Tuesday 29 June 2021

Flying With NAC


My first memories of flying in an airplane was accompanying my father (age five or six in the 1950's) on an NAC DC3 from Bell Block aerodrome (New Plymouth) to Christchurch.
It was a trip I made with Dad every couple of years to stay with my grandparents in Christchurch's Port Hills.
There was always a stop at Ohakea enroute and I vividly remember enjoying the low flying over farmland and watching the rivets on the wing!
Also had a stop-over at Paraparaumu before tackling Cook Strait.
The boiled sweets served by the stewardess were another treat to look forward to.
The DC3 was a great aircraft and very reliable, albeit slow by today's standards. https://www.zazzle.com/new_zealand_national_airways... #Airlines #NewZealand #Flying #DC3 #NAC #history

Saturday 25 April 2020

A Day To Weep & Remember

It is many, many years since I last wept in bed and in truth I find it hard to remember any occasion when I did.

But this morning, ANZAC Day 2020 I was woken shortly before dawn by my bedside radio and the sound of a bagpipe lament.  My eyes were wet with tears - unsolicited, unstoppable.

For some reason this year's commemoration seemed particularly poignant; it could well have been that the ANZAC Day service was, for the first time, a virtual one.

My Mum and Dad on their wedding day
The ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic made it so. All Kiwis and no doubt our Aussie mates 'across the ditch', marked the solemn event at home, in our lounges, beds, or standing by our letterboxes in the brightening skies.

My first memories of ANZAC day were the gathering at the Waitara War Memorial where my father and other veterans of World War two stood shoulder to shoulder remembering comrades in arms who never returned.  We in our Scout uniforms also stood silently, shivering and respectful.

Dad never spoke much about the war, his capture on Crete and the long year as a POW in Poland and Germany.  The veterans of WWII seldom didn't speak about these shared privations, choosing instead to focus on the future.

But ANZAC Day was, and is, different.  It is the day New Zealand and Australian troops forged their respective nations internationally, fought side by side and for many paid the ultimate sacrifice.

So as the Last Post sounded this morning and the piper's lament lingered on the radio, I remembered my father, the few army mates of his that fleetingly shared their lives with mine over the years, and I shed a tear.

Dad died in 2003, just two years after he finally agreed to share his memories for the army record with Sgt Beech of the NZ Army Museum in Waiouru.

I have a copy of those tapes and today, ANZAC Day, I will share his youthful journey to the battle fields of Europe and his subsequent incarceration by listening to some of his recollections.

So tears are about the past, memories and sacrifice by others, for others.

We shall remember them.

Saturday 4 April 2020

A Meditation on COVID-19

I took up meditation many years ago and have practiced it on and off since the early seventies.  In a deepened state of meditation one's hearing become more acute, picking up sounds that are normally muffled by the day-to-day humdrum of everyday life.

My country is in its second week of compulsory lock-down thanks to the ravages of COVID-19.  While this is an inconvenient measure, most agree that it is for the better in defeating the coronavirus. And I should add, most are abiding by the rules set down by the government.

A real plus of the lockdown is that  the sounds of nature are once again to the fore; the call of magpies in a far away tree, the rustle of autumn leaves as I talk my morning constitutional.

It is not until comparative silence reigns that one fully realises what has been lost.

If you had an opportunity as a child to spend time in the country with friends, you realise how lucky those on farms, who are communing with nature on a daily basis, really are. They do not face a daily barrage of city noise pollution.

So, while this virus might keep us pinned to our homes and immediate surrounds, lets make the most of the quiet while it lasts.

COVID Capers

The couple doing their stretches in a garage

converted to a make-shift gym
dog walkers on a leash smile and wave
at me, or was it him?

The great silence.

Can you hear it? 


Falling leaves cushion the tread
of the morning walk
A pile of books long stored
and seldom read

Buckle in for the long term
the world as we knew it is no more
its nature's way of settling the score.

Friday 31 May 2019

Replacing The Cream - A Short Story

Replacing the cream.  

It’s 1:30 am and the last of the coffee bar stragglers have left the building. Re-purposing the cream cakes for the next day by scooping out the old cream and piping in some new is a nightly chore.

There’s usually a spatula for this purpose but it is in the vibrating commercial dishwasher out back so a surreptitious finger will have to do.

Not that there’s anything really wrong about this practice; after all what the customers don’t know don’t hurt them.

The folk singer was terrible tonight.  Not sure where the boss finds them, but they are mixed bunch, all singing Bob Dylan with a nasal pitch, or croaking plaintive Irish Republican songs whose lyrics they don’t really understand.

The coffee bar is on the corner of The Square, the city’s main and only redeeming feature.  This cafe plays second fiddle to a much larger coffee bar several blocks away that is the habitat of Teacher College students.

Hang on a minute, this cream looks a little rancid?  Or is it just yellowing with age?  Time for a quick taste test.   No, it seems OK although the cream pressure gun could probably do with a good clean.

Don’t have time to do it right now as there are other things to tick off before final lock-up.

A quick check of the pie warmer.  There’s a steak and mince that has seen better days.  The crust is as hard Palmy’s railroad tracks, but the boss says its OK if I take the old ones for my own consumption.
There’s also steak and kidney although you’d need a microscope to spot any kidney in the filling.

Think I’ll take a couple and throw them through the windows of the women student’s hall down the road.  They always appreciate a bit of sustenance even if it is an ungodly hour of the morning.  Bit of gravel thrown on a lower window usually gets a result although you need to keep an eye out for matron or passing police patrols who might misconstrue the intention.

Ah... the float.  How I HATE doing the float!

Maths was never my strong point and its even worse now that the cheap calculator’s battery has died.  Why is it that I am always 20 cents out in the tally?  I’m not going to mess around at this time of morning.  I’ll put in the money from my own pocket to get the balance.

It is now 2am and I have a lecture at 8:30 this morning. Check and turn off the electrical appliances. Ready the alarm.

Maybe I’ll take pity on customers and take that lamington with me to much as I head home.

After all I’ve just filled it with fresh cream.

Roger Smith
May, 2109

Four Winds Coffee Bar

Friday 10 May 2019

Papa Cliffs And Feral Goats - Memories Of Whangamomona

Artist: Roger Smith, 2019.
Prints available here.
In my fourth form at boarding school I spent a short term holiday with a school friend, on his family farm in Whangamomona.

Whangamomona is in upland Taranaki, inland from the town of Stratford.  It is tough, unforgiving country with steep papa clay bluffs that are prone to slips.  Farming such country is a challenge and using horses in the back country in those days were a necessity.

My friend Cliff saddled me up a horse and we went riding to the back of the farm with mobs of feral goats scattering ahead of us.  They were, and remain, a serious pest.

I recall two other abiding memories from that time:  the bone-chilling cold of a winter's morning with heavy dew hanging off the wire fences, and the local country dance which took place in the Whangamomona hall.  The dance band consisted of a guitarist/vocalist,  a Hawaiian (slide) guitar player and a drummer.  They haled from Stratford and had travelled inland for the evening's event.

Lots of brown beer bottles were in evidence as were the rows of gumboots left at the hall door.  The supper was stupendous!

They were happier, community times and a life that is fast disappearing from the provinces.  Whangamomona faded fast but was reborn as a 'Republic' a few years ago and now has a thriving backpacker clientele.

My school mate Cliff went on to become New Zealand's Mastermind, a commercial pilot and a radio DJ in Whakatane.

The hospitality of his parents and the care-free times we had in the early Sixties remain pleasant memories.

Saturday 16 March 2019

I woke this is morning weeping

I woke this is morning weeping.

I can't recall this expression of sadness ever affecting me as an adult.

I wept for the loss of life in the Christchurch massacre.

I wept for the loss of innocence in our society, for the families that are literally shell-shocked by the massacre of innocents at the two mosques.

That this racist attack happened in a  city that was for me, a remembrance of  idyllic childhood visits to grandparents, is almost beyond comprehension.

A city that has had to bear so much in the last decade with two major earthquakes this morning faces the horrific reality of what happened yesterday afternoon.

New Zealand will never be the same -  it is no longer the country of safe haven that we prided ourselves on.

But as a  nation we will not be cowed by these random acts of violence against our citizens.

This morning I weep for the families that have been decimated at their place of worship.

You are not alone.

We are with you.

Saturday 19 August 2017

Penny For The Guy

An English tradition that had cemented itself into Waitara's culture in the 1950's was the observance of Guy Fawkes Day.

Why we celebrated a pyromaniac/arsonist with great gusto many thousands of miles away from the fable origin remains somewhat of a mystery?  My best guess is that it was one of the vestiges of "Mother England" that remained in our psyche at the time.

As children we were not worried about origins.  November 5th was an excuse for buying skyrockets, catherine wheels, sparklers and crackers from the local stationers and Chinese grocers.

There was a also a competition run by the town to see who could produce the best 'Guy'.  This involved stuffing old and discarded trousers, shirts and jackets with hay or newspaper so that the effigy resembled a human.

We wheeled these around the neighbourhood in a wheel barrow shouting "penny for the guy", although in truth, very few pennies were forthcoming.

The local children then paraded heir Guy Fawke's creations down one of the main streets of Waitara where they were judged by a local panel and prizes awarded.  I have to report that my efforts never made it to the winner's dais but we had great fun nevertheless.  (An example of another town's celebration can be seen in the image below).

The fate of the 'guys' was preordained.  They were all incinerated as part of the big community fire down at the Waitara Beach domain. This was the time where we lit our fireworks and placed rocket sticks in an old beer bottle holder so they blazed upward.  Sparklers were the chosen fancy of the younger set who were closely supervised.

While fireworks are still sold in New Zealand to celebrate November 5th I suspect that the legend of Guy Fawkes is no longer understood by those who make such a purchase.  Times change, and our Asian community and civic authorities use fireworks to celebrate other major events on the calendar.

Guy Fawkes Day 1912 – History Geek

Saturday 1 July 2017

An Art Awakening

Yours truly at right on a potter's wheel in the PNTC art department. (Dianne Foley at left?)
When I first went to Palmerston North Teacher's College in 1967 I majored in music.  But I found both the tutor and the curriculum rather boring and far more exciting things appeared to be happening in the Art department under the tutelage of Frank Davis and Ray Thorburn.

My good friend John Brebner who I played rugby with for College was also studying art, and I recall visiting his lodgings and seeing him plugging away on a painting.

I decided that the visual arts (and particularly sculpture) were far more appealing than banging on a triangle!

Te Kooti Inspires His Warriors - F. Davis 
Frank Davis, who later became my mentor and a close family friend, agreed to me changing my study major from music to art if I produced a satisfactory portfolio over the Xmas break -  which I did.  (The painting at left is one of Frank's Te Kooti series.  I bought it off him when I was teaching in Rotorua and sold it much later at auction when I was shifting cities. Still have one of his drawings from this series)

Prior to Teachers College I had never really shown any great aptitude or motivation where the visual arts were concerned but I took to it like a duck to water.

It was a decision that changed my life and to this day the visual arts have dominated my life -  the creative beast unleashed!  A career as a secondary school art teacher followed after two years as a primary teacher.  Then a three stint as head of a regional art school in Papua New Guinea.  Several years where also spent as a Director of NZ art Museums in Hawke's Bay and Waikato (with a dash of museum marketing at the NZ Maritime Museum in Auckland thrown in)

I exhibited painting, prints and sculpture along the way before moving in to digital art later in life.

But all of this life started back in the Grey Street art department of Palmerston North Teachers College.

NB: The woman in the top photograph appears to be Di Foley from Wanganui who sang in a folk singing truly with Tom Hunter and myself.