Long Train Runnin’

Daughter in Frame and her “Bestest Friend” wave at friend’s Dad, who drives for Kiwirail

As I have written before, I am fortunate to be presented with different opportunities every one in a while.

Miss B has a best friend, Master B (no relation), who she met in Kindy.

As their friendship blossomed, we got to know his parents.

As it turns out Mister B is into model trains, like I am, but the cherry on top was with his job as a driver for Kiwirail, he offered to take me on a ride in the cab of a freight train one day.

This was a dream come true!

I’ve been a train nerd for some time and how can you not be?

I mean, come on, they are SO COOL!

A thousand or so tonnes of steel and cargo, pulled by a thousand-plus horsepower engine, rolling along long, snaking tracks through New Zealand’s gorgeous countryside is appealing to admirers of engineering, physics, environmentally-friendly logistics AND aesthetics!

I had previously travelled on the commuter trains in Wellington and Auckland, but the last time I had been on a train in Hawke’s Bay, was taking the Bay Express down to Wellington in the mid to late 90s, shortly before the passenger service was terminated.


A few weeks ago he asked if I was free to go for a ride in the cab of a freight train to Woodville on Waitangi Day.

Was I?

Hells, Yeah!!

He said there was a catch – He would have to pick me up at 4am.

This was no catch – For more than a decade my (non-writing, but paying) job has seen my alarm go off at 3:30am six working days out of ten.

With the excitement of the trip ahead of me I had been waiting outside, staring at the stars, for 15 minutes by the time he arrived to pick me up.

In the cab of DL class locomotive number 9135 we leave the Napier yard not long after 5am and after rumbling through a slumbering central Napier, the throttles are opened and we started out along the Hawke Bay coast and over the Tutikuri and Ngaruroro river bridges at the (appropriately named, given the day) Waitangi Wetlands.

Turning inland at Clive we go through the revitalised industrial and logistical hub of Whakatu before running right through the centre of Hastings.

As we exit Hawke’s Bay’s major urban areas the train doesn’t immediately speed up a whole lot, as rail repairs and recent hot temperatures mean the pace is kept relatively slow in case rails have buckled, or moved in the heat.

But that’s fine, because it’s safer and means I get to take in more of a view few get to see these days.

One thing that stands out is all the cool old stations in places like Opapa and Ormomdville.

Where small settlements were set up around these refueling and watering posts and local produce, goods and livestock would have been loaded and unloaded as little as 40-50 years ago, there are often just the station buildings remaining now.

Crossing the braided Waipawa and Tukituku rivers is also very cool.


Occassionally I look out the back window of the engine and watch the train’s wagons snake around curves behind us.


After several more hills and bridges, rivers and sidings we reach the Ormondville Rail Viaduct – A rather impressive (and slightly more than impressively high) structure.

For safety’s sake we cross it at 10km/h, but given its height, narrowness, and the fact it is taking the weight of our several-hundred-tonne train (and us) I am quite happy to be safely across it as quickly as practicable.

Not long after that we are heading towards my destination of Woodville.

The train will carry on to Palmerston North, but as I am not qualified/certified to go through the tunnels of the Manawatu Gorge in an engine, I must wait here for the driver to return.

I end up having a decent wander round and seeing lots of little bits of this town many just pass through and, since the closure of the Manawatu Gorge road, many have bypassed altogether.

Today, despite several more empty shops than last time I passed through, the town still seems quite busy – Likely with people on their way to see Phil Collins at Napier’s Mission Concert that night.

As we drive back to Napier I get to reflect on what a great experience this trip had been.

It’s always important to be open to new or different perspectives. Recent events in my life have certainly made this awareness somewhat stronger, and riding in a freight train has certainly been that.

It would be great to see more trains operating in New Zealand again, especially when every wagon represents at least one less truck on already busy and often fast-deteriorating roads.

And, as I stated at the beginning of this piece, I am fortunate to be presented with different opportunities every one in a while.

Baby I’m Amazed By You

This picture represents everything I love and admire and fear simultaneously in one image.

Our little Miss Napier in Frame isn’t so little any more.

From the emotional trials and tribulations of IVF, to (SPOILER ALERT!) conception and a surprise home birth, to nappies and smiles and giggles. Crawling, talking and walking.

It may only be five years, but it feels like a lifetime!

And not just her’s.

Our little baby, who would only ever fall asleep snuggling in my arms is now a smart & sociable girl riding her bike freely (she demanded we take her training wheels off one Saturday afternoon, immediately started riding perfectly without them and never looked back).

She has truly begun making her own way in the world.

Having learned so much by the age of five in Kindy (she can write her name and numbers, count beyond 100 and speak bits of Spanish and Te Reo – I can’t remember being able to do that at 6!) part of me is convinced that she just becomes an adult now, right?


It’s off to school in the next few weeks & into the big, wide, world.

Peer pressure, bullying, body image and boys – All things I can’t always defend her from await, though hopefully in the far-off future for now, at least.

For me Tamatea Primary was the scene and catalyst of some of my most cherished memories.

That’s 10-11 year old me, middle row, second from the left.

An 80s childhood at its best.

I hope her primary school years bring her as much fun, knowledge and friendship as mine brought me.

There are, of course, things I CAN help defend her from.

I go to work each week, not for myself, but to provide a safe, warm, loving home and to ensure there is always food on the table.

(That sounds terribly clichéd, but it’s an honourable, old-school trait I got from my Dad – That said, an enjoyable job where I get to be creative wouldn’t go amiss. I continue to write in the hope that lightning might strike twice…)

Growimg up sometimes a safe, happy, loving home is all you need. I was very fortunate that mine was.

In primary school I remember the teacher telling us there was a hole in something called “The Ozone Layer” and expecting that within the decade we would all have to be walking around in space suits for protection.

That didn’t quite come to fruition, but there are plenty of equally sized, and bigger, environmental threats out there, so I will do my best to keep the world she will inherit as clean and safe as possible.

I will always be there for her.

Even when she doesn’t want me.

When she hurts herself, she currently runs crying to mum for cuddles.

Even when she is having a screaming match with mum, she STILL runs to her for cuddles afterwards (there is a level of logic there FAR beyond my comprehension).

But, possibly hardest of all, I must let her fall and fail  occasionally. To watch her have hopes and dreams dashed. It’s hard, but it will make her stronger.

It “builds character” (another terrible, but true, cliche).

And she already has loads of that – Kindness, caring, love and compassion. All those things too many adults seem to lose as they grow older.

The other day she got her bike out of the garage to ride it around the yard, so I took mine out for the first time in ages, too, and together we went for a ride along the neighborhood cyclepath.

We kept a safe, respectful distance apart, riding along and chatting. Sometimes she was in the lead and sometimes I was. We both occasionally got the wobbles, but it was fun.

I hope as she gets older she will want me to come along on more rides and adventures. To bring picnics and puncture repair kits.

She might even need to bring them for me!

These first five years have been one hell of a ride!

But it’s worth it – She is amazing!

We Are All Stars

When I was younger my Mum and Dad would often sit outside at night, looking at the stars and watching for satellites.

I always thought it was a bit odd.

I remember seeing Halley’s Comet in 1986 and wondering if I’d still be alive the next time it came by in 2061. Heavy stuff for a nine year old.

In the early 2000s I watched a documentary series “Space” hosted by Sam Neill.

The first episode showed just how small and insignificant we were in the universe and the second showed how easily we could be wiped off the face of aforementioned astronomical plane.

23 year old me felt insignificant enough as it was without the whole universe chiming in.

I didn’t bother watching beyond those first two instalments.

So space and the night sky filled with stars became a bit of a stranger to me.

A passive aggressive bully, if you will.

I tried to ignore it.

Then I became a Dad, my own Dad passed away, I had my own medical drama two years ago and then Mum died last February.

I started looking at night sky again.

Going outside when the International Space Station was due to silently streak high over New Zealand.

Admiring just how bright and red Mars is as it rises in the eastern sky.

I even started taking my daughter out each night to “wish upon a star” (it’s usually, actually, the planet Venus, but whatever..)

I began admiring the passion and beauty Paul Le Comte and Ian Griffin put into and portrayed in their star photography.

And maybe I was even thinking, hoping, a couple of those twinkles in the night sky might just be my parents looking down on us.

Now at night I often stop for a minute, look up and quietly smile at the stars.

Welcome Home

Losing your parents can be a bit of a struggle.

Not just the emotional and psychological turmoil, but whole volumes of history can vanish.

“What were your mother’s parents’ names?” I was asked when organising Mum’s funeral.

I honestly couldn’t remember. Grandad died before I was born and Grandma passed away before I was 5.

Mum always used to say we were related to the late broadcaster Sir Paul Holmes somehow – something to do with a branch of her side of the family called “Manning” (this sort of stuff seemed to matter far more to the older generations, than to us younger ones).

“What about (this), or (that)?” other topics might come up. It used to be so easily fixed – “I’ll just ask Mum, or Dad!”

I can’t do that now.

I can only really remember an nth of everything Mum and Dad told me about their growing up and our family history – We’re so busy focussing on our own learning and growing that so many things that might seem trivial at the time are left by the wayside.

I do clearly remember one thing – It’s the house Mum and her parents lived in when they moved from Gisborne back to Napier.

I remember its exterior very easily, because I see it almost every day – it’s just down the road from our current home!

The interior, however, is much hazier.

I remember tiny glimpses of the inside it from childhood, because I got to visit it briefly while my grandmother still lived there, and from the old photo albums I inherited.

As fate would have it, the woman who presided over Mum’s funeral knew the family who live there.

I asked afterwards if I could be put in touch to possibly have a look inside again and see if/how it had changed from my (very vague) memories. They happily obliged and a few months later I got to have a look around.

It was an interesting experience on multiple levels. I brought some photos with me to compare the old and the new, so I will post them side by side.

This is Mum – In 1966 she would have been 25. It looks like she was ready to go out for some event by the looks of it, or star in the original “Mad Men” series…

These are my maternal grandparents – Isabel and Allan, or “Peg” and “Knobby”. These photos are from around the same time and similarly sartorial.

A rakish angle on Grandad’s trilby..

One memory I DO have of the interior of their house is sitting on the wooden stairs that led up to the second storey, staring at a stained glass window.

The window is most certainly still there, and the stairs were carpeted long ago, but the odd thing was I remembered the stairs in reverse – I was certain they went up from left to right, when they actually go right to left.

There had been a few other minor changes, but nothing of HGTV-knock-every-wall-out level. Much was as it had been 40 years ago. Even some of the drapes were original – How do I know?

I found bits of this exact same material in Mum and Dad’s house when I had to clean it out a few years ago! (For what it’s worth, it has held up VERY well!)

Here’s a picture of two of my cousins Alan and Jonathan Brough with our Grandma. The snooty looking critter on her lap is yours truly.

I went up the (“back-to-front”) stairs and had a look around.

My grandparents’ bedroom had apparently been on the ground floor, so upstairs was where Mum and her siblings would have slept.

I had seen a photo of Mum, taken from the street looking up as she poked her head out of an upper window, but that room looked more like a sunroom / study.

As I poked my head into another room, though, something told me “this was Mum’s room” – there was a connective feeling about it. (This was later confirmed by a cousin who had also been there regularly in their younger days).

I took a few photos of the room (albeit with furnishings from the current occupants), perhaps hoping to catch a wisp of a spirit, a familiar face in a reflection, drape or pattern, but sadly none were to develop.

I was asked if I wanted to be in any of the photos I was trying to recreate – “then and not”, or “a new generation” sort of thing, but I declined.

It wouldn’t feel right personally. I didn’t feel like I deserved to take their places and I thought it spoke more of the loss I was feeling.

The place was still here, but all those who connected me directly to it were gone and I was feeling that missing link.

It had never been my home, but the occupants, and the house, had made me feel comfortable and welcome.

It’s all part of the healing process, I guess.

Many things may have been forgotten, but there are still lots of other things to be discovered.

Twelve Days of Kiwi Christmas Deliciousness: 2018 Edition

For over a decade now, Mrs InFrame has been coming up with a special 12-day menu to celebrate the “Twelve Days of Christmas”.

She alternates each year between the traditional and the New Zealand version, otherwise known as “A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree”.

This year was the Kiwi Christmas Deliciousness Edition!

Most of the dishes have a direct correlation to the songs (Five Big Fat Pigs = Pork/Ham/Bacon), others use a fair chunk of artistic license as, with the original “Twelve Days” song we’d be swimming in poultry with French Hens, Swans a Swimming, Geese a Laying etc. etc. otherwise.

I’ll do my best to explain as we go.

This year’s menu plan is one that was SUPPOSED to be the one in 2016, but went missing just a few days before we were to begin and resurfaced, too late, on Christmas day (It was a Christmas miracle!).

So sit back and enjoy as I reveal what my true love made for me over the Twelve Days of Kiwi Christmas Deliciousness for 2018:

A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree

Blue Cheese, Date and Walnut Parcels:
The blue of the cheese represents the Pukeko, while spinach represents the foliage and the flaky pastry looks like flakes off like Ponga Tree bark.



Two Kumara

Kumara, Spinach, Goats’ Cheese and Walnut Salad:
Pretty straight forward here – Mrs InFrame baked the Kumara into chips to give them a lovely texture.



Three Flax Ketes (“Kits”)

Cherry Pie:
Woven flax Kete are used as baskets and bags to carry things like berries, so we latticed the top of the Cherry Pie to give it a woven look.


Four Huhu Grubs

Huhu grubs are a creepy crawly delicacy at most “Wild Food” festivals, mainly for their gooey-squishiness when you bite into them, so filling tree-bark like Brandy Snaps with oohy-gooey whipped cream seemed a wonderful take on the idea!


Five Big Fat Pigs!

Pork and Pepper Sloppy Joes:
Five big Fat Pigs make a lot of pork mince and while they might not appreciate the alliteration of “Pork” and “Pepper” I’m sure your average Captain Cooker or Kuni-kuni would be quite happy munching on a fresh, crunchy capsicum.


Six Pois a Twirling

Teriyaki Chicken Rice Balls:

Mrs InFrame had the day off for this one, and our friends Tim and Junko from Tu Meke Don in Napier made us some rice balls to represent the soft balls that are swung on braided threads in Kapa Haka and other Maori songs and dances.

They look like Poi, E(h)?


Seven Eels a-Swimming

Slippery Sausages in Muddy Mashed Potatoes and Been Reeds:
The Longfin Eel are native to New Zealand. and can be found in lots of waterways – even the creek that runs past our house. They like water that has things they can hide in, like reeds (represented here by the beans) and mud (the Mashed Potatoes and BBQ Sauce)


Eight Plants of Puha

Faux Pho-ha:
Puha is a green, leafy green, wild vegetable that usually grows near water, so we made a watery Pho soup with mint, coriander (leafy green herbs) and meatballs.


Nine Sacks of Pipis

Pipi Truck-style Pizza:

The Pipi Pizza Truck is a bit of an institution her in Hawke’s Bay – being on the first new wave of Food Trucks, so tonight’s pizza paid homage to the Pippi truck, rather than the bivalve mollusc.


Ten Juicy Fish Heads

Sri Lankan Fish Curry made with Hawke Bay Snapper:
My boss had been fishing on Hawke Bay a week or so back and kindly gave us some of the snapper (fillets, not heads thankfully..) he had caught. It went perfectly with this Sri Lankan curry!


Eleven Haka Lessons


The Haka is, of course, synonymous with New Zealand’s national rugby team, so it was fitting that we went to our usual café, Six Sisters, and had (All) Black coffee, with a rugby ball-shaped dollop of ice cream!


Twelve Piupiu Swinging


Piupiu are a Maori grass skirt, as can be seen in the Poi e video above. When the dancer wearing it sways or spins the individual threads spread out a bit like octopus tentacles. When you split Frankfurters into quarters lengthways at one end and cook them, they split and twist upwards and outwards just like tentacles, or the swaying piupiu skirt. It also seemed like a novel way to close out this Twelve Days of Kiwi Christmas Deliciousness!

We hope you’ve been inspired to try some of these, or your own version next Christmas.

From the Napier in Frame family to yours, we wish you a Merry Kiwi Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

Something In The Water

NCC workers keeping one of the city’s biggest stormwater drains clear.

During last week’s rather atrocious weather across Hawke’s Bay Napier’s continuing water woes became even more evident, with Napier City Council issuing a notification for residents to refrain from taking baths, or flushing toilets for 36 hours on Wednesday the 5th of September, as the city’s wastewater system failed to cope with the amount of rain that had fallen almost continuously for 24 hours.

For the second time in less than 18 months, Napier City Council released stormwater and sewerage into Napier’s Ahuriri Lagoon, otherwise known as “Pandora Pond” after more than 90mm of rain fell in 24 hours between Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th of September.

That’s almost twice the average for the entire month!

Similar events occurred last April when the tail ends of Cyclones Debbie and Cook successively hit Hawke’s Bay hard and the City Council discharged 2.5million litres of wastewater into Pandora Estuary.

In both cases warning signs were erected around the estuary and immediate areas warning against swimming and the collection of seafood due to the public health risk of possible contamination from sewerage in the water and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the region’s environmental watchdogs were alerted.

Pandora Pond – Looking a bit murkier than usual after the heavy rains

“But how does sewerage get in the stormwater?” you might rightly ask.

It’s to do with infrastructure, namely pipes.

Ideally rain falls from the sky, onto your roof, into your spouting and into the stormwater system via gutters and stormwater drains / creeks and eventually into rivers / lakes / out to sea.

Unfortunately some spouting goes into the wrong drains around the house – Wastewater drains from bathrooms, showers, laundries, which gets treated with sewerage from.. um.. “other drains”.

During severe weather events, such as the one we’ve just gone through, having the wrong pipe going into the wrong drain can greatly increase the amount of wastewater in the system.

But Hastings and rural Hawke’s Bay had more rain than Napier did – at one stage I saw a reading of 191mm for HB, 66mm for Hastings and “only” 43mm for Napier in the 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday.

So how come Hastings only started to feel the effects of the severe weather a day or so later, with Porta-loos distributed to some residents in the suburb of Akina, as their stormwater and sewerage systems stated to struggle?

From the makers of “Highway to Hell” and “Stairway to Heaven” comes “Driveway to Puddle”!

It could be something to do with Napier being coastal – The seas were certainly huge for most of the week and it would be hard for the water to drain out to sea when the sea is doing its best to get onto the land.

Marine Parade’s walkway was a mess on Thursday after high seas accompanying the storm battered the coast

It could be the fact we’re the lowest point above sea level in Hawke’s Bay.

Water naturally runs downhill and it might take a day or so of heavy rain for natural drains to back up the height difference between Napier and Hastings.

Or it could be that the city’s pipe infrastructure just isn’t up to it.

It has been known for some time that Napier’s water infrastructure was aging badly and in need of repair soon, if not overdue.

This has been the problem with Napier’s drinking water – It isn’t Hawke’s Bay’s aquifer quality being sub-par – The water down there is just as clean and pure as usual, it’s been council infrastructure – Bores, pipes and reservoirs letting the side down .

You might remember during the region’s contentious amalgamation debate and vote three years ago that Napier’s infrastructure was a rather large sore point.

I was strongly opposed to amalgamation, seeing the way it was promoted merely as a cynical attempt to sell off and/or privatise council departments (like water) and assets.

Amalgamationalists claimed Napier’s pipes were in a bad way and would likely cost many millions to repair / replace, while NCC’s vanguard staunchly defended its underground assets.

“Napier is very well positioned to meet any future infrastructure related growth or renewal challenges.”

“The short answer is Napier’s infrastructure, I can assure you, is in excellent shape.”
Napier Mayor, Bill Dalton. September 2015

It looks like council hierarchy might have, yet again, spoken too soon.

Even the NZ Auditor General’s office piped up, so to speak, on Twitter after this week’s rain referencing some 2016 stormwater analysis.

But the most odd pronouncement over the issue must go to the regional paper, Hawke’s Bay Today’s, new editor, who wrote on the weekend after the deluge that “A Wee Bit of Wee Never Hurt Anyone, We Hope ”.

That was just outright bizarre!

Has he not heard of Giardia? Campylobacter?
Has he not simply tried searching his own paper’s website for the words “Havelock” and “Gastro”?

His newspaper did win an award (albeit under the previous editor) for being “news central” for the Havelock North Water Crisis two years ago, after all.

Or maybe he just needs to talk to the mother whose child got sick after swimming in Pandora Pond.

Again, his newspaper reported on the incident.

Whichever way you look at it SOMETHING needs to be done – And QUICKLY!

After last year’s rain event and stormwater release the Regional Council said the deluge was a “Once-in-Five-Year” event, but had since scaled that estimation back to once-a-year”.

To its credit, Napier City Council has put aside over $20 million for refurbishing its water systems in the coming years, but after almost back-to –back yearly events, could it be too little, too late?

Our climate is changing (whether radio host Leighton Smith believes it or not) and the weather is getting more severe, more often.

Sea levels are expected to rise and Napier’s population is expected to grow by at least 2,000 households in the next ten years – Increasing the demands and challenges on infrastructure even more.

If we don’t do something to counter its effects fast, we face severe safety and public health issues and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s environmental regulatory department and some regional councillors have already aired concerns and displeasure with how Napier City Council management has dealt with these recent events.

Perhaps we could delay some of the council’s glamour projects, like the $45 million seafront Aquarium upgrade until we have the city’s water supplies going in and out the right ways.

After all, who will visit the refurbished aquarium if we’re all too sick, or washed away to get there?

In Hawke’s Bay Hurricanes Hardly Ever Happen

It’s not often you can say your city suffered from a lack of Hurricanes AND had it’s stormwater and wastewater systems overwhelmed by torrential rain yet again on the same day.

But today Napier did just that.

The lack of Hurricanes doesn’t refer to the weather event, even though the rain was indeed periodically torrential throughout the day.

(We didn’t even have an international cricket match scheduled for today, either!)

All Blow and No Go

Hawke’s Bay’s “Home” Super Rugby team, the Wellington Hurricanes, announced their home game schedule for the 2019 season.

Only one game is being played outside of Wellington’s Westpac Trust Stadium next year and that one game is being played in…

Palmerston North.

Yup, one game in Palmy and SEVEN in Wellington.

Nothing else.

It really is rubbish.

I think the only NZ team to play less “Home” games at McLean Park are the All Blacks.

The Hurricanes have played 11 games at Napier’s McLean Park since Super Rugby began in 1996.

That equates to an average of one game every two years, with stadiums in three cities – Wellington, Palmerston North and Napier to potentially choose from.

Napier hosted absolutely no super rugby games for 6 years – SIX YEARS! – between 2004-2010.

McLean Park was, admittedly, undergoing a major upgrade and grandstand build from 2007-2009, but it didnt stop other codes, like cricket, playing there during that time.

2011-2013 saw only one Hurricanes game, but TWO Crusaders “home-away-from-home” games in 2011 and 2012, after their home ground was
damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

No wonder the Taranaki Rugby Football Union left the franchise to join the Waikato Chiefs

It’s Not Us, it’s Them

As I’ve written before, some find it easy to Forget About Hawke’s Bay, but recently, as our awesomeness has become more and more apparent, that is becoming far less of an excuse and we are harder to ignore.

In 2016 Newshub ranked New Zealand’s 21 Best Super Rugby Venues, with McLean Park coming in at number nine (technically sixth, as Christchurch’s Lancaster Park, Wellington’s Athletic Park & Dunedin’s Carisbrook no longer exist) citing:

“Usually hosting just one Super Rugby match a year the games are generally
packed to the rafters with the locals reveling in a brief taste of top-flight footy.”

When this year’s Hurricanes match against the Durban Sharks at Mclean Park was announced this time last year one newspaper item began:

“McLean Park’s status as the Hurricanes’ home away from home appears in no jeopardy.”

It appears that bit of spin might have been writren with tongue firmly in cheek.

Losing Puff

This almost utter lack of faith in their regional, grassroots supporters is hard to fathom.

They can’t really claim it’s for financial reasons, as ticket sales from a packed McLean Park would obviously far out-do recent poor Wellington ticket sales, and the main reason for the Crusaders selecting Napier over their own venues in Nelson and Timaru was the income from ticket sales and the local support!

The Hurricanes could either pack out Napier’s McLean Park, Palmerston North’s Central Energy Trust Arena, and elsewhere in their zone repeatedly..

Or just keep playing over 85% of their games at an almost empty “Cake Tin” (Westpac Trust Stadium’s nickname, given its circular, metalic outer cladding) in Wellington and stoke the headlines that say Super Rugby is dying or dead.

Hawke’s Bay certainly hopes the competition doesn’t die, because we are currently producing the top high school rugby talent in the Hurricanes region, maybe even New Zealand.

We are keeping up our end of the deal, why aren’t the Hurricanes?

Hawke’s Bay deserves better!

A Model Citizen

One of my many creative talents, other than writing and talking is modelling – the scale variety, not the catwalk variety.

Although I did do that in high school. Once.

My interest in modelling started off many years ago.

Like generations of kiwi children, I grew up with Toro and Lego blocks, making cars, buildings, planes, trains, space ships and all sorts of things – They were a great introduction to creativity and creation.

But after going to a model show at a local school with my Dad in the 80’s and seeing the dioramas and detail that went into scale models, I was hooked!

Dad had been a bit of a modeller himself in his younger days. But rather than planes or trains, Dad made buildings.
He was so good he made it into Napier’s Daily Telegraph with a model of the city’s new St John’s Cathedral.

He was even offered a job with the Ministry of Works in Wellington making scale models of proposed buildings, bridges and structures, but turned it down.

The first two kits we ever got and made together were a WWII Mk 1 Spitfire and a Cold War Mig-27 Flogger jet fighter.

We put them together in the garage, glued them and even painted the Spitfire. It was a wonderful bonding experience and a cherished memory.

I started making more and more models.

The closest model shop to our house was also a bike shop, so ever since those days a part of me has associated model kits with the smell of rubber (and glue and paint..).

I even won a prize for the Skyhawk diorama I made in a local toy shop’s modelling competition.

The prize? Another model kit!

I believe this was what they called a “gateway drug“…

It was around this time that Japanese model giants, Tamiya were really taking off in New Zealand, especially with their radio controlled cars (the “Lunchbox”, “Bigwig” and “Hotshot” are still my all-time favourites) and 1/35 scale model tanks and soldiers.

These military models became a real interest of mine (what would modelling today be without the rather magnificent engineering and design that was so unfortunately dedicated to the death and destruction of war?) because the size of these 1/35 scale models leant themselves very well to becoming the basis for highly detailed dioramas – little scenes of frozen time, usually in the heat of battle, or sometimes candid moments of rest from the fray.

The (often immense) level of detail involved in making scale model dioramas led nicely into another branch of modelling – TRAINS!

A shot of Mike Danneman’s exquisite N scale Colorado layout.
Made even more amazing by the fact those locomotives are all less than 10cm long, and the entire layout is an L shape measuring only 5’x7′ and 3’wide

In the 90’s I discovered model trains through a cousin who collected HO scale steam locomotives.

In 1992 I found a Model Railroader magazine at the bookshop a couple doors down from the bike shop / model dealer and was henceforth hooked on that too!

Whole basement, nay, HOUSE-SIZED train layouts!

Model diesel locomotives towing dozens of ore car hoppers and log cars!

Railroads weaving over, around and through Colorado mountain ranges, valleys and rivers, shrunken down and represented in miniature, exquisite detail in the space of a six foot by six foot corner layout!

There was only one problem – Model railroading is rather (read “VERY”) expensive, so my tiny train ventures have largely been much smaller and slower, as time and finances permitted, than with the planes and tanks.

I branched out even more, diversifying into making model cars and trucks. When I started working for a forestry company I built a model logging truck!

The problem with using European models to replicate New Zealand logging trucks, is that the original European “rigs” usually only have single steering and driving axles – perfect for the largely flat, straight motorways and Autobahn of Western Europe, while their New Zealand equivalents have to negotiate steep terrain and sharp corners, requiring twin drive and twin steer axles. This meant buying two of the same kitset and “Kitbashing” them – Cutting the front and real axles off one kitset’s chassis and glueing them “seamlessly” onto the front and rear of the other complete chassis, so i wemt from having two kitsets that looked like THIS to one finished model that looked like THIS:

Like many modellers family takes over for a while and while the production line slows or ceases, the kitset collection continues to grow exponentially.

For me that was when our daughter came along and we bought our first home – What little free time I had evaporated for a while.

When I did have time to model I started putting a lot more work, concentration and detail into the models I made. They became specialised projects, like the Valentine tank I built to honour my Dad driving them during his Compulsory Military Training service.

This is a 1/48 scale Valentine tank I built earlier this year.
My Dad drove them as part of his Compulsory Military Training in the 1950’s, so I built it to honour his memory and service.

As our daughter got older it gave me more time to go back into this more detailed modelling.

But before long the pitter-patter of little feet followed me out to the shed to see what I was doing and ask if she could help.

How could I refuse?

Another generation of modeller might just have been created! 🙂

All the Small Things

I’ve had to deal with a lot of big issues recently, so whenever I could I’ve tried to get away from the heavier stuff and focus on lighter, funner things.

I needed a hero. I was holding out for a Pint Sized Hero.

Most famous for their “Pop Vinyls” – one of the many other pop culture goodies Funko, based in Seattle, Washington USA make are these “Pint Sized Heroes


Standing at a grand 4-5cm high the Pint Size Heroes (or, “PSH”) are far more compact than their bigger 10cm high Pop! partners, but just a neat.


With a growing range of figures now including comic book, movie, TV, gaming and other themes, I have taken a shine to the DC and Marvel cinematic universe characters.

Part of the attraction of the PSH’s is they are sold as what is called “Blind Bags” – Like the “Lucky Dips” of our youth, you can never be sure of what you get. So it’s a pleasant surprise when you open the packet and get the Batman, or Back to the Future PSH you were after.

If it’s one you don’t want, or already have there are now numerous groups on social media to buy, sell and swap “duplicates”.

I like setting my PSHs up in dioramas and scenes. Funko hosts a regular “Pint Size Hero Happy Hour” – #PSHHappyHour on Twitter and people are always finding new, inventive and creative ways of presenting their figures.

They’re lots of fun and bring back some great memories of happier, younger days, so these Pint Sized Heroes have often rescued me from modern day worries
with an uplifting distraction recently.

*The preceding wasn’t a paid advertisement – I bought all items over the last year or so for myself. But if anyone DOES want to supply me with free Funko goodies I wouldn’t mind!*

Miss You Mum

Oh, Solo Me-oh

As I mentioned on RNZ’s The Panel this week, it’s six months since my Mum passed away. She was 78.

With Dad passing away four years ago, I guess that makes me an orphan.

I had gotten up early on a Sunday morning when I noticed there was a message on our phone.

It was the rest home with “a bit of bad news, sorry”.

When I got back to the bedroom and, shaking a little and with tears in my eyes, told my wife and our daughter, who had woken me with her climbing into the bed, “Mum’s died” little Miss Napierinframe immediately curled up in a ball and started to cry.

I put my tears aside as we calmed and hugged her and a general numbness settled over me.

I’m not sure that feeling has completely left all this time later.

While her cause of death is listed as “dementia”, I feel there was more to it.

While it wasn’t diagnosed for years, Mum had lived with depression for some time.

She had some tough times in her life, but the last few years had been especially hard.

While my Mum clinically died early on a Sunday morning, she had stopped “living” many years ago.

Never Forgiven, Never Forgotten.

The youngest of three children, from what Mum told us it sounded like she was the runt of the litter – or at least treated like it.

She said she was born with a tongue tie. making her very early life a harder than usual and she was apparently an unhappy baby – This was in the early 1940’s and medical techniques weren’t up modern levels, so it wasn’t until a year or so later that it was operated on and the problem cured.

She told us later in life she overheard her mum telling her sister that she would “never forgive (Mum) for what she put her through” as a baby.

That’s pretty cold and crappy.

The relationship she had with her family, particularly her sister, made me glad I was an only chid.

We would visit them, or they would visit us. It would all seem to start off well, but almost always end in tears.
My Aunt always seemed to act or feel superior to Mum, and Mum always felt inferior.

Visits with her brother, my uncle, and his family went far better. Reading some of the letters he sent her he certainly seemed to care about her far more than the others and was concerned about how she was treated and how that made her feel, but I fear the damage was already done.

My Granddad sounded nice. He was kind and supportive of Mum, but he died before I was born, so I never got to know or meet him.

Real ACTUAL Housewives – Not Those TV Phoneys

Mum was born in Napier, but her family moved up to Gisborne for Granddad’s work where she stayed until leaving school. She moved back to Napier and stayed with her Aunties/Uncles which is where she met my dad, who was living down the road from one of her relatives.

During this time she worked as a receptionist for the Ministry of Transport and then at a local GP’s (Dr Ellum) practice.

Working for a doctor seemed to have some sort of long-lasting effect on Mum, as she would develop an almost pathological fear of doctors and hospitals later in life.

Mum’s parents moved back down here too eventually. They lived in the big, green house with the long, slanted roof you have probably absent-mindedly gazed at while stopped at the Kennedy Road / Georges Drive lights in Marewa if you’re driving into town along Kennedy Road.


After dating for a mere 14 years Mum and Dad were married and I came along about a year later.

Mum dedicated herself to being a housewife.

She was from the old school era where the woman stayed at home, looked after the house and child(ren), did all the cooking and cleaning etc.

Promoting such a lifestyle would be heresy to many now, but Mum seemed to like it.

I am probably one of the only teenagers in the history of the world to be told off for doing my own washing!

One day, trying to be independent while Mum and Dad where out, I bunged my dirty clothes in the washing machine, chucked in the correct amount of Persil and hit “Start”.

Nothing exploded, no one was harmed and when the wash cycle finished I put them out on the line to dry.

When Mum came home and saw there was washing on the line that she hadn’t done she went spare at me!

Apparently the washing was HER territory and I had done it all wrong.

Mum had a particular (peculiar) method that involved two to three rinse cycles for each wash. To be fair, the clothes never stunk of washing powder like the ones I washed did, but I felt the repetition wasted time, water and electricity.

Only and Lonely

Mum always seemed quite insular.

She never had many friends. Most of the people we went to visit were relatives – usually Great Aunts and the like. This could, relatives being relatives, be a bit of a hit-and-miss affair and often open old wounds for Mum.

She had few close friends, I remember one passed away some time ago when the word “cancer” was still quite foreign.

She never had a drivers licence or drove, so was constricted in mobility until Dad came home from work.

Not All Scars Are Visible

While the on-going emotional pain at how she was treated by her relatives was evident for quite some time, Dad and I really started to worry about Mum the first time she had to go down to Lower Hutt to have some skin cancers removed around 2005.

She was petrified of going to the doctor which, as noted before, was a bit odd – having worked as a receptionist for one for many years – She had become a big fan of homeopathy and trying alternative cures that avoided the medical system wherever possible.

So it was a struggle to get her to agree to be taken down to Lower Hutt Hospital, be admitted for surgery to have several reasonably sized, but benign cancers removed and spend a few days in the ward recovering.

She was convinced she was never going to get out of the hospital, or be stuck in there for weeks.
We thought she might have been going senile and spent a fair bit of time at her bedside trying to convince her everything was fine and we would be home soon.

We ended up being down there for just under a week – only a day longer than expected and she seemed to recover quickly.

There were another couple trips down to Lower Hutt in the following years that we made without major event or fanfare.

While I too had to go down to Lower Hutt for similar procedures and didn’t mind the scars – I already considered myself ugly, so it could only get better – I think Mum never quite got over how the skin cancers or surgery affected her appearance.

I think it is because she was of an era where appearance probably mattered more, so the more BCCs she had removed, the more she removed herself from public view.

She became very hermitised. It was a struggle for Dad to get her out of the house.

When their granddaughter was born, Dad would find any excuse to drop by and see his “Little Angel”, while mum would make any excuse not to.

When I came to take her out to appointments, events, or even to the shops it was always “too cold”, or “too hot”, or “too wet”, or she “just didn’t feel up to it”.

I lost count of how many birthday parties or other special times she missed out on.

It ruined the day for me on several occasions, because these were supposed to be “family events”.

This really annoyed both Dad and myself.

It annoyed me that Mum wouldn’t (or couldn’t?) motivate herself enough to get out and do things.

It also annoyed me that I couldn’t understand how or why.

It put a lot of pressure on Dad, too, whose health hadn’t been the best at the time either.

Darkest Days

When Dad had ended up in the Intensive Care Unit of Hawke’s Bay Hospital with pneumonia, it had been all a bit too much for Mum.

She attempted suicide.

I came over to take her out to see Dad in the hospital (he was fine and recovering in a ward by then) and ended up taking her out there to the Emergency Department, too.

She said she was sorry, was fine now and would never do that again, despite Dad telling me later she had tried it at least two other times.

I can’t remember how I felt, but I do remember leaving her in an ED cubicle talking with the Psych staff, while I went to see Dad and pretended that Mum was just at home and everything was fine. I feared the shock of such a thing might finish him off and I didn’t want to lose them both.

But I would, all too soon.

When Dad died about a year later I stayed with Mum for a few nights to make sure she was as OK as she could be and visited as often as I could, but with a young family this was increasingly hard.

Aside from the care workers who visited (and eventually all got annoyed at how Mum wouldn’t let them help around the house) and visits from her closest long-time friend (the two of them were in McHardy Maternity Home together just before it closed, with her friend’s twins born the day after me), Mum’s isolation and hermitisation only worsened – she seldom left her bedroom – preferring to sleep, or hide away her days.

I talked to this friend later on and she admitted that in the 40 years they knew each other she had never seem more of Mum and Dad’s house than the kitchen – Where Mum entertained her guests, with the hallway door usually closed tightly behind her.

It became blatantly clear Mum wasn’t looking after herself and after a long fight I eventually got her into a rest home and proper care.

Cleaning out the family home after this posed its own logistical, financial and emotional challenges.

And when I ended up in the Coronary Care Unit of Hawke’s Bay Hospital, awaiting transfer to Wellington Hospital’s Heart Unit, I called Mum to tell her what was going on. But I played the whole thing down – Worried how she would react, or carry on if I didn’t make it back.

Fear Itself

I don’t know what of, or why, but Mum appeared to live in fear for the last few years of her life.

She would, on occasions, constantly mutter ”I’m absolutely terrified”, or something similar to herself. I think it was supposed to be an inner monologue but, as she had lost a fair bit of her hearing, she was unaware she was saying it loud enough for me to hear when I sat near her.

When I asked what she was afraid of, or what she was saying, she denied saying anything, or wouldn’t elaborate.

Fading Away

Ultimately, Mum just gave up on living.

Whether she just wanted to be with Dad again, or if it was something else, I’ll never know.

Even in the rest home she mainly just kept to her room. Getting her to appointments was still a struggle and she didn’t interact much with other residents.

Around the time of her wedding anniversary Mum suddenly became quite ill. She recovered enough for my wife, daughter and I to have lunch with her at the rest home’s family Christmas lunch.

But then she went down-hill again soon after – I thought we were going to lose her in the lead up to, if not at Christmas, but she again seemed to improve a little, before one last decline.

I would go to see her every few days, but she would always be in bed asleep. The last time saw her alive I thought she looked so peaceful I didn’t want to disturb her, so I didn’t.

She died a few days later.

Even in death she didn’t get much of a break. A few weeks before her passing Mum’s GP called me to apologise for not being in touch more often. They hadn’t been able to find any obvious reason for Mum’s illness and sudden downturn, but would run more tests. I don’t know if they did, but by that stage it likely wouldn’t have made any difference.

The day she passed away her GP was on holiday, so he couldn’t attend. It wasn’t until early afternoon that the on-call GP could get to the rest home and sign the relative documents, some 12 to 14 hours after she died.

Not knowing Mum personally he sighted “Dementia” as Mum’s cause of death.

When I asked about getting an autopsy or something similar to find out just what had happened to Mum, I was told her GP being on holiday meant they wouldn’t be able to get authorisation for that for another week or so. And they were confident enough it was dementia.

I had to take their word for it.

Mum had left strict instructions in her will for a prompt cremation, which I followed. If there was an ulterior cause, or whatever the reason for her sudden decline was, we will never know.

But I DID go against one of Mum’s wishes by having a public funeral for her.

She wanted to be gone and buried before anyone knew. I couldn’t stand the thought of that.

Along with friends, neighbors and relations, a lady who was receptionist to the GP next door to hers all those years ago came to pay her respects and spoke fondly of Mum.

I don’t think Mum realised so many people actually cared about her.

Mixed Signals?

Like I said, While the attending GP wrote Mum’s cause of death as “Dementia”, I’m not so certain

Because depression often has similar symptoms to dementia:

They can even sometimes be confused.

And depression is not uncommon in those with dementia, as the awareness of losing control of your “true” self must be overwhelming and devastating.

As New Zealand’s aging population increases, this will only become a bigger health issue.

While she still seemed quite lucid, I think Mum just gave up on life after my Dad died four years ago.

It’s been a struggle for me to comprehend why, or how, as I got Dad’s sense of positivity or hope (“Hope” was also his middle name) which keeps driving me forward.

Sadly she lost that, or possibly never had it.

Whatever the actual cause of her death was, or why she was felt so tormented for so long, I just hope she’s happy wherever she is.

As I sat on the tailgate of my car the morning of Mum’s death, texting and calling friends and relations to let them know of her passing I happened to look up and see two white doves fly past.

The cynic in me said it was just two pigeon interlopers returning to their roosts in the giant phoenix palm tree down the road.

Another part of me said “No, It’s Mum and Dad, together again and free at last”.

Love you, Mum!

Break the silence – WHERE TO GET HELP:

Rural Support Trust ph 0800 787 254

Lifeline: Ph 0800 543 354 (available 24/7).

Suicide Crisis Helpline: Ph 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO), available 24/7.

Youthline: Ph 0800 376 633.

Kidsline: Ph 0800 543 754 (available 24/7).

Whatsup: Ph 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm).

Depression helpline: Ph 0800 111 757 (available 24/7).

Rainbow Youth: Ph (09) 376 4155.

Samaritans: Ph 0800 726 666.