This is not a new page, but I’m trying to tidy up the blog – so my apologies if you’ve seen all this before.
The link will take you to my Letters from the seminary 1968-1975.
Click HERE to go to the page!
This is not a new page, but I’m trying to tidy up the blog – so my apologies if you’ve seen all this before.
The link will take you to my Letters from the seminary 1968-1975.
Click HERE to go to the page!
84 Piney Mountain Road, Leicester, NC, USA
February 2002 – January 2003
The advertisement in the paper said “Traditional log cabin in the mountains”. I had visions of a log cabin with a productive vegetable garden and a cow. All I need do was ride on a horse to town every six months to get spices for pickle-making. It wasn’t quite like that.
The house, well most of it, was logs. It was on the corner of a not very busy road in a hilly area. It had a terrific-sized veranda and spacious grounds. It was next to a creek, and apart from a couple of houses within view it was set in forest and farmland.
So much was new to me coming from little New Zealand! Snakes and turtles and groundhogs and salamanders and skunks and racoons and squirrels and woodpeckers and bats and hummingbirds and… New Zealand didn’t have any of that. We had sheep and cows with a few native birds nearing extinction. I revelled in it! At least I did until the family of groundhogs I had encouraged decimated my vegetable garden overnight. I was busy purchasing anti-groundhog things from the garden centre when an old man told me he’d dealt with groundhogs in his garden for seventy years, and this is what you do. I did it, and the groundhogs moved house!
Eric made a nesting box for the bluebirds, and I fed the hummingbirds.
We had apple trees that produced apples by the thousands. I made apple sauce and apple pies and quite frankly anything with apples. A bale of turtles set up their living quarters under the apple trees for the duration of the season. A large snake (I don’t know what sort but it was fat and long) would bask in the sun on the ledge of the garden shed. A woodpecker that we called Charlie was profoundly attracted to our tin chimney and would wake us early each morning. Rata-tat-tat-tat. Rata-tat-tat-tat. The only drawback was a family of Harley-Davidsons living nearby. I don’t know why Harley-Davidson has never heard of mufflers. The creek next to the house had whistling frogs and you knew when they began their evening whistling that it was time perhaps for a pre-dinner glass of wine.
Just up the road a family from Florida was building a two-story log house. Janice and Ted had three children, and young Jed was wheel-chair bound and had been so all his fourteen years. He had a wish: to mow a lawn (what fourteen-year old doesn’t?) A lawn-mower manufacturing company donated a specially designed mower that he could pull behind his wheel-chair. It arrived! Dad Ted set it up. Down Jed came to mow our lawn! We were the first clients for “Jed’s Earth-Friendly Lawn Care”. We gave him a cap with his logo embroidered on the front. And we gave him an envelope with his first pay. I don’t want to shock you as we were shocked, but there’s no way around it; the next day Jed died. It was profoundly sad.
Janice and Ted remained our good friends for a few years, but over time distance can cause people to drift away.
I had never liked dogs much. Growing up on a farm with sheep dogs we were encouraged not to view them as pets. I had never had a pet dog and regarded those who had them as a bit silly. At the log cabin we had a visitor; a large long-haired dark brown-black dog that looked like a cross between a collie and a chow-chow. It learnt to take the lids off our trash cans at night and would scatter rubbish over our lawn in search of food. The mailman told me where the dog lived. He said the owners tied it up and would beat it. Nonetheless, I took the dog back to its owners. I didn’t see the dog for three weeks.
Then one day it was pouring with rain. I was on the veranda. Coming up the road was the dog. He was drenched. He saw me and began to run. He dashed up the veranda steps and all seventy pounds of saturated canine leapt into my arms. He was covered in welts and flea nests and gorged blood-sucking ticks. He never left again, and since we did not know his name we called him Doggie. I started to love my first pet dog! He was the most intelligent dog in the world! And the best looking!
Once again we had the opportunity to own our own home. Our log cabin adventure was to end. It was a time filled with happy and sad memories. But our new place was to be not far away. You know you haven’t moved far away when you still buy groceries from the same store!
#14 4650 Bright Road, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
August 2001 – February 2002
Don’t get the wrong impression. Despite the address being Charlotte, this house was in the middle of the woods! It was in a spacious mobile home park. The park wasn’t the slightest bit crowded and nothing was in rows but tastefully higgledy-piggledy.
We had seen the advertisement in the paper. A single-wide mobile home was for sale. It was rundown and going for $1800! We went for a look and loved it. It would be fun to do up, so we bought it and moved in.
Well… um… it had cockroaches; not two or three cockroaches but thousands. We subsequently heard that the previous occupants used to tip their fatty frying pan waste on the ground just out the front door. I began scrubbing. All sorts of anti-cockroach baits were used. The numbers decreased a little. In the end we got in professional cockroach busters. It was a miracle! Within a couple of weeks there wasn’t a cockroach ever to be seen again.
I began painting inside, and sewing curtains. Eric, with his carpentry skills, began making pine window frames and edgings. Gradually, room by room, the place went from a dark brown hovel into a bright and sparkling abode! It really was a lovely house with three bedrooms, a sitting room, a dining room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Even the owner of the mobile home park came for a look and wanted to know what timber and paints and varnishes we had used to transform the place.
Our neighbours were interesting people. Paul, just across the way, worked at a nearby nuclear power plant. He was constantly high. If you needed to get drugs you could get them from the nuclear power plant! On many evenings he would bring home a prostitute, sometimes two or three, and leave them stranded when he left for work in the morning. With my car I got to know the road to Charlotte fairly well as I dropped them home. Paul would sometimes cook the most delicious “Boston Butt”*. It’s a recipe I still sometimes use to this day.
Another neighbour was Virgil. Virgil lived in a small, and from the outside rather rundown, mobile home in the corner of the park. He seemed a pleasant enough man, and would chat away about the weather and other such things when greeted. But you could tell by what he drove that he was rich! In fact he was the Cyclops (which is some sort of important position) in the KKK. He would apparently wear a purple robe. His entrance way was decorated with framed horrific photographs of black people hanging from trees. I saw the photos. The African American woman at the local drycleaners knew nothing of this. She cleaned his purple robe with a great deal of care, thinking him to be some sort of catholic bishop.
Eric not only was a top-class industrial chemist, but he spoke nine languages. The company he worked for was replacing their old fabric-dying machines with new state-of-the-art German ones. Multi-lingual Eric was sent to Germany to learn the process of using them. And, said I, having taken a little money out of the bank, take my bank card for the week away. You never know when you might need it.
There was one thing left to do in the bathroom renovations: a decent shower curtain. I got in the car to purchase one. As I hit the road there was a newsflash on the radio. 9/11. I turned the car around and went back home to watch things unfold on television. Unimportantly, but importantly nonetheless, Eric was stuck in Germany with my bank card! All flights were cancelled. Over the days I quickly ran out of money – and coffee. Neighbours wandered past and ask how I was doing. I said I’d kill for a cup of coffee. A large mug of coffee soon arrived!
After days of confusion Eric ended up in Amsterdam, spending his time going to van Gough exhibitions and the like. Eventually he made it back to Charlotte.
There were three small roads in our vicinity: Bright Road, Erly Road, and Bright and Erly Road. Bright and Erly had been settler families in the area. I love that!
We enjoyed our time very much at Bright Road. (I never knew that all those American deciduous trees could shed so many leaves! New Zealand native trees are evergreen). So many new experiences! Of course I had to occasionally fly to Canada and back to renew my visa. I was a tourist and in no recognized relationship to get residency. Sorry about that kindly American Readers, but that was the reality of the situation and one does as best as one can.
At work, Eric was promoted. The trouble was – it was in distant Asheville. We told the mobile park owner we had to move and he instantly bought our renovated house!
* Fall-Apart Boston Butt 1 (4lb) Boston butt pork roast 1/3 cup Worchestershire sauce 3/4 cup light brown sugar 1 cup apple juice Preheat oven 200°C. Lightly grease casserole or deep roasting dish. Soak Boston butt in Worchestershire sauce. Coat with brown sugar, pressing down to form a crust. Put in roasting pan. Pour apple juice in pan, not pouring over sugar-crusted roast. Cover pan tightly. Place roast in oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 100°C. Bake for about 5 hours. If the meat doesn't fall apart easily, cook for another half an hour. Note: this recipe can also be done in a crockpot. Put apple juice in the bottom of the crockpot and add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to the apple juice. Place the roast in. Set crockpot on high for 30 minutes, and then turn the setting to low and cook for 8 hours.
2975 Bradford Street, Gastonia, North Carolina, USA
April 2001 – August 2001
Eric lived in Los Angeles. I lived in New Zealand. We chatted online. We both had reached an impasse in our lives. The textile company that Eric worked for collapsed and Eric was out of work. I’d just left the priesthood and was pretty much at a loose end. We decided we might as well pursue new adventures together. By the time I arrived in the States Eric had got a job at a textile plant in North Carolina. Upon my arrival we rented a house.
Bradford Street was in a Black area of Gastonia. We were the only White people for miles and it was the only house we’ve subsequently lived in where we didn’t have to lock the door when we went out. There were few boundary fences between houses, and some fronts of houses had a covered porch where in late summer afternoons residents would go to relax and call to those who passed by!
The street was full of all sorts of characters. Clover, whose property bordered the back of ours, had a huge vegetable garden where he grew mainly okra. His wife had a strident voice and berated him loudly from dawn to dusk from the back veranda. He loved to lean on his spade and chat. It was mainly about gardening. I too had dug a small garden at the back and planted only tomatoes. The lady in the plant shop didn’t want to sell me tomato plants because it was too late in the season to be planting. I said I’d take the risk and I’ve never seen so many tomatoes on a vine as in that year. Of course, Clover liked to talk tomatoes as well as okra. And Swiss chard (silver beet). And lettuce. And carrots. And cabbages. And rutabaga (swede). And… SQUAWK! SQUAWK! STOP TALKING AND DO SOME WORK!
Next door was the loveliest man imaginable – Richard was his name. He was crippled since birth and found it difficult to walk. He was number sixteen of sixteen children. He lived under the aegis of his brother, Caesar. Caesar was the Methodist Minister and enjoyed living off the proceeds that Richard’s health benefit provided. Caesar had a giant television in his room. Richard had only one dream in life: to have his own little television in his room so he could watch what he wanted. But Caesar would not allow it.
One day Richard tripped on the lawn and fell over. He hurt his leg and arm. He called out to Caesar, but Caesar called back that he was watching television. We gathered Richard up and took him to hospital. The nurse asked “Are you allergic?” “No, no,” said Richard, “I’m American”. The nurse explained what “allergic” meant. “Yes,” said Richard, “I’m allergic to them big pills”. In the long run he was fine and was given some medication that Caesar duly confiscated.
I started to jot down some of the expressions Richard used. Two I remember were: “Look at that man washing his car. Why not wait for rain and let Jesus wash the car?” and “A good morning? I thank my sweet Jesus that I woke up at all.”
The street’s citizens were strict Methodist teetotallers. Richard would come over for a Coca Cola. “No! No! Not that coke; the red one that comes out of a bottle with a cork!” Eric is French, so Richard wanted to try French food. He had read about it. After we had left the area we thought it would be nice to ask him if he would like to come and stay a few days with us on vacation. We drove to Caesar’s house. It was boarded up, and empty. Richard had gone.
We felt so much at home in the street. The only incident was a teenage girl who threw eggs at our window. She had been told by her teacher at school to throw eggs at the Whiteys’ house. Richard saw to it that the whole street came to our rescue, and the young teenager was duly corrected. Possibly the teacher was never admonished.
Bradford was my first experience of fireflies. I guess I knew the word but had no idea they could be so spectacular. Whole trees were afire. It made Christmas lights look like an inferior imposter. I don’t know why they don’t have tourist buses come by the thousands from non-firefly countries such as New Zealand. Honestly, in the evenings I could sit for hours and just look, mouth agape, in wonder!
One day I opened the back door only to find a cat there placing a little kitten on the door step. The mother was clearly hungry. I put some milk in a saucer in a corner of the kitchen and she drank. I went on with whatever I was doing. Next time I looked, the cat was still there, but with five kittens. I gave the mother more milk. They stayed a week before a gentleman from several houses away came storming in. Why was I keeping his cat? I said she wasn’t getting fed properly and could hardly feed five kittens when she wasn’t fed herself. By now the five kittens were outside and underneath my car. When the man tried to grab them they climbed up into the engine. I watched for half an hour as the man tried to extricate them.
A little basset hound came onto our front lawn. It had possibly been dumped there. It was crying and we gave it some food. The neighbours knew nothing of it. The Charlotte Basset Hound Society said they couldn’t take it. I phoned the vet who said they would try to find someone to take it provided I paid $85 dollars for all the vaccinations it would require. I agreed. What else could we do? The landlord did not permit dogs. I paid the vet. A group stood around patting the “Isn’t-it-cute” puppy. Does anyone want it, I asked. Someone took it. The veterinary establishment were not pleased. They had hoped to get a healthy nest egg by selling a purebred basset hound puppy for a comfortable sum.
After five months we got an opportunity to move closer to Eric’s work. We were sad to go. Clover from over the back fence summed it up: “You’re going to miss the mellifluous voice of my wife.”
This is an announcement!
For fifteen days starting tomorrow I shall be posting here, chapter by chapter, my new “book”! It is not a big book. Each of the fifteen chapters is only a couple of pages with a smattering of photos. The usual story-a-day will resume on 2nd October.
This book is called My Neck of the Woods: roads travelled, houses lived. It is really a collection of vignettes of my life over the last twenty years – taking as a unifying theme the houses I have lived in. (In my 71 years I have lived at 36 different addresses – I think).
Those of you who enjoyed my first book of autobiographical vignettes, Bits of a Boyhood, might also enjoy this, although possibly life these days doesn’t hold the same charm as those earlier years!
When all is posted I shall make a downloadable pdf file and put a link in the header of this blog as has been done for other stuff.
Give it a read if you wish – else the stories will recontinue at the start of October! Thanks.
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!
Wally was bored silly over the holiday period. His mother was up the wall. She’d asked him again and again to mow the lawn and in the end the only way she could get him to do it was bribery. Bribery usually worked as a last resort. The lawns got mowed and Wally was slightly richer. But he was still sour, sullen, and selfish.
At least he had his computer, but that had long since ceased to provide any sort of novelty.
“Being on the computer is no different from being at school,” said Wally. “I’m bored.”
“I know what you could do,” suggested his mother. “You could read Bruce Goodman’s Bits of a Boyhood about growing up in rural New Zealand. I think you’d like it. It’s available online for free.”
Wally reluctantly went to the site and began to read.
“I couldn’t put it down,” said Wally. “I texted my girlfriend and now she’s reading it. I told my friends and now they’re all reading it. When my father gets home from work I’m going to tell him to read it and get everyone in his office to read it, even while they’re at work. The whole world should read Bruce Goodman’s Bits of a Boyhood. It’s the best thing to happen since Adam was a boy. I have no idea why it has never been published. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he got the Nobel Prize for Literature.”
When Wally finished reading it he wanted more. His appetite was insatiable. But sadly, although there are other momentous works by Bruce Goodman, the autobiography finished when the author had just turned eighteen.
Filled with enthusiasm, Wally went out and mowed the lawn a second time. This time there was joy in his heart and a spring in his step.
The same could happen to you, dear Reader, if only you would let it. I wish each and every one of you a happy day!
P.S. If you find yourself mowing the lawn don’t say you weren’t warned.
Hi. My name is Austin and I’ve decided to start a blog. I am interested in photography and the picture below is a snap of my ingrown toenail. I couldn’t decide whether to put it on my Blog or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or whatever and in the end decided to put it on everything. The photo is a bit out of focus and that’s because my phone is fairly new and I get muddled between phones as I have 11 phones and it gets confusing.
My friend Bergitta has 17 phones. I said to her, what the hell do you want 17 phones for? But she seemed to think it was a good idea.
Here is another photo. Again it’s not completely in focus so I’m not really sure what it’s of but I think it’s probably a picture of Bergitta herself. I will text her to ask her if it’s her. She will know.
I have just finished reading (yeah, I read) Bruce Goodman’s autobiography Bits of a Boyhood. It’s about growing up in rural New Zealand. I liked it – and as a bonus it can be read in two different ways – both free. Click HERE to read it online as web pages, and click HERE to download it as a pdf.
Now if you’ll excuse me, that’ll be Bergitta texting back.
Yeah – it’s her in the photo with some of her friends. Apparently I’m in it too so it’s a selfie.