Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Thanksgiving

No, it’s not celebrated in Aotearoa, although Black Friday is now firmly on the retailers’ calendar, replacing Boxing day (December 26) as the day with the highest retail turnover. Besides, it celebrates a myth and a whitewashing of America’s colonial past.

Before ill health forced me into early retirement 15 years before I anticipated, I worked for the New Zealand subsidiary of a multinational information technology company. The managing director of the NZ subsidiary was typically (but not always) a foreign national – often American. In the early years of the 1990s an American was appointed to the role of managing director, and in his wisdom, he decided that as the parent company headquarters were located in the US, the NZ subsidiary should follow the American tradition of Thanksgiving. Staff located in Auckland where the NZ head office was located were “treated” to a luncheon with turkey and speeches that were mostly meaningless to the attendees. Staff in the fifteen or so branches scattered across the country were “less fortunate”, as all we were “treated” to was turkey sandwiches that had been couriered to each staff member in every branch.

I hate to think what it cost the company, as turkey was almost unknown here at the time. I presume it was imported specially for the occasion. The six staff members in the branch I was based at took one bite of a sandwich, and instantly tossed all their sandwiches into the rubbish. None of us had tasted turkey before, and not one of us liked the taste one tiny bit. The same occurred in every branch, and apparently most of the turkey served in Auckland had a similar fate. It’s not something the Kiwi palate could easily accommodate.

No one had the courage to inform the managing director what they thought of the whole Thanksgiving fiasco, so he decided to celebrate Thanksgiving the following year. While many Auckland staff found excuses not to attend the luncheon, the branches hatched up a plan of their own. Every sandwich package delivered to the branches was carefully repackaged, addressed to the Managing director and sent by overnight courier back to Auckland. There were about 80 staff members across all the branches, so when he arrived at his office the following morning, the managing director found 80 packages of stale turkey sandwiches waiting for him.

We never heard mention of Thanksgiving again.


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Queen Elizabeth II 1926-2022: My time under the monarchy — Nik Dirga

The Queen is dead, long live the King.

Like Nik I’m ambivalent about the monarchy. Well actually it’s the hereditary nature of the role rather than the institution of the monarchy itself. Certainly separating the head of state from the head of government, outside of politics draws me to prefer the continuation of an institution that functions in a similar way rather than a presidential form of government. So until a better way of transferring the institution of the monarchy (or an equivalent) from one person to another is devised, I’m prepared to live with with the hereditary model.

For those who do not understand how the monarchy works, the monarchy of Aotearoa New Zealand is not the same as the monarchy of the United Kingdom. They are separate institutions regulated by different laws.

Unlike Nik, I’ve been a subject of a monarch for all my life, and all but three of them under Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ. One of my earliest recollections is standing on a raised lawn in the city of Whanganui waving to the new Queen as her cavalcade passed by. That was in January of 1954 on her NZ tour.

Queen Elizabeth II poses for a portrait at home in Buckingham Palace in December 1958. For almost 16 years now, I’ve been a subject of the Queen.  It’s kind of weird whenever I think about it — that a kid who was born in Alaska, grew up in the hills of California and went to […]

Queen Elizabeth II 1926-2022: My time under the monarchy — Nik Dirga


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Musical Monday (2022/08/29) – Margaret Urlich

For the third Musical Monday in a row, I’m featuring an artist who has recently died. I hope it’s not going to become a trend, although at my age, many singers whose songs I have become fond of are now well into their seventies and eighties. So perhaps it’s inevitable.

Margaret Urlich was considerably younger than I am, and on 22 August lost a two year battle with cancer at the tender age of 57. She was well known in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and will be fondly remembered. I’m not sure how well she was known outside of these two countries. She started her musical career in Aotearoa before moving to Australia – unfortunately an all too common occurrence for NZ performers as the Australian market, being many times larger than ours, offers more opportunities.

In the late 1990s Urlich dropped out of the limelight, preferring family and being a high school music teacher. As reported in the NZ newspaper The Star, “I quite like being normal. I only ever started singing because I just love it. The whole fame side of it, I didn’t think about it that much and it always felt a little bit uncomfortable to me. I don’t need to have a high profile to be happy – in fact, I think the opposite is true for me.”

Margaret Urlich is one of those singers who, for me, flew somewhat under the radar, and it’s only now that she is gone do I realise that what is good about her music, and what was good about the person herself. Although she’s gone, her music will continue to live on. I’ve included five YouTube tracks – three solo performances and two from groups she was a member of in the 1980s.

I hope I never

This song was originally performed by the group Split Enz and was written by band members Tim Finn and Eddie Rayner. Released as a single in August 1980 it peaked for Split Enz at number 33 in the NZ charts. The Margaret Urlich cover was included in her 1999 album Second Nature.

I Hope I Never – Margaret Urlich
I Hope I Never

I fall apart when you're around
When you're here, I'm nowhere
I can't pretend that I'm not down
I show it, I know it
I've been a fool, more than once, more than twice
I'm gonna move to a new town where the people are nice

I hope I never, I hope I never have to sigh again
I hope I never, I hope I never have to cry again
I still want to beam and smile
Happiness is back in style yeah
I hope I never, I hope I never have to see you again
Again, oh oh oh oh

It should be possible I know
To see you without stress
But I can see I'll have to go
I'm changing my address
My urge to cry I have failed to conceal
Life - it's no fun when you're hunted by the things that you feel

I hope I never, I hope I never have to sigh again
I hope I never, I hope I never have to cry again
I'm for living while you can
I'm an optimistic man
I hope I never, I hope I never have to see you again
Again, oh oh oh oh...

I hope I never
I hope I never
I hope I never, never, never...
I hope I never, I hope I never have to see you again
Again.

Escaping

Escaping is a song written by Dina Carroll and was included in Margaret Urlich’s album Safety In Numbers released in 1989. It reached number one in the NZ singles chart. and has re-appeared on the Hot 20 NZ Singles (The 20 fastest-moving New Zealand tracks by sales, streams and airplay) at number 5, The Hot 40 Singles (The 40 fastest-moving tracks by sales, streams and airplay) at number 10, and at number 16 on the Official Top 20 NZ Singles chart (The 20 best-selling and most-streamed New Zealand tracks).

Escaping

Kid at heart playing games
In the shadows
Fall asleep make a wish
And the bad goes
I can dream can't I?
When I close my eyes
Kiss the world goodbye
You'll see me escaping

To a land faraway
In the night time
There's a secret place
Where no-one can hurt you
Desert you, no-one hurts you
That's why I'm escaping

Oh starry eyes am I
Knowing that when I try
To forget you
Love brings me out of my shell
I put my heart upon the shelf
Hiding inside myself
What am I doing?
No use in faking, fool for the taking
There's no more escaping you

Let me loose, set me free undercover
'Cos the night all around is my lover
And you're running into you
Where you wanna be
All you have to do
No shame in escaping

Oh starry eyes am I
Knowing that when I try
To forget you
Love brings me out of my shell
I put my heart upon the shelf
Hiding inside myself
What am I doing?
No use in faking, fool for the taking
There's no more escaping you

I can dream can't i?
When I close my eyes
Kiss the world goodbye
This time I"m escaping

Oh starry eyes am I
Knowing that when I try
To forget you
Love brings me out of my shell
I put my heart upon the shelf
Hiding inside myself
What am I doing?
No use in faking, fool for the taking
There's no more escaping you

Starry eyed am I
knowing that when I try
To forget you
Love brings me out of my shell
I put my heart up on the shelf
Hiding inside myself
What am I doing?
Rules meant for breaking
Feelings awaken, there's no more escaping you

There's no more escaping you

Number One (Remember When We Danced All Night)

Number One (Remember When We Danced All Night) was released in early 1990 as the second single from her debut studio album, Safety in Numbers and peaked at number 10 on the NZ charts at that time. It has re-appeared on the the Hot 40 Singles chart at number 39, and on the Hot 20 NZ Singles at number 10.

Number One (Remember When We Danced All Night) – Margaret Urlich
Number One (Remember When We Danced All Night)

Last night I took a cab to the south side
I took a walk over the old neighbourhood
Just by chance we ran into each other
After so long we spent apart

Years ago you were my first love
I'm not to blame, it took my little heart
We were so close
Time went by, we drifted apart

But remember when we danced all night
Danced till we cried, we were so in love
No matter how much the time goes by
You'll always be my number one
My own number one

I maybe a fool, I know I'm sentimental
Easy to get lost in a moment from the past
The love we knew, it still lingers
Those memories will always last

There's somethin' special 'bout a love for the first time
Can't be forgotten, can't be replaced
It was yesterday, we were young again
The moment that I saw your face

But, remember when we danced all night
Danced till we cried, we were so in love
And no matter how much the times goes by
You'll always be my number one

Things were so simple then, we were so innocent
I know we can't go back
But I'm thankful for the time we shared
Our worlds are so different now

We were so close
Time went by, we drifted apart, baby

But remember when we danced all night
Danced till we cried, we were so in love
No matter how much the time goes by
You'll always be my number one
Still every time I think of you
I get misty eyed but I won't come undone
No matter how much the time goes by
You'll always be my number one

When the Cat’s Away

Urlich was also a member of When the Cat’s away. This was a five member all female group formed in the 1980s. At the end of that decade it was one of the biggest live acts in the country, performing to audiences of up to 80,000. They are perhaps best known for their cover version of Melting Pot, which reached number one on the NZ charts and achieved gold in 1998. They disbanded in 1990 but reformed in 2001 and their live album Live in Paradise achieved platinum. The band was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall Of Fame in 2021.

Asian Paradise – When The Cat’s Away
Asian Paradise

There's a strange white moon at my open window
There's a heat on the breeze tonight
I see the lights of the hotel burn in the trees
And I feel love is burning in me

I am caught in the change of a tropical rainstorm
Out there between green and blue
And it's telling me that you're so hard to forget
I'm a traveller just passin' through

Asian paradise you still haunt me
And it's so damn nice, I can tell you
I feel your burnin' in me
Asian paradise you still haunt me
I just close my eyes
I can tell you I feel your burnin' in me

Now the moon lies herself out on top of the water
She's as naked as we were born
And the satay and beer paralyses me here
And I'm feeling I'm already home

I am caught in the change of a tropical rainstorm
Out there between green and blue
And it's telling me that you're so hard to forget
I'm a traveller just passin' through

Asian paradise you still haunt me
I just close my eyes, I can tell you
I feel your burnin' in me
Asian paradise you still haunt me
I just close my eyes, I can tell you
I feel your burnin' in me

Asian paradise you still haunt me
And it's so damn nice, I can tell you
I feel your burnin' in me

Peking Man

Margaret Urlich was also a member of the band Peking Man. The band’s single Room That Echoes, where Urlich is the lead singer reached number one on the NZ charts in 1985. In the following year Peking Man won six categories at the New Zealand Music Awards: Album of the Year; Single of the Year; Engineer of the Year; Producer of the Year; Best Group; Best Album Cover.

Room That Echoes – Peking Man
Room That Echoes

You hear all the words that I tell you
You touch upon the things that I feel
Every movement I make tells a secret
I had promised I will never reveal
It's not that I'm trying to mislead you
It's just that I'm misleading myself
Now that the wall is completed
I'm taking time to build a house

I'm gonna build a room that echoes
Around and around and around with its own sound
'Round and around, I won't need to be there
'Round and around and around with its own sound
A sound that no-one has to hear

I'm painting my face with numbers
A message that you won't understand
I look at myself in the mirror
I give myself a helping hand
I will listen to the sound that surrounds me
Even though I won't be there at all
So, next time you need some stairs to fall down
Give my room of sound a very loud call

Around and around and around with its own sound
Round and around, I won't need to be there
Around and around and around with its own sound
A sound that no one has to hear

A sound
A sound that
A sound that tells
A sound that tells you
A sound that tells you what you've got
A sound that tells you what you're not
A sound that tells you what you need
A sound that tells you
Around and around and around with its own sound

Round and around I won't need to be there
Around and around and around with its own sound
A sound that no one has to hear
Around and around and around with its own sound
Round and around I won't need to be there
Around and around and around with its own sound
Round and around I won't need to be there
Around and around and around with its own sound
Round and around I won't need to be there
Around and around and around with its own sound
Round and around I won't need to be there
Around and around and around with its own sound


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Musical Monday (2022/08/22) John Hore Grenell

If I were to compile a list of my favourite top 100 songs, I had thought that there would be few, if any, country songs included. However with the recent death of a Kiwi country music icon, I am beginning to realise that there would indeed be more than a handful. I am referring to the John Grenell, who died on July 27 at the age of 78.

I will probably always remember him as John Hore as that was his stage name in the first part of his music career, which was the family name of his step father. He grew up in rural South Island New Zealand and was always a shy country lad at heart. According to those who knew him, he was a humble man, who had no ego or pretensions. He made his first recording in 1963, and by the time he was nineteen, he had sold over 100,000 records, which in those days was quite an achievement for a NZ singer of any age or genre.

John made frequent television appearances during the 60s and early 70s, and I was a fan of his “velvet” voice. He became biggest-selling New Zealand act of the decade, and his second album, Encore John Hore, which was released in May 1965, became the best-selling album by a New Zealand artist at that time. He recorded a number of singles and made 11 albums before bowing out of the music scene to concentrate on family, farming, and rural tourism. Then in the late 80s he resurfaced under his birth name of John Grenell. For a while he went by his father’s name of John Denver Grenell, which as you might imagine, was rather confusing.

Perhaps his best known song is his cover of Welcome To My World that featured on a two minute Toyota television commercial that first aired in 1990 (with slightly altered lyrics to suit the purpose of the commercial). Below are just a few of John’s songs I found on YouTube.

Past Like A Mask

I value this first clip as the lyrics are critical of what many men (and unfortunately many women) perceive what it is to be a “real man”. The stereotype is seen all to often in this country, and one only needs to look at our statistics on family violence to see that. This song has also taken on another meaning since I discovered I was autistic in 2010, but that’s another story for another time.

Past Like A Mask – John Hore Grenell
Past Like A Mask

I was told to be a man was building fences strong
Keep your woman in her place and she'll keep hangin' on
Now I've grown to realise my life's been filled with lies
The thread that I've been hangin' on has broken in her eyes
If I could let my heart be known despite of walls so high
I might taste those bitter tears that I've never learned to cry

But I've got a past like a mask
And I can see it in her face, the many years I can't erase
A broken heart I can't replace in spite of how I try
And I've got a past like a mask
And I sure took my time to understand

When I was young, not long ago, I hid my feelings well
Sometimes I let my heartaches show but I could never tell
And now I find I've been blind, insensitive and vain
Cause someone told me long ago "ignore a woman's pain"
If I could change the fool I've been, I know just what'd do
I'd give her everything I can and make all her dreams come true

But I've got a past like a mask
And I can see it in her eyes, the lonely nights, the endless lies
The countless time I made her cry when she was by my side
And I've got a past like a mask
And I sure took my time to understand

Welcome To Our World

Toyota has made several memorable television commercials in this country, with perhaps the “Bugger” commercial being the best known for those of my generation. There’s nothing particularly memorable about this Welcome To Our World 1990 Toyota Commercial, apart perhaps for it being two minutes long and for featuring the beautiful velvet baritone voice of John Grenell. It’s a slightly modified version of Welcome To My World, of which the Jim Reeves version is perhaps recognised the world over.

Welcome To Our World – John Hore Grenell

Take Me Back to Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu

It’s a real place! Taumata­whakatangihanga­kōauau­o­tamatea­pōkai­whenua­ki­tāna­tahu is the name of a hill in southern Hawkes Bay, approximately 130 Km (80 miles) from where I live. A rough translation goes something like “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his kōauau (flute) to his loved one

Take Me Back to Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu – John Hore Grenell
Take Me Back to Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu

Done a lot of travellin', this great country round
Seen a lot of people, covered lots of ground
But there's only one place I'd like to call my own
So I am headin' back there, so I am goin' home

Take me back to where it's wild and free
Take me back where I long to be
Take me back, take me back won't you
Take Me Back to Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu

Up and down this country, all those sights I've seen
North Cape to the Bluff and everywhere between
But you can keep your cities, they're not the place for me
Home is where the heart is that's where I've gotta be

Take me back to where it's wild and free
Take me back where I long to be
Take me back, take me back won't you
Take Me Back to Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu

I've walked the length of Queen Street, Karangahape to the sea
And I've fought the wind of Seatoun, the sights of Lambton Quay
Christchurch and Dunedin, and Invercargill too
You name a place, I've been there, and now I'm a shootin' through

Take me back to where it's wild and free
Take me back where I long to be
Take me back, take me back won't you
Take Me Back to Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu

Take me back to where it's wild and free
Take me back where I long to be
Take me back, take me back won't you
Take Me Back to Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu

Take me back to where it's wild and free
Take me back where I long to be
Take me back, take me back won't you
Take Me Back to Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu

Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu

I’ve been Everywhere

This song was written by an Australian by the name of Geoff Mack, and the original used Australian place names. Hank Snow and Johny Cash made versions with American place names, and John Hore Grenell made a NZ version:

I’ve Been Everywhere – John Hore Grenell
I've Been Everywhere

Well I was hitching a ride on a winding Hokitika road
When along came a lorry with a high and canvas-covered load
"If you're going to Hokitika, mate, with me you can ride"
So I jumped into the cabin and settled down inside
He asked me if I'd seen a road with so much dust and sand
And I said, "Look, listen mate, I've been everywhere in this here land ...

Cos, I've been everywhere man, 
I've been everywhere man
I've crossed the desert bare man,
I've breathed the mountain air man
Of travel I've had my share man
I've been every-where

I've been to
Kaparoa, Whangaroa, Akaroa, Motueka,
Taramoa, Benmore, Pongaroa, Horoeka,
Rimutaka, Te Karaka, Whangarei,
Nuhaka, Waimahaka, Motuhura, Waikaka,
Motonui, Hokonui, Papanui, Wainui,
Matawai, Rongotai, Pikowai, I'm a guy. 

I've been everywhere man, 
I've been everywhere man
I've crossed the desert bare man,
I've breathed the mountain air man
Of travel I've had my share man
I've been every-where

Woodville, Dargaville, Lumsden, Katikati,
Naseby, Cambridge, Porirua, Mararoa,
Hastings, Tikitiki, Tauranga, Auckland,
Naenae, Waitaha, Hamilton, Poroporo,
Taupo, Timaru, Oamaru, Tihoi,
Awanui, Wanganui, Pauanui, lot o' hooey. 

I've been everywhere man, 
I've been everywhere man
I've crossed the desert bare man,
I've breathed the mountain air man
Of travel I've had my share man
I've been every-where

Featherston, Palmerston, Woolston, Te Awamutu,
Riverton, Queenstown, Picton, Ohinemutu,
Morere, Korere, Rotorua, Kaikoura,
Matamata, Ruakura, Ikamatua, Papakura,
Waitaki, Pukaki, Taranaki, Te Kauwhata,
Ropata, Ikowai, Waitemata, what's the matter. 

I've been everywhere man, 
I've been everywhere man
I've crossed the desert bare man,
I've breathed the mountain air man
Of travel I've had my share man
I've been every-where

Ruatoki, Matahura, Taupiri, Maketu,
Kyeburn, Sowburn, Wedderburn, Mossburn,
Washdyke, Arawhata, Paparoa, Kaponga,
Teraha, Thames, Kerikeri, Kokoma,
Tapanui, Porinui, Tawanui, Otahuhu,
Ruatapu, Mosgiel, Whareroa, that's for sure. 

I've been everywhere man, 
I've been everywhere man
I've crossed the desert bare man,
I've breathed the mountain air man
Of travel I've had my share man
I've been every-where

Kapiti, Ngawaka, Onepu, Reporoa,
Tongariro, Tomoana, Renwick, Papamoa,
Karitane, Oxford, Parihaka, Karetu,
Coalgate, Whitecliffs, Urenui, Mamaku,
Waimea, Waharoa, Dannevirke, Ngahere,
Gordonton, Oban, Kingston, how ya been. 

I've been everywhere man, 
I've been everywhere man
I've crossed the desert bare man,
I've breathed the mountain air man
Of travel I've had my share man
I've been every-where

I've been here, there, everywhere
I've been everywhere

Lovers And Losers

A beautiful song that that is made for John’s voice. The song is the creation of singer songwriter William Russell Staines from Rollinsford, New Hampshire, USA. Bill Staines was a country singer, unknown to me until I looked up the writer of this sing. From my very brief acquaintance with him, his music seems similar to that of Grenell.

Lovers And Losers – John Hore Grenell
Lovers And Losers

The singer he stands in the warmth of the doorway;
The song that he sings brings a tear to an eye,
And his smile brings a nod, and the toss of a coin there;
Another cup of coffee, or a homeward bound bus ride.

The dancer she sways 'neath the light on the corner,
Her partner is the shadow now that glides at her feet.
Slowly she moves to her sweet silent music;
The people pass her by and hurry down along the street.

Lovers and losers, Dreamers and boozers,
Pickers, singers and poets in the rain.
I love to hear them, I guess that's why I linger near them,
For I have seen their faces, yes, and I have known their names.

The sun plays a game with the tops of the mountains,
The colours and the shadows change and fade with the day.
The cowboy he sings in the cool of the evening
Some old-fashioned love song in an old and simple way.

Lovers and losers, Dreamers and boozers,
Pickers, singers and poets in the rain.
I love to hear them, I guess that's why I linger near them,
For I have seen their faces, yes, and I have known their names.

A lover she stares at the one of her loving,
As warm and as pretty as the colours in the wine.
She listens while he tells her of the joys in his keeping;
Offers him a rose to touch and hold forever fine.

Lovers and losers, Dreamers and boozers,
Pickers, singers and poets in the rain.
I love to hear them, I guess that's why I linger near them,
For I have seen their faces, yes and I have known their names.


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Musical Monday (2022/08/15) The Carnival Is Over

Recently two great female singers have died. Olivia Newton-John is perhaps the better know singer world wide. The name of Judith Durham less so although the name of the group she was lead singer in may be more familiar – The Seekers. For myself, I have always had a soft spot for Judith’s voice and in the 60s and 70s there was always at least one track featuring her voice on every audio cassette compilation I made. And I compiled many.

I wonder if some of my younger readers even know what an audio cassette is? Out of curiosity, does anyone still have a working cassette player? I still have one that’s usable but its mono only, so playback isn’t quite the same. I’m not looking for a replacement – I’m just curious if anyone still uses that old technology.

At one time I had several Seekers albums. If I’m being absolutely honest, I bought them solely because of Judith Durham’s voice, and before meeting my future wife, I was rather smitten by Judith’s beauty and fashion sense (hey don’t knock it – it was the 1960s and I was still a teen). During migraine attacks I found her voice soothing and uplifting at the same time. If I recall correctly, one album was on vinyl and two were on cassettes, but that was a long time ago, several house moves , one flood and one burst water pipe away. Somewhere along the line, much of my loved music has disappeared, including all The Seekers albums.

There are many tributes to Judith on social media platforms, wishing sentiments such as “rest in peace“, but I’m firmly of the belief that when a person dies, they are gone – they cannot rest whether in peace or otherwise. Their memory may linger as may any influence they may have had. In the case of Judith Durham, her memory will live on in my mind for the rest of my life, and I’m very grateful for the comfort she has given me over the years, and will no doubt continue to do so.

Breaking from my usual custom, I not including lyrics with this Musical Monday, firstly because I’m including several clips, secondly because Judith’s voice is so clear, and finally because It’s the music in its entirety and not the lyrics that I value.

Georgie Girl – The seekers
I’ll Never Find Another You – The Seekers
The Carnival Is Over – The Seekers
Someday, One Day – The seekers

And finally, for those who would like a little more, watch a 1968 TV special – The World of The Seekers. Sorry the video owner has disabled playback on other websites, so you’ll need to click the link and view it on the YouTube website: https://youtu.be/40LuQVZYepE


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Cliff Whiting

This post is a little different from my usual fare. It’s a documentary on the life of a specific person who was a peripheral influence in my youth. It’s more as a handy point of reference for myself than something I desire to share with the world. In particular it reminds me of the mana (personal and collective strength, pride, identity and humility) that is present in so many people that have been an inspiration to me over the years. Having said that, it does illustrate how aspects of Māori culture, and particularly Māori art are finding their way into mainstream life in Aotearoa New Zealand, and some of my readers may find it informative.

For a while, Cliff Whiting and my father were work colleagues. They shared adjacent offices, and while my father travelled the region teaching school teachers how to teach phys ed (sports, folk dancing, use of playground equipment, safety etc), Cliff taught teachers how to teach art.

The documentary below provides me with some of his background that I was unaware of and brings me up to date with what Cliff has been up to since my father’s retirement in the 1970s. The video is recorded in Te Reo (the Māori language) so I recommend turning on English language Closed Captions if you choose to watch. Some words have not been translated as they are well understood by all Kiwis, but are unlikely to be understood by others. I’ve included those of significance below the video


Iwi: extended kinship group, tribe, nation, people, nationality,
Kahawai: schooling coastal fish (Arripis trutta)
Kōrero: speech, narrative, story, news
Kōwhaiwhai: painted scroll ornamentation – commonly used on meeting house rafters
Kūmara: Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)
Marae: the area in front of a meeting house where formal greetings and discussions are held; informally, it includes the complex of buildings around the marae
Māui: a mythical demi-god who, among his many other deeds, captured the sun in a net in order to slow it’s travel across the sky.
Nīkau: a NZ palm (Rhopalostylis sapida)
Pākehā: Non-Māori
Pōnga: silver tree fern – especially its tree-like trunk
Tāne, Tāne-mahuta; mythical guardian of the forest, a child of Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the earth mother), who separated them from their tight embrace to allow light into the world.
Te Reo: the (Māori) language
Waka huia: treasure box, also the name of a TV documentary series on Māori Television
Weka: several species of flightless birds endemic to NZ(Gallirallus australis greyiGallirallus australis australis) with a reputation for stealing objects, especially if they are shiny (cutlery, jewelry etc)
Whakapapa: genealogy, lineage, descent
Whānāu: extended family, family group




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Musical Monday (2021/11/22) Damn The Dam

The song was originally written and sung by John Hanlon for a two minute advertisement by New Zealand Fibreglass to promote home insulation. It was part of a wide campaign in the early 1970s lobbying to make home insulation mandatory, and of course the company would benefit by having its home insulation products installed in every new home. It was possibly a brave move by the company, as two minute commercials were extremely rare at that time (still are) and only 10 seconds of the advertisement actually promoted their insulation product, glass fibre Pink® Batts®.

Electricity demands were rising rapidly at that time and the nation had historically built hydro power stations to meet the growing energy needs of the country. Dams, while a renewable resource, destroy much of the local natural environment by flooding vast areas of land. We were running out of rivers that were considered socially acceptable to dam, and insulation of homes was seen as a means of slowing down the ever increasing growth in electricity demand.

The advertising jingle proved so popular that it was released as a single and rose to #5 in the New Zealand hit parade in 1973. Hanlon made a condition of its release that all the profits from the song be donated to environmental causes. The song was then adopted by opponents of the Lake Manapouri hydro power scheme.

Today it’s remembered by most Baby Boomers, of which I am one, as a protest song – younger generations are probably unaware of it’s existence, and for those who are aware, it;s just another NZ folk song. Few remember that it started life as an advertising jingle for home insulation.

It’s odd, looking back to those days, that we young adults were very much into protests. It’s not just a 21st century phenomena that many today’s youth believe it is. We were just as idealistic as they are. In fact I venture that today’s youth is rather tame when compared to the youth of my generation. Among the causes we campaigned against were the Vietnam war and wars in general, gender inequality, nuclear weapons and testing, and in this country nuclear energy, Apartheid and sporting contacts with South Africa, destruction of the environment, whaling, to name just a few. Meanwhile in America and Britain, demonstrations against racial inequality frequently turned into highly destructive riots.

We were a generation with very high ideals, but somewhere along the way, we have been distracted by the needs of providing for self and family. As a generation, I feel were were, and possibly still are, more liberal and slightly more left leaning than the more recent generations. Perhaps it’s a false perception, but I feel that today the world is becoming more conservative, less tolerant than the sixties and seventies, has made definite a lerch to the right, and partisanship is very much more pronounced.

Back to the song Damn The Dam, written and sung by John Hanlon

Damn The Dam, Music and lyrics by John Hanlon, sung by John Hanlon, 1973

Leaf falls to kiss the image of a mountain,
the early morning mist has ceased to play.
Birds dancing lightly on the branches by a fountain
of a waterfall which dazzles with its spray

Tall and strong and aged, contented and serene,
a kauri tree surveys his grand domain,
and for miles and miles around him, a sea of rolling green.
Tomorrow all this beauty won't remain.

Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky.
To give power to the people
all this beauty has to die.

Rain falls from above and splashes on the ground,
goes running down the mountain to the sea.
And leaping over pebbles makes such a joyful sound,
such as Mother Nature's meant to be.

I have grave reflection, reflection of a grave.
Trees that once lived green now dead and brown.
The homes of tiny animals and little birds as well,
for the sake of man's progression have been drowned.

Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky.
To give power to the people
all this beauty has to die.

Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky,

Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky.
To give power to the people
all this beauty has to die...


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Musical Monday (2021/11/08) – One tree Hill

This song is very personal to me. It was written in honour of a young man I new well – Greg Carroll. We worked together as engineers for a large multinational I.T. company. We were part of a small provincial branch with four staff members located in the city of Whanganui. Greg was a very personable young man and was held in high regard by our customers – more perhaps for his genuineness, honesty and likeable personality than for his engineering skills.

I stayed with the company for a total of thirty-five years, but Greg moved on after a year, perhaps two, when he became the sound engineer for a local rock band. That may not seem long to get to know someone well, but our job required a considerable amount of driving and often Greg would accompany me as I drove between the small, widely scattered towns that made up our branch territory. A typical day might consist of up to four hours on the road, and a return trip to Turangi, our farthest outpost took six hours. You can cover a wide spectrum of topics over that period of time.

I’m not a good conversationalist, but somehow Greg, my junior by about 11 years, had the ability to make everyone at ease, including me. I honestly can no longer recall what we talked about on the road and the occasional overnight stay in a motel or hotel several hours from home, but I do remember that outside of my immediate family there was no-one I felt more comfortable being with. Unfortunately Greg died in a motorcycle crash in Dublin in 1986.

There are several Youtube video clips of U2 performing One Tree Hill, mostly from live performances in various locations around the world, but the one I have chosen here is a video cobbled together by TVNZ for their weekly music show Ready to Roll. One Tree Hill has been released as a single in Aotearoa and quickly rose to the number one spot on the NZ hit parade. This is the version I remember seeing in 1988.

There being no official music video, TVNZ brought together clips of previous U2 visits to Aotearoa, segments of the tangihanga (funeral) at the Kai-iwi Marae near Whanganui, and images of One Tree Hill and Greg. It also includes images of the Whanganui River and the rugged hill country inland from the city of Whanganui. The journey inland to the nearest township of Raetihi took approximately eighty minutes in ideal conditions. For much of its length, the road winds along the valley wall of the Upokongaro Stream, a contributory of the Whanganui River, rising 760 m (2500 ft) in 87 Km (54 miles).

This was a road I traversed at least one a week, often with Greg’s company. If you do the maths, you’ll notice that the average speed for the journey was 65 km/h (40 mph) and that was a good run without stops or hazards such as slips (common in wet weather) or flocks of sheep being moved to fresh pastures (common all year round) or semi-feral sheep that had escaped the confines of farms and were of the opinion that they were the masters of the road. Other vehicles were few and far between so the opportunities to opine world affairs or share dreams and aspiration were plentiful. We did.

One Tree Hill – U2 (captured from TVNZ’s RTR in 1988)

"One Tree Hill" – U2

We turn away to face the cold, enduring chill
As the day begs the night for mercy love
The sun so bright it leaves no shadows
Only scars carved into stone
On the face of earth
The moon is up and over One Tree Hill
We see the sun go down in your eyes

You run like river, on like a sea
You run like a river runs to the sea

And in the world a heart of darkness
A fire zone
Where poets speak their heart
Then bleed for it
Jara sang, his song a weapon
In the hands of love
You know his blood still cries
From the ground

It runs like a river runs to the sea
It runs like a river to the sea

I don't believe in painted roses
Or bleeding hearts
While bullets rape the night of the merciful
I'll see you again
When the stars fall from the sky
And the moon has turned red
Over One Tree Hill

We run like a river
Run to the sea
We run like a river to the sea
And when it's raining
Raining hard
That's when the rain will
Break my heart

Raining...raining in the heart
Raining in your heart
Raining...raining to your heart
Raining, raining...raining
Raining to your heart
Raining...raining in your heart
Raining in your heart..
To the sea

Oh great ocean
Oh great sea
Run to the ocean
Run to the sea


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Footsteps On My Mind

I’m not a person who feels down if things don’t go as intended. Melancholy is doesn’t seem to be part of my DNA. About the only time I feel “out of sorts” is during a prolonged migraine episodes when it feels like my “get up and go” has “got up and gone”.

Although I don’t consider I have reached my “twilight” years, I’m definitely in my “late afternoon” years. Despite being a chronic migraine sufferer, and living for sixty years not knowing I was autistic, but feeling like I was a square peg being forced through a round hole I view my life as being a wonderful experience. I can’t imagine an alternative life being any better.

Mostly, I recall the good things that have happened in my life, and whether or not it’s good to do so, I tend to sweep memories of negative experiences under the carpet. One reason for this state of affairs is due to having alexithymia, often referred to as “emotional blindness”. I suck at reading the emotions of others, but I’m even worse at reading my own. I know happiness and contentment are pleasurable experiences and I know deep sadness is is not. Most others I’m oblivious to, and it’s only since discovering I am autistic have I learnt to recognise some emotions by carefully thinking about the physical manifestations that frequently accompany emotions.

If it feels like my blood is about to bool it means I’m angry (or wearing to many clothes or in the early stage of another migraine). If I feel a churning motion in my stomach, it means I’m nervous (or some food has disagreed with me or Im hungry or I’m in the early stage of another migraine attack). If my face feels hot, it means I’m embarrassed (or I need to remove a layer of clothing or I’m in the early stage of another migraine attack). If I find my hands or jaw is clenched then I’m most likely very stressed out (or I could be in a state of rising anger or I’m in the early stage of another migraine attack). If people ask me to repeat something I’ve said then it might be because I feel down and am talking too quietly (or I’m in the early stage of another migraine attack and I’m slurring my speech, or we could be in a noisy environment). And so the list goes on.

Learning to recognise emotions this way is quite confusing. For example, If I feel my eyes start to water (and there’s no irritant present) does it mean I’m happy, or sad, or both or something else? If I feel a lump in my throat is this really nostalgia tinged with sadness? What else can it mean? And is it something else if I experience both the lump and the water? I really have no idea.

Over recent weeks I’ve been having moments where I recall my thoughts from my teen years many decades ago when I was beginning to understand that I was in some way different from everyone else and very different from my peers. I don’t recall having any feelings one way or the other as it dawned on me that everyone had a group of friends and I had none; that others seemed to revel in loud and noisy events where everyone talked very loudly, but I was unable to make out a single word and I’d be physically ill within five minutes of arriving; That I had no clue about the topics fellow teenagers were talking about and none of them seemed interested in why the Ab class locomotive was so ubiquitous in NZ or the nature of black holes or what technology driverless cars might employ in the future.

While I was very comfortable in my own company, I realised that having conversations with myself was not very profitable. I don’t recall feeling sad or angry or disappointed about my situation. I simply accepted that that was the way it was. But now when I look back at those moments when I began to realise that I was in some way very different from everyone else and would never fit into their world, I do feel a discomfort somewhere just below my diaphram. I’m not able to distinguish between mild indigestion and hunger, and I rarely have either sensation, but this sensation is something like that. If I’m sitting or lying I have to get up and do something, but I have no idea what or why.

I’m guessing the flashbacks and the uneasy feeling are associated but how and why? I’m confident I understand my teen self better now than I did back then. So are the sensations due to a reliving of emotions of the past that I wasn’t aware of at the time, or are they new emotions created out of hindsight and in the full knowledge of what was to come. Either way, what does this sensation represent? Regret? nostalgia? Sadness? Disappointment? Loss? Something else? I’m assuming it’s negative because it’s unpleasant.

I doubt very much that it’s happiness due to knowing how my life has turned out. For the most part I think I’ve been blessed: a best friend companion and lover for almost 50 years; two wonderful children and three amazing grandkids. What more could I desire? While there’s always a possibility that the discomfort and the flashbacks are unrelated and purely coincidental, I don’t think so. And that’s because after hearing a particular song this morning, the hunger or indigestion was much stronger and still lingers.

Popular songs have always been about the hopes and disappointments of romance, but scattered among them are a few that deal with the hopes, dreams and disappointments of every aspect of life. I find song lyrics fascinating because it is often very difficult to know what a song is really about. The song I heard this morning was one of my favourites at round the time I left school or perhaps shortly after and was about the time I realised that I was not a typical teenager by any stretch of the imagination and never would be.

As I listened to the track, I suddenly felt the discomfort rise as these words were sung:

People all around, they never seem to notice me
Maybe because my mind's behind a cloud that no-one sees the wood for trees
What's wrong with me?

Did those words speak to me then but I didn’t realise it, or are those words speaking to me now reminding me how much my life would have been different if I was not autistic? I don’t know. What I am sure of is that I’m unlikely to get a good night’s sleep thinking about it. Bugger emotions! (Is that frustration, irritation, anger, regret or something else?) They’re so confusing. It’s at moments like these that I wish I hadn’t had any mindfulness training, and I’d remain blissfully unaware of the connection between emotions and bodily sensations.

For anyone interested in hearing the source of my discomfort, here it is. I was into psychedelic music at that time which is why I might have found this piece attractive Perhaps all I’m feeling is nothing more than nostalgia for a music era that no longer exists. Oh I give up!.

Music Convention – Footsteps On My Mind


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Seeing is believing

Like everyone else on this planet (perhaps with the exception of the previous POTUS) I am not perfect, nor was I born that way. Today I want to focus on some imperfections I was born with. I’m using “imperfections” here in two different ways.

  • Those traits and characteristics that society deems as flaws disabilities, unacceptable or a nuisance to deal with
  • Those traits and characteristics that one feels about oneself that are flaws, disabilities, unacceptable or a nuisance to deal with.

Often times, what one perceives as an imperfection may not be deemed so by society, and of course the opposite is true – what society deems as an imperfection may not be deemed so by oneself.

In my own case an obvious example is autism. Almost certainly, no one in any profession would have considered I was autistic until perhaps the 1990s and the condition became better understood. I wasn’t diagnosed as such until 2010. My family had always been very accepting of my “quirkiness”, but the rest of society wasn’t. I was cajoled, teased, bullied, reprimanded, punished and violently assaulted for being “different”.

I perceive the world differently at many levels compared to non-autistic people, and I may post more on how growing up as an undiagnosed autistic affected my life at another time, but today I want to concentrate on the imperfections of my eyesight and vision, and how those have been perceived by myself and others.

I was born with both myopia and astigmatism although neither myself, family, friends or school teachers realised it. It was finally my music teacher who realised I was unable to read music notation in advance of where I was playing that lead to my first “real” eye examination when I was 12 years old.

Sure, for the previous seven years, I had passed the usual eye test at school where one reads an eye chart at a prescribed distance.

Tests were carried out on the entire class by putting all the students in a line and then taking the student at the front of line through the test. Not being particularly assertive, I usually found myself near the back end of the line. Alternatively, we sat at out desks and were called up in alphabetical order by family name. Either way I was always in the last quartile of the class to be tested.

I don’t recall how far through the chart we were required to go, but I think it was only as far as the line for 20/20 vision. I always passed the test with flying colours. I could rattle off the letters as fast as the best of the class.

The problem was that I couldn’t read the chart apart from the very top letter, and even that was very marginal. So how could I pass every time? By the time it was my turn to read the chart, twenty or more children had already read it in my presence. First with one eye and then with the other. I had heard the chart called out 40 or more times at varying speeds. More than enough repetitions for me to have memorised it.

I don’t recall whether the memorisation was intentional or not, but I do recall that the class consensus was that “failing” wasn’t a desirable outcome, just like failing any other test wasn’t. So everyone including myself did our best to get a “good” pass. I felt good when the adult conducting the test would say something like “Very good, well done Barry”. It was praise I seldom received from anyone other than my parents.

If I had understood how bad my eyesight was, what I was missing and how corrective lenses could change my perception of the world around me, I would have had no qualms about failing the test. Such is life. It took a rather crabby and domineering music teacher to recognise my disability.

Strange as it may seem now, I had no idea that my eyesight was so poor. In fact I had the perception that it was rather good, and I wasn’t the only one. This came about because whenever we travelled along the highways I was able to recognise roadside hoardings/billboards well before either the driver or my fellow passengers. In hindsight, the explanation is simple. I had learnt to recognise all the signs not by the wording or images but by the combination and pattern of colours, which in those long forgotten days (the 1950s) tended to be consistently the same year on year.

As a humorous aside, it wasn’t until after I had my first set of glasses that I discovered that the name of one of the most ubiquitous signs at that time had been been assigned an “alternative” name by the family – an in joke I didn’t discover until I could read the wording myself: Cough Cough and Hammer was actually Gough Gough and Hamer.

I recall the sudden panic, almost terror that I experienced the first time I walked out of the optometrist’s shop wearing my new glasses. As the shop door was closing behind me and I looked ahead, I suddenly and simultaneously took a step backwards into the door and ducked. It literally felt like the world was being thrown at my face. The clarity of the detail of the shop fronts on the opposite of the road felt like they were a mere 6 inches (the NZ switch to metric measurements was still decades away) in front of my face.

It was perhaps the most disorienting experience of my life at that time. I was frozen to the spot. I don’t know how long I stood in that doorway ducking pedestrians and cars that seemed to be inches away, but were in fact yards away.

It seems rather odd now that it never occurred to me that the very obvious solution to my situation was to remove my glasses. An optometrist employee recognised my dilemma and pulled me back inside the shop and removed the glasses. After some quick instructions not to put on my glasses until I was in a small room that I was familiar with and to work up to bigger spaces from there, I was sent on my way.

As much as I wish my new glasses improved my life, they didn’t.

A characteristic of many people on the autism spectrum is the inability to subconsciously filter information arriving via the senses. For example in a crowded room where several conversations are taking place, most people are able to ignore conversations they are not participating in. Other conversations will only reach their conscious awareness when there’s a noticeable change such as in volume, pitch or body language – for example when an argument starts.

Most people have the ability to ignore conversation threads they are not participating in. I can’t. A simple analogy might be the example of being in a group conversation when all participants start addressing you all at the same time, at the same volume but all on different topics. I think the resultant confusion will cause most people to put their hands up and demand that the participants speak one at a time. That’s the situation I face all the time. ALL.THE.TIME!

It turns out that my ability to filter out visual stimuli as that same as my ability to filter out aural stimuli. I can’t. I found the bombardment of new visual information overwhelming and exhausting. Previously trees were largely blurry blobs of green. I could distinguish individual leave only at relatively close distances, so perhaps no more than a hundred or so leaves at any one time. Suddenly I was seeing thousands, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of leaves all at once – every one a slightly different size, shape and colour, and all moving independently in the breeze. I didn’t know how to process all this new information.

Suddenly telephone poles and power poles had distinguishable cross arms, insulators of various colours but seemingly on no particular order or pattern. I could see the wires and the patterns they wove overhead. I could actually make out birds sitting on the wires or on rooftops, and even identify the species – something I had previously only been able to do from the pages of a book.

And speaking of books, whereas previously there was only a small area around the word I was reading where the shape of individual words could be distinguished easily (I recognise words by their shape as much as I do by the letters within them), suddenly every letter on the page became individually identifiable, every one of them yelling in unison “Read me NOW!”

Wallpaper patterns now continued right around the room instead of being discernible only in near proximity. On large buildings, all the individual windows could be seen. What’s more they formed regular patterns, and any break to that pattern became a distraction I couldn’t avoid being aware of. The same with pathways. Joins formed patterns that extended into the distance and any spot where the pattern was disturbed jumped out at me. I couldn’t help but notice it.

Never before in my life had been in a situation where I could distinguish the facial features of more than five or six people at one time. Now I could see all the features of everyone in the classroom ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Just too much information to handle. It didn’t help me with facial recognition, but it did allow me to apply the rules I used for identifying individuals at greater distances than previously. Crowds became a confusing collection of

Tiled roofs became a collection of thousands of individual tiles, many of which had individual characteristics I couldn’t help noticing. I could see the corrugations on corrugated iron roofs, and the rows of nails holding them down. Disturbances in the rows (a nail missing, irregularly spaced or out of alignment) shouted out “Look at me!”

Sixty years on and and the same distractions still occur. What I have learnt is how to consciously push them into the background. Over the years I have got better at doing it and it probably takes less effort to do so. There are still times, especially leading up to and during a migraine where I find all the visual information overwhelming. It’s nice to be able to remove my glasses and move into a visually gentler and less harshly chaotic world where I’m not assaulted by detail.

While I mostly appreciate the details I seem to notice when no one else does, there are times when I wish I could simply not notice them in the first place – just like everyone else.