Sunday, March 01, 2020

Rex Harrison
February 2020

They say the best way to give God a good laugh is tell Him your plans…
My future path was clear when I was in high school.  University for however long it takes, then a career in physics, either in industry or academia.
In those days the Canadian armed forces would put you through four years of university, in exchange for three years’ service on graduation.  Summers would be spent in some form of military training, but all in all it looked like a better deal than struggling to find money, summer jobs, accommodation, all the endless little problems that need to be solved to get through university by yourself.  So I applied, was accepted, and sent to the Royal Military College of Canada – a very different environment from the university I once envisaged.
The College had this strange idea that its graduates should know more than their specialty field, in my case physics.  That meant by the end of my stay there I had two years of French, three years of history, and a year each of philosophy and economics, in addition to my physics study.  The College also expected its students to be physically fit.  Never in my life had I been so fit.  Or since, I’m ashamed to say.
I may not have had the best physics degree, couldn’t have had a better all-round education.
Then it was off to navigation school to begin my three years of service.  Gone were the esoteric equations of quantum mechanics and the mysteries of general relativity.  Instead we had to add, subtract, multiply and divide, and horror of horrors, get the right answers.
It was there I was introduced to the Baha’i Faith by a course mate who had come across it while doing a course in comparative religion.  I went to my first meeting with the intention of putting them right – I was convinced the last thing the world needed was another religion. 
That meeting was full of surprises.  They didn’t criticise or dismiss any religion, nor did they claim theirs was the only truth.  They also offered me a perspective on history I had never encountered before – one that obviated the need for the different religions of the world to compete with each other.
I borrowed as many books as I could carry, and after a period of study, asking questions and yes, prayer, became a Baha’i.
Which presented a problem.  My navigation training was leading to jet fighters capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and one of the dictums of the Faith is “It’s better to be killed than to kill”.  We are also required to honour our contracts, so I requested non-combatant duty while making it clear I would always be obedient to their decision.  They transferred me to a course that led to my posting with a search and rescue squadron on Vancouver Island.
One September I took a fortnight’s leave to travel to an Indian reservation with a Tlingit from Alaska to visit with the Baha’is there.  It was there I met Marlene for the first time.
By August 1969 I had fulfilled my obligations to the military.  I knew I wanted to travel for the Baha’i Faith and would have to earn my living wherever I settled.  I also knew there wasn’t much work for half-trained physicists, and that navigators were rapidly becoming obsolete.  So I allowed myself to be talked into training as teacher, and travelled to Edmonton to study education.
Marlene and I crossed paths again in October, and were married the following April.  From now on it’s our story.
We spent our first summer in Hay River, on the south shore of Great Slave Lake in the low Arctic.  We had been asked to go there to build up the numbers of that Baha’i community.  Our long-term goal, however, was to travel to Samoa, as in those days Canada was responsible for assisting the Samoan Baha’i community.  In American Samoa I was offered a job, but without a green card I couldn’t accept it. In Western Samoa I was told I could work there, but there was no money for hiring teachers.  The Peace Corps was providing all the teachers they needed for free.
So here we are in New Zealand.  We worked for a year in Nelson, then the National Spiritual Assembly asked us to settle in Greymouth.  I got a job at Greymouth High School and Marlene began to raise our children, both of whom were born in Greymouth.
I soon discovered teaching was not for me.  I fell into a job in regional development, which ultimately led to a job at the West Coast Regional Council.  When that came to an end we shifted to Christchurch, where I got a job with the City Council and Marlene with the Ministry of Civil Defence.
In those days Banks Peninsula was its own local authority, and so had its own Baha’i community.  We bought our house in Diamond Harbour to help build up numbers, and have been here ever since. 
Physics, military college, navigating, Baha’i, search and rescue, teaching, Canadian arctic, Samoa, Nelson, Greymouth, local government, Christchurch, Diamond Harbour – God must be rolling around with laughter.
Our plan is to enjoy our current slice of paradise for as long as we can.  Is that laughter I’m hearing?


Friday, October 11, 2019

By Bryan Fowler.

            It is cold, and the nights are long. I see light coming from the mouth of the tribal cave, and I hear the noise of the man things barking, but most of all I smell the meat, the sweet smell of the catch scraped off the bones that are left for us, and heated, cooked if you like over the fire that always burns inside their cave.
            We stay well away from the man things, for although we clean up their messes, and they expect us to do this, if we venture too close, then our reward is a stone or a club thrown with malicious intent. They take their lead I think from the big one, the one who smells of anger and power, their pack leader.
             I stay well away from him, but there is one a slighter man thing who smells differently who stays silently away from the big angry one, and one day when no one else is about he throws something to me, and it’s not a rock, it is a piece of meat, and it disappears down my throat, and my mind starts to rethink the man things, do they in fact all despise us?
             Nothing much happens for a time except that the right smelling man gets bigger and bigger, and the pieces of meat come my way more frequently, and the bad smell man becomes louder and more aggressive, and then one day it all changes.
            There is shouting, and running, and two men are fighting, and fighting to kill; and it is the bad smell one, and the throw me meat one. It goes on and on, and I see and smell the blood that is flowing from both of them, and then the bad smell one goes down, fist smitten and a rock is smashed down on his head, and the men things have a new leader.
            Change happens, no rocks are thrown at us, and I take to following the man when he goes hunting, and sometimes I sense prey that he does not smell, and I point, and he makes a kill, and pleasure flows from him. Then one day he hurls his club at a large food thing, and he misses, but before it can escape I have it in my jaws, and the kill is made; and I still do not entirely understand why, but I took it and laid it at his feet.
            He looked at it, and the pleasure smell told me that I had done the right thing, and he stretched out his hand and rubbed my side, “good pet”, he said.
            That night he called to me, “Pet” he said, and I went into the cave, for I sensed it was right, and there was food for me, and I slept by the fire, and life was good.

Footnote. I read this story to my Pet the particularly perspicacious poodle Poppy. “Nonsense she said, dogs have always been allowed inside, and do make sure that you feed me on time”.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

I am from ...

I Am From
Sophie Wilde
July 2019

On Tuesday, last week, I had just sat down at an empty table in the Colombo Food Court and was looking forward to my flat white and a luscious banoffee cream doughnut- my reward for enduring a very overdue medical check-up. I turned round to pick up the newspaper from the table behind me and as I turned back, I was surprised to see a man sitting opposite me. He appeared to be about my age, tallish and slightly rangy, with silver grey hair curling about his ears. I’m sure I would have noticed him if he’d been there before.
‘Hello,’ he said smiling politely. ‘I hope I’m not disturbing you.’
‘Not at all,’ I lied. ‘Just surprised really. You seem to have popped out of nowhere. Where did you come from?’
‘I am from your future,’ he replied calmly, as though it were Dunedin he was referring to.
‘What do you mean, “my future”?
‘I mean your future, you know; where you’re heading. I know you’re looking forward to it. I thought you’d be pleased.’

I looked at him more closely as a young woman served us each a cup of coffee. He was quite good looking really, with dark blue eyes, a broad forehead  and a mouth that seemed used to smiling. What a pity he was clearly delusional. I decided to be polite.
‘What part of my future are we talking about?’
His smile deepened. ‘Well, for starters, there’s our trip to Sereilhac to visit Russ and Judith; Jane and Hilary are still there. They’re not the slightest bit surprised to see us. Jane is thrilled to meet me actually; greets me like a long lost friend, which I am I suppose.’
‘Sereilhac? How? What?’I blurted.
‘Well, we fly of course; business class to Paris, then train to L’Aiguille, where Judith picks us up from the station and brings us back to their lovely rented farmhouse. Plenty of room for two more.’
He saw my smirk at the mention of business class. ‘No worries about money any more, after your windfall. And No, I’m not interested in your money; I have plenty of my own. I am definitely interested in you though,’ he added quietly.

At the mention of my closest friends, who really were currently meeting up in a small French village, I gave up humouring him or trying to fit what was happening into a normal Tuesday morning.

He’d said he was from my future and this was a future I’d often dreamed of. But who was he and how did he know my dreams? I looked up from staring into my coffee cup to find him still smiling that easy, knowing, slightly mischievous smile.
‘Yes, exactly,’ he nodded. ‘I’m Tom, Tom Harris, and very pleased to meet you at last.’

‘Tom’ was the name I had given to my ‘perfect man’ when compiling lists with a select few girlfriends. To see him sitting there across from me, draining the last mouthful from his cup, was a dream come true or my worst nightmare- had I finally lost my rather tenuous grip on reality?

He reached over and put his hand over mine. ‘I’m off now,’ he said. ‘But I’ll see you again, soon I believe.’ As he stood to leave he reached down and placed his lips firmly on mine. Then he turned and walked away. As I watched him disappear through the automatic doors at the end of the hall, I struggled to grasp what had just happened. I looked around to see if anyone was staring at me, but no-one else seemed to have noticed my psychotic episode. The world around me was going along at its normal, boring best.
‘Just wishful thinking,’ I said to myself. ‘But really gorgeous all the same.’

And then I registered his empty coffee cup sitting on the table beside mine.

Monday, May 20, 2019


John Riminton.

Scene:  The living room of a middle-class New Zealand home
Actors:  A father and his 13 year old son Flynn.

Flynn:  "Dad, our teacher told us that we were to prepare for a big project on globalisation after the holiday. Do you know anything about that?
Dad:  What do you think he means?
Flynn:  I think he's on about everyone in the world working together but I don't see that happening, I mean, everyone lives differently.
Dad:  Quite right but we need to start somewhere.  Why do you shout for your school when they are playing someone else?
Flynn:  Come on...because it's my school.
Dad:  Yes. You feel you belong.  It's like tribes and nations. If we were Maori we would support our iwi against other tribes; as New Zealanders we don't want Australia to win the World Cup, and that's the way it has been since humans were just hunter-gatherers – belonging is an important part of our nature: tribes, towns, religions, countries. that went on steadily until about a hundred or so years ago.  Do you know what started to change everything then?
Flynn:  Not really. Was it the Industrial something?
Dad:   Well, four really big things have changed in the last hundred and fifty years and they started when quick communication was invented and information did not have to be carried by someone on horseback.  That led to a new global economy controlled by so-called market forces. Now we have instant global communication through the internet and fast travel, The internet allowed scientists to develop computers and share their information. That led to global science,  global surveillance, robots and things, and now this changed world is threatened by global climate change.
Flynn:   Yeah, I have heard of all that but apart from the climate, those other things are all good, so what's the problem?
Dad:  We haven't yet got rid of our need to belong to some group where we can share, talk  in the same language and understand what makes each other tick – like you shouting for your school or people working together in a stock exchange where they live by the minute, all of you thinking short term.
Flynn:  Yeah, I can see that but what has that to do with globalisation?
Dad:  Well, although we have a global economy, countries still think mostly of their own interests. I have been watching the internet news about the row between America and China over trade;  the Middle East is a mess of competing groups and there are lots of arguments about ways to generate the energy that we will need if we are able to carry on as we are now. But the one thing most scientists are agreed upon is the inevitablity of a climate change that will make all these other things irrelevant because that will dominate everything.  The others are all global problems that we don't have a global government to deal with and, anyway, most countries don't want to be told what to do by somebody else. So how are we going to set up global control to sort out the  big one?
Flynn:  Yeah, I am beginning to see that this will be one big project next term. I wonder what the teacher will be trying to tell us.
551.   May, 2019.

Another Life
John Riminton.

  You won't find me blowing in the wind as I have spent most of my life in a huge building with big rooms.  Mind you, I did start outside in the beautiful clean air with many others like me.  Then, one day we were all gathered together and taken into the first of those big rooms.  It was awful.  We were laid out on some tickly material and denied water for half a day, which felt like forever.  We were all quite limp when we were taken off for our next  ordeal.

   Can you imagine what it is like to be put, with all your friends, into a great machine and rolled about until you don't know what sort of shape you are in?  When that was over we were put on some shaking table. Some of my friends disappeared then, but I had to go back for more twisting but the second time on the shaking table I fell through a hole.  I think they had pity on us then for the next experience was bliss – laid out on another table which was cool and damp. I wished that could have gone on forever but it was followed by the worst of all – we were cooked in an oven until we were black. It was terrible.

  I don't know what happened next for it was all so confusing.  I do know that I turned grey and got separated from my friends. I  don't know what happened to them but I found myself pushed around by some people and bundled together with others who had suffered the same experiences.  No one seemed to like us and we were shoved into a dark corner.  There, some who had been there before us said that they thought that we might be taken outside to be buried. I couldn't wait – anything to get outside again away from this dreadful building.

  I'm sorry, what was that?  Oh! What am I? I'm sorry, I forgot to tell you at the beginning. My name is Tea Fluff and I am the result of turning beautiful green leaves into black tea.

May 2019

Monday, March 18, 2019


By Bryan Fowler

          Jaycinct the Bold gazed in wonder at the swirling planetary debris that surrounded the ever moving, ever evolving wormhole that was her immediate destination. “Was it worth it,” she thought? “Make the slightest mistake and I'll become an infinitely long piece of spaghetti”. Scratching her many tentacled multicoloured carapace she pondered for a moment. The dangers were great surely, but the rewards too were impressive. “Lets do this thing,” she thought, “but lets do it right”.
          Taking over complete control  of her interstellar ubercraft she began to design the complicated many faceted formulae that would she hoped allow her to navigate the perilous approach. Mind and machine were now completely integrated and the spacecraft effortlessly performed the complicated manoeuvrers that brought it to the very edge of this primordial passage to another universe.
          “I wonder if the time is right? thought Jaycinct, and without conscious thought she performed the complicated quantum calculations that corrected the time fluctuations that were an integrated part of this cosmic passageway. Reality blurred as they hurtled through the ever evolving space portal; atoms and galaxies were as one in this place that existed between time and space. And then after an infinite time, or was it milliseconds the craft erupted into real time and space.
          “So far so good,” exclaimed Jaycinct as she performed the mental calculations that passed back control to the spacecraft allowing it to follow their preplanned course to their destination. Now completely relaxed she lay back on her gravity bed  and watched the approaching orb growing larger and larger until it completely filled the viewing wall; she felt the faint vibration as they entered the atmosphere, and the antigravity thrusters that would guide them to their ultimate destination burst into life,“I wonder if I’ll be in time?” thought Jaycinct as she emerged into the car park of the Jolly Roger; but then she saw the bright lights; and heard the babble of happy voices, and the clink of glasses, so full of extraterrestrial joy she vibrated her way over to that wonderful door marked BAR

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sarah Harper

Hope is deeper than optimism
It is mysterious, delicate and brave

Hope is resilience
Wrapped in layers of trust and knowing

Hope is pink and has feathers
It is yellow and feels warm

Hope is no tonic for wishful thinkers
But a solid ground to lay our backbone on

Hope heals puncture wounds of life
It shines with courage and grit

Hope is spirited and foolhardy
It wears a fluffy fur coat

Hope knows no angst nor pain
It breathes life into the darkest of places

Hope can appear in disguise
It is a strangers wink and a star filled sky

Hope is timeless and kind
It is what makes the caged bird sing

Hope heals
It is sometimes all there is.