In memory of the grandfather I never knew


My paternal grandfather died when Dad was just six.

He was an engineer sent from his home in Dundee, Scotland, to work in India where he contracted cholera and died.

Dad didn’t talk much about his childhood or his father and to my regret I never asked him many questions.

It never occurred to me to ask any details of his father’s illness and death, but when one of our nieces was planning a trip to India she did some research and found the cemetery where he was buried.

She made a point of visiting when she got there last month and searched for his grave. When almost on the point of giving up she found a grave stone with his name in faded letters, his age  (37) and the date he died – (March 28 1919) – 92 years ago today.

Word of the day


Unasinous – being asinine; characterised by equal stupidity.

Time to treat bloat


The question facing the government in setting the Budget, and opposition parties forming policy, is not is it good? is it useful? or is it desirable? but is it necessary?

It will be easy enough to identify expenditure in the nice-but-not-necessary category which can be cut, but cutting it won’t be easy, or popular.

Only 35% of people polled thought UK Budget cuts are too tough, 28% think the government has found the right balance and 29% say the cuts are not severe enough.  But even so hundreds of thousands of people marched in protest against them yesterday.

Prime Minister John Key said he expects protest against Budget cuts here too.

It will be a painful process which Rob Hosking likens to treating animals for bloat (in the print edition of the NBR):

For the uninitiated, bloat happens when a beast eats too much fresh grass. One side of the belly fills with gas (those keen on political symbolism will note it’s the left side).

Remedy one involves getting the animal to stand facing uphill until it belches, at either end. remedy number two involves a particularly vile drench, followed by much enforced walking around until the animal empties itself.

If that doesn’t work, and the animal is close to death, the stomach is stabbed to let the bloat out.

. . . the public sector has thus far had the political equivalent of being made to face uphill while ministers wait impatiently for the belch. . .

It’s not only ministers who are getting impatient. The unsustainable increase in public spending was one of the main reasons New Zealand went into recession before the rest of the world and it’s part of what is holding back the recovery.

If the public service wants to avoid the stabbing remedy it is going to have to swallow the strong medicine of reduction and restraint. The alternative of trying to live with the bloat is no longer an option.

What you see


The Prime Minister was coming for a visit.

The bloke in charge of the host operation got a long, detailed email from the PM’s office telling him about what he was to do and how he was to do it for the carefully staged photo ops.

He sent a succinct reply – just two words, the first of which was get.

The PM turned up with an entourage which included lots of media and some stray children who were pretending to be locals.

That was the last PM.

This is the current one:

The prime minister laughs, jokes and pokes fun at himself during a session with Australian comedian Peter Flaherty, whose character Shaun Wayne bears a certain resemblance to celebrity cricketer Shane Warne, in a video clip going online today.

The unscripted seven-minute video was shot during Napier’s Art Deco Weekend last month as part of a $100,000 campaign to market the city to tourists from the east coast of Australia.

“I work for the Government,” Mr Key tells “Shaunie”, during their chat in the back of an art deco car. The Australian does not realise he is talking to the country’s leader.

The subject of the Government’s new BMWs crops up. “They’re nice. They’re good value,” Mr Key says. “I heard that nice prime minister talking and he didn’t have a clue what was going on. He bought 34 of them and he didn’t have a clue what was happening.

“Honestly, the things they try and whip through, sometimes it’s beyond me.

“It would probably be better if they were Holdens. I’ve had Holdens all my life. The Calais.”

Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott and her staff were delighted with the video but worried that, after Mr Key saw it, he would not approve its release.

After he gave the go-ahead, Mrs Arnott said: “It was wonderful that the prime minister understood very well what we were trying to do. He entered the spirit of things wholeheartedly.

With John Key, what you see is what you get, a warm and witty man who can laugh at himself.

Dark dawns, cold morns


Temperatures have been autumnal in the mornings for a while and now it’s not just cold but dark.

We spent last week with a farm discussion group in Marlborough and Nelson and even that far north it was too cool to be called late summer.

The equinox was last Sunday so nights are now longer than the days and the sun isn’t rising until about 7.45. That makes it a little bit harder to do normal farming activities like getting stock in for milking, drafting or shearing and having to wait longer for the right temperatures and humidity for harvesting.

Clocks go back this coming weekend – at least two weeks too late.

March 28 in history


On March 28:

37  Roman Emperor Caligula accepted the titles of the Principate, entitled to him by the Senate.


193 – Roman Emperor Pertinax was assassinated by Praetorian Guards, who then soldthe throne in an auction to Didius Julianus.


364 Roman Emperor Valentinian I appointed his brother Flavius Valens co-emperor.


845 Paris was sacked by Viking raiders, probably under Ragnar Lodbrok, who collected a huge ransom in exchange for leaving.


1472 Fra Bartolommeo, Italian artist, was born  (d. 1517).

1515 Saint Teresa of Avila, Spanish Carmelite nun, was born (d. 1582).
1750 Francisco de Miranda, Venezuelan revolutionary, was born  (d. 1816).
Francisco de Miranda by Tovar y Tovar.jpg
1760 Thomas Clarkson, British abolitionist, was born  (d. 1846).

1795 Partitions of Poland: The Duchy of Courland, a northern fief of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, ceased to exist and became part of Imperial Russia.

1802 Heinrich Wilhelm Matthäus Olbers discovered 2 Pallas, the second asteroid known to man.


1809 Peninsular War: France defeated Spain in the Battle of Medelin.

1834 The United States Senate censuresd President Andrew Jackson for his actions in de-funding the Second Bank of the United States.

1860 First Taranaki War: The Battle of Waireka started.


1862 Battle of Glorieta Pass – Union forces stopped the Confederate invasion of New Mexico territory.


1871 The Paris Commune was formally establised.


1889 The Yngsjö murder  took place in Sweden – Anna Månsdotter and her son were arrested.

1910 Henri Fabre was the first person to fly a seaplane, the Fabre Hydravion, after taking off from a water runway near Martigues, France.

1920 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak in the Great Lakes region and Deep South states.

1921 Dirk Bogarde, English actor, was born  (d. 1999).

1930 Constantinople and Angora changed their names to Istanbul and Ankara.

1935 Michael Parkinson, English broadcaster, was born.

Parkinson (ITV) title card.jpg

1936 Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian author and politician, was born.

1939 Spanish Civil War: Generalissimo Francisco Franco conquered Madrid.

1941 Battle of Cape Matapan –  British Admiral Andrew Browne Cunningham led the Royal Navy in the destruction of three major Italian heavy cruisers and two destroyers.


1942 Neil Kinnock, British politician, was born.


1946 The United States State Department released the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, outlining a plan for the international control of nuclear power.

1946 Alejandro Toledo, former President of Peru, was born,

 1948 John Evan, British musician (Jethro Tull), was born.

1948 – Milan Williams, American musician (The Commodores) was born (d. 2006).

1948 – Matthew Corbett, English retired actor, was born.

1955  New Zealand cricket experienced its darkest day, when its 11 batsman could muster only 26 runs against England at Eden Park.

NZ cricketers skittled for 26

1968 Brazilian high school student Edson Luís de Lima Souto was shot by the police in a protest for cheaper meals at a restaurant for low-income students.

1969 Greek poet and Nobel Prize laureate Giorgos Seferis made a statement on the BBC World Service opposing the junta in Greece.

1969 – The McGill français movement protest –  the second largest protest in Montreal’s history with 10,000 trade unionists, leftist activists, CEGEP some McGill students at McGill’s Roddick Gates.

1978 The US Supreme Court handed down a 5-3 decision in Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, a controversial case involving involuntary sterilization and judicial immunity.

1979 Operators failed to recognise that a relief valve was stuck open in the primary coolant system of Three Mile Island’s Unit 2 nuclear reactor following an unexpected shutdown. As a result, enough coolant drained out of the system to allow the core to overheat and partially melt down.

The Three Mile Island NPP on Three Mile Island, circa 1979

1979 – The British House of Commons passed a vote of no confidence against James Callaghan’s government, precipitating a general election.


1983 The Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA), better known as CER, was signed. It was New Zealand’s first comprehensive bilateral trade agreement – and one of the first agreements of this kind in the world.

Signing of CER strengthens Tasman trade ties

 1990 President George H. W. Bush posthumously awarded Jesse Owens the Congressional Gold Medal.

Jesse Owens1.jpg

1994  Zulus and African National Congress supporters battled in central Johannesburg, resulting in 18 deaths.

1994  12-year-old schoolgirl Nikki Conroy was stabbed to death at Hall Garth School in Middlesbrough after a man walked into her maths classroom and attacked pupils with a knife.

1999 – Kosovo War: Serb paramilitary and military forces killed 146 Kosovo Albanians in the Izbica massacre.

2000 A Murray County, Georgia, school bus was hit by a CSX freight train which killed three children.

2003  In a “friendly fire” incident, two A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft from the Idaho Air National Guard’s 190th Fighter Squadron attacked British tanks participating in the  invasion of Iraq, killing British soldier Matty Hull.


2005  The 2005 Sumatran earthquake rocked Indonesia, and at magnitude 8.7 was the second strongest earthquake since 1965.

2006 At least 1 million union members, students and unemployed took to the streets in France in protest at the government’s proposed First Employment Contract law.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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