Eleanor walking round and round the dining table with her hand out letting it drag and bang on the backs of all the chairs as she goes round and round saying bored, bored, bored.

I’m bored too: by myself, by people, by the world.  But, to be fair to people and the world, mainly myself.

Eleanor says to me:

I bet when you were ten if James came over you wouldn’t be bored.  James with the cheeky smile.

We looked at old family photos two days ago.  My old family photos from when I was a kid and before I was a kid.  James had a cheeky smile.  I looked happy in a lot of those photos.  Beaming.  Some people seem to become illuminated when they smile.  Like that.

No.  I wouldn’t have been.

James and I would have found something to do.  Probably involving Lego or toy soldiers or Star Wars action figures.

The cat comes in and stares at her empty food bowl.

I wish it would just rain instead of being dark and windy.

I found an old report from my primary school the other day and it irritated me.  How could it?  Being, what, 30 years past, and about subjects I hated?  It was a Form 1 and 2 report and in Form 1 and 2 we walked up the road to another school to take Sewing, Home Economics and Woodwork once a week.

Woodwork: Disappointing.  Could do better!!

Sewing: Disappointing.  Remains too much in the background.

Wankers.  I can remember both those “teachers”.  Double exclamation marks?  Really?!!

I also have report comments for French for two full years and I have no memory (not even a wisp of a memory) of doing this subject.


Did I dream about Gran last night?  I found a letter she wrote to me in 1981.  It was about joining Cubs, and taking swimming lessons.  Two other things I wasn’t good at.  Cubs frustrated me enormously with all its stupid knot tying.  I don’t have that kind of mind.  I can’t do knots, or puzzles, or solve riddles or crosswords.

I let the cat out.  It climbs back up on the window sill and cries to be let in.  We glower at each other through the glass.

People say we should get a cat door but the doors are beautiful and 100 years old and I don’t want to put a plastic piece of shit in them just so that cat can come in and out.  It’s a cat.


All the piles of my friend’s letters and tapes that I keep in a box.  He was a good correspondent.  He wrote a lot and often even if it was just a card.  It will be five years since he died.  12 since Gran.  Six or seven since I wrote good songs.

The little pills I take to keep me on a keel.  I wonder about them.  Their cumulative effect.  I tried to wean myself off them last year but it was too hard.  Headaches, insomnia, a weird feeling like the blood running in my legs was itchy, and a hair line trigger on my temper.  When I went off them five years ago it was easier, but the doctor says that it will be harder now and probably take a year from when I start and I haven’t started.  If it is cumulatively harder to come off them are they cumulatively more blunting?  Have they coated the wires inside me like fluoride inside the taps?

Not drinking.  Not eating as much.  Not as much fun as their opposites.

Eleanor has gone on a play date down the road.  Not called play dates anymore probably now that she is ten.  Rosamund has a friend over.  What am I doing?  Writing this.  Listening to Nigerian disco from the 80s.

That’s a good use of time.



I went under the house to clean out all the junk that we dump down there.  It started well.  I had the feeling of making a new start, and finally getting rid of accumulated, long defunct things.  Then the emotional tide turned and I ended up sitting on a stool under the house feeling itchy with sweat and defeated by nostalgia and cross with life.

The old TV for example.  Jesus it’s heavy.  A huge box filled with… well, frankly, I have no idea, but it felt like bricks.  Remember when flat screens were laugh out loud expensive, and everyone had to get some guy in to put an aerial on their roof, an aerial that would blow down at least once every five years?  My Gran’s TV came in a wooden cabinet, with a dust cover, and when you turned it on you had to wait for a few moments while it warmed up.  Along with the old TV I piled up the old VCR and the broken DVD player.  Even the DVD player is redundant.

It was the dumping of the CDs that caused the most introspection.  The first CD my mother and I bought was Nigel Kennedy’s Four Seasons by Vivaldi.  It was big in 1989-1990.  25 years of accumulating this stuff.  The so-called future of music.  Now almost totally irrelevant.  Of course I still kept about half of my CDs (including Nigel) mainly because they have memories, or because they aren’t on Apple.  A pointless act really when the devices you play CDs on are getting rarer.

Not that I am against the streaming of music.  I think it’s better.  It’s better for the environment in every way imaginable, and being a music snob who long ago realised that all the videos and album sleeves and bumf are just advertising distracting from the music means that streaming a song or an album is the best way to go.  But how much the mind that has been trained to believe in things it can touch craves to own a physical object; craves to hold an album, tape or CD in its hands?  Next will be the DVDs.  Why do I own so many?  What was the point?

Books are another thing though.  Reading on a kindle is fine for two things: (1) magazines and (2) books I won’t read even a small part of twice.  But the books that move me?  I still need them to hold, to flick through to the passages I love, to take notes from.  Books are more complex than music.  They seem to be almost three dimensional.  Not the trash or the ephemera but the meaty, interconnected stuff.  The stuff of another person’s mind reaching down into itself.

When civilisation collapses and the infrastructure breaks it does mean we won’t have any music.  We’ll just make our own I guess.  That will be nice.  Although I can’t sing so I’ll just have to join an African drumming circle like every other white middle-aged man who wants to connect with something both semi-spiritual and cool in the eyes of his peers.


Rosamund likes to talk to me when I put her to bed.  While we are staying at the house in Brown’s Bay she tells me knock knock jokes but she doesn’t really understand the genre and they misfire.  I’ve learned to laugh anyway.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Banana cake.

Banana cake who?

I didn’t know you liked banana cake.

It’s her favourite joke, and it is hard to laugh.  Like Sir Peter Leitch’s jokes on Waiheke Island.

Sir Peter Leitch has tried to defuse a recent racial spat by saying that his comments about Waiheke Island being a “white man’s Island,” which upset a young Māori woman, was only light-hearted banter.



Sometimes Rosamund asks me questions instead of telling jokes.  She has been working something over in her mind and she needs some guidance.  Sometimes the questions are not as profound as they appear at first.

Where do we go when we die?

I don’t think we go anywhere.  We just stop.

No, when people wear black and go somewhere.

Oh, right.  A funeral.  We go to a funeral when someone dies.

One of the highlights of Christmas for me are her Christmas related questions.  One of the things I hadn’t realised about Santa and all his related mythology is that he also serves the function of giving everyone under the age of ten a stimulating set of intellectual challenges.  Eleanor wanted to know this year if Santa was a role or a person.  So, is Santa immortal or more like a pope – a person who fills the job until he dies?  Rosamund also had a question:

Why doesn’t Santa get presents for adults?

Adults often have jobs so they can buy their own presents.

So adults can be bad?

Yes.  And some are very, very bad.

I’m not going to be bad when I’m an adult.

I remember being fascinated by Christmas trees in Japan.  Why?  I asked my students.  Why are there Christmas trees everywhere?  Isn’t this a Shinto-Buddho-Capitalisto-country? My students were not conflicted by the Christmas trees.  Because it’s fun! was the usual answer.  A news story floated to the top of the cycle for an hour one day in December this year: they’re banning Christmas trees in Israel!  They weren’t as it turned out.  Just a demand from some rabbis that withered under the cries of hotel chains in Jerusalem.

The Christmas tree might be a perfect symbol of the west: meaningless, widespread and smothering.  Walking in a pine plantation you see only rows and rows of trees, the ground blanketed in a thick mat of dead pine needles: no birds, no undergrowth, sometimes a confused looking rabbit.  A monolithic mono-culture.  Then comes the mechanized harvest.

Standing on Brown’s Bay beach with Eleanor with the water lapping up our calves we took in Rangitoto, and the cliffs at either end, the pohutakawa in bloom.

What was this place like before?


Before the white people came.

Eleanor is used to me trying to see what isn’t there anymore.  She humours me.  I humour myself.  I’ve learned that the past was not a pastoral idyll “and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  Sometimes.  Sometimes communal, rich and compassionate too.  Surely.  At home I look for the history of Brown’s Bay.

Peter Brown initially purchased 136 acres of flat land which was then covered in tutu, fern and ti-tree. He transformed the land into a working farm with an orchard, apiary, crops and pastures.


No pohutakawa then.

“Transformed the land” is a nice open expression.  Inarguable.