So much talk about children in poverty today.  I grew up in a poor family – six children and a father who sometimes struggled to find work.   But it was a poverty of money, not a poverty of life.  Dad ran chooks, grew veges, and never lost his own self-respect.  My mum always had a pot of hot vegetable soup on the coal range when we arrived home, cold and wet, from school.  Just about all our clothes were hand-me-downs, but I don’t remember ever feeling bad about that.   We did snitch everything we could from the orchards on the way home from school, and even turnips out of the field, but we knew our parents were doing the best they could.  Christmas meant a small present and maybe an orange in our stockings, and a big family get-together at my Grandparents.

We couldn’t afford to go on school trips or have lots of presents.  There was no TV, only the radio, so we didn’t have shoved down our throats all the things we were missing out on.  Advertising has a lot to answer for.  Mum hated sewing, but made all of our clothes that weren’t handed down.  Labels were unheard of.

But we did have a childhood that included fun, tree-huts, long grass, tobogganing down hillsides in cardboard boxes, Sunday-school picnics, and for me, most of all, reading.  I loved school – all those wonderful books that there weren’t a lot of in our home – school journals, writing, warm classrooms.

Now I see around me children who seem to have so many ‘things’ in their lives, but not enough of the things that matter.  When are we going to see that families are absolutely important – much more so than heaps of money.  I just feel so sorry for these displaced children…

of the spirit
is what kills


Sorry I’ve been away for so long.  Life has a habit of getting busy sometimes… Anyway I intend to visit a bit more often in the future.  Thanks to anyone who has managed to stay around.  And I want to tell you about a great book that has just been published by a very talented Kiwi, so here it is…

Children’s non-fiction is an extremely difficult genre, requiring the ability to present facts in an engaging and enjoyable way.  My experience has mainly been with fiction picture books, and reviewing ‘Kea’ has stretched my thinking.

At first I thought that Annemarie had been unrealistic in aiming at an upper primary audience, as some of the terminology used struck me as being more adult in its focus.  However, on further reading I was able to see that the book was cleverly written in three layers, which would in turn engage, intrigue and then inform.  At the most basic level, the illustrations by Alistair Hughes are delightful and engage well with the text at all times, then we have the narrative of the Kea themselves, which younger children will be able to relate to.  Finally, we have a wealth of more scientific information that is well written and able to stretch the minds of the readers in many different ways.  It will be a great teaching tool in both English and the sciences, and I can see older children enjoying the challenge of learning new words as they read.

I would like to see more of these books from such a talented writer.

…and hopefully I will see you all again next week!


We have been here a couple of years – and just starting to get the outside under control.  Been concentrating on working inside until now…
This was the front when we arrived…

…we’ve got some gardens going round the front of the house, and working on screening the front porch with small shrubs and trees, and the back certainly looks a lot tidier than we arrived.


We walked with a church group to see the Whitecliff Boulders today.  The trek starts on farmland which you reach via a winding gravel road not far from Mangaweka.  Then there’s a 4.1km walk down the cliff and along the Rangitikei River.  The difficulty part is that the trail descends 460 feet between the car park and the low point of the route to the boulders – alright going down the steep clay farm track, but not so good climbing back…

You pay a small fee for public access and park at the top of the bluffs, and we were amazed to find a composting long drop toilet down at the boulders – that flushed!  The boulders (concretions) are spectacular and well worth the visit.

Unfortunately, despite carrying water and trying to stay hydrated, I got ill halfway back up the track – it was a pretty hot day – and others stopped to help.  I am so grateful for the kindness of my church family.  However, it became clear that I wasn’t going to make it without more help, so the farmer picked me up with his quad bike and deposited me up at the carpark again – along with another walker who needed the lift…

I wouldn’t have missed it though, despite that small setback, but when we got home Rod, Bert and I all collapsed and had an hour’s snooze.  I’ve attached a few early shots, but will post some more of the boulders when I have time.


An outstanding second-hand bookshop has now relocated to Whanganui from Waverley. Best classic and collectable books I have found. You can find it in Ridgeway Street between Victoria and Trafalgar Streets in the same building as the Ambrosia Cafe. If you want to know more email Patrick on



We have just returned from Australia today, and so much to do…  However, I couldn’t resist sharing these photos of the wonderful splendid fairywren (Malurus splendens) which is my favourite Australian bird.  The little bright blue bird is a male in breeding plumage.  Non-breeding males, females and juveniles are predominantly grey-brown in colour, and this makes it difficult to be sure which are the females.  I did get one photo of that grey-brown plumage, unfortunately not a good one, but it does show the difference…

This is an extremely darting little bird, rather like our fantails, so I feel lucky to have managed these shots.