Archive for category 1.a Marni

born to rule?

So my spit, which I once casually propelled through a speeding car window or sneakily let fall from a thirtieth floor balcony with no regard to the fact that it contained the precious essence of my ancestors, has been duly propelled into a little plastic tube, sealed and sent off to some laboratory and all my ancestry has now been revealed. Analysis of my spit showed a pint of Kilkenny pale ale, to a wee dram or three of Grant’s finest Scotch, blended with a chilled glass of Italian chablis and chased down with a shot of Vodka, straight. Dispensing with the metaphors that makes 82% Irish, 8% ‘British’ (actually Scottish), 8% Mediterranean and….. hello! 2% Scandinavian. All fitted with my Collins/ O’Rorke/ Moylan/ Grant family names, except that I would have expected the British dna would have been classified Scottish (or Caledonian). But it turns out in the dna world that Scotland is not as distinct a gene as the Irish. Way back in the last ice age of 12,000 bc the channel from Europe would have been easily crossed with the sea levels quite low, various tribes from Western Europe crossed into the islands of Britain and Ireland to create a primitive little Celtic settlement with the engineering and astrological knowledge to build a huge monolith called Stonehenge.

Then Julius Caesar invaded Britain initially in 55BC just to see what was there and Rome established and ruled their province of Britannia from 44AD until around 500AD when the Caledonians from up North, the Scoti (from the Irish west) and the invading Angles and Saxons from northern Europe co-operated to send the Romans back to Rome. And so it came to pass. No doubt a couple of centuries of indiscriminate breeding on the mainland and Britain is united from a dna point of view (Ireland preferred inbreeding to cross-breeding) and Britain is all one family. So although the Caledonians have since then fought for their independence from the hated Anglo Saxons, and are still going on and on about referendums to replace battles, it appears the dna doesn’t really know what all the fuss is about as they are all lumped into a British category. They live just a bit north of Coronation Street but otherwise auld Jock MacGregor is more English than the Queen, who is mostly German.

So while it is disappointing to not have a distinct Caledonian gene in my dna it is pleasing to also note a rather more interesting 8% Italian which means either the Romans left a very identifiable dna marker way back then or else we have to believe the rumours that wee Morag had been pleasuring the Italian sailors down at the docks on occasions. But apart from what I expected with this analysis, now I also have spitting proof of an actual Viking in my dna!! So you are the little voice that comes to me in the dead of night. That little warrior who lives way back in the depths of my mind is a particularly volatile little beggar and we wouldn’t want him coming out of his little ice cave hibernation swinging his axe.

But dominating my inherited memories are the misty bogs of Ireland. As far back as I could trace my family names, we were of the peasant stock from County Clare and Galway, mid west of Ireland. But as it turns out my little grand-daughter’s paternal family, according to genealogy websites which have all the credibility of Wikipedia, traces their heritage back to the aristocracy of the Baron of Dunamore in County Meath, across on the east coast. While the Collins’ may have been the hardy peasant stock, along with the Spud Murphy’s and Ned Kelly’s, County Meath was the ‘nobs’ suburb; it was where the high king of Ireland resided back in the day along with no fewer than eighteen Barons. The 19th century good Baron of Dunamore, John Baker Holroyd, who allegedly sired Marni’s grand- x 5-father, also bought the decent sized estate of Sheffield Place in Fletching, England and eventually become a British Earl and sat in the House of Lords.

Sheffield Place

Is that why Marni, even at just a few months old, seems to think that I was put on this earth to be in 24/7 service to her? Is ruling class aristocracy hard-wired in her dna? Her heritage appears to be a really interesting story of aristocratic intrigue actually. My genealogy website research traced the Bakers back to the arrival of one John Holroyd Baker sometime prior to 1839. The 1793 birth year attributed to our John Holroyd Baker fell awkwardly between the Baron John Baker Holroyd’s first wife’s death and his marriage to his second wife, Lady Lucy Pelham. The son from the third marriage, George, eventually took over the titles and estates in 1821. Wife #3, Lady Ann North, who had been ‘lady-in-waiting’ to the Princess of Wales, would have had a good network in the Palace which could explain if there had been an ‘adjustment’ to the heraldic line. Wife #2 had already died while still very young and was not around to clarify the situation. In the early 19th century our John Baker arrived in Hokianga and, according to Hokianga folklore, John dropped the Holroyd name in protest and adopted his grandmother’s maiden name of Baker. It’s a tale worthy of Shakespeare and, just like the works of Shakespeare, no one is quite certain exactly who is the original author of this tale. But the story of the disenchanted or disowned son of an Irish baron turning his back on British estates and aristocratic titles for the humble of life of a farmer/ forester in Hokianga has been perpetuated amongst some of his descendant families of the far north and subsequently promoted through genealogy websites.

Funny how life turns out sometimes. Obviously John did not have my little Viking in his dna otherwise his half brother, George, would have been wearing an axe as a hairpiece before the boat sailed and John would have been the 2nd Earl of Sheffield. That’s the problem with purebreds, not enough mongrel in them. But then I consider this, if John had inherited the titles and estates 200 years ago, I would not have this little grand daughter here today. I very possibly would have had some other grandchild, but not this special little one. And this is a very, very special little girl worthy of a castle in Ireland.
But you do not have to be in County Meath to own a castle. We went up to have a look at the castle recently completed in the Waitaki, expecting to see something a bit naff. But it was impressive; a magnificently built full size castle complete with moat and wonderful produce gardens. Well done to Neil and Dot Smith. A castle worthy of the heir apparent to the Barony of Dunamore, to be sure, to be sure. But that is for the future; I hear her very young ladyship has just woken and will be wanting her boiled eggs and banana for breakfast. “Yes young miss; coming as quick as I can young miss.

Post script June 2018: or “born to fool……”

I continued to pursue Marni’s heritage in the UK and, with Baron John Baker Holroyd being an aristocrat, the family history was well recorded. I managed to track down a Mr Darryl Lundy who edits the website who was able to confirm, through Burke’s Peerage 1902 edition, that John Baker Holroyd did in fact have a son named John. The problem is that the Peerage records state that the son John died at his home of Sheffield Place as a young child.

I employed the detective services of my old mate disguised as Chinn & Associates in London who, under the cover of a dog & pig minding service for the aristocracy of London, was in a unique position to branch out into a bit of aristocratic detective work. First port of call was the births and deaths register of Fletching Parish which did indeed confirm the birth in 1768 and subsequent death in 1772 of one John William Holroyd, son of the Earl of Sheffield and Lady Abigail Way. I am 99% convinced now, but this is still reliant on written records on websites which could possibly be ‘inaccurate’ for one reason or another, so Sherlock and Watson, aka Chinny and Ngaire, set off for a jaunt in the countryside to find the smoking gun. On reaching the parish church, St Andrew and St Mary’s at Fletching, down towards the south coast, the two sleuths scrambled through the ancient graveyard and eventually found the family mausoleum of the Holroyds of Sheffield Place and, lo and behold, using a ladder, photographed this inscription: 

Johani Gulaeinio Holroyd

Optimae Indolis. Summae speipuero

Pater moerens posuit MDCCLXX11

Vixit annos 1V. mens. 111 dies V111

For those of you who did not study Latin at school it says: John William Holroyd, followed by a few words about how he was a child of great promise then confirms the death year as 1772 and his age as four years, three months and eight days. (Translation is courtesy of Dr Watson; Chinny would not know his podex from his cubitum about Latin)

As I researched further into the parish records at St Andrew and St Mary Church in Fletching, I found that there was actually a John Baker christened there in 1810. He was the son of William Baker, a farm labourer. Since the Baron owned the surrounding estate in the district it is highly likely that William, and quite possibly John, actually laboured on the Baron’s Sheffield Place estate. Further examination of church records show John Baker did not die in the same parish, so he obviously moved out of the district. The first factual date for our John Baker in New Zealand is the birth of his daughter Charlotte in 1839. If the Hokianga John Baker was in fact the Fletching John Baker, that would have made him 29 at that time of his daughter’s birth; he was still producing children in the early-mid 1850’s when he would have been in his 40’s. John’s death in Northland was recorded in 1869 which would have made him 59 if he was the John Baker born in Fletching in 1810. He would also have been eleven years old back in Fletching when the Lord of the manor, John Baker Holroyd, died and his tombstone engraved; the similarity of their names would not have been lost on him. While I am not one to jump to conclusions, the dates for the two Johns all align and our John was most certainly not the son of Lord John Baker Holroyd. So it appears that, unless you still demand an exhumation to get his 150 year old spit into a tube, we can now agree that the John Baker who arrived in Hokianga claiming to be British aristocracy, was most likely the farm labourer’s son from Fletching and was guilty of one of NZ’s first cases of identity theft. The Holroyd connection has no more substance than Hokianga folklore that got passed around genealogy websites. He fooled us all with nothing more than an unbelievable story that we just wanted to believe, in spite of that little Viking in the depths of my dna whispering his cynicism while sharpening his axe.

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my achy-breaky heart

That I can even find time for this blog is surprising. Time and schedules all have been thrown into glorious chaos this week. And I cannot write about the outside world because, this week, the outside world does not exist for me. Sammy has brought our 7 week old grand-daughter to visit for a week. She has come down to get the sense of one side of her ancestral homeland in the deep south. To meet her extended Collins family. And to have all who meet her gasp in amazement at her huge eyes, her beautiful skin, her melting smile and her extraordinary capacity for flatulence. There are two definitions for flatulence, the obvious one is the accumulation of gases and noisy expulsion thereof; the other is ‘inflated and pretentious writing’ so when j’accuse this precious little angel of flatulence she could very well respond ‘et tu grand-père’. And I would reply: ‘pretentious?? moi?”.


But I have not been my father’s son for so many years without developing a healthy respect for a grand-fart. My heart just swells with joy when her nappies vibrate to the triumphant trumpets signalling a changing of the nappy guard.

Her impressive flatulence is no doubt related to her most impressive appetite. I say I am impressed, but then I am not the one who has to wake every 2-3 hours every night and be on call all day to keep this little tummy satisfied. So as I write this, in the middle of the day, I am on monitoring duties while Sammy tries to catch up with the many lost hours of sleep over the last few weeks. And the little angel is thus-far behaving beautifully.

How is it that little girls are born with a gene so primal that at seven weeks she can pick out a soft-touch grand-dad who will do whatever she wants as long as she is either widening those bambi-eyes, or breaking her little heart crying (or quite possibly faking the breaking) before she even knows what eyes and tears are?

So I swing her to and fro, on demand, in her little cocoon thing until her eyes become too leaden to demand it any more and I can settle her into bed and just watch her sleeping the sleep of the innocents as I write out a few words on my blog inspired by the absolute joy of little Marni.

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But even as I write I can hear a little whimper and see a sneaky peak that is just letting me know that it is time for me to start winding down my blog and get ready for swing time.

I really do start to wonder about the Hindus and Buddhists and their reincarnation theories. It is hard to compute that she could be this smart after seven weeks if this is only her first time on planet earth. But now is no time to explore that little philosophical mystery; a grand-père’s job is never done, swing time is here again and, for this week, time is far too precious to be squandered writing blogs.




it’s in the eyes

Oh how the gods laugh when we tell them our plans.

Marni’s arrival was a little overdue but this was not unusual for a first birth and the extra time would give Corey a bit more time to finish off the renovations that he was doing in preparation for the big day. And of course the extra time would enable the plans to be fine tuned, living forty minutes away from the hospital did require an alertness and readiness to move quickly. But Corey always prided himself on his planning and project management skills.

So there was little concern from this end of the country when Samara phoned Ava on Saturday afternoon to muse whether she would actually know when the baby was about to be born. She felt she had a high pain tolerance and was concerned that she may not be actually aware when the baby was on its way. ‘Chuckle, chuckle; oh don’t worry about that, you will know, chuckle, chuckle.’ But we were on standby.

Corey called me a little later in the evening to update on the plans for the birth. With the updated intel to hand, the bubs ETA would be by Sunday thirteen hundred hours; suggested we should make our personal transport plans for rendezvous late Sunday / early Monday. Check.

Then at twenty one thirty the phone rings. It’s Corey: “ahhh… I think it’s happening.”

“Are you off to the hospital already?” I asked, incredulous that they were preempting the schedule by hours.

Corey: “aaahhh too late, its happening… aaah here…. aaah now, midwife’s on her way…. aah yeah, gotta go.” click.

An unscheduled home-birth! No standing at the shallow end of the pool with his floaties on now. They were in the deep end, sink or swim. But then the bad news. For some reason Corey had only just begun to start the house renovations, or more accurately, house demolition, a few days ago and the house was in ‘a bit of a state’. Don’t worry, it will be all sorted So out came a black plastic sheet onto what can only be called a building site to serve as the delivery suite. And so it came to pass that our little angel arrived into our world at 12:28am on 17th April in the most humble of environs. Mother and baby both well. Both true survivors.


When do you really, really know that a new life has arrived?  When you see it in her eyes. These are brand new eyes, unclouded by life’s experiences. They are as pure and deep as an alpine lake. They radiate the absolute trust of  innocence yet pierce your soul as though it is judgement day. We understand the organic structure of the body, but where did the life in those eyes come from? Pre-natal classes may prepare you for the mechanics of the birth process, but nothing can prepare you for that first look into her eyes. Oh no, am I getting all soppy again? But look at that photo, taken just minutes after her birth. That is an old soul in a brand new body asking her dad, the first man she ever laid eyes on, a very searching question.


So, at just four hours old, this little baby was all rugged up and off on her first family drive en route to the nearest medical support. Beside her is her brand new mum, who has just gone through a traumatic birthing process and, at the wheel, her brand new dad who suddenly realises the responsibility of such precious cargo. First destination is the Kapiti medical centre, maternity unit. “Sorry, no room at the inn,” they said. But they made up a temporary stopover in a temporary maternity suite before they managed to find a  more appropriate location for the care that such an angel deserved. And so this resilient new baby was off again. This time to Kenepuru hospital for a two-day stay, that the staff were persuaded to turn into a three-day stay, in a good hospital with very good staff, to give Corey a few days to get the house tidied up back into liveable condition. So our little angel had two car rides and three addresses in the first twenty-four hours of her life. And on the third day she rode again and was on her way back to her official birthplace, her home. How cool is that? And yet none of it went according to plan.

Marni‘We will make the plans,’ said the gods, ‘you are the guardians, the role models and the inspiration. And if you thought day one was eventful, this story has only just begun.’

Just look at those eyes.

Footnote: 17 April and Mars moves into retrograde. As above, so below.

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it’s a grandpa….

It’s Thursday, and today’s the day I am scheduled to turn from a dashing young lad about town to an old codger with a dodgy knee sitting in cafes talking about my grand-daughter. For today I am scheduled to become a grandpa. Todays cafe theme: “y’know, it seems like yesterday I was holding this little baby girl in my hands and today she is due to deliver her own little baby….. woah! back up the horses, like this is pretty trippy man”.

But at least I can be confident that our job, as Sam’s parents, has been a job well done. All our years of perfect parenting has brought Sam to this point where she is now a well-trained and responsible mother-in-waiting. She has diligently avoided all shellfish during her pregnancy. Ava also avoided all shellfish during her pregnancy, except for oysters of course; you can’t get fanatical about these things. Sam has also totally given up coffee, unless it is at Butler’s Cafe where they give a free chocolate with every cup; and, naturally, Samara has been alcohol-free since the day she was first aware of the impending event. Her mother, again, was her role model in this. Ava gave up drinking alcohol the moment her waters broke. I exaggerate for humorous effect, although there is a cab driver in town who might question whether I was exaggerating. I was on transfer up in Christchurch in the weeks before the birth, staying with Jan and Mike. We had discovered a very acceptable red wine, called Babich’s dry red, to accompany Jan’s specialty roasts; as a bonus, this wine was also produced in real bang-for-your-buck half-gallon flagons. The tragedy was that soon after it was discovered we learned that it was at the end of it’s vintage and no longer available in Christchurch. A bit of pre-google research (I think we phoned around, on a landline) came up with the news that the last available three crates of it were at the Robbie Burns in Dunedin. We knew we would need a few cheeky reds to celebrate the birth so an emergency phone call (or maybe a telegram, I don’t remember the detail) was made to Ava and, good sport that she was, she took a taxi down to the Robbie Burns and got the cabbie to wait while she, eight and a half months pregnant, loaded up the last three crates of Babich’s dry red on the planet into his boot and headed home again.

I made it back to Dunedin just a few hours before the big arrival and did wonder why Ava suddenly had a craving for red grapes. That is when I realised she had just gone cold turkey on the Babich’s dry red. Then, down at the Queen Mary hospital, I was asked if I wanted to be in the delivery suite. I would have stopped for a pie at Palmerston if I had known they were going to put that pressure on me. That sort of new age thing was all a bit weird, even creepy, to me. I succumbed to the judgemental stare of the nurses and agreed, but I definitely spent the time in there, during the birth, taking an unusually keen interest in the subtle tones and excellent workmanship of the paint on the walls. Sam had a doctor deliver her. Mid-wives were pagans back then, akin to witch doctors. Doctor Alex Borrie wandered down about ten minutes before the arrival, quite excited that he had been at the John McGlashan School fair and got himself a bagful of second grade soap at an extraordinarily good price. He raved nahhh zavingahhon to me about it as he led me into the suite, (I think old doctor Borrie also thought it a bit queer that I was going in there) then he raved on to the nurse about the soap as he swirled his forceps in animation and he left a few minutes after the birth still talking about going back to the fair to see if he could get any more. Then the nurse handed me Sam, which was a pretty cool moment. Where did this little prune come from, I wondered? It was like I was at a magician’s show and a rabbit had popped out of a hat. All sleight of hand and I never saw a thing. I wondered what to do next. The Lion King had not been produced then so I was not even aware of the nahhhhh zavingahhhhh primal acknowledgement to the circle of life. Just as well because if I had thrust Sam above my head and chanted I would have a mouthful of purple poop. The wheelbarrow full of red grapes that Ava had gorged a few hours ago came back to greet me, right down my arm. So I just said ‘hello, I am your dad, just sing out if there’s anything you need” then I gave her back and went out to clean up my arm and make a couple of calls to the grannies. Her granddad was at golf, well it was a Saturday. Thirty years prior I was also born on a Saturday and on that day he was on the harbour, rowing. Well it was the Otago Champs.

Apparently things have changed from those simple days. I recall this because Corey just told me he is under the same pressure from Sam’s midwife to attend in the birthing suite. Corey is puzzled. He loves hunting and if the midwife had asked him to bring her back a leg of wild pork he would do it with pleasure. But he would not expect her to be there to witness him sticking and gutting the beast as her moral duty before being given the leg of pork. She was a midwife and being well paid for her services. If he had wanted to be a nurse he would have chosen that career path. He didn’t want to be a nurse, had no qualifications in nursing, so precisely what exactly was his role to be? Applauding her? But I know that she will just stand there glaring at him, as if to say ‘you made this mess young man and you will stay here and watch me have to clean it up!’

And nowadays it doesn’t stop with the father of the baby being there. The grandparents and other whanau are apparently now also ‘warmly invited’ to attend in the birthing suite. What is that all about? Apart from anything else, it could yet be a Saturday. But it isn’t a big room so if any of you, dear readers, are wanting a good seat, I would get onto TicketDirect pretty smartly.

All well and good in the moment. But then it hit me (as it will Corey) that daughters come with no instruction manual. You don’t need one for a boy; everyone knows how boys work. But little girls? And don’t expect any midwife help now. She is solely focused on looking after the mother and her wee bairn. You just stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done young man!

I did get a sort of a manual when Sam was born. A neighbour took pity and gave me a copy of Linda Goodman’s guide for parents. This was the dawning of the age of Aquarius and Linda was an astrologer. Being the father of a Scorpio I was advised to build a very, very sturdy playpen and then climb inside it. Good advice, to a point. But Sam could still make eye contact through a playpen and as long as she had eye contact, she had control. A scorpion can get you through a playpen, make no mistake.

This time our new wee family member will be an Aries. Aries have a tendency towards liking to be the boss and they get a bit on the moody side if that doesn’t happen. I know Corey is flat out on nice home renovations in preparation for the new arrival. May I suggest, young fella, that, while Sam is still in the maternity home, a secret bunker under the garage floor should be incorporated into the reno; I really don’t think a sturdy playpen is going to cut the mustard with an Aries. And that assumes she does arrive before the 20th after which time she will turn into a Taurus; and if that happens I suggest the bunker be built way out in the woods; a Taurus is going to find the one under the floorboards before she is two.

But back to the big day, which we are still planning is today or within acceptable extensions of today. I was born at 1am on the 18th of March but my nana insisted that was still St Patrick’s day in Ireland. Bless the Irish but, she was right, up until noon on Friday it will still be Thursday the 14th somewhere in the world. Sam and Corey will never forget the overwhelming joy of the first moment they first meet their little baby and feel the softness of a new born’s skin. But I will bet any money that Corey will still be able to tell me exactly where all the paint blemishes are on the walls of the birthing suite.




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