Archive for category 1. Home & family

Apple anyone?

I saw on some facebook page a bit of a self indulgent reminiscence by one of my generation recalling the good old days when we had face-to-face friends not face-book friends; when we built go carts to race downhill against our mates rather than played X Box games against avatars. When someone else took photos of us if the occasion was significant and we kept those photo prints in a private album. There is nothing new in the older generation despairing for the younger generation; that has been going on since at least the time of Socrates, but the difference today is not so much attitudinal as it is technological. Today’s technology has had an influence on the behaviour of youth that Socrates could never imagine in his wildest philosophies.

The facebook post put the timing of this quantum shift in normality at the mid 1980’s. Those of us born before that time had real lives, but the post 80’s generation are now living a fake online life and they seem to be really struggling, emotionally, to adapt their natural human psyche to this self-created virtual world.

Computers in primitive form had been around well before the 1980’s but they were just big, cumbersome calculating machines. I tried, unsuccessfully, to learn to speak to one of these great machines when I did accounting at university in the early 1970’s. The computer then needed its own room, actually it was the size of a small room itself. It spake strange tongues of Portran and Fortran. It told me, numerically speaking, that it was in control of me, not the other way around. If what I put in did not compute, it spat it back out. Start again human.

But it was in the late 1970’s that Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs started a business to bring these giant computing machines down to size and into our homes. They wanted computers to be fun for all. They named the company Apple. In his biography Steve Jobs said that it was just a serendipitous choice; that he was on a fruitarian diet at the time and had just returned from an apple farm and thought the fresh, fun name suited his company’s vibe. If so, the coincidence is uncanny. The apple has an established historical connection with a quantum leap in mankind’s knowledge of universal law when Isaac Newton said he had his ‘eureka’ moment about gravity when he watched an apple fall from a tree.

The apple also has a prehistorical connection with man’s quest for knowledge and even immortality.  

In Norse mythology the goddess Idun was the keeper of the apples of the tree of knowledge and life and is known as the goddess of eternal youth.

In Greek mythology, the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus, ruled the Garden of the Hesperides (nymphs) where there was an orchard in which trees bearing golden apples had the power to heal and renew. 

The Hebrew mythology, which is the one most well known in the Judaeo-Christian world, is that Lucifer (the enlightened one) gave Eve, the mother of all mankind, an apple from the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden. Yahweh was most displeased because mortal man was not ready for such knowledge and so was banished from the lush farmlands of Eden; sent back to the wild to forage like the beasts lest man also eats the apple from the tree of eternal life.

And yet still mankind flourished. According to Genesis 6, the sons of God mated with the daughters of man to create ‘great men’.  However the next chapter of genesis describes a cataclysmic forty day flood over all the earth that might well have resulted in our species becoming extinct. Geological and climatic research has now shown us that the biblical and mythical global flood that killed most of humankind, at least in the northern hemisphere, did actually happen 13,000 years ago and the cause was a massive meteor strike on earth, just like the one that had caused the dinosaurs’ extinction 66 million years earlier.

At the time, planet earth was emerging from an ice age; but still the whole of Canada and countries across northern Europe were under an ice cap that would have been about two kilometres thick. And this is where the biggest chunks of the comet hit. The evidence it left behind is in the form of nano diamonds; beds of micro diamonds that were created from a massive explosion creating heat of over 2,200 degrees centigrade. By comparison, fire is 600 degrees C and volcanic molten larva is 700-1200 degrees C. The immediate impact was the instantaneous melting of large parts of the ice cap and an unimaginable tsunami that washed over much of the known world. The meteorological evidence shows that 13,000 years ago, just as earth was emerging naturally from an ice age, it was suddenly plunged back into a big chill referred to as the ‘Younger Dryas.’ This winter lasted 1200 years before the climate recovered again.

Archeological evidence of civilisation pre deluge is understandably a bit thin on the ground. Such a cataclysmic event would not leave much behind. But we do have writings from the middle east region; the authors of the Book of Genesis, the authors of Gilgamesh and those writings of a prophet called Zarathustra. The first two write of an ark in which the selected humans, plants and animals floated above the flood and survived to restart civilisation again. Zarathustra wrote of a prediction that a giant serpent would fly through the sky and that, in readiness for this event, underground, multi level caverns called Vara were built with sophisticated entranceways between the levels and artificial lighting. Such multi-level caverns have recently been excavated in Cabbadicia, southern Turkey. Only the highest quality human, plant and animal species were housed there and they were control- bred to maintain the population levels. When the long winter was over, they were sent out in boats to repopulate the world and to utilise, in secret, the technological knowledge that had been preserved. 

Cabbadicia ancient underground city, Turkey

But the knowledge that these great men, survivors of the great deluge, possessed must have been quite advanced. The meteor would have done a few circuits around the solar system before zooming in for the kill; so if we, or the gods, had prepared for it then then we must have had sophisticated astronomical knowledge. And as all myths record that there was indeed a plan to save the best of humanity, animal life and plants, so there must have been that astronomical knowledge to allow those plans to be made and executed.  Soon human civilisation re-established itself to the level that we now have archeological evidence of sophisticated buildings and civilisations dating back 10,000 years in Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey. We know of  sophisticated cities, such as Babel in Mesopotamia. Babel meant a place where many people gather to talk together. A place of debate and learning. Its modern meaning is voices talking over the top of each other in excited discussion. And it was here, in Babel, that the idea of building a tower with which they would endeavour to reach the heavens was conceived.

Mesopotamian Pottery tablet VA/243

Was the tower of Babel a bricks and mortar tower as we assume? Or was it actually a rocket ship, which is also a tower, designed to reach the heavens. Interestingly the discovery of 5,000 year old clay tablets in southern Iraq, ancient Mesopotamia, showed an astronomical map of our solar system that included the outer planets of Uranus and Neptune which were not discovered by the post-flood modern man until the 18th and 19th centuries, after the invention of the telescope. It also shows the two largest dwarf planets of Pluto and Eris. Prior to the re-invention of the telescope only the planets visible to the naked eye were known to ancient sky watchers. As we know, Yahweh ‘confused’ the Babel, scattered the men who conceived it across the lands and the project to reach the heavens apparently never got off the ground.

But after the deluge we redeveloped our knowledge of agriculture, pottery, metallurgy, astronomy and technology. Mankind survived and flourished; the scattered regrouped, their babel no longer confused. And the two Steve’s have brought the Apple computer into our homes. Well they did not immediately arrive into our homes; in the 1970’s and 80’s they were still a geeky, impractical and expensive machine that most homes could happily live without. But while Wozniak was the brains behind the machine itself he would never have taken it beyond the techno geek market and as such would not have survived commercially. His Apple would have withered on the branch. Jobs was most certainly the man (the Satan, the enlightened one) responsible for giving the Apple to mankind. And in a very strategic move, he first took it into the classroom, actually donating the original Apple 1 to some schools just to whet the appetite. He was less interested in wasting the fruits of the Apple on the elders of humankind, he wanted to give it to the children. In 1978 he won a contract to supply 500 Apple II computers to schools in Minnesota. In 1983 he sold a computer package (including floppy disc) to over 9,000 schools in California at a cost per package then for what you would now get a decent I-Mac. The Macintosh (an actual variety of apple) was launched in 1984 and the flood gates started to open. One generation after the Apple from the tree of knowledge was fed to our children, we could no longer imagine education without computers. We could not imagine homes without computers, or people without smartphones.

My little grand daughter is two years old. Her innate demand for language, knowledge and technology led us to the conclusion that we had no option but to give her her own personal connection into the universal consciousness. Her very own Apple i-pad. She took to it like a duck to water. Her knowledge, understanding and communication skills have taken quantum leaps; she swipes through the icons as though she invented them. 

So once again an apple from the tree of knowledge is the means by which knowledge and imagination is being spread throughout humanity.  It is the means by which we have built our rocket propelled towers with which to explore the heavens. In history Babel was the place where many voices come to speak together. Could the modern day Babels be the headquarters of Google, Apple, NASA and Spacex? Or is 21st century Babel located in the cloud and refers to the inanity of Twitter? The fake lives of Instagram? The pretend friends of Facebook? Interestingly while the Bible’s Genesis tells us that is was man’s corruption and evil that cause the great flood, the pre-dated original Sumerian clay texts said it was the noise and unending chatter of humans that caused the Gods to bring the great flood.

The changes in our lifestyle are, in reality, just as dramatic as noted in the Facebook post that began this blog. The irony being that he used Facebook to express his concerns; he did not call around to voice his concerns to me in person over a cup of coffee.

If Steve Jobs was the 21st century Lucifer then let us hope that humanity is ready for such knowledge this time around and that we are not once again expelled from our Eden to forage like the beasts in the wild for trying to use the Apple to gain eternal life. 

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suffer little children

I feel I should be in the middle of this uproar about the pedophile Magnus Murray who stalked the parish and school of my childhood preying on the young and vulnerable, breaching the trust given without hesitation to any man who donned the robes of Roman Catholicism priesthood. Those accepted as having a direct connection with God, with the divine authority to forgive sins on Christ’s behalf. It went on around me while never touching me. I knew the priest Magnus Murray ( I refrain from now referring to him as ‘father Murray’). He was our family parish priest during my high school years and took the latin class that I was in. ‘Amo, amas, amat, I love, you love, he loves’; the chanting we did in class now has such a sinister sound. But instead of feeling part of the story, I feel oddly outside looking in at it all.

Magnus Murray never molested me, but I was vaguely aware of a bit of murmur about a creep factor in him and you might hear the odd snigger when he would get a bit touchy in class. Pedophilia back then seemed to have a weird sort of unspoken denial. I recall in the early 1970’s when I had returned from Australia and met up with an old schoolmate who also lived in our parish. He mentioned, with a bit of a knowing smirk, that Magnus Murray had been sent away from the parish to Mosgiel for getting up to a bit of you know, nudge nudge. It turns out that the schoolmate’s brother was one of Murray’s worst effected victims and has suffered dreadfully his whole life. So while I am personally unscarred, I am also obligated to now reflect on this for it happened around me, by and to people I knew and yet I was essentially oblivious to the evil and emotional damage that I walked amongst.

He is only one of many Roman Catholic priests and brothers guilty of pedophilia. Why so many sexual deviants would be in one institution is not, in hindsight, unexpected. I don’t know, and will not venture to speculate on, the cause of pedophilia in our wider community. But to examine why so many pedophiles have been found in Roman catholic religious orders, we need to examine the structure of the catholic church of Rome. Catholics of Europe and Ireland tended to have large families, as was encouraged by their church. These families were expected to offer one of their children to the service of the church. Understandably when giving up one of your children you might, as a parent, discount those who you consider good breeding stock to produce future generations to look after you in your old age. But if one child was a bit different, a bit of an odd character, the runt of the litter, or one who may have been traumatised themselves by a childhood experience, then it was very likely that would be the one you gift to the service of the church.

And so it came to pass. A collection of family rejects for one reason or another brought together in a celibate environment under strict authoritarian rule and denied any normality or freedom in their life. And while all the focus currently is on male pedophiles, the girls from the catholic girls’ school also have disturbing recollections of the behaviour of some of the nuns who taught them.

Whatever their personal aspirations in life may have been, these were denied to them. Whatever their talents may have been were left to wither, unless they related to functions within the church’s scope of business. Whatever their emotional troubles might be, they were hidden, or protected, by the institution they were adopted into. Church secrets that even the police were reluctant to challenge. After all, the priests had the ear of God and no one wanted to risk going to hell for getting offside with God’s own priests.

Not that I am excusing pedophilia. I am as far from that position as it is possible to be. No matter what shitty card life might deal you, there is absolutely no mitigation for pedophilia. My point is that the hierarchy of the Church of Rome is also directly guilty of tacitly allowing pedophiles to prey on the children of their congregations. Apart from Magnus Murray, who did not overly surprise me in hindsight, a number of other teachers at my school have since been accused of sexual assaults on pupils. I now recall a story a friend of my brother told me at Mike’s funeral. He recalled how Mike phoned him one Friday afternoon and invited him for a drink. With inhibitions suitably dulled Mike told him they were off to a school reunion, and so they went. At the door they were asked for their tickets and the doorkeeper was brushed aside as Mike stormed into the hall, raised a $50 note above his head and called out “$50 for the guy who points out brother x to me.” The $50 was claimed in a heartbeat and brother x, a former teacher of Mike’s, found himself cowering under the outrage and public judgement of a grown man that he had last seen when he was just a vulnerable little boy.

Mike told him exactly what he thought of him as a man and a human who had ruined his life. The teacher was left a gibbering mess as Mike and his friend turned and left the hall to pin-drop silence and the teacher had to face his reunion. I doubt anyone in the hall had any doubt of the legitimacy of Mike’s accusations. He need do no more. He had personally, eye to eye, reclaimed his self esteem. He had completely overcome his tormentor and they both knew it. One would sleep well that night, the other would not sleep well again.

Magnus Murray got a couple of years in jail after some of his victims decided to go the police to accuse him. His guilt became undeniable, he was duly exposed and eventually tried and convicted. Out of sight out of mind and when released was confined to the security of a catholic home for the old and bewildered. And the world moved on, justice done. All a bit of an anticlimax in the end that probably did not entirely satisfy the victims. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. He was undeniably guilty of planned, calculating and cruel actions against trusting and vulnerable children and had offended for many years despite being challenged, warned and given chances to reform.

I think in the court system there should be three categories of crime: minor, major and shameful. And pedophilia is firmly in the shameful category. And the shameful should not get to hide away from society, even in jail. For the breach of trust went beyond the actual victim to the whole of the society that trusted those wearing the robes of Christ’s representative. Shame needs to be on public display. In medieval times they put criminals in stocks on public display. I do not know why that practice was abandoned, but maybe they should bring them back for shameful crimes against humanity. Put pedophiles like Murray on public display, a placard hanging off their neck proclaiming their shameful act. Liberals will call it cruel and humiliating. And so it should be. Let victims of pedophiles see that the community supports them and shames their tormentors. I understand that my old school where Magnus Murray taught has removed any photos of him. Don’t do that. Put up a large photo of him in a public place and caption it ‘Pedophile’; write a condemnation of his actions. Lest we forget. Lest the evil rises from its slumber as soon as  we relax our vigilance. One of the victims actually suggested this very idea to the school but was told that ‘was not in the spirit of Christian charity.’ I am speechless. If the Roman catholic church believe unrepentant pedophiles are worthy of our charitable thoughts, why on earth did they invent hell?

1968 teachers’ photo, St Pauls HS. Magnus Murray is second from the right, front row.
Two others in this photo, now dead, are now also being accused by ex pupils 

So, are you enraged about the evil of pedophiles? About the unfairness of the length of time it takes our justice system to discover the truth and eventually bring some sort of justice? About how difficult it can be to bring justice when it becomes a case of one person’s word against another’s? About the unfairness of the sentences that the guilty pedophiles are given relative to the effect that their crimes have had on their victims? Are you now sufficiently frustrated and determined to make this a better world where, in the interests of speeding up justice, the police and courts are allowed instant access to really know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? To effectively have full, constant access to everyone’s most intimate privacy?

That stopped you in your tracks didn’t it? So how do you stand on the digital intrusion of elected governments into the private lives of its citizens? Planting cameras, tapping phones and seizing computers to search hard drives for evidence of pedophilia activity. Are you comfortable with that? Since such planting, tapping and seizing requires sufficient evidence to gain a Court order to do so, most are possibly quite ok with that. You may not have been so compliant had you been asked that question ten years ago, but times change. If we have the technology to catch these criminals then we must use it; as long as there are controls in place to protect the innocent. But you also know that by the time it has reached the stage of acquiring sufficient evidence to authorise such planting, tapping and seizing, the offender has probably been engaged in this shameful activity for years. Irreparable damage to innocent children already done. It becomes too little too late, as the age and even intervening death of these pedophiles makes the bringing of justice too little, too late.

Actually the government can and does, even now, put cameras anywhere they want in public places, so what would you feel about the government bringing in a law that allowed them to constantly access all data going to all computers and phones in a 24/7 search for pedophile activity in order to prevent it rather than to solve it? Well Google are doing it anyway with their cookies and what nots, and we have nothing to hide, so if it stops pedophiles then……..maybe………

It would be a brave political party to try to sell that at election time, but lets imagine it did go through. The next stage, in a few short years, is that cyber pedophiles will be always finding ways to firewall cyber police (you do know I am bluffing my way through this cyber jargon don’t you). So all we have is two sets of online gamers doing in cyber space what cops and crims used to do on the street. Win some, lose some. But when you think about it, the brain is just a super computer hidden inside our heads and the cyber criminals have the same brain as all of us? So what if the government develop a way to scan our brain wirelessly just as they can scan a computer’s brain? Did I really say that out loud? Even for someone like me that is scarily no longer in the sci fi realm

So what about that? In, say, ten years time would we be sufficiently conditioned to buy into this idea of actually catching pedophiles while the intent is forming in their evil mind by scanning their brains as they walk through a shopping mall, or sit in a cafe? This will make the world predator free they will promise. Well, you think,  if thats what it takes…..and we have the technology…… Really????? The ‘Thought Police’ then are no longer just a clever little exaggerated insult to politically correct pains in the arse? It is real? We are there?

As I write I know I should feel abhorrence about the concept that my every thought is being scanned and analysed by a super computer and that any red flag thoughts are being sent to some bureaucrat to assess and decide whether to send some men in black to pick me up for questioning and possible ‘re-education’. But the little idealist niggling inside is wondering if such openness is in fact the answer to world peace and happiness. A world of no secrets because secrets are the cloak of invisibility for evil. Without secrets the world will be truly beautiful, man. One world race of inter bred, coffee coloured, culturally homogenous people. One world government.

Oh no, am I really here? Or am I still in the middle of an acid trip from the seventies? But if we want a system comprising of police, lawyers, judges, psychiatrists and prison warders to deal with our pedophiles on our behalf then we are probably on the train ride to the state of thought police. The technology will be waiting at the station to meet us but it will be machines that asses the red flag and drones in black coming to collect us. The robots will rule the world. Wow, I think someone has been passing out bad red rope liquorice.

The alternative is to storm into a public gathering waving a $50 note in the air.

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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.




I Love Fish&chips

So how far would you go for a really, really good paper parcel full of fish & chips?

Best cafe discI was raised on fish and chips, and oysters that I watched being shucked by my dad just before being dipped in batter and deep-fried; and whitebait that I would scoop out in big handfuls from a sterilised kerosene tin; and crayfish (I was the one breaking off and eating their legs, as I stacked them for my dad, just seconds after they had emerged from a boiling copper). I just took it all for granted back in those good old Best Cafe days.

But fish&chips sort of fell out of favour when the Americans came to town to convince us that fried fish was bad for us and that fried chicken, mc burgers and pizzas were the all new healthy and ‘cool’ diet for a take-away treat and so, since the eighties we have sort of sold out our heritage. And with the declining popularity came, to my mind, declining standards in good old style fish and chips. It has become much harder to buy some fish and chips and, hand on heart, say that the fish was fresh, the batter crispy and golden and those chips were just yummy.

2016-05-10 17.00.49But when I happened upon the Akaroa Fish& Chip shop a couple of years ago, my taste buds were transported back forty years. This was true old school fish&chips. Located right on the Akaroa harbour-front, the fish were almost jumping out of the water straight onto the table. And this guy knew how to make a very, very good batter that did what it was supposed to do: crisped up quickly and encased the fish to protect it while cooking in super hot oil and result in it coming out of the pan as just ‘melt in the mouth’ delicious seafood.

So, in answer to the opening question “how far would I go for a really really good feed of fish and chips?” The answer is 900 kilometres round trip as it turned out. We got the craving again this week for a feed of fish and chips and so set off for Akaroa. Actually it’s a good thousand k’s when you take in a bit of running around. Throw in a bit of accommodation and, to many people, that would possibly seem an excessively expensive meal. But look at this parcel; I can just see your mouth-watering.

2016-05-10 17.08.38And knowing what you would say about a 900km return journey for fish and chips, I began to think of all the places I might want to go in the world and what I might like to experience. I roughly calculated how many tens of thousands of dollars it might cost me to buy a souvenir T Shirt at Niagara Falls, to take a photo of the Colosseum in Rome and to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. 2016-05-10 17.03.25Where, amongst all these experiences, would I put eating that parcel of fish and chips, washed down with a beer from the local Four Square and looking out onto that view? To be honest I would put it well up there and no contest for best value for money, even with 900kms driving. Then just to show that I can think on my feet, we actually had two meals there, so that really halved the cost on a per meal basis. By the way, that was an excellent sausage as well, no doubt hand-made by the little butcher shop around the corner.

As I pondered all this, while the water lapped in harmony with my thoughts, and as I noted saw the very modest sprinkling of tourists around me I began to muse: if the goal of Tourism New Zealand is to encourage overseas visitors to travel beyond the gateway cities to experience the essential New Zealand, then why, oh why, do they not use the Akaroa fish and chip shop as  a poster icon for a NZ Tourism campaign? Why do we not share this very special experience with the world and attract hundreds of thousands of overseas visitors to this little secret place of ours? Then I thought, nah f*ck them, let’s keep this one to ourselves.

FOOTNOTE: Joy to my heart. After three decades of being out of the family, the Best Cafe in Lower Stuart Street has come back to the family through Jessica Marks, the daughter of my cousin, and her partner Brent. The traditional old school fish, oysters and chips has returned. Prepared and cooked the way fish and chips are supposed to be. The old family batter recipe. I did happen to be up at Akaroa recently so went back to try out their fish and chips again and, with complete absence of bias, I am delighted to announce that the Best Cafe of Dunedin once again is the best fish and chip shop in the land.

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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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