Ave Maria


Happy birthday Charlotte Church – 24 today.

Thank You Erma Bombeck


Erma Bombeck would have been 83 today. We never met, but through her books I felt like she was a friend and I will always be grateful for her writing which makes me laugh and makes me cry.

I first came across her books in San Francisco. When we came across the bookshop  I thought I’d died and gone to heaven – three floors of books, comfortable chairs, a cafe, loos and it was open at 10.30pm.

One of the several books we walked out with was Erma’s  Motherhood, The Second Oldest Profession. It’s a collection of mostly humorous tales about real life mothers and mothering. But among the funny stories are some poignant ones, including A Special Mother.

It tells of a conversation between God and an angel about choosing which baby goes to which mother.

. . . Finally, He passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a handicapped child.”

The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy”

“Exactly,” smiles God. “Could I give a handicapped child a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”

“But does she have patience?” asks the angel.

“I don’t want her to have too much patience, or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she’ll handle it.” . . .

It was just a couple of years since our son who’d had multiple disabilities, had died and it moved me, but not as much as the next chapter entitled Ginny.

It tells of a woman bringing her sister a copy of The Special Mother. Ginny who’s son is profoundly disabled, isn’t impressed. But when her sister leaves, she catches her own reflection in a mirror.

She was stunned by what she saw. A thirty-year-old woman with hundred-year-old eyes. Eyes that were dull and listless. Eyes that held no joy. Eyes that looked but never seems to see anything that interested them. Eyes that reflected no life – only pain.

. . . She knelt beside B.J. “Look B.J. there’s something I’ve got to tell you. I’m no saint. It’s important to me for you to know that. I have cursed you for my guilt, my exhaustion and my life. I have questioned why both of us were born. I haven’t figured out yet why He brought us together. I only know there is something special between us . . . I couldn’t bear it if you were not here, or if you had never been. . .

“B.J. I’ve never made any demands on you. I’ve never asked you for anything, but right now, I want you to say ‘Mama’. I know it’s not going to be perfect, but try. Just make a sound. . .

The saliva came out of the conrer of B.J.’s mouth. No sound came forth. then Ginny noticed his eyes. they stared back into hers in a way she had never seen before. They didn’t focus right away, then they looked at her for the first time. . . He knew who she was!

. . .B.J. had just spoken his first word with his eyes. He had called her ‘Mama’.”

This was the first thing I’d come across which expressed the reality of life with a disabled child and even now, more than 15 years after our son’s death, I still can’t read it without crying.

Both of these are still under copyright which is why I haven’t copied them in full. A search for Erma Bombeck, special mother or disabled child will take you to several copies of A Special Mother. I haven’t been able to find a copy of Ginny online.

If you knew


Nina Simone would have been 87 today.

Wine & Food festival sold out


We were warned that tickets to Oamaru’s annual wine and food festival were selling fast but I kept forgetting to get some when I was in town.

When I finally put it on my list I was too late, they’d sold out.

The organisers then announced there would be 500 tickets sold at the gate this morning but by the time we read about that in yesterday’s ODT we were in Wanaka.

One of the attractions this year is Gin Wigmore, about whom I have to confess I know almost nothing. But it’s always a great day, set in the town’s beautiful public gardens.

Memo to self: get in early next year.

Dairy welfare code leaves no doubt


The Animal Welfare (Dairy) Code of Conduct which has been released by Agriculture Minister David Carter provides guidelines for minimum standards which are exceeded on most farms.

Unfortunately a very few farmers don’t treat their stock as they should and the code leaves no doubt about what is required.

The new code covers all areas of dairy cattle management from stockmanship and husbandry practices, to food and water, shade and shelter, and health.  This is the first time such a code has been issued. 

“It aims to encourage all those involved in the farming of dairy cattle to adopt the highest standards of handling and care,” says Mr Carter.

“Like all codes of animal welfare, this is particularly directed at the worst players in the industry, not the best ones.”

The Minister has asked for separate advice on the long-term housing of dairy cows, like that proposed for the Mackenzie basin, because it wasn’t an issue when the code was being developed.

DairyNZ says the outcome based approach in the code is common sense.

DairyNZ Chairman John Luxton said the new code will strengthen the regard in which our industry is held internationally.

“Our approach to welfare and stockmanship is widely respected because it is backed by the world’s best science, which farmers fund through their DairyNZ industry levy,” Mr Luxton said.

“Our dairy farmers have a history of taking proactive steps to keep ahead of the demands of our international consumers, which is why we have that respect. This code is another positive step.”

DairyNZ Chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle said the major improvement to the new code is its focus on outcomes for animals and the recommended best practices to show farmers how they can keep ahead of minimum standards.

“This new code reinforces the welfare outcomes we want for our cows, without being prescriptive, and it points farmers to recommended best practices.”

There is no excuse for ill-treating animals and unfortunately just one example of less than optimal animal welfare could taint the whole industry. The code will leave no-one in any doubt about what is required and anyone who disregards it will face penalties under the Animal Welfare Act.

February 21 in history


On February 21:

  1245 Thomas, the first known Bishop of Finland, resigned after confessing to torture and forgery.

Bishop thomas.jpg

1440 The Prussian Confederation was formed.

1543 Battle of Wayna Daga – A combined army of Ethiopian and Portuguese troops defeats a Muslim army led by Ahmed Gragn.

King Ahmed Gurey Mog.jpg

1613 Mikhail I was elected unanimously as Tsar, beginning the Romanov dynasty of Imperial Russia.

1743 The premiere of George Frideric Handel‘s oratorio “Samson” took place in London.

1804  The first self-propelling steam locomotive made its outing at the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Wales.


1842 John Greenough was granted the first U.S.A. patent for the sewing machine.

1848 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto.

1875 Jeanne Calment, French supercentenarian and longest-lived human on record (, was born.


1879 An explosion in a Kaitangata coal mine killed 34 men.

Kaitangata mining disaster

1885 The newly completed Washington Monument was dedicated.

1903 Anaïs Nin, French writer, was born.


1907  W. H. Auden, English poet, was born.

1910 Douglas Bader, British pilot (, was born.

Douglas Bader.jpg

1913  Ioannina was incorporated into the Greek state after the Balkan Wars.

Ioannina and Lake Pamvotida seen from Mitsikeli mountain

1916 Battle of Verdun started.

Verdun and Vincinity - Map.jpg

1918 The last Carolina parakeet died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo.

1919 Kurt Eisner, German socialist, was assassinated.

1921 Constituent Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Georgia adopts the country’s first constitution.

1924 Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbambwe, was born.

1925 The New Yorker published its first issue.

1927 Erma Bombeck, American humorist, was born.

1927 Hubert de Givenchy, French fashion designer, was born.

1933  – Nina Simone, American singer, was born.

1935  Mark McManus, Scottish actor, was born.

Taggart title.jpg

1937  Initial flight of the first successful flying car, Waldo Waterman’s Arrowbile.


1937 – The League of Nations banned foreign national “volunteers” in the Spanish Civil War.

1945 Kamikaze planes sank the escort carrier Bismarck Sea and damaged the Saratoga.

USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95)

1947 Edwin Land demonstrated the first “instant camera,” the Polaroid Land Camera, to a meeting of the Optical Society of America.

1952 The British government, under Winston Churchill, abolished identity cards in the UK to “set the people free”.

1952 In Dhaka, East Pakistan (present Bangladesh) police opened fire on a procession of students that was demanding the establishment of Bengali as the official language, killing four people and starting a country-wide protest which led to the recognition of Bengali as one of the national languages of Pakistan. The day was later declared as “International Mother Language Day” by UNESCO.

1953  Francis Crick and James D. Watson discover the structure of the DNA molecule.


1958 The Peace symbol was designed and completed by Gerald Holtom, commissioned by Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, in protest against the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment.


1960 Cuban leader Fidel Castro nationalised all businesses in Cuba.

1965 Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam.

Malcolm X NYWTS 2a.jpg

1970 A mid-air bomb explosion in  Swissair Flight 330 and subsequent crash killed 38 passengers and nine crew members near Zürich.

1971 The Convention on Psychotropic Substances was signed at Vienna.

Ecstacy monogram.jpg

1972 President Richard Nixon visited the People’s Republic of China to normalise Sino-American relations.

People's Republic of China   United States

1972 The Soviet unmanned spaceship Luna 20 landed on the Moon.

Luna 20

1973  Israeli fighter aircraft shot down Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 jet killing 108.

1974 The last Israeli soldiers left the west bank of the Suez Canal pursuant to a truce with Egypt.

1975 Watergate scandal: Former United States Attorney General John N. Mitchell and former White House aides H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman were sentenced to prison.

1986 Charlotte Church, Welsh singer, was born.

1995 Steve Fossett landed in Leader, Saskatchewan, Canada becoming the first person to make a solo flight across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon.

2004 – The first European political party organization, the European Greens, was established in Rome.

European Greens logo.svg

2007 Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned from office. His resignation bus rejected by the President Giorgio Napolitano.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

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