Happy Meals

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I’m sure many of you remember Happy Meals, one of the fast food outlets coined the phrase I can recall. In fact they started advertising Happy Meals in June 1979. That is 36 years ago… imagine that. Funny how the phrase is  still associated with the advertisement, maybe not funny, maybe tragic!  So our blogging course suggested we write about a HAPPY MEAL we had as a child. Well I wasn’t a child in 1979 but I did have two very small children of my own, so it is no wonder I recall that slogan.

However a Happy Meal that I do remember from my child hood is, I suspect, equally un-healthy. To give you the background; I lived on a farm 30 minutes drive from a rural town on a narrow windy gravel road over two or three mountain streams, across the cattle stop up the hill past the woolshed to ‘home’.  There were horses in the paddock, dogs barking, sheep sleeping on the roads, the odd deer, fish in the stream, guinea pigs, pet lambs, trees full of birds nest to find and The Milky Way was often above our heads.  One way and another our rural childhood was pretty good. I had two older brothers at boarding school and I couldn’t wait to go too.

The highlight of my parents winter week was ‘Saturday Rugby’. We would head into Omakau, where I also went to primary school, and everyone gathered along the side of the paddock and watched rugby. Matakanui was our team and my father was very excited when they won a game, he used to play for this team before he had three children!  If I got bored watching rugby, and I invariably did,  I walked to the pub ( one of three) and said hello to my teacher who happened to live at the local  Commercial Hotel. That’s how life was back then. My parents knew where to find me and everyone knew everyone.

After the rugby the adults adjourned to the bar until 6 o’clock closing. The police car  would turn up at 6pm and the scramble to get out before being ticketed  was, in hindsight, quite comical.  The fun part for me was looking forward to our treat dinner. We would drive around the corner to the pie shop and my mother would go in and return with 3-4 paper bags full of hot delicious smelling meat pies. This was a favourite meal for me as a child. My ‘Happy Meal’. One particular Saturday I recall was very wintry and no doubt there had been much rain! On our way home one of the creeks was in flood and the car soon got stuck in this raging little creek so we all walked home, about an hour, I recall. It probably wasn’t but when you are 8 it seems like a long long way!  Mother carried the pies under her coat, after all slightly squashed pies were preferable to wet pies!! Once at home and dried off Mother reheated the rain-soaked pies ( no microwaves back then) and they were absolutely delicious eaten around the open log fire…. another ‘Happy Meal’ I well recall. 

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Songs of the Heart

Another Writing 101  Blog:  Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

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Oh goodness, 3 songs.. I can never remember words of songs.. I just know that I love these songs, quite varied in styles probably because I  have a broad appreciation rather than an educated musical appreciation!  I love many other pieces of music too of course.

“Nessun Dorma” came  to mind first. Opera, and yet I am not a big opera fan. I do attend the Opera every 2-3 years… Carmen, and similarly light shows. I have been to three Outdoor Operas in Sydney – fantastic experiences.   I’m no highbrow music fan either. Nessun Dorma was both my mother in law and my late husbands favourite piece of music. Since my husband died I now seem to relate strongly to this piece of music more than ever. It must be the association of happy times. He used to play this  Opera at full volume on a Saturday and then head outside to wash the windows… funny eh?  He taught me to love classical music and we shared many evenings at concerts.

I never learnt to read music, I think it should be compulsory at some stage of a child’s education, anyway I certainly learnt to love it.  Consequently Nessun Dorma means a great deal to me to the extent I have suggested it be played at my funeral along with something lighter that I also love. Have you considered writing a list of your favourite music, it will help your family one day!

My second choice, “Diamonds on the Sole of my Feet”. Paul Simon had a huge hit with this whimsical  song in the seventies. I recall summers on our yacht sailing up the coast of New Zealand with this song belting out on the stereo. I also remember beautiful summer evenings anchored in pristine little bays playing this hit song and allowing the words to drift across the water. These were wonderful years when we had teenagers, I’m sure they bought the track initially, a CD no doubt. Whenever I hear this on the car radio I find myself filling with emotion and reliving great memories.

My third song is from the  musical “Aspects of Love”.  “Love Changes Everything”, an Andrew Lloyd Webber hit in the late eighties. I attended this live stage show in London with my husband. I used to play this song over and over in the car when driving the 3 hour trip to visit my parents; often on my own. It used to bring tears to my eyes and yet I  still wanted to play it repeatedly. I saw the Stage Show with my husband and at the time we both loved the music and yet the show wasn’t a huge hit compared to Les Miserable. I’ve often wondered why this music gets into my psyche so much, but the answer isn’t clear so I just enjoy. It tells a very complicated story of love and jealousy, fame and everything that goes with it.

Having been prompted to write this blog I have decided to put the CD of Aspects of Love into my car CD selection once again. Thankyou writing 101 for the prompt.

I would love readers to comment with their three favourite pieces of music?? It isn’t easy.

 

 

Unforgettable people –

One of our Blog writing challenges this past week was to write about an interesting person we had recently met. I hope you enjoy this brief story.

Sophie J.

Sophie J. is one of those people who is unforgettable; not because she is beautiful which she is, not because she looks 40 when she is 53, not because she is black, none of those reasons on their own make Sophie J. memorable. Her tall willowy figure and her husky voice are not the reasons either, neither are the colours she wears. Her grandson and her daughter are also beautiful people but they are not the main reasons Sophie stays in my mind. Sophie doesn’t work a 9-5 job, she has travelled but isn’t well-travelled. She is a fighter, she goes after what she wants in life. She is an achiever against all odds. Sophie J. is an “Aids Survivor”andthat is why she is memorable, or unforgettable.

Sophie J. arrived in New Zealand in 1988 from somewhere in Africa. Sophie J. has made New Zealand her home, her daughter and grandchildren are here. Sophie has written one book already on her life story and has another in the pipeline. Sophie J. writes from the heart, I admire that.

Moving forward:  Sophie ended up in New Zealand with her faith, her husband and two beautiful children, a son and a daughter. Her first book is “Sophies World” self published  in 2012, where she talks about being pregnant with twins and being diagnosed HIV; back then they gave her 5 years to live. She did live but it was frightening and full of drama,  try and read her book for the full story.

Move to 2015:  Sophie J.  called me up, “Lynn, I’m writing another book, please will you take my photo?” I say yes and agree to meet on the top of a wind-blown hill, in fact an inactive volcano. Sophie is bubbly and effervescent like a young volcano herself, always erupting with her enthusiasm.  I photographed Sophie with the wind blowing her tousled hair, she smiled but behind the eyes I can see the pain she has endured. She laughs a lot these days, she smiles proudly when talking of her children, her countenance lights up when her grandson is mentioned. Life is much better these days. Sophie has fought her demons; she is loved, the sun shines as she looks forward to sharing more of her life story. Hers is a  life that would challenge most of us to breaking point, Sophie J is a survivor and one of my most memorable acquaintances, I think I am fortunate to have met this amazing woman.

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Stream of consciousness – Dreams are free

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Just to explain something – I’m participating in a blog writing course and we have to blog every day..however I won’t publish them all, so don’t panic, your email box won’t be overflowing.

 

I’m prone to bronchitis and as I am aging the bronchitis seems to catch up with me very easily. I know why I am making bronchitis such a welcome visitor and I know  how to chase it away, sometimes I know how to even prevent it. It all has to do with air conditioning on planes. If I fly Internationally, which living in New Zealand is not uncommon, I take preventative anti-biotics. These little pills usually keep me in good health. Problem solved.  Or is it?? Last week I flew 1 hour to Wellington and then just under 2 hours to Dunedin, small hops within our own country, not even a need for a passport, just a hop skip and a jump so I thought. I thought too, and wrongly that I didn’t need anti-biotics for this short trip. Three days after the flight Mr Bronchitis came knocking at my door and despite trying I could not hold him out! So here I am with bronchitis, the sun is shining, the temperatures are summery and someone is following me around coughing as though they are about to croak it! In between coughing I feel fine; I managed a movie, dinner out and coffee with friends. I even went for a pleasurable walk. Tomorrow I might turn up at my aqua aerobics class and I’ll take Mr Bronchitis with me. Perhaps I can drown him in the pool? Now that’s a thought with a lot of appeal.

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My  respiratory specialist tells me people “my age” ( don’t you love it) are developing these respiratory problems late in life they think due to bad parenting. Well they didn’t exactly say that! They asked these questions. Did your parents smoke – the answer was yes my father smoked. Did he smoke in the house?  Yes, he smoked in the house (roll your owns I recall) Did he smoke in the car? Yes, he smoked in the car. The specialist almost smiled as he said  “there, while you were developing your little body, you received smoke damage to your respiratory canals and one is very narrow.” (How many do we have) maybe those aren’t his exact words however the message was clear. I have a deformed respiratory system from  65 plus years ago. Was I angry, no not really, back then our parents hadn’t been exposed to the ills of cigarette smoke so I don’t blame  my father too much. After all they are the generation that lived through the depression and the wars, so the odd cigarette was perhaps a deserved pleasure; we know pleasure was not a daily occurrence in their lives back then. My father stopped smoking in their forties I think. I too smoked for ten years but the lovely specialist said that wasn’t the cause. I didnt need to punish myself over it. Phew!

So now I have my flu shot, my pneumonia shot and my antiobiotics at the ready.. if cancer doesn’t get me first I guess I’ll succumb to pneumonnia..heaven help us!

The good news is that Air New Zealand have new planes called the Dreamliners with improved air quality. Oh yes the lovely specialist man also told me that airlines reduced the moisture content in the planes air supply to make it lighter and consequently weigh less and save fuel. Maybe I should only fly on routes with Dreamliner jets but currently who wants to go to Perth, an 8 hour trip to the other side of Australia? I mean it’s a lovely city but I know no one there and I have been there twice already. So I am dreaming of Dreamliners on all flight routes before I age too much. as the saying goes Dreams are free!

School Reunions and why you might like to go.

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55 years sounds like a long time doesn’t it!?  When we gathered together to celebrate the 100th year of our boarding school none of us had any idea what that actually meant. Even if you didn’t attend a boarding school you may well relate to this weekend. Your comments are welcome.

I have often wondered why people attend school reunions – I decided it is the excuse to renew friendships, an excuse to catch up with old friends, an excuse to be with talented, funny caring women. It is definitely therapeutic. We talked about how education has improved, no teachers throw books at you these days or tell you how stupid you are!! We could all laugh about those experiences decades later, but they were the downside of our schooling under the rule of “Buck” our principal back then. Reunions are memories being relived while creating new memories for the future. Friends of mine attended the St Cuthbert’s 100th celebrations recently, also a very successful event. There must be other schools due to celebrate their centenaries soon and a few have already passed that milestone long ago. One woman told me she had been to a reunion a few years ago and had nothing in common with her school mates, sad really. Others say they would never return to school – I say you are missing out on many fun stories. Many of us were daughters of farming families but not all. Our school days were hard, it wasn’t all bells and whistles by any means. We did get homesick, we did cry, we did get into trouble – it made us who we are today.

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An old blazer from the sixties.

Consequently when  18 or so ‘old’ girls ( class of 1960) assembled in Dunedin on a warm autumnal evening it was no surprise that I was greeted with loud and enthusiastic applause and hugs as I arrived at my motel. Immediately I was faced with a sea of faces vaguely familiar, a few more lines, a few more pounds,  and a lot of blonde/ gray! 12 of us were staying in one place but this time no one told us off for talking all night. I had no idea of the names immediately but within seconds of exchanging maiden names it was like yesterday. Time vanished as we chatted about school days on that first evening. The noise of chatter reached fever pitch as we headed to the Dunedin Town Hall for the welcome function. More familiar faces, gales of laughter and stories regaled. There were speeches too and wine with canapés but the highlight was reacquainting ourselves with our boarder friends from 55 years ago! And a few “day bugs” as we called them back then! The chatter continued quite late; this time no one gave us detention for talking after lights out. Interestingly enough someone reminded us that for over 3 years we spent 10 weeks a year with our parents and 42 weeks a year with these girls; no wonder we have a close bond!

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These two older ‘old’ girls dressed up in uniforms of their day! The Green Velveteen dress hanging up was our Sunday attire.

Saturday morning we had a boarders breakfast… We were not given the same fare as current boarders are fed; the current boarders waited on table while we had Danish pastries, fresh fruit platters, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages. No flat whites I might add. (ha ha) The table mats were a collage of old school photos and we all spent breakfast trying to identify our school mates. Grace was sung to the tune of Frère Jacques ! The dining room was beautiful with high panelled wood walls, elegant curtains and some very good art work by well-known Otago artists, all very reminiscent of our young lives.

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A senior boarder  pouring coffee at the Boarders Breakfast.

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Myself with some senior girls – have I shrunk? they were  all so tall!

Dancer/ actress Terry Mactavish daughter of Shona Mactavish did an impromptu performance on the stage in Constance Hall while we ate our paper bag lunches. In 1958 Shona Mactavish opened a dance studio in Dunedin and in 1963 she set up a performing group, Dunedin Dance Theatre. She also taught us all at Columba.
Constance Hall was named after a boarder Constance Faulks who tragically died around 70 years ago. (1925) – still remembered. There were others from our time too who we hope were smiling on us all from the heavens, they were remembered with reverence and affection.
The normal tour of the school and our old dormitories. Names such as Girton, Solway, Davies, Iona and Braemar, they were the same in essence as in 1960 – fortunately the bathrooms had changed. This filled in the morning along with group photos in front of Bishop Court the charming grey stone building sitting proudly atop Highgate. The history of the property goes back to the first Anglican Bishop of Otago and Southland, Bishop Nevill, who built Bishopscourt which dates from 1871-72 designed by William Mason. Wales and Mason was a Dunedin Architecture firm well into the seventies.

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Two of us outside the Principal’s Drawing Room.

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Deep inside the Boarding School

Conversations continued as we discovered we had 70 grandchildren between 11 of us –  not a bad effort! Many of us were widowed, some has several husbands, ( not all at once!), all of us had lived life well, we were fat, we were thin, we were tall we were short, it mattered not at all. Some drank, some didn’t, some ate meat some didn’t, some were elegant, some were not, it mattered not at all. What mattered was the camaraderie amongst us. Time hadn’t changed our friendships. Some girls lived abroad, some in the north of NZ ( Jaffas!!) and some hadn’t moved more than a few miles from their childhood homes, it mattered not at all. One was a professor, one a farmer, several nurses, a few creatives and so on.
Topics of discussion ranged from politics to religion, sex to grandchildren, ‘trade me dating’ to academia and laughter, so much laughter. No one talked about their surgeries or the effects of age. There was talk about babies being adopted and found and how times have changed towards moral values.  It was 18 women sharing their lives with honestly, giving support to those who were fragile, appreciating our differences, celebrating our sameness.

imageLaughter was the order of the weekend.

Other schools around the world make Columba College’s 100 years look very young,  and in fact we are, even by Australian  standards. St Caths’ in Sydney was founded in 1856.  Taking the top spot as the oldest boarding school in England is the King’s School Canterbury. Created by St. Augustine whilst on his mission to evangelize England, the school is over 1400 years old.  (615 AD) In the USA West Nottingham Academy is a college-preparatory boarding and day school located between Baltimore and Philadelphia, and was founded in 1744.

The Nelson Province played an important role in the history of New Zealand education. It was the first Province to initiate free public education, based on a secular school system, which became the model for the first secondary school in New Zealand (Catholic) , The Nelson Public school was founded in 1842 followed in 1844 by the Wakefield School and soon after ‘Bishop’s School’ (Bishop Selwyn’s Anglican School), a Church of England Elementary School was built in Nile Street, Nelson.

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St Clair Beach

20 or more of us met at a beach side restaurant; I did feel sorry for the other patrons as the noise levels rose to pretty high levels and much laughter prevailed! Especially when one of the group arrived at dinner with mis-matched shoes! How could she not notice!!!

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Sunday morning church at the Dunedin Town Hall with its magnificent pipe organ and the Bag Pipes, a wonderful mix. I have included the highlights for your enjoyment.image

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The minister in the church service reminded us that back in our day we had no TV, no devices, no computers, no bic pens ( only fountain pens ),no plastic, we had jam sandwiches for lunches, milk in bottles and so forth. He commented that for a school to survive 100 years it had to be succeeding; giving families what they wanted for their daughters, the core values were being taught, Grace and Good Discipline “Gratia et Disciplina Bona” – and moving forward with the times.
I include some of this  sermon for your enjoyment. Not the bible bashing approach we endured every Sunday 55 years ago!

“Welcome everyone, it’s wonderful indeed to share this occasion with you and it’s a real privilege to be involved in this way. I am, in fact, standing in for the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, he just couldn’t be here so I have the job of bringing something inspiring to you this morning. I am Richard Dawson and I’m a Presbyterian Minister here in town at the Leith Valley Presbyterian Church, and I’m just thrilled that Columba College has made it to a hundred. I’m a bit of a cricket fan so whenever someone or something gets to a hundred I tend to take an interest and the best thing about Columba getting there is that you are ‘not out,’ which means you can keep going and possible make the double ton by lunchtime.
So we are all gathered here today because of something that has attained a great age and no I’m not talking about myself or indeed even those of you who are older than me. Rather I’m speaking about a school and a vision. And the interesting thing is that even if you’re young you are a part of that ‘old thing’ because it is your school. Now there’s usually only 2 reasons why something gets to be old. The first is that it is so hard and tough that it takes a long time to wear out. The second is that it’s able to renew itself and so to constantly become young even while growing old. This is how living things get old. They renew themselves just as you and I are doing at this very moment.

Did you know that your lungs renew themselves about every 6 weeks and your skin about every 4 weeks? The lining of your stomach renews itself every 3 days and your taste buds about every 10 days! Your blood takes about 4 months to completely replace itself and your finger nails something between 6-10 months. So in order to get old we might say that things have to stay young and the same applies to a school. Columba College is here also because it has constantly renewed itself by changing the way it does things so that it becomes more effective and efficient for the pupils who are under its care. Over the years lots of people considered what it was doing extremely valuable and so they worked to keep it going. And they considered the school valuable because they considered its pupils to be valuable. And when you think about it this makes the original idea to create a school like Columba even more remarkable because, you see, for it to last 100 years means that it was a very good idea to start with.So starting the school was a great idea and it has remained a great idea but remember that the secret to getting old is to remain young and that means that there are also many things about this school which have changed and changed enormously in 100 years. Yes the school is old but so much about the school is actually quite new. Things have changed at this school in the last 50 years, 30 years, 10 years, even this year. etc ”

I’m sure those words apply to many schools throughout our land.

Cilla McQueen poet laureate ( class of 1961) wrote a poem especially for our centennial weekend called “The Gift”.

Cilla recited the poem with such eloquence in her soft raspy voice, and we all related so well to her brilliant words. Thankyou Cilla for sharing the words.
I quote:
‘When I was at school we walked
two by two in a green crocodile,
With numerous legs the colour of
peanut butter, green mossy hats on top
and on each hat a dove.

I rejoiced in a group of trusty friends
who have lasted all my life.
We found boys pretty fascinating.
Wise teachers instilled in us the art
of listening, inside and out.

I struggled with Pythagoras,
enjoyed the Law of Moments,
glimpsed history’s deep currents
beneath the surface of the present,
learned languages, loved poetry.

In the school library, I first
encountered Janet Frame. One day
walking home along Highgate, reading
‘The Edge of the Alphabet’ (I think)
I collided with a lamp-post.

At the heart of it all is Columba,
a saints faith shining from an open book,
a beacon. Sacred his gift
to the island-dwellers: a simple church,
the habit of prayer,”
Cilla McQueen Bluff 2015

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A few of the glamorous sixties  boarders, and below  the boarding house Bishops Court.

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And on the last afternoon they released a white dove –