Category Archives: Reflections-Awards

2468. Chants and hakas

Story 2468 is significant enough a number to deviate into reality. When we were kids, “Two four six eight” was the grace before meals when mum and dad weren’t there:

Two four six eight, bog in, don’t wait.

Two four six eight was also the prefix to a chant at sports gatherings:

Two four six eight, who do we appreciate?

The winner’s name would then be chanted.

Another chant in that ilk was to spell the sports person’s name:

Give us an S
Give us an M
Give us an I
Give us a T
Give us an H
What have you got?
SMITH! SMITH! SMITH!

Of course that chant doesn’t work if the name is Barakat-Bentinckstokes.

My favourite chant (apart from Let’s go Brandon) requires a bit of explaining:

The High School I went to (and also taught at for a decade) was situated in the countryside. It was a large all-boys boarding school catering mainly at the time to sons of isolated farming families throughout the country. Hence the school itself was attached to a farm. The biggest (and oldest) annual athletics occasion was called the McEvedy Shield. Four major all-boys schools met to compete in some large stadium. The entire roll of each school would attend. Chants and hakas abounded. A haka is a traditional Maori challenge and each school in New Zealand has its own. The video shows two opposing high school teams challenging each other before a rugby match. (Incidentally, a “College” in New Zealand is the same as a High School).


At the McEvedy Shield around 2 o’clock the three opposing schools would unite and begin chanting at my school:

Go home! Milking time! Go home! Milking time!

I always found the Milking Time Chant very entertaining, and if anything it highlighted the positive camaraderie between the four competitive schools.

Perhaps you have a favourite chant?

2450: Welcome to Verona

A roundish number and a solid fifty before getting to story 2500! So here is a true saga – as is the custom on such occasions. Some may regard this tale as “inappropriate”.

It was New Year’s Eve. I had been staying with a friend in Passau, Germany (once again trying to find my way back to New Zealand after studying in Massachusetts). The next leg of my journey was to be Italy. The train left Munich at 10 p.m. and would arrive in Verona early in the morning of New Year’s Day. As the train departed my friend presented me with two bottles of red wine – to celebrate the New Year.

I waved farewell. The train was on its way.  It was already New Year’s Day in New Zealand! I shall toast the New Year there. I had recently been in England. I shall toast the New Year there! I had visited Ireland. I shall toast the New Year there!  I had been in many countries all over Europe. Well! I was given two bottles to celebrate the New Year. The train arrived in Verona.  It was three in the morning. I left the empty bottles neatly in my carriage compartment.

Aha! There was a café in the station and it was open. I had exchanged some German money into Italian currency before I left Munich. I said to the lady behind the counter: “Coffee please”, and what did I get? One tiny cup with what looked like a teaspoon of molasses.  I noticed other customers “knocked it back” and went on their way. I hovered and listened how to order a decent mug of coffee. I was successful!

And then I wanted to go to the toilet. Urgently.  Number 2. But to get into a cubicle you had to pay with small coins and I didn’t have any.  I handed the guarding janitor a hefty note and he let me in.

Let me explain before I go any further…  I am not exactly a fashion model but it was midwinter and I dressed warmly. I wore jeans and boots. The jeans were held up by a pair of suspenders (we call them braces).  Over all of that I wore a pullover and a heavy coat, a scarf, and gloves. And – oh dear – the toilet was not sit-down but a beautifully tiled hole in the floor.

Let me get over this bit quite briefly… One can’t lower ones jeans without undoing the suspenders. One can’t undo the suspenders without taking off ones coat, scarf, and gloves. One cannot squat on the floor with pulled down jeans. One can’t take ones jeans off without first taking off ones boots. One doesn’t want to get ones socks wet on the bathroom tiles. To cut a long story short, there I was (ever so slightly inebriated) totally naked in a freezing toilet in Verona at three in the morning. I have no idea how Italians do it.

Emerging (fully clothed) back into the station I checked the train timetable. No train to take me out of this God-forsaken place. The train station was some distance from the centre of town. I decided to walk – in the dark – and arrived in Verona town centre at dawn.

What a marvellous place! I fell in love with it and I was sad a few days later to leave this wondrous town! I even saw the balcony where Juliet said, “O Romeo! Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” It was magic and my real introduction to the entrancement that was Italy.

2434.  Tonsured

Not an actual photo of me but pretty close

Today is a true story because the well has run dry!

You know those old pictures of monks with a ring of hair on their heads called a tonsure? These days the meaning of it escapes anyone with a pulse. For hundreds of years, possibly for more than a thousand years, monks in the Roman Catholic tradition had tonsures.

Now I make the dates up because I can’t remember, but after more than a thousand years I was the second to last person in the history of the world to get a legitimate tonsure. My friend, John, was the very last, he being several months younger than me. In those days everything was arranged in age from oldest to youngest. The bishop came to do the deed. It was around 1972/1973. Let’s say it was arranged to happen on the 22nd of May.

The pope had issued some decree or other that did away with the tonsure. A new ritual was to replace it. The new ritual was to become valid on 23rd of May, the day after our arranged ceremony. The bishop sent a telegram to the Vatican: can we use the new rite the evening before? He had another urgent task to do and had to go away. Back came the answer: Negativo.

And that is how I became the second to last person in the history of Western Civilization to get tonsured.

Don’t panic! I was still young and within a few months had curly ringlets down to the centre of my back. Perhaps the tonsure had been there to safeguard against vanity!

2408. ANZAC Day 2022

Today is ANZAC Day in New Zealand and Australia when those who served and died in wars are remembered. Ironically the date is not the day of the most celebrated victory but the occasion of the bloodiest battle for these two countries in World War I: Gallipoli – Australia lost 8,141 and New Zealand lost 2,779.

About half a mile from where I live is a little school: Stanley Road School that began in 1895. It has now closed, but the school buildings are used and maintained by the local rural community (mainly sheep, dairy, and cattle farmers).

In the school playground is a large American Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). Kids used to play and climb in it from the turn of the 20th century. Are kids still allowed to climb trees?

The original Tulip Tree

In the year 2000 the community decided to plant an avenue of trees along the road past the school using grafts from the original Tulip Tree. There are 25 trees in all that I could count. They form a lovely avenue as you drive along the road when going to town. Each tree was planted by the family of a former pupil of the school killed in the First World War. The deceased soldiers as kids would have played in the mother tree.

The avenue also reminds us of the extent of loss in each little rural community. Twenty-five to die is a high number of kids from a single-teacher little country school. The section of road is known as the Peace Tree Avenue.

2401.  A reflection on the Easter Bunny

Rabbits come in all colours and sizes. A lot depends whether or not people intend to eat them.

The sad fact is that if people intend to keep a rabbit as a pet most prefer a white rabbit. Does not the magician pull a white rabbit out of the hat? Does not little Felicity want a white baby bunny for a pet?

This is systemic racism at its worst. People will tolerate a black rabbit if it’s all there is available. Brown ones are wild, out-of-control, under-developed rabbits that should be exterminated and eaten provided they don’t have a disease, which is not an uncommon condition among feral brown rabbits. Patchy rabbits look like they can’t make up their minds. But fluffy white rabbits… oh! ah! oh!

Strangely however, chocolate Easter bunnies are almost inevitably made of dark chocolate. They are too dark to be considered to be brown. They are closer to black than brown. And they lay dark-coloured eggs. Some of these black eggs have white centres – which is an insidious plot by the white eggs to invade the space of the black eggs.

Look at the chocolate Easter Bunny. It is usually hollow. There is nothing inside. Nothing speaks louder than this extraordinary proclamation of chocolate rabbits having no brains. Or no heart.

Now watch the white middleclass bigot get stuck into the Easter Bunny. First they strip it of its beautiful shiny clothing. Then they might descend into breaking off its ears. I know of one white systemic racist who hit their black Easter bunny with a hammer while his children oohed and aahed their approval. It broke into a dozen little pieces.

There is only one solution to all this systemic racism: ban Easter altogether. There is no need to have a whole season devoted to this exultation of white bunnies and the extermination of chocolate ones by redneck hillbillies. Those who disagree should be condemned to eating hot cross buns for the rest of their lives.

2400. A country bumpkin

Happy Easter to the many who celebrate Easter!

By a happy circumstance this story, numbering 2400, is a nice round figure and occurs on Easter Day. Usually when a round figure arrives this blog deviates into some hitherto unexplored area. Hence, today I have boarded the Google Maps Bus and thought I’d show you photos of a few significant and insignificant places in my early life.

How time changes things! As you will see, memorial edifices have eluded me as there’s hardly a building in my past that is still standing. There is nowhere for adulating fans to erect a commemorative plaque apart from my birthplace.

1. Riverlea Private Hospital, 15 Helmore Street, Whanganui, New Zealand.

This is where I was born. Back then (1949) it was a private maternity hospital – presumably because that’s where the midwife lived. These days it looks like it is a private home. There was one amusing thing about getting to 15 Helmore Street in 1949. Mum and Dad were new to the city. It was 3 in the morning. They couldn’t find the street and had to stop and ask the milkman. Apparently the part the milkman played in my coming into this world was a bit of a joke in the pub my father ran.

2. Wakarara Road, Hawkes Bay.

This was the site of our house when Dad sold the hotel and bought a farm. I started going to school from this house. We would have to walk to the top of the hill on the right to catch the school bus as it passed.

3. Corner of Wakarara and Hardy Roads, Hawkes Bay.

Here at the top of the hill is where we waited for the school bus. There was no shelter so in the rain the school bus would come the extra half mile to our house. The teacher at our one-teacher school, Mr Allen, drove the bus.

4. Wakarara Road, Hawkes Bay.

There was never a building here but there was an old wooden gate obviously replaced by this one. It was while swinging on this gate that Sue Cullen (a year younger than me) told me that Father Christmas wasn’t true. A picturesque setting for dramatic news.

5. Wakarara Road, Hawkes Bay.

This is not far from where we lived. Back in those days it was a gravel road (unsealed, unpaved). By the little bridge (which back then was just a culvert) I skidded on my bike and fell off, and the car behind me stopped a fraction from my head. It was a blue Holden station wagon. The driver got a heck of a fright but from memory I didn’t seem to mind.

6. Springhill School, Wakarara Road, Hawkes Bay.

This is the site of my school. It no longer operates and the single old classroom has gone. The tennis court is the same, and that is where a nesting magpie chased me. Dad (a qualified plumber and chairman of the School Committee) put in the swimming pool the year we left the area (1960). There were usually around 20 pupils attending the school in any one year.

7. Main Road North, Waikanae.

In late 1960 we moved to a dairy farm hundreds of miles from our sheep and cattle farm. Here is a picture of where our house was. In fact my bedroom is now in the middle of the road!

8. Tongariro Street, Paraparaumu.

Here is a picture of where my new primary school used to be! The school has since moved and the land has been sold to a developer. These tennis courts are where Peter Lopez told me that Marilyn Munroe had been found dead IN THE NUDE!

9. Heretaunga Road, Trentham.

Here is a photo of the gates of my high school. The buildings (which you can’t see in the photo) are all new. Years later I was teaching there and germinated gum tree seeds in a little container on my window ledge. You can see in the photo one of the gum trees that sprouted. (It’s the big tree in the middle!)

10. Stanley Road, Te Popo.

Given the rurality of the pictures, you can probably see why I like living in the country. To conclude, here is a photo looking out my current window. I keep the binoculars on my desk, mainly to see if I can spy any edible field mushrooms!

2300. Pantomime Season

As has become the norm on this blog, a round number (in this case Story 2300) calls not for a story as such but a conversation about something taken from real life.

Since we are nearing the feast of Christmas I thought I’d tell what I used to do once upon a time when I had a bit more energy than I have today.

The last ten years or so of my teaching were at a mixed sexes high school. The thirty or so years teaching before that were in all boys’ high schools. I think New Zealand has a higher percentage of single sex schools than some other parts of the globe. The New Zealand School year goes from early February until early December. The Summer Break is December-January. It follows then that Christmas and New Year fall in the longest school break.

It used to be that secondary schools finished a week or so earlier than the primary schools. Every year I would write a Christmas Pantomime about an hour long. I would then ask for volunteers from the students and between 12 and 20 would be about the right number. We had wonderful painted sets (we used most of the same every year!) and the students had only a few days to learn the script and rehearse the pantomime.

In the meantime I had written to every primary school in the Province and given times of performances. It would be 50 cents entry per child – and “You know the ones who can’t afford it so just let them in!” There would be three performances per day – one at 10 am, one at midday, and one at 2 pm. They would have to book by phone. On top of that, they were welcome to use the expansive school grounds for picnics or sports or whatever.

Whole schools would come, often paid for by a school’s Board of Governors as “an end of year treat”. The auditorium held around 700 and it was full for each of the 15 performances.

Local businesses donated prizes for a colouring-in event which had the theme of the pantomime that year.

Buses would arrive in droves. For the week there were kids all over the place! And they were allowed to make as much noise during a performance as they wished – shouting at the Dame, and calling out at the Wicked Witch, and applauding the Prince and Princess. Each performance was always a great success.

We did this for ten years. Secondary School education lasted 5 years; that meant that an actor at the end of his time at school had done 75 pantomime performances. They were masters at controlling a crowd! Throughout the school year, for theatre performances, it was a breeze. They already had a huge experience. That is why, I think, that at inter-secondary school Drama Festivals our performances always stood out, and we were even selected to represent New Zealand at International Festivals.

The waiting list to come to that school was enormous – almost every primary school boy in the Province wanted to come to the secondary school that did the pantomimes!

Oh! And I forgot the most important thing. At the end of the week the student actors would divide the spoils. It was always a healthy sum. It was after all their “holiday job”.

Unfortunately I have only one photo of the ten years! It is the Big Bad Wolf in the pantomime called “The Horse’s Wedding”.

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 15

422 Stanley Road, Stratford, Taranaki, New Zealand

November 2017 –

We had been looking for a home for some time. We had a list of necessary attributes a rental house must have. For example, allowing tenants to have a dog automatically cut out 95% of the houses. It must have space for a garden. It must have access to the internet. It wasn’t an impossible list, but it was impossible to find!

A house for rent came online. It was near a town called Waitara. It seemed to fit the bill. We expressed interest and drove the four hours to see it. Contrary to what the photographs conveyed, you had to turn sideways to squeeze past the dining table to reach the front door. And then the crunch came: of course the owners will be storing their furniture in the garage. Uh-oh! That was a warning sign. This would be a fleeting and temporary abode. We began the long journey home.

As we passed Mount Taranaki near a town called Stratford, Eric commented that in all the searching over the years for a place he had never once seen a house come up for rent from Stratford. Travel-weary, we decided to stay in Stratford for the night. The motel had a complimentary “Village Newspaper”. In it was an advertisement for a house to rent. We drove for a look. It was perfect. The next day we went to the rental agency. The woman who had responsibility for the house was away. We filled out an application form and left.

Not long after arriving home the phone rang. It was Maureen from the rental agency. The house we applied for had already been rented out, but she had another if we cared to come for a look. We arranged a meeting time and once again began the long journey in our old ute.

Maureen wasn’t there at the house. We hadn’t come all this way not to look so we went around the house ourselves. I remember commenting, “If they knew we were coming for a look you’d think they could have made the beds.” We went back to the ute and phoned Maureen. “Where are you?” she asked. “We’re here,” we said. Except – we were at someone else’s house on the wrong road!

Quickly we made it to the correct house and loved it. It filled all our conditions, except it didn’t come with any land for a cow. It had room for a garden. It was a fairly new house on a beef and cattle farm. It had a double garage, three bedrooms, and a spacious open sitting-room-kitchen-dining-room. It had a log burner. We said we’d take it, and would move in after the current tenants moved out in a month’s time.

So that is where we are today – four years later and the longest we have lived anywhere! Much has happened over that time. COVID19 struck and the business collapsed that Eric had spent years building up. Clients went from 112 down to 2, and those 2 didn’t pay. We were not an essential service. Friends helped – even blogging friends helped out. Yvonne from Australia for example sent a gigantic box of wine! What a wonderful thing to have done! We have survived! Linda and Barry, our wonderful landlord-farmers, said if things get tough forget the rent for a time and we’ll sort things out down the line. So far we have managed to pay each week if sometimes a little late!

I have never in my life had anything published and then out of the blue, resulting from the blog, two publishing companies – one in Britain and one in the States – asked for poems to go into anthologies. I am a published poet! Not many from New Zealand seem interested. In fact, as far as I know, the only person from New Zealand who follows my blog is Sylvie from Nelson – and Sylvie is French!

About two years ago our wonderful Springer Spaniel, Bubble, developed epilepsy. How terrifying to see such a lovely dog throw an uncontrollable fit. He went on medication which controlled the epilepsy. Then one Friday night he had a seizure. And another. And another. We phoned for an animal vet. Didn’t we know it was the weekend? Animals don’t take ill on Saturdays and Sundays. No vet was available. The next ten hours were the longest ten hours of my life as Bubble had over forty seizures. And then he died. We buried him in his favourite garden spot where he liked to sit and watch the farm animals pass by.

The farm is huge as is the neighbouring farm. During lockdowns we can wander maskless over hundreds of acres. There’s always something new and something different to see and do. There’s firewood to chop and gardens to weed and lawns to mow. There are preserves and jams and breads to make and new recipes to try. There are walks to take and TV and internet to watch. There’s a piano to play and books to read and blogs to maintain. There are poems and stories and music to write. There’s work to do – although sparser than we would hope.

What an adventure it has been! It is a ridiculous thing to ask “Who knows what the future holds?” But there has been a Providence directing these adventures in the past twenty years, and I have no reason to doubt that Providence has further adventures up its sleeve.

Out my window as I write

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 14

27 St Annes Street, Levin, New Zealand

August 2016 – November 2017

This house is going to be largely about dogs – canine and human.

Even prior to being ousted from the previous place we had found a house in town to live in. In fact, although we would spend part of each day at the previous place we had shifted most of our belongings to the new address and slept in the new place at night. We still had the cow and the goat at the old place. The end came suddenly and before you could blink we were ensconced at 27 Saint Annes Street, Levin.

It was a large two-story house with a steep staircase that had no bannister. To get to the main bedroom you had to squeeze past the staircase, which suggested that the upstairs had been an afterthought. Outside in the front were two gigantic trees; a gum and a copper beech. Next to them was a fairly busy road. At the back of the house was a substantial lawn with a large, but old, garage and workshop. We put in trellis gates to keep the dog at bay.

We always regarded this place as being temporary. It would give us space to search anywhere in the country for as near-perfect a house as possible. We made a list of what a rented house would have to have, and a list of what would be nice but not necessary. Every day we looked online at the houses available, from the top of the country to the bottom. In the meantime we got on with living a life.

We were permitted to have a dog, so of course Delia came too as did the cat. Delia didn’t like the place much. She was used to expansive rural settings where she could roam at whim. And then she was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Luckily an expert dog surgeon was visiting the town. He said an operation would be touch and go. We held our breath, but within a week Delia was happily home as large as life. Six months later we went for our daily walk. We came home. Delia sat down and died – tail wagging.

A month or so later we had the opportunity to get a puppy – a black and white Springer Spaniel. We named him Bubble.

On one side of the house were neighbours Pearl and Norm. They were an older couple, and delightful. They would frequently pop in for a chat, as indeed we too would pop over to their place. Norm was into making home brew and I wasn’t beyond making a brew myself. Norm was a car mechanic and was called upon several times to fix our car. Pearl cared for half a dozen homeless cats.

There was a neighbour on the other side also called Norm; Norm and his partner Chelsea. All day, and for a good part of the night, you could hear them screaming obscenities at each other. (You get the idea). They had seven dogs; half a dozen fluffy lapdog yappers and a vicious Rottweiler. The Rottweiler knew how to jump the fence into our property right at the back where Norm had his marijuana garden. We were at times scared to go out on the back lawn, and little Bubble wouldn’t go there to pee. Luckily, Levin had a dog park of about ten acres. We would visit the park each day and Bubble would play and run with packs of other dogs of all shapes and sizes.

I continued to play the piano at the Levin Library when invited to give a concert. Usually I would play Scarlatti Sonatas or Haydn Sonatas. I loved it, and the library users appreciated it too.

Another thing that happened was a 7.8 earthquake. It was a biggie! It went on and on. In fact it was two earthquakes following one another without a break.

Rainwater had no escape from our back lawn, and the water from the roof of the house also gushed there. The back of the house with the wretched running Rottweiler became a muddy swamp. We made some raised beds to grow vegetables.

Then disaster struck. Norm-of-the-obscenities dropped dead at his front door. The body was taken away and the partying began. Crowds revelled at the house and a few stayed the nights. A second Rottweiler made an appearance. Chelsea could not control any of the dogs. They ran amuck. A month or so later their landlord called to ask why the rent had not been paid. He booted all out. The house had been trashed.

Peace at last, but we’d had enough of the place. With greater urgency we searched for a house we could call a home. We drove several hundred miles to view a place, but that is the next story. Eric went ahead to set up the new abode; internet and power and phone and so on. I stayed behind to supervise the removal truck and to shampoo the carpet. Three days later, with dog and cat, I set sail and left the wretched place behind.

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 13

12 Tui Glen Drive, Levin, New Zealand

December 2014 – August 2016

We instantly fell in love with this place during the open house that the rental agency staged. Other people attended besides Eric and me so we behaved as super nice as possible to the rental people. In the end we were lucky enough to get selected.

We met the owners. They seemed a nice couple. She was a New Zealander and he was originally from Vanuatu. Their work was one and a half hours drive away and they were tired of travelling. They would rent somewhere closer to work and rent their own place out to us via the rental agency. We signed a year’s contract.

There were several acres of land made up of three paddocks and an orchard, as well as the lawns around the house itself. The owners had half a dozen cows and about a dozen sheep; far too many for such a small property. They would feed them hay all year. Fortunately they took the livestock with them.

Billy the Goat’s house was placed in one of the paddocks and he was very much at home.

We purchased a young Aberdeen Angus cattle beast that we called Blossom. When she reached about eighteen months of age we would call in the butcher. Several months before the butcher’s engagement we bought another young cow, a Simmental, that we called Truffle. Truffle would replace Blossom.

The owners were keen that we keep the place tidy. We were permitted to have a vegetable garden under the tall trees at the entrance gate. It was infertile and shaded. The garden wasn’t overall particularly successful. We did have success with tomatoes however, as there was a concrete path all around the house and about six inches of soil with no grass growing edged the path. We planted tomatoes all along the edge of the path. Not only did the mature tomato plants flop all over the footpath making it impassable, but they produced literally thousands of tomatoes.

It was a very happy year and the translation business was going well. Such was the amount of work required that I volunteered to format the documents to be translated. I still do that to this day.

The house was modern and comfortable. I had taken up practising the piano with a vengeance. The Levin Public Library held concerts every Friday and I was invited seven times to give an hour’s concert. It was great motivation to practise the piano daily. I think the library viewed keyboard works from the Baroque and Classical Periods to be more suited to a library environment!

At one stage I had a heart attack. The ambulance arrived at the same time as the guy arrived to clean the chimney. He said he’d come back later. They put me in hospital for a week or so. The heart specialist said the arteries are so gunked up they couldn’t even do a stent. They sent me home with pills that thus far seem to be doing their job.

We got the ute (pickup) fixed while we lived here. It had become a rust bucket. And what a great job they did! It was cheaper to get it done up and made road-worthy than to buy another.

Usually a Rental Agency will come and inspect a house every three months or so and report to the owners. They were always pleased with the care we took. We signed a contract to rent the property for a second year. The day after we signed, the owners withdrew the property from the Rental Agency.  They would look after the rental agreement themselves.  There’s a phrase Rental Agencies have for clients who take over a contract once the paper work is done and the contract signed. I can’t remember what the phrase is but it’s not polite.

On the first Saturday after the takeover we had a six hour inspection. Every nook and cranny, every cupboard and shelf, was examined minutely. They left, giving us a list of things to be improved. They reappeared to do a similar inspection the following Saturday – and every Saturday. Eric and I would take the dog and go to the beach for the day. If it was raining we would sit in the car until sunset.

A list on the kitchen bench would greet us on return:

- There are water droplets on the board behind the kitchen faucets.
- The waste bin in the kitchen is in the wrong place.
- There is dust on the window sill in the dining room. (They would have had to have climbed under the table to see it).
- Who gave permission to plant irises in the vegetable garden?

On and on the inspections went and we still had six months to go on the contract. Things got worse. We came home after a day of sitting in the car and they had stripped every fruit tree of its fruit. The orchard was part of the rental agreement. The next thing a lawn mowing company moved in and cut down all the grass in the fields that was intended for the cow and goat. We had to quickly buy some hay. The fields were looking uncut and untidy, said the landlords. We were presented with a bill from the lawn mowing company for $180. The only thing we could do was to rent another house altogether and pay two lots of rent until our contract ran out. We made a submission to the Rental Association who ordered a hearing for the case.  We were well prepared. Would you believe? We got the month wrong and missed the hearing.

The landlords seized the occasion. They took us to court for abandoning the contract and destroying property. They wanted $6,000 in compensation. They had first gone to another rental agency so that new renters could be found. We had a letter from the new rental agency saying we had abandoned the building and had broken the contract which will now terminate officially in a week. But we still had stuff at the house – such as Truffle the Cow and Billy the Goat! We quickly had to finish packing and moving. Billy went to his new home – to be cared for by one of my brothers.

The sole butcher in town was away on vacation. We couldn’t take the cow with us into town! I found the butcher’s son who could cull it for the freezer before 7 am when we had to hand over the keys. Have you ever held a light for a butcher while he guts and quarters a cow in a field in the middle of the night? Then we had to clean the house. We made it out on time yet still the court case loomed.

What nasty things had we done? “They, your Honour,” said the landlords, “have made holes in the ceiling with a broom handle, all along the corridor. And here are photos to prove it taken during the rental agency’s final inspection.”  Eric pointed out that apparently they were not overly computer literate. The date and time is recorded in the photos on a computer. The photographs were taken the day after the inspection and at seven in the evening.

We knew we would get an unfavourable judgement. The judge had been efficient and curt. She clearly didn’t like us. We were dismissed with a wave of the hand and were to be informed of the outcome by letter. The landlord’s son had been murdered several months beforehand in a domestic dispute. We didn’t have such a heart-rending story to sweeten the tale.

It was the day of the presidential election in the United States. Hillary lost to Trump. The letter arrived. We have since referred to the landlord-losers in this case as “The Clintons”.