities. I am so proud of you that it is hard to find the right words to describe my feelings.

Brad, you have always been your own man and showed independence at an early age, I attribute this to the fact that we sent you to Uthongathi. Although, I sometimes wonder if we did the right thing. Both Mom and I missed you so much during your years at Uthongathi but we thought it would be good for you, in retrospect, and seeing how you have turned out, I believe we made the right decision. Both your Mom and I are well aware of all the mischief you got up to in your teen years, but I had no doubt what so ever that you would turn out okay. You have not turned out just okay; you have turned out more than a father could ever wish for, you have given mom and I two beautiful grandchildren and you have found a wonderful girl to share your life. I am very proud to be your Dad, I love you son.

Darren, my middle boy, my cool kid, my boy with the beautiful big brown eyes. You are much more than just that; you are a loving and sensitive person. Your wonderful sense of humour (which you got from Mom) has kept me and Mom in laughter over the years. You have and still make us proud with all your numerous achievements. You have taken the responsibility of marriage in your stride and shown us what I had no doubt about, that you are an intelligent, upstanding, mature and wonderful person. I know that Amanda made the correct choice when she picked you as her husband. Most of all you are my beautiful boy who I’m very proud of and adore.

Evan, my sweet, sweet boy, words cannot describe the feeling of pride I have for you. Your ability to master such a difficult language as Mandarin still leaves me gob-smacked. When I hear you chatting away in Chinese, my heart bursts with pride, it is difficult to fight back the tears of joy. Your musical achievements over the years have brought much joy to all the family. Your keen sense of humour and your good looks makes you very popular with friends and family alike. I think you are one of the bravest people I know and I’m so proud to be your dad, I love you and miss you very much.

Have a Happy Easter.

Your Dad



Writer’s Block

Since completing and publishing “Life is…”, I have had some very positive feedback and some not so positive silence. However, that does not change the fact that writing the book was, next to teaching English to non-English speakers, one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Why then is it so difficult getting back to writing the sequel? The whole plan was that “Life is…” was to be a trilogy but all I’ve managed is the first one. When I sit down at the computer my mind goes blank, well not exactly blank, I just can’t seem to get motivated, what is it?

I have started number two of the trilogy and have managed to draw up a time-line of events which I have put up on the cork board in our study hoping this will give me inspiration, but alas the motivation is just not there. Is this what is known as writer’s block or am I just trying to make excuses for pure laziness?

Last weekend we went down to a beautiful Hotel and Conference Center on the wild West coast to celebrate Irene’s company’s 15th year in business. During the pre-dinner cocktail party, one of Irene’s work colleagues who has become a good family friend of ours, cornered me and proceeded to tell me how much he enjoyed reading my book. I was humbled by the wonderful praise he gave me, he then asked me a very unusual question, he asked if I had read the completed published version of my book. I admitted that I hadn’t but said that I had written it so really didn’t need to read it, at which he said:

“Do yourself a favour and read it as if it was written by someone else, you may be pleasantly surprised and re-motivated.”

Well if that is all it takes to break this so-called writer’s block, I may just try it, or does anyone have an alternate suggestion?

Have a great week.

“Life is too…?

Growing up without cellphones

A friend e-mailed the following to me and I thought it too good not to repost.

It is not my composition but I’m sure the author would not have any issues with me publishing it.

Growing Up Without Cellphones

If you are 40, or older, you might think this is hilarious When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were. When they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning….Uphill… Barefooted… BOTH ways. yadda, yadda, yadda

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they’ve got it!

But now that I’m over the ripe old age of forty, I can’t help but look around and notice the youth of today. You’ve got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia! And I hate to say it, but you kids today, you don’t know how good you’ve got it!

  • I mean, when I was a kid we didn’t have the Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalogue!!
  • There was no email!! We had to actually write somebody a letter – with a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox, and it would take like a week to get there! Stamps were 10 cents!
  • Child Protective Services didn’t care if our parents beat us. As a matter of fact, the parents of all my friends also had permission to kick our arses! Nowhere was safe!
  • There were no MP3’s or Napsters or iTunes! If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the record store and shoplift it yourself!
  • Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and fuck it all up! There were no CD players! We had tape decks in our cars. We’d play our favourite tape and “eject” it when finished, and then the tape would come undone rendering it useless. Because, hey, that’s how we rolled, Baby! Dig?
  • We didn’t have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called, they got a engaged signal, that’s it!
  • There weren’t any freaking cell phones either. If you left the house, you just didn’t make a damn call or receive one. You actually had to be out of touch with your “friends”. OH MY GOSH!!! Think of the horror… not being in touch with someone 24/7!!! And then there’s TEXTING. Yeah, right. Please! You kids have no idea how annoying you are.
  • And we didn’t have fancy Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your parents, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, the collection agent… you just didn’t know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!
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  • We didn’t have any fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like ‘Space Invaders’ and ‘Asteroids’. Your screen guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination!!! And there were no multiple levels or screens; it was just one screen… Forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!
  • You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel!!! NO REMOTES!!! Oh, no, what’s the world coming to?!?!
  • Some of us older folk didn’t even have TV. There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Mornings. Do you hear what I’m saying? We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little rat-bastards!
  • And we didn’t have microwaves. If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove! Imagine that!
  • And our parents told us to stay outside and play… all day long. Oh, no, no electronics to soothe and comfort. And if you came back inside… you were doing chores!
  • And car seats – oh, please! Mom threw you in the back seat and you hung on. If you were lucky, you got the “safety arm” across the chest at the last moment if she had to stop suddenly, and if your head hit the dashboard, well that was your fault for calling “shot gun” in the first place! See! That’s exactly what I’m talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You’re spoiled rotten! You guys wouldn’t have lasted five minutes back in the1960’s and70’s or any time before!

And you idiots, don’t you know the brim on a cap is to protect your eyes from the sun, if the manufacturer wanted it in the back they would have put it there!

The Over 40 Crowd

The End is Nigh

The end is nigh or is it?

What is it with the weather patterns and natural disasters around the world? The poor people of Queensland in Australia are only just coming to terms with the devastating floods which hit them earlier this year. Now they have to clean up after the worst storm ever to hit the east coast of Australia in the form of Cyclone Yasi.

The USA has also had it’s share of bad weather with unbelievable snow storms hitting various states in the Mid West and Eastern Seaboard, leaving thousands of homes without power.

Here in New Zealand we are experiencing one of the hottest summers on record with temperatures reaching a whopping 40 degrees in Christchurch and other South Island towns. Not to be outdone, the North Island is also experiencing huge temperatures and very high humidity. In our ten years here this is without a doubt the hottest I’ve experienced.

And now the folk of Western Australia are being battered by devastating bush fires in and around Perth. One asks oneself how much more can these poor people endure?

With all these natural disasters happening in all parts of the world as well as all the violent protests being experienced in Egypt and parts of Africa and elsewhere one is prone to ask that question, “Is the end nigh?” or is it reinforcing what the “Greenies” are saying about global warming?

Personally I don’t really have a problem with the heat, I much prefer it to the cold wet NZ winters. Anyway back to the burning question (excuse the pun).

Is the end nigh?

Chat soon

Summer BBQ’s

It is Auckland Anniversary Weekend which means a long weekend and fortunately Tropical Cyclone Wilma or whatever she’s called,which has been wreaking havoc both in Aussie and the Pacific, decided to bypass us so we only had one day, Saturday, of bad weather. It was not all bad as it was an ideal day for unpacking and storing seldom used crap in our newly installed attic storage. Also did a spot of furniture shopping and bought a new TV cabinet for the “lounge room” (Aussie talk).

Sunday saw the sun shining bright and the wind had dropped to a mild breeze, a beautiful day. We had lunch at one of our local pubs, Bar Africa, where we enjoyed some live country music. In the evening we had a lovely BBQ at Darren and Amanda’s house. Darren is such a good cook and always does an amazing BBQ with all kinds of innovative new dishes. I just love Darren’s Braais.

Monday morning and we are preparing to head off to the Auckland Seafood festival, we went last year and it was fantastic. Watch this space for a full report, in the mean while for all those enjoying the Summer, remember that BBQ’s are what summer is about.

Have a good day.