Life Sucks

I have never liked the saying ‘Life Sucks’.

In fact I have never liked the term ‘sucks’ as applied to anything other than an intake- of breath, of milk up a straw or even a heavy drag on a cancer-stick (for those that do it).

But I am willing to use it today because of a piece of news I received last evening. My sister has been diagnosed with cancer. It is breast cancer and she has been scheduled for breast removal so I’m assuming it’s somewhat advanced as other treatment has been by-passed. It is perhaps not life-threatening because it was not in my mother’s case when she had it and a double-mastectomy many years ago.

Oh, I hadn’t mentioned that had I. Yes, my mother had breast cancer in her fifties, but she survived it and lived to the ripe old age of 92 before passing after a decade or so of dementia. So I suppose we can say at times that while life can be cruel it isn’t always ‘life threatening’.

cancer avoid

I spied this and while it made me laugh a little it reinforced my view that ‘life sucks’ because, while my mother led a life somewhat removed from what the doctor prescribes (and lived to 92!) my sister is almost a paragon. She never smoked, has never drunk enough to be considered a ‘drinker’, eats sensibly and has been quite active all of her adult life and indeed even now in her 77th year. (As an aside, she also doesn’t involve herself in “internet bullshit”.)

So I guess it just comes down to luck whether the ‘chips fall your way’ or not and there seems to be little we can do to lengthen or shorten the odds even if we lead apparently ‘healthy’ lives. Given the amount of work that’s going on in the world in the field of cancers research I’m guessing in time there will be ways of altering the odds but I doubt it’s going to happen in my time.

I understand there are gene tests that can be done to establish susceptibility to cancers and thus early preventive treatment and this is something that my children may well consider. I hope they do because the extra wrinkle in this tale is that my brother died from melanoma at the tender age of 42.

Life sucks.

Life didn’t seem to suck anywhere near as much or as often when I was young back in the ‘olden days’, or is it just that we didn’t recognise ‘things’ as we do now, thus we didn’t know it sucked?


Get Off Your Bum!

I have been very slack for a while now- I’ve not put anything here for sooo long.

I suppose I could come up with all sorts of excuses for not having posted on this wee blog for so long, but that’s all they would be- excuses. They wouldn’t be legitimate reasons I think. The only legitimate excuse/reason would be I haven’t been bothered.

OK- that’s fair enough, but is it!? If you start one of these online projects surely it should be important enough to surpass being not bothered. I think initially that was my feeling and now I think that is also my feeling.

So saying I make this commitment to ‘Kutarere’s Blog’ – I will do better. (This of course has absolutely NO undertaking to quality as much as it is an undertaking to quantity. It will be a happy coincidence if it achieves both.)

Watch this space- I will be back….soon.

Thank you to those who have followed me- I hope I can justify your faith in me. (smiles sweetly.)

Paris Atrocities

Overnight we learned of a number of bombings and shootings in The City Of Love. Social media erupted with messages of every hue- there were masses of sympathetic messages, as were there those of anger, horror and outrage and sadly there were some that left one cold with their cynicism, their hatred, their bigotry, their lack of any sense of empathy with the victims or their loved ones. It was all quite thought-provoking.

I have to say though, the thought that was provoked in me was the comparison to be drawn between the international reaction and responses to the Paris bombings and those recently in the Middle Eastern cities of Beirut and Baghdad. The same social media that was ablaze with horror at the Paris bombings and shootings, then support and prayers for the city and people involved was strangely silent when the outrages in Lebanon and Iraq happened.

Why is this? The perpetrators of the crimes were (apparently) the same so shouldn’t the anger and outrage be the same? It would seem that the ‘rest of the world’ sets different yardsticks for their condemnation. Can it be that because the Baghdad and Beirut bombings were in ‘Muslim’ or ‘Arab’ cities and (most of) the victims were similarly Middle Eastern they don’t matter? If this is so then the world is in a sadder state than I thought it was.

To ‘accept’ such assaults on any innocent and unsuspecting populations is inhuman, and to not be outraged is, in my mind inexcusable.

I was moved by this piece – I hope it also gives you food for thought.

For Brenna

Brenda is a lovely friend of mine who lives in ‘Away’- that’s that country that is anywhere that is not The Coast. The Coast? That’s the narrow strip of land between the Southern Alps and the sea on New Zealand’s South Island. I took a niece and her daughter on a wee trip to ‘The Glaciers’ and I promised Brenda I would show her some perdy pictures of this lovely part of Aotearoa New Zealand. So……

Just south of here is a lovely wee lake, Mahinapua.

It’s just wee thing but is a good illustration of our glacial history. It’s perhaps 30-40 kilometers to the Alps but many thousands of years ago the ice rivers that flowed off them reached the sea, just a couple of hundred meters away.

Down The Coast is Okarito- and this sign is a real warning. Kiwi live in the area in large numbers.


Okarito is a beautiful lagoon where the famous white heron or kotuku rookery is situated. They can’t be seen from the road but the lagoon is very pretty.


The beach here at Okarito is showing how steady erosion is becoming a factor in many places.

WP_20150308_018[1]The black sand is a good source of alluvial gold which is mined in many places on The Coast. Hard work but rewarding.

But our main purpose was to visit the two principal glaciers on this side of The Hill- Fox and Franz Josef. I’ve been visiting these on and off since the late 60s and it is astonishing how far they have receded in that time, but more scarily over the last decade or so!

We went to the settlement of Fox Glacier first, deciding to have a look at one of our iconic NZ lakes- Lake Matheson that has become world famous for its wonderful reflections.

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This pic is from an earlier winter trip. It’s a pretty special place, winter or summer!

We then visited Fox Glacier itself. It’s probably less spectacular than Franz, but it used to be the better one to view- the track to the viewing point climbing along the valley wall so you were able to look down on the lower parts of the ice flow. Not so much nowadays as the glacier has gone so far up the valley it is now difficult to reach it, let alone get to view it from above. (This is possible of course from the air and the buzz of helicopters is constant from 8am until 6pm every day.)

fox glacier
You get an idea of the pace of melting that’s happening given these two photos are separated by no more than 12 months!!!

It is an awesome valley with wonderful cliffs and beautiful waterfalls- even after a long period without rain.




After a very pleasant sojourn in one of the hostelries in Franz Josef, where Chontelle’s steak was awful (the first one and the redo!!) and my braised lamb-shanks were superb!! we slept the sleep of The Just and then headed to Franz Josef Glacier. The day didn’t dawn all that well but breakfast was going to give it a chance to improve!!


Our first visit was a side track to one of my favourite places- Peter’s Pond. What a gorgeous quiet place to gather one’s thoughts and reflect on how lucky we are! This was formed by ice-melt when the glacier broke up hundreds of years ago. It is now some way up that valley in the distance.

peters pond reflection

It is certainly an eye-opener when you see illustrated so clearly how far the glacier has receded over the years!

WP_20150309_009[1]When I first came here the glacier was filling the area at the head of the river. Now the track winds past that for another 4-500 meters. I guess it’s easy to blame global warming but I wonder what the next ice-age will bring?
The glacier itself is still magnificent but best seen from the air. From the valley floor you see just a tiny fraction of the ice flow which starts in earnest at the top of this view then heads back up the valley to the right, almost to the summit of The Alps.
It is majestic country and we are sort of shown our significance somewhat when we wander here. Just to think that just a few hundred years ago all of this valley was covered in a river of ice hundreds of feet thick, so let’s not put ALL of the glacial-melt down to our folly and global warming- they’ve been receding for much longer than we’ve been buggering things up!!

From Franz we headed homeward taking a wee detour just out of Hokitika to view the beautiful Hokitika Gorge, a narrow chasm the beautiful blue river flows through. The river is always this colour (or brighter when the sun is shining brightly) because of the origins in the ice-fields just a few hundred feet up the Alps.
And so a pleasant wee bush walk to end a lovely two days with my niece and grand-niece from the North Island.
They enjoyed the scenery, I enjoyed their company.


Acts of Kindness Not So Random

Hi Reader- thanks for visiting!
This isn’t an explanation- it’s a brag. Id’ really appreciate it if you would read this before you continue with this piece- it will make it so much more meaningful.
I met L through Twitter (as you do).
She’s military (or ex-military) and I have lots of connections even though I haven’t served- I taught at Waiouru and THINK our paths may have crossed but more importantly I have family who have served- brothers (one dead), son, father, nephew, uncles, and my namesake was killed at Melamie air-field on Crete and is buried at Suda Bay on that island.
(…and now I’m quietly crying thinking about it!!!) 🙂
I’m sure L’s met my brother, and likely she may have even met my son (who has done two tours to one of the worst shit-holes in the world- Afghanistan……. and the government is committing  us to go to the next worst!!! Sorry!)
Her Old Man is ex-absolute top non-commissioned position in the NZ Army and a man I have the utmost respect for.
So we started tweeting and occasionally messaging as you do on occasions. 
It so happens that she was going through a ‘thing’ and I was able to be a shoulder and offer her support which she obviously found some strength from. I’ve been around the block a couple of times and what she was handling resonated a bit. I won’t go any deeper into that because that is her stuff to talk about- not mine.
Suffice it to say we have made a wonderful connection. Obviously there’s nothing more- we have just jelled, and it’s wonderful.
This lady is doing this WW100 Gallipoli tour (and that is no small part of her stress) and I have made a big request of her. I initially asked her to take with her a piece of my pounamu (my special toki made early on in my jade-carving ‘career’) with her to ANZAC. And to see if she were able to bathe it in the sea at Suvla Bay where our guys landed. In so-doing it would impart huge mauri and mana so my beautiful pounamu toki might become a very valued family heirloom. To my absolute delight she said she would do this for me!!
(…more tears.)
After thinking about what I had asked, I then cheekily went one better and asked her to take my tiki (the Most Treasured Possession) for the same purpose. You will by now realise how special this taonga is (to me) and this will be treasured in time by other generations of my family, and now with it will be the story of its sacred journey to one of Aotearoa NewZealand’s most hallowed places overseas and one which holds such a special place in our national psyche.
AND SHE HAS SAID YES, and one of the Maori policemen who are her protection squad will recite karakia over it!!
(……Now I’m howling even more!!!)
I will be giving her the pieces, along with a special piece of pounamu I have carved for when we meet, which I am delighted we are going to be able to do!!!
So there you go!!
I’m proud to have shared this with you.
It’s not private- it’s awesome!!

Why Twitter?

I do Twitter. Don’t judge me, it’s just another ‘social media’ platform and LOTS of people do one or another of any number of such online communities. Twitter is mine. Of course I’m also on Facebook but that is rather more to keep abreast of family news and views whereas Twitter is about the wider, stranger-populated ‘out there’ community.

I’ve been on it for many years now having originally signed up when I was teaching IT and thought being abreast of new interweb developments was part of the job. If my memory serves me correctly it was being promoted with a simple question along the lines of “what are you thinking?” or “what are you doing?” and an exhortation to share these little gems with others who presumably would be waiting with baited breath for even the smallest crumb of information about what was going on in your life, like going to the dentist, the dairy or driving lessons (etc..) The assumption was that you would also be eagerly lapping up every word that hordes of people from all over the world- not just in your family, your community, your work, or your social circle of friends.

Naturally many, many people signed on but before long many saw it as being a bit of a chore, a joke, having no value for them, as being a platform for opinionated idiots/bigots/racists/politicians or any number of other reasons and left. Of course they were replaced by new hordes and so it established itself as a bit of a phenom (in the new vernacular).

I think it’s morphed a bit over the years and in each modified form attracted a different type of tweeter. There were those who stuck to the tried and trusted personal documentary, those who commented on events at home and away, those who promoted causes, those who used it as a platform for various skills they had (in particular photography) and of course there were the inevitable ‘mainstream media’ jocks and pundits who used it as a platform (soapbox) to have a crack out our celebrities, our leaders and our law-makers. I have found it very valuable as a place to get balanced commentary on a range of things from happenings in and around government (local and national), to news, to general ‘wordly’ things, It must be said, however that some of said media ‘peeps’ have been a bit holier than thou and a bit fuller of their own importance and things have sometimes degenerated into quite nasty argument with vitriol and personal abuse which I hope many found/find as distasteful as I. This has on occasions led to respected commentators deciding they didn’t need to be part of it and leaving Twitter. (The wrong people went!)

It was interesting to me during the election campaign how ineffectual Twitter seemed to be- there was plenty to have a go at the candidates over but I don’t know that Twitter really had the punch that I thought it should have. Of course I may just be following the wrong people? (I don’t think so.)

But of late there’s been a certain feel about Twitter. As a friend of mine tweeted this morning “Twitter seems to have lost its mojo!”

I always felt that Twitter was never as much about ‘ME’ as about ‘my’ – my opinions (as inane as they well may be), my observations (as wide of the mark as they well may be) and my reactions (as predictable or otherwise as they may well be) as well as allowing me to share links to things I find interesting, to share experiences I have had, places I’ve been, sights I have seen, and passing on others’ contributions that I’ve found as being worthy of support. But I hope not about ME.

Unfortunately there are many who don’t hold that philosophy as far as Twitter is concerned, and persist in self promotion, self congratulation and worst of all self pity.

OK- if you’re having problems let people know but those people have lives to attend to as well and in my experience I’m able to do that with a cheerier disposition if those around me are cheerful too. I’ll sympathise with you but I’ll probably be unlikely to be able to do anything but sympathise so telling me over and over or embellishing the basic ‘bitch’ isn’t going to make things any better for you or me. Think of something more pleasant to tweet about, or hush, please! (If I DO think I can help I think I’d prefer to do that on a one-on-one basis and so I’ll contact you via direct message and we can work from there!)

I also have a bit of a vetch against people who persist in posting interminable links or commentary on events they have a personal interest in and obviously believe I should as well! OK- post one link but then let me make up my own mind, please?

I saw a number of tweets (a LARGE number of tweets) of the same photo with exactly the same message. Why a LARGE number of tweets of the same photo and message? The person (who I follow) decided it would be a fun idea (I guess) to send it out to a big number of followers that we obviously both follow,  one follower at a time!!! Guess what- it wasn’t for me! By the way, the photo wasn’t sent to me!!

My timeline has been dominated (or cluttered) by (sometimes night-long and even day-and-night-long) group chats involving four or five people, at least a number of whom I follow hence the clutter, all of whom are having their fun with their clever witty repartee on this and that (and I don’t begrudge people having fun!) but which has little or no interest to me because I don’t share their current interest, their line of humour or the rather cryptic nature of their comments.

There are always other aspects of a Twitter timeline that can be irksome but I won’t go into those here, rather- how am I going to deal with these issue?

Shall I do nothing and continue to be annoyed and develop serious negative feelings against people who, by and large I have chosen to follow, and who I (mostly) quite like?

Shall I unfollow those people who are the worst offenders at any or all of the above, and by so-doing admit I am a bad judge of character having, (by and large) chosen to follow these people? Also by unfollowing make a statement to them that I made a bad choice following them, they are bad people and I want them to go away?

Shall I do something like going private or protected or whatever and reviewing my list of who I follow, but doing the diplomatic thing and telling one and all that I’m doing so and it’s a reflection on (almost) no one of them- ie. fib a bit?

Shall I mute those people who are the main offenders in the matters outlined above, meaning I won’t see what they are tweeting and will only receive their tweets if they are directed to/at me?

Or shall I bite the bullet and leave Twitter all together, thereby turning my back on a whole bunch of lovely people I’ve met, but whose details aren’t so extensively known that we can continue our association outside Twitter?

I think my answers to those questions are Nah! Nah! Nah! Ummm! Maybe.

First up though I will give muting a try and see what the effect on my timeline is- at least in this way I’ll not give offense, my timeline will become somewhat uncluttered, and of course I will find out exactly how much I am a part of these people’s Twitter world. THAT could be a salutary lesson in itself!

Watch this space? Maybe.

“As The Sun Sinks Slowly In The West…”

“As the sun sinks slowly in the West, we say a fond farewell to…”

There seems to be some disagreement over who first said these (almost immortal) words, but, quite frankly, I DON’T CARE! I do know I thought it was some American commentator at the end of a South Pacific travelogue back in the fifties, but if this is not the case- such much! It is however a fair description for a special time of the day down here on ‘The Coast’. (For those who haven’t read other posts on this blog and have missed me rabbiting on about ‘The Coast’, it is the western side of the Southern Alps of New Zealand, running the whole length of the South Island from the Kahurangi National Park in the north to Fiordland in the south.)

I live in Greymouth now, having spent all the rest of my life living in various places in the North Island, and I have the good fortune to have a place on a hill with a clear view to the Tasman Sea- The West that the sun sinks slowly in.

Now it has to be said that one of the features of The Coast besides magnificent glaciers, beautiful lakes, superb coastal vistas and majestic mountains is rain forest and we all know you can’t have rain forest without rain! Naturally this phenomenon gives plenty of people living in all other parts of our lovely country the reason/excuse/justification for seriously maligning the weather down here, and they are happy to announce, generally with tons of conviction that “…it always rains on The Coast!”

Well, you make up your own minds as you browse this selection of images all shot within that lovely segment of time that is “as the sun sinks slowly in the west.” It must be said that most of these are winter photos because the geography of my situation has us losing the sun (as it dips into the sea) behind the shoulder of a hill just around the street sometime in late spring and it doesn’t return until autumn is with us. It is a source of extreme pleasure to look off my deck and see…these!







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sunset 2

sunset 3I love this place.

No Posts

Wandering around and wondering I came to, well actually this time I was referred to @NewZealand’s website (which obviously I’d done some wee time ago having been guest curator as @NewZealand for a really enjoyable week!) and went a little deeper than the introduction ‘front page’. It surprised me somewhat when I discovered my surname in the list of ‘tags’!

Hmmmm- my name. Me? Naturally I clicked on the link and it took me to a message that I had not posted anything yet.

I beg to differ!! If you are interested just pop across here to see that I have posted once or twice! Not on this site, admittedly but on my own blog, and it is that blog which probably prompted me to put my name forward for the stint at curation. It’s a pretty generalist blog as I don’t really carry any torches or (nowadays) have a career-based focus having retired a few years ago. I do have a pretty wide experience base arising out of years as a teacher and having lived in many parts of this country that I love. I also come from a generation who had a knowledge based education as opposed to the rather more abstract ‘processes’ education children are encouraged in today (I have no wish to debate the benefits of one over the other- it’s just that a good general knowledge was one of the outcomes of the former.) It’s this that motivates much of the stuff I do as well as developing the odd ‘bitter vetch’ ever so occasionally but never wishing to be too philosophical, preachy or too judgmental.

So- I have posted here now, and I invite you to view other efforts ‘over there’ over here!!

A Little Piece Of Ireland?

Earlier this year I visited Fox Glacier having to ‘do a bit of business’ but as I’m not heavily into ‘business’ that part didn’t take too long and I found I had a few hours spare. What to do? Obviously there is the glacier but each time I go there I tend to be more depressed by the unseemly haste with which the glacier’s charging back up the valley!! I remember where the terminal face was when I first visited in the late 60s but that position is left behind as you continue past to drive to the car-park hundreds of metres away, with a further 300-400 metres on foot to where the face is today!

But there’s a sign-post indicating “Gillespies Beach” is just a few kilometres away across a bush-covered range behind Lake Matheson (where my ‘business’ was completed) so I decided to investigate and took a right turn at the T intersection on the road from Matheson.

The road’s well-formed if a bit windy but if you don’t aspire to being a rally driver or are driving a BIG RIG it’s a pleasant drive of about 9 or 10 kms from the bridge- or 20 from Fox Glacier township.

As you exit from the bush just a short way before the beach, the camping ground and beginnings of walking tracks
2013-09-19 23.24.52 there is a signpost for the Gillespies Beach Miners Cemetery. Just 2 minutes? Why not!! (…and if you take your time, or include the time taken parking the car it may take you 2 minutes!!)

The ‘bush’ in the immediate area is low scrub, flax and tea-tree but the track heads towards more established natives…
gillespies beach cemetery …and suddenly you are there- no gates, no fences, no fanfare, just a nicely maintained walking track entering a grassy reserve sparsely patterned with a variety of headstones and gravesites, and indeed a few rather suspicious depressions in the ground!
gillespies beach cemetery1It is a very eclectic collection of graves and possibly points to the mixed fortunes of the people who are buried there. There is a range of graves here, from those with impressive headstones to those with a simple wooden cross or even none, from those with properly formed concrete plots to those with no obvious burial plot ‘construction’ at all.
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And who are they and where were they from, these early pioneers? Browsing the headstones in any cemetery never gives us a LOT of information on the person or persons who lie there but in an isolated little cemetery such as this, the community that they established may be pondered on, and the ‘Miners Cemetery’ gives a big clue!
2013-09-19 23.27.24This is the last resting place of James Walsh, a native of County Clare in Ireland. He died in 1889 (aged 60yrs) and his loving wife Ellen erected this headstone to mark his passing. Nearby is this grave-
2013-09-19 23.29.34where are buried father and son, Edward RYAN of Limerick, Ireland who died 22 Aug 1899 (57 yrs), and his son 
John Edward RYAN
who died in 1902 aged 31.

Among others who are able to be identified from the inscriptions on headstones from Ireland are James O’LEARY a native of Cork in Ireland who died in 1892 (interestingly his headstone was erected by Edward Ryan!!), Annie (d 1894) & her husband John QUINLAN (d 1910), and (I’m taking a guess here) Patrick CARROLL. Patrick, who was the son of Michael Carroll drowned in nearby Cooks River 1890 aged just 17 yrs.

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Obviously not all of those buried in this quaint wee sacred place were from Ireland as this headstone attests- Robert Curry McINTOSH was a native of Rothesay in Scotland. Whether Henry MORRISON who died 1911, or Eleanor or Fredrick MEYER  who are also buried here are Irish or not isn’t clear…
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It is a very peaceful part of New Zealand and can reasonably be thought of as being a little bit of ‘The Emerald Isle’ in far off Aotearoa.

It must be said that this cemetery isn’t all there is to see at Gillespies Beach and spending some time walking the tracks there is rewarding both from a scenic point of view and also for a glimpse into the history of gold mining as well as seeing current operations (assuming the old bugger’s still working his claim- either suction dredging in the lagoon or black sand from the beach.) Or you can just walk along the wonderful seashore filling in time before another one of the magnificent sunsets that can be seen on The Coast!

Enjoy your day.