Category Archives: Reflections-Awards

Old Monk’s Habits Die Hard

Today’s scheduled tale – Story 2039 “A Newsworthy Photograph” – shall appear out of sequence on February 6th 2021, as I want to say some stuff for today’s posting!

Thing One – A Passing Shower

I am delighted to report that Iseult has reviewed my novel – A Passing Shower – and given it 4 out of 5 stars! Thank you Iseult! The review can be read HERE – and from there to Iseult’s many other book reviews.

I presume everyone’s mother at some stage – at least in Western European Civilization – created some coconut ice. It’s usually half pink and half white. Well, once upon a time there were 5 pieces of coconut ice and I got 4 of them! To want all 5 would have been greedy, and I would have got smacked by Mother, and 5 probably would have made me sick anyway. So I am thrilled to bits with getting 4 stars! If you haven’t read my novel then you don’t know what you’re missing out on. It can be accessed HERE for free.

All sorts of important (and intelligent) people have reviewed my novel apart from Iseult, such as Uma, Yvonne, the late Cynthia, the late Pauline, Lisa, Ian, Andrea, Bianca, Chris. The high percentage of reviewers who have since passed on could well be a hint to you to get cracking before lateness catches up!

I realize that the novel is post-modern and not to everyone’s taste. The narrator is unreliable – in fact she’s a total chaotic mess (try writing a narrator like that! – in fact try reading a narrator like that!) As I said in a comment to Iseult, I once sent the first 50 pages to an agent asking if he would be interested to which he kindly replied with something like, ‘’I think after the first 50 pages I’d get totally pissed off.” The choice is yours!

Thing Two – No More Can Fit Into the Evening

I had said to an editor (THE Editor of Editors – ahem – in fact there are two of them) that I would do something I’m no good at and write a review. Well, here we are although I don’t have any social media network connections to flay about in except for this!

The book is called No More Can Fit Into the Evening: An Anthology of Diverse Voices. This volume of 369 pages by 39 poets from all over is edited by Thomas Davis and Standing Feather for Four Windows Press based in Wisconsin.

There are a number of poets featured you would possibly know from the blogging world. There is Bruce Goodman (who appears far too often on my blog and has six poems), the late Cynthia Jobin (who has 8 poems), John Looker (who has 10 poems), Ethel Mortenson Davis (who has 11 poems), and Thomas Davis (who has 9 poems). Other poets within the volume probably frequent the blogs but I’m not that good at spotting mountain lions in long grass. Having a decent lot of poems from each writer is a brilliant way of getting the flavour of each poet. Rather than simply sip a single martini one gets to hog the whole bar.

My personal poetry-writing voyage is a little chequered. When I was a kid at school – around about aged 15 in 1965 – a “famous” (still famous in New Zealand although dead) poet – James K. Baxter came and spoke to us. He said “Practise writing poetic forms for twenty years and then write your poem.” I attacked poetic forms with a vengeance. And then a couple of years later I showed a poem to another “famous” poet (who shall remain nameless) who pronounced that the poem was a load of crap. I didn’t write another poem for fifty or so years, and then my blogging friend, Cynthia Jobin said “Why not?” So I started writing poems again, and again resorted often to traditional poetic forms.

I am not too good at always comprehending contemporary poetry – and as the title of this volume says, it is “An Anthology of Diverse Voices”. So what I am doing is taking a poem a day – in no particular order – and reading and pondering it each morning. That way I think I am learning to see what each poet is doing and also coming to some understanding of how some contemporary poetry works. It is rather rewarding! A bit like a monk doing half an hour’s meditation each morning.

So I am nowhere near finishing the volume and feel a bit rude recommending it before I’ve finished reading it. However, I can’t wait a year. I should really chat about some of the poems I have pondered, but won’t because you can do it yourself! The voices/styles/concepts/methods in this anthology are so varied and wonderful that I think it’s an ideal book to take a poem regularly and ponder. After all, of course, it’s not a novel! It is a meditation book of modern poetry – even for those who are not too much into poetry. I can really give it no better recommendation than that. As the poet Robin Chapman says in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 1946 (p.102):

It’s the morning of the world
I want to tell you about…

Available at Amazon and all sorts of other places. Four Windows Press is HERE.

Finally, by inference, a story: As one of my students years ago said – he was the captain of the school’s top cricket team and a fairly solid sort of bloke – “Thanks for making us read Wuthering Heights. It was bloody good.”

Our world has lots of lovely people

In recent times – after 60 or so years of getting nowhere (some people never learn) – some kindly things have happened in my life through the care of others. Recently, in my writing there have been three Yipee! moments, which is possibly three more Yipee! moments than have occurred over a lifespan.

Yipee! Moment One

Iseult Murphy of Iseult Murphy named my autobiographical reflections – Bits of a Boyhood, growing up in rural New Zealand – as one of the better books she had read during the course of the year. She gave it the maximum five stars. Thank you, Iseult! She must surely be one of the most prolific readers on the Net, and each week sees piles of books reviewed by her. How she reads so much I have no idea – I barely have time to read all the titles. It was a great thrill to be mentioned and I gave a wondrous Yipee!

Yipee! Moment Two

Ian of Dumbest Blogger Ever named my novel – A Passing Shower – as one of the ten best books he had read during 2020. It was a thrill – especially to be placed in the list along side Homer and Sophocles! I didn’t hear either of them complain about my keeping them company. The Dumbest Blogger Ever is one of the more erudite personages inhabiting the blogging world, so it was a great thrill to be mentioned and I gave a wondrous Yipee!

Yipee! Moment Three

Thomas Davis and Standing Feather edited an anthology of contemporary poetry published by Four Windows Press in Wisconsin. The anthology contains a collection of poems by 39 poets from all over the world. Each was invited to submit poems. Six of mine were selected! Thank you! The volume is called No More Can Fit into the Evening. I find a lot of the poems stunning, and it is indeed a privilege to find myself in such company. Every office needs a janitor I guess! You can read about this anthology of diverse voices HERE, and find how to order it if so desired. One shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so they say, but in this case it might not be unwise. The cover to me sums up the universality and diversity of human experience contained in the pages. It was a great thrill to be included and I gave a wondrous Yipee! The collection also includes poems by the late Cynthia Jobin. Many of you knew her. Also John Looker who is well-known in these blogging circles and beyond.

An Addendum Yipee!

HERE is a link to a poem (unpublished and I read it aloud as well). It is titled Thank God I’m Not Famous.

Thanks again to all these lovely people mentioned above!

Smoko!

“Smoko” is the New Zealand-Australian term for taking a coffee/tea break at work (mid-morning, mid-afternoon). I’m taking a Smoko Break from posting daily on this blog for a while. There’s still plenty to read if you click on the Index Link at the top of the page!

I shall be pottering around. In the meantime, I wish everyone Season’s Greetings for which ever season you happen to be passing through!

2020. The camel was designed by a committee

(Today is story Number 2020 and will be my last posting for a while. (For those a little slow, 2020 is also the year!) Today too marks my 71st birthday, so what a splendid time to debloggerate for a bit! 2020 stories, 100 poems, nearly four hundred pieces of music – and thanks to you my readers, just under 40,000 comments! (Clearly, some of you can’t shut up!) I shall be back at some stage but possibly to do different things. After all, if a person hasn’t found a single story they liked out of 2020 then… whatever. I thought (inspired by a suggestion once made by Uma) that I might write some monologues. Or (as Iseult suggested) I might write Part II of an “autobiography”. Or (as I have suggested to myself many times) I might write another novel. Who knows?! Anyway, here is today’s story, the final, entitled “The camel was designed by a committee”.)

The Nobel Prize for Literature Committee called a very important meeting. They had invited a group of people to advise whether or not, for the first time in Nobel history, a blogger should receive the award. No one knows a blogger like a blogger. Apologies if your presence and what you said at the meeting was not recorded; the story would get too long – but whole-hearted thanks to ALL who read this blog.

Below is a rough transcription of the meeting. Andrea set the ball rolling.

Andrea: I really don’t think we should award Bruce the Nobel Prize for Literature. He would probably show his thanks by killing us all off in a story.

Uma: I agree with Andrea. Our world is dark enough without our adding to it. Mind you, it’s a Catch 22 situation; he’ll kill us off in the stories whether we say yes or no.

Nitin: What Bruce getting the Nobel Prize for Literature has got to do with Bozo the Clown is quite beyond me.

Yvonne: I’m not in favour of the Nobel Prize for Literature being given to Bruce. Imagine the interminable shopping lists he’d make once he got all that money.

GP Cox: He needs a bomb put under him.

Lisa: I agree with Yvonne on this one. I have tried to play his music on the violin and I think we should concentrate on his stories.

Keith: As a poet and story writer who has lived in France I really think there are cases more worthy, such as…

João-Maria (interrupting): I agree with Keith. I can think of lots of Portuguese poets who…

Ian (interrupting): Since no one knows who I am I can speak the truth without any negative repercussions. All I can say about his getting the Nobel Prize is – balderdash. Bunkum. Hokum. (And (although he might hate me saying) possibly the one who writes enough stupid stuff to be appreciated).

Max: He doesn’t know much about popular music from the 60s and 70s, so personally I’m more in favour of awarding it to Bob Dylan. Someone like that.

Matthew: Bob Dylan’s already got it once. I agree with João-Marie; but not Portuguese poets. Colombian poets would be more suitable.

Noelle: The Pilgrim Fathers (and Mothers) didn’t get off the Mayflower to award the Nobel Prize for Literature to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. I cry Murder! Murder! It’s a “No!” from me because I usually found his methods of killing people under researched.

Sylvie: I suspect he hasn’t written any haikus, so it’s “Non” from me (which according to Google Translate is French for “No”).

Herb: I’ve looked back over my own blog over the years, and if length of service is anything to go on I shall have to recommend the same as Sylvie, only in English.

Chelsea: As a mother of five boys I simply haven’t got any spare time to voice an opinion, although it’s pretty amazing how much I get done in a day.

Terry: From my point of view, all I can say is I’m an Australian, and my excellent stories are…

Sarah  (interrupting): As a published author I cannot recommend the prize going to someone who has never been published. In fact, in researching the history of the Nobel Prizes I can’t think of a single unpublished author who has had a book published. Nor for that matter can I think of a published author who has not had a book published.

Alex: They certainly haven’t made any films using his stories. For that matter, they haven’t made even a sitcom. It’s pathetic. What a pathetic loser! What an insignificant personage! It’s going to be a big fat “No” from me.

Chris: And “No” from me. His poems don’t rhyme. Nor do most of mine but that’s not what we’re on about here.

Cindy: If it’s photographable I’m in favour of it, although he’s not particularly photogenic. Then again, not every bird I photograph is pretty. Some are downright ugly. On second thoughts, I’m voting “No”. Sometimes one has to take into account the feelings of the camera.

Marina: Hello from Greece. I’m standing at my easel wondering whether to write or paint my “No”.

John: It looks like it’s going to be a unanimous “NO”. I should know because I write excellent poetry and have two daughters who live in New Zealand. In fact, Bruce and I have just had a series of poems published in a new poetry anthology called “No More Can Fit Into the Evening”. Published by Four Windows Press in Wisconsin. More of that anon.

Inese: Bruce is as cunning as a fox, although he’s never seen one. I went for a long and very picturesque walk along a river bank in Ireland to think about this award, and I got so distracted by the beauty of the environment that I quite forgot to think. Mind you, I have played all 160 of his piano pieces. Unfortunately there’s no Nobel Prize for Piano Music.

Lindsey: Speaking of walking… who’s this walking up the garden path this very minute?

Gulsum: Why! It’s Bruce himself!

Bruce: Hands up! Hands up! This is a hold up! Stick ‘em up!

Tom: We can’t say we weren’t warned. (And Tom’s publishing company – Four Windows Press – is the publisher of the poetry anthology mentioned by John above. And Tom is also one of the editors).

Paul: Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!

Iseult: Where is a murderous machete when I need it? Help! A machete! A machete! My latest novel for a machete!

Bruce: Ok. Just this once I relent. In today’s story, you’re all going to survive. Well, maybe not all… YOU – over there in the corner in the silly hat – I see you’ve already nibbled surreptitiously on some of the poisonous salami I put out for refreshments later on.

Simon: I haven’t eaten any of the poisonous salami. I eat only what I cook myself – unless someone else cooks it. Why don’t you get on your bike and pedal off?

Bruce got onto his bicycle and pedaled off into the sunset. Of course, he’s so unfit that it’s not impossible he won’t get far.

THE END

1986. Pulling a few strings

Today is the Feast of All Hallows or All Saints; hence yesterday’s Halloween (All Hallows’ Evening). It is my favourite day of the year to remember the dead. It is the feast day of all who have gone before us. It’s a pity that the first two days of November, which used to be reserved to recall everyone who has died, has been smothered in candy and reduced to a previous evening of pretend ghouls. I want to commemorate the real first of November by telling you a personal story – simply because it’s a coincidence that happened in my life that I’ve always marvelled at. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence at all. I hope you don’t find it too long and boring!

I’m not sure how most university systems work overseas, but in New Zealand it goes Bachelor’s degree, Bachelor’s Honours, Master’s, Master’s Honours, Doctorate. I had long finished my Bachelor’s degree in English and Music. As many of you know, I was a monk at the time and after ten years of teaching I was sent back to university in Wellington, New Zealand, to get an Honours degree in Music. That went very well, and not simply because the mother of the Professor of Music had been my piano teacher when I was a kid at school!

During that year my father had died and in between assignments and the like I had an hour’s drive every day to visit him at home. My father had been an Anglican and was from a very VERY anti-Catholic family. He was also a plumber and among his plumbing clients was the local convent of nuns (known as the Leper Sisters for their work throughout the Pacific). Dad got on especially well with the Mother Superior, Mother Camilla, who was an American. This is long before I was even thought of. Anyway, Dad died and I did the funeral.

At the end of the academic year I was visited by “the head monk” who asked if I had anything to say. I said two things: The community’s fridge is broken and we need another one, and secondly if I got an extra year at university I could complete a Master’s degree. The next day a new fridge arrived! I thought, Aha! he did listen after all. Some weeks later I got a message: we think you should go ahead and complete your Masters, BUT you should do it in Boston, USA!!!! Boston America!!!! Me? In Boston America!!! Little me from the backblocks of New Zealand?!!

The first thing to do after being accepted at the university was to find somewhere to live. I wrote to a number of catholic parishes in Boston asking if I could live there in exchange for weekend services. St Joseph’s Parish in Waltham in Boston answered. They were a French-speaking parish but that didn’t matter. I was very welcome to stay and help out! Off I went!

After a couple of weeks there was a phone call one evening. It was the local convent. The visiting priest’s car had broken down and could someone come around and take the church service. I said I would go. When I walked into the room an old nun said “Goodman from New Zealand? Do you know a Frank Goodman?” I said he was my father. The nun, called Sister Basil, had been in charge of the convent buildings in New Zealand. She said, “I have spent more time in the toilet with your father than I have with any other man!” Mother Camilla (Dad’s friend) had died around the same time as Dad. She had donated her body to Harvard Medical School. When the bones come back, could I do the burial?

A few weeks later I did the burial. Her name before becoming a nun had been Mary Borke. I told the pastor of St Joseph’s. He said that the rectory was the old Borke Family homestead. Mother Camilla would have been born in this house, possibly in the very room I was sleeping in.

Anyway, on this Feast Day of All Saints, I cannot help but think that perhaps Dad and Mother Camilla had been pulling a few strings.

1936. A lovely award, and a story “Chop! Chop the head off!”

Herb of Prudentia Sit has given me the loveliest of awards! It is the Herb Thinks I’m Special Award. The award simply means that Herb “would like to have a cup of coffee with this blogger sometime”.

It does not require any questions to be answered or anything special to be done. It is simply an honor bestowed! Thank you, Herb. It is greatly greatly appreciated. Make sure you visit Herb’s blog. As a blogger he’s long in the tooth! I don’t mean he’s old – I simply mean he’s practised his blogging skills for many a year!

By way of thanks, I dedicate today’s story to Herb. Thanks Herb!

Battleaxe handed her stepson, Douglas, a machete and said “It’s all yours”.

“I’ve put up for long enough with your three pet turkeys,” said Battleaxe. “They make a terrible gobbling noise all the time, they poo everywhere, they eat too much, and worst of all you spend too much time with them when you should be doing extra school work – especially studying the History of Systemic Racism which you’re bad at. Chop off the turkeys’ heads.”

Douglas loved his turkeys. He had found the baby turkeys wandering around in the long grass on their own after their mother had been killed by a farmer’s dog. He took them home and cared for them. He called each one Gobble, Gobble, and Gobble because he couldn’t tell the difference one from the other.

How does a wicked stepmother expect an eight year old boy to chop off the heads of his three pet turkeys when they were his only friends? His father had died suddenly not long after he had rescued the baby turkeys and now he was looked after by his stepmother who was nasty and cruel and had featured in many a story by the Brothers Grimm.

“When you’ve chopped off their heads,” said spitefully foul stepmother Battleaxe, “you can cut up the firewood and sweep the yard. Then come back for more things to do on my list.”

Douglas went out and called the three turkeys. They recognized his voice. They came running. His stepmother appeared on the scene to make sure he did the job properly and didn’t cave in with scruples. Douglas raised the machete.

“One! Two! Three! Chop! Chop the head off!” screamed the wicked stepmother.

So he did.

1925. Three minutes of fame

A true story to celebrate what in New Zealand is officially the first day of Spring (although I personally don’t drink to it until the equinox on the 23rd). The story has nothing to do with Spring as such. It’s to do with the only painting I’ve ever done.

My family were never much into art. As kids we had colouring-in books, but we never painted pictures. Perhaps Mother thought that pencils were less messy than paint. I did have a collection of coloured pencils however. You would get a different shade in the mail every week, and I think I had several hundred pencils all wonderfully cataloged. I don’t recall drawing; just colouring-in.

These days I’m not averse to the occasional surreptitious colouring-in – although I have only eight colours!

Even when I was sent to boarding school (age 13) the options were between Woodwork and Art. My parents chose Woodwork – and quite frankly I was not very good at it.

Years later, when I was in the Seminary studying for the priesthood, quite a few of the students were exceptional artists. I thought I’d try my hand at water colours. I still remember painting this picture. I talked to the lady as she emerged from the canvas. I called it Lady at the market selling potatoes. Apparently I abused water colouring technique, and instead of “laying” colours I rubbed them all together in a mess. Proudly I found an old frame and hung the painting in the book-binding room where I worked – just above the guillotine!

The Seminary was a long established institution in the province. It had the largest private library and the oldest vineyard in the country. Crowds of visitors would come to the cellars to purchase wine, and there on a hill behind the cellars was a large grand building where no visitors came because it was “The Mission Seminary”. It had a mystique. It was a place seen only from a distance, with its palm trees overlooking the city. Once a year the Seminary would have “an open day”. Crowds of people would come for a peek.

“And this,” I said to a visiting lady, “is where we bind and mend the books for the library.” The lady was clearly a snob. She had a plum in her mouth; or was that a silver spoon? Grandly she stood in front of the guillotine gazing at my painting.

“I’ve seen the original of that,” she said. “In The Netherlands.”

1923. My beautiful Bubble

Everyone’s dog is special. And so is mine! Yesterday Bubble died. He was three weeks short of his fourth birthday.

In late February he began to have epileptic seizures. Medication began and was readjusted during the following months. Yesterday morning at 2.30 am he threw a fit. Fortunately he landed from his chair onto the piano, so it woke me up! Over the next ten hours he had forty or so epileptic fits. Medication provided no relief. If you’ve never seen a dog have an epileptic fit, DON’T!

He died around midday. We buried him on the lawn where he loved to sit and watch the world go by!

Below are two pictures. One is of Bubble and his best friend, the cat. The other was taken a few hours before the first of his final series of seizures, sitting at the wide-open front door in the winter sun letting those of us in the house freeze!

1914. Award 23: The Aqueduct Plugger Award

Just when I was beginning to doubt the existence of any sort of Higher Being, The Dumbest Blog Ever nominated me for The Adequate Blogger Award. Thank you Dumbest Blogger – it is indeed a thrill. This exemplary award was created by James of James Proclaims. Thank you, James. James not only has interesting postings but he makes pithy and/or sharp-eyed comments here and there. James thinks that answering the questions of this award is “really just a box ticking exercise”. Well James, get yourself a coffee and make yourself comfortable, because I’m about to tick (check) a few boxes regarding The Dumbest Blogger’s complex queries about the meaning of life.

Yipee!

The Dumbest Blogger’s Stupid Questions:

1. Do you like birds?

I am a bird freak – just chickens and ducks. The ducks will have to wait another time because I want to tell you about my Faverolles. Faverolles are a breed of chicken that have an extra toe on each foot. The males have gallant beards and the females have gorgeous ear muffs. They are the quintessence of what the carol Twelve Days of Christmas sings of on the third day when the gift was “Three French Hens”. Faverolles are French! I don’t have them for eggs or meat. I have them for style.

Incidentally, even one bird is a Faverolles – it still has the S on the end. Isn’t that classy? Sort of like a double small “f” starting a surname. Here is a photo of a couple of French Ladies – they are definitely a class act of ffaverolles.

Below is a photo of my rooster who was once King of the Fowl Yard. He looks vicious, but Faverolles have the loveliest of characters. So if you have little kids and you want a couple of pet chickens, get Faverolles. They are child friendly and won’t attack and claw and peck like other beastly breeds. They are a large breed although apparently there is a bantam variety. I’ve never seen the bantam variety so don’t know if they’re as child-friendly as the larger Faverolles.

This particular rooster teamed up with the dog. Every day together they would patrol the garden. No other member of the poultry establishment was allowed over the fence to scratch about. A stray hen would be chased by dog and rooster back to safer ground. The dog and the rooster were inseparable for about three years. The best of friends!

One day an up-and-coming young rooster challenged this big rooster to a fight. The big rooster came off second best. He was no longer in charge of the harem. Mortified he came into the garden to patrol with the dog, and the dog bit the big rooster’s head off.

2. What is your favourite movie?

My favourite movie is Babette’s Feast. If you haven’t seen it don’t expect an action-packed experience. It’s a couple of hours about a woman cooking dinner.

The lead character in this marvelous 1987 film is Stéphane Audran. (The film got an Oscar – if you think that’s important). It’s a brilliant movie.

I have seen this movie twice which is twice more than I have seen The Lord of the Rings. I have also seen The Dam Busters twice – back in the late 1950s – but it’s not as good as Babette’s Feast. As you can see, I’m not that big on going to the pictures. I’ve made three or four attempts to watch Gone with the Wind, the last time being just the other day after they threatened to ban it. The video began and I awoke from a deep sleep on the sofa three hours later and everyone else had gone to bed.

3. When was the last time you used a pencil?

Gosh! It must be years. These days they have medication.

When I was a kid, before the Internet and before TV, my first cousin Bert Worsnop and me (we were the same age) collected coloured pencils. You registered somewhere, and every now and again you’d get some coloured pencils in the mail. Each was a different shade. I think there was something like 180 different shades in the collection. They were fantastic. Of course they were so precious that we kept them in a cabinet and took them out simply to look at but never use.

4. What would you do for a Klondike bar?

My maternal grandmother’s brother, Uncle Herbert (Charles Herbert Lightoller – the highest in command saved off the Titanic!) joined the gold rush in Canada’s Klondike in his earlier days. No doubt it was hard work, and he unquestionably would have killed for a Klondike Bar to quench his thirst up there in that wilderness.

Charles Herbert Lightoller

To get a modern Klondike bar I would have to buy a ticket to North America because I’m not sure that they have them where I live. My passport died years ago, so no Klondike bar for me unless a Klondike bar gets mailed over. We have Eskimo Pies – although the name has recently been changed I believe to something less systemically racist.

Incidentally, I have a letter (in my possession) from Great Uncle Herbert written to my grandmother in which he says “Imagine Doreen expecting her fifth. It must be something in the weather”. That fifth was me! So I was almost famous (of Titanic fame) even before I was born.

I took my mother to see the Titanic movie and all she said at the end was “All that money and he wasn’t the slightest bit like Uncle Herbert.” (She also insisted – family tradition – that the captain of Titanic was drunk).

5. What is the biggest problem facing the human race at this moment in history?

The artistic world is ruled by rules. Publishes and marketers determine what is good and what is bad. This book won’t sell so it’s bad. AND never start a sentence with an “And”. And you use the passive voice. And… And you should do this. And you should do that. This is the way to paint and write and compose. The artist’s world can’t change the world because it’s hidebound by the world.

Anyone who steps out of the established pattern is a nobody.

It’s like lab technicians claiming to be scientists. They’re not scientists; they’re technicians. They put stuff into beakers according to how they’ve been told.

Einstein played the violin. Newton sat in the apple orchard.

Bring back creative people and stop telling everyone how things should be done! Yeah – the bees are in my bonnet.

Newton, Beethoven, Einstein
If you want to employ a genius you have to put up with the hair

6. If James has 42 pieces of chocolate, and Joe has 37 pieces of chocolate, and both James and Joe give 3 pieces of chocolate to Susan, then what is the moral significance of James having 42 pieces of chocolate to begin with?

Clearly Susan had secretly given James the 42 pieces of chocolate in the first place for “favours received” – possibly one on each occasion. Bad luck, Joe. I doubt whether this snippet of unethical behaviour could be classed as having “moral significance”.

When I went to boarding school (in my teens – we weren’t rich and snobby we just lived too far from a high school so we had to go to a boarding school) a dining table sat eight students: seven plus a “table prefect”. Everyone had their set table and chair. There were about 450 students. The small daily slab of butter was in a dish on each table, undivided and uncut. Turns were taken each day to divide the butter into eight equal parts. The person doing the dividing would get the final piece – just to make sure it was divided evenly. Oh the care taken over a quarter inch butter cube!

James and Joe and Susan and others can stick their chocolate or butter where-ever. Personally, I’m off to grab an Eskimo Pie before they go the way of Gone with the Wind.

The Rules – see Question 5 above!

My Nominees:

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t nominate but I recommend. This is NOT because I’m lazy but because I’m lazy. It’s also NOT because I’m afraid of hurting those who miss out because they haven’t been nominated but because I’m afraid of hurting those who miss out because they haven’t been nominated. If I may – just this once – take the easiest way out and suggest clicking on the icons of those who give this a like. That way you’ll be taken magically to their site where there’s so much to discover!

Thanks for reading and thanks again to The Dumbest Blogger and James Proclaims.

1900. Cattlestop Theatre

Over the years, when this blog hits a round number, it deviates away from blood, gore, and murder, and plunges into an abyss of niceness and personal aspects of this and that. Today’s round story Number 1900 continues the tradition.

On the property where I currently live are three disused what we call “cattlestops”. Some countries call them cattle grids, and other countries don’t call them anything because they don’t have them. In New Zealand a cattlestop is a series of old railway lines set in concrete over a pit. The aim is to stop farm stock from crossing over from the field or house onto the road. It takes the place of a gate and saves getting in and out of the vehicle each time one needs to drive through. Of course, these days there are remote controlled automatic gates, but creating a cattlestop from old railway lines is possibly the more aesthetic option. The three on the property here are old, and gravel over time has partially filled them in.

Years (and years) ago I taught at an all-boys boarding high school (aged 13 to 18). There were about 450 boarding students and about 250 day scholars. The high school had an attached farm. There were reasons for the farm which, if I may deviate further, goes back into a history long forgotten. The high school was a Roman Catholic school. Years ago as a kid I remember seeing advertising signs:

JOB VACANCY
CATHOLICS NEED NOT APPLY

These days such a sign would be illegal and offensive to most. Back in the old days it was often difficult for Catholics to find jobs. So the Catholic school system concentrated on a “classic education” with Greek and Latin, with Agriculture thrown in for those less academic. It’s why (at least in New Zealand) there were a hugely disproportionate percentage of doctors, lawyers, judges, and farmers who were Roman Catholic. It was a way around not getting rejected for “Catholics need not apply” jobs. This was all in the dim, dark ages, and Latin and Greek have subsequently been thrown out the window in this more enlightened age; but it does account for the fact that this high school and a number of others were attached to large farms.

It also accounts for the fact that this school where I taught had a cattlestop!

One weekend, armed with help from a squad of students, I decided to convert an old army hut into a theatre. It was right next to the cattlestop. We hammered a stage into shape and hung lights. The theatre could seat about fifty. Sister Frances-Marie from a local convent arrived with rolls of black fabric and a sewing machine, and by the end of the weekend we had a brand new shining theatre, curtains and all!

Me (obviously pre-coloured photography) starting to build the theatre

We called it CATTLESTOP THEATRE! Its motto was “It might stop the cattle but it won’t stop the bull”. An enterprising student, considerably brighter than me, translated it into Latin and hung it on the theatre door. (I can’t remember the Latin).

The first performance in the theatre was a short play by Eugene Ionesco called Foursome. I had stumbled across a translation of it in a magazine and subsequently have lost all copies. (I have never found it published in a book, but if anyone knows where I can get a copy or what the name of the magazine was, please let me know! It had the repeated phrase in it throughout of “Mind the potted plants!” and the characters names were Martin, Durand, Dupont, and Pretty Lady). We charged 5 cents per entry on a Sunday afternoon, the students doing one performance after another.

A scene from Ionesco’s “Foursome”

The highlight of all theatrical occasions came the following year. Reverend Sister Mary Whoever of the local St. Mary’s High School for Girls thought it would be wonderful to have an evening of Classical theatre by the Ancient Greeks. The boys began with an abridge version of Sophocles’ Antigone. It was well received. The St. Mary’s girls followed with a scene from Aristophanes’ The Frogs. It too was well received.

Performances briefly came to a halt for a cup of coffee and a cookie. Reverend Sister Mary Whoever was ecstatic! Such a wonderful cultural collaboration! Quite the best thing since the invention of the popup toaster! Such…! Quite…!

The boys, old enough and educated enough to take things into their own hands, filled the second half of the evening with scenes from Aristophanes’ The Wasps. One need not dwell on the size and placement of the wasps’ stings in the boys’ costumes, nor of the adaptation of some of Aristophanes’ more pithy double entendres. Reverend Sister and the girls left in a great haste, and thus ended the evening of wonderful cultural collaboration. A number of these students of good farming stock have ended up as excellent Classical scholars; and a number of excellent Classical scholars have ended up as farmers.

Indeed! It might stop the cattle but it won’t stop the bull! Cattlestop Theatre had a long and flourishing life, until time and weather began to rot the old army hut into oblivion. The sad part of this past memory of halcyon times is this: today one wouldn’t be allowed to do it.