Prince Philip 10.6.1921 – 9.4.2021

10/04/2021

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has died.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, won widespread respect for his steadfast and constant support of the Queen.

It was a desperately difficult role for anyone, let alone a man who had been used to naval command and who held strong views on a wide range of subjects.

Yet it was that very strength of character that enabled him to discharge his responsibilities so effectively, and provide such wholehearted support to his wife in her role as Queen.

As male consort to a female sovereign, Prince Philip had no constitutional position. But no-one was closer to the monarchy, or of greater importance to the monarch, than he was.

Prince Philip of Greece was born on 10 June 1921 on the island of Corfu. His birth certificate shows the date as 28 May 1921, as Greece had not then adopted the Gregorian calendar.

His father was Prince Andrew of Greece, a younger son of King George I of the Hellenes. His mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was the eldest child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and sister of Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

After a coup d’etat in 1922, his father was banished from Greece by a revolutionary court.

A British warship sent by his second cousin, King George V, took the family to Italy. Baby Philip spent much of the voyage in a crib made from an orange box.

He was the youngest child, the only boy in a family of sisters – and his early childhood was spent in a loving atmosphere.

The prince began his education in France but, at the age of seven, came to live with his Mountbatten relatives in England, where he attended a prep school in Surrey.

By this time his mother had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and been placed in an asylum. The young prince would have little contact with her.

In 1933, he was sent to Schule Schloss Salem in southern Germany, which was run by educational pioneer Kurt Hahn. But within months, Hahn, who was Jewish, was forced to flee Nazi persecution.

Seafaring tradition

Hahn moved to Scotland where he founded Gordonstoun school, to which the prince transferred after only two terms in Germany.

Gordonstoun’s Spartan regime, with its emphasis on self-reliance, was the ideal environment for a teenage boy who, separated from his parents, felt very much on his own.

With war looming, Prince Philip decided on a military career. He wanted to join the Royal Air Force but his mother’s family had a seafaring tradition and he became a cadet at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

While there he was delegated to escort the two young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, while King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the college.

According to witnesses, Prince Philip showed off a great deal. But the meeting made a deep impression on the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth.

Philip quickly proved himself an outstanding prospect, passing out at the top of his class in January 1940 and seeing military action for the first time in the Indian Ocean.

He transferred to the battleship HMS Valiant in the Mediterranean Fleet, where he was mentioned in dispatches for his part in the Battle of Cape Matapan in 1941.

As the officer in charge of the ship’s searchlights, he played a crucial role in this decisive night action.

“I found another ship and it lit up the middle part of it, whereupon it practically disappeared instantly under a salvo of 15in shells at point-blank range,” he told BBC Radio 4 in 2014.

By October 1942, he was one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, serving on board the destroyer HMS Wallace.

Throughout this period, he and the young Princess Elizabeth had been exchanging letters, and he was invited to stay with the Royal Family on a number of occasions.

It was after one of these visits, over Christmas 1943, that Elizabeth placed a photograph of Philip, in naval uniform, on her dressing table.

Their relationship developed in peacetime, although there was opposition to it from some courtiers – one of whom described Prince Philip as “rough and ill-mannered”.

But the young princess was very much in love and, in the summer of 1946, her suitor asked the King for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

However, before an engagement could be announced, the prince needed a new nationality and a family name. He renounced his Greek title, became a British citizen and took his mother’s anglicised name, Mountbatten.

The day before the marriage ceremony, King George VI bestowed the title of His Royal Highness on Philip and on the morning of the wedding day he was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.

The wedding took place in Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947. It was, as Winston Churchill put it, a “flash of colour” in a grey post-war Britain.

Career curtailed

The duke returned to his naval career and was posted to Malta where, for a while at least, the couple could live the life of any other service family.

Their son, Prince Charles, was born at Buckingham Palace in 1948, and a daughter, Princess Anne, arrived in 1950. They were later joined by Prince Andrew (1960) and Prince Edward (1964).

On 2 September 1950, he achieved the ambition of every naval officer when he was appointed to his own command, the sloop HMS Magpie.

But his naval career was about to be curtailed. The worsening health of George VI meant his daughter had to take on more royal duties and needed her husband by her side. . .

Even in the 21st century it isn’t easy for the man whose wife has a public and powerful role. It would have been much harder half way through the 20th century when they married.

He had a difficult childhood. Once he married he had a life of great privilege and also one which required a devotion to duty and public service.

One of his legacies is the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme which requires participants to complete voluntary service, skills, physical recreation and an adventurous journey. I completed the bronze and silver awards when I was at high school.

Change does not change tradition. It strengthens it. Change is a challenge and an opportunity, not a threat. – Prince Philip


It was always too hard

24/03/2021

Finally the admission that should have come years ago:

Going further into the Pike River coal mine is too hard and too expensive, Minister Responsible for Pike River Reentry Andrew Little says.

The minister’s comments come even though no detailed technical assessment or cost analysis has been done.

Little said the Government was not willing to consider doing a risk assessment and cost analysis of recovering evidence from the mine’s main ventilation fan, which could hold clues about what caused the first explosion in the mine where 29 men were killed in 2010.

He said the mine’s geotechnical strata was “inherently unstable” and the technical challenge of getting past a roof fall blocking the mine workings would be phenomenal. . . 

It was always too hard.

Sometimes when you’re in Opposition you have to back the government when it’s doing the right thing.

Instead Labour and New Zealand chose to do the political thing, promising a re-entry of the mine.

In doing so they exploited the families and friends of the men who were killed, giving them unrealistic hope and stoking their grief.

Ten years and more than $50 million later Little has admitted what they should have accepted from the start – it was too hard, too dangerous and too expensive.


A Scientists Advice on Healing

07/03/2021

From Brain Pickings:

. . . When we speak of the heart breaking, we are speaking metaphorically, and yet anyone who has lived through heartbreak — that is, anyone who has lived at all — knows intimately the awful way in which the psychological condition of loss takes on the quality of physical pain. It is hardly surprising, then, that the body and the soul heal in consanguinity — the heart-as-metaphor heals the same way the heart-as-organ does.

That is what English poet Christy Ducker explores with uncommon sensitivity and lyric splendor in “A Scientist’s Advice on Healing.” . . 


Captain Sir Tom Moore – 30.4.20 – 2.2.21

03/02/2021

The centenarian who inspired the world with his fundraising efforts for the UK’s National Health Service,  Captain Sir Tom Moore,  has died.

Captain Sir Tom Moore has died with coronavirus.

The 100-year-old, who raised almost £33m for NHS charities by walking laps of his garden, was admitted to Bedford Hospital on Sunday.

The Queen led tributes to Capt Sir Tom, “recognising the inspiration he provided for the whole nation and others across the world”.

His daughters said they “shared laughter and tears” with their father in their final few hours together.

Announcing his death, Hannah Ingram-Moore and Lucy Teixeira said the last year of their father’s life had been “nothing short of remarkable”

The Army veteran won the nation’s hearts by walking 100 laps of his garden in Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire last year during the first lockdown, raising money for NHS Charities Together.

He was credited with lifting the nation’s spirits and his saying “Tomorrow will be a good day” trended on social media. . . . 


Gerry Marsden 24.9.42 – 3.1.21

04/01/2021

The world has lost another great musician:

Gerry and the Pacemakers singer Gerry Marsden, whose version of You’ll Never Walk Alone became a football terrace anthem for his hometown club of Liverpool, has died at the age of 78.

His family said he died on Sunday after a short illness not linked to Covid-19.

Marsden’s band was one of the biggest success stories of the Merseybeat era, and in 1963 became the first to have their first three songs top the chart.

But the band’s other best known hit was Ferry Cross The Mersey came in 1964.

It was written by Marsden himself as a tribute to his city, and reached number eight.

Marsden was made an MBE in 2003 for services to charity after supporting victims of the Hillsborough disaster. . .

Gerry and the Pacemakers worked the same Liverpool club circuit as The Beatles in the 1960s and were signed by the Fab Four’s manager Brian Epstein.

Epstein gave Marsden’s group the song How Do You Do It, which had been turned down by The Beatles and Adam Faith, for their debut single. . .

While Marsden was a songwriter as well as a singer, his most enduring hit was actually a cover of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical number from 1945, that he had to convince his bandmates to record as their third single.

In many interviews over the years, he explained how fate played a part in his band ever recording the song. He was watching a Laurel and Hardy movie at Liverpool’s Odeon cinema in the early 1960s and, only because it was raining, he decided to stay for the second part of a double feature.

That turned out to be the film Carousel – which featured that song on its soundtrack – and Marsden was so moved by the lyrics that he became determined that it should become part of his band’s repertoire. . .

That song topped the charts in 1963. It was often on the radio when I was driving to and from Dunedin Hospital with our baby son in 1987 and listening to it it helped me with those difficult journeys.


Going many extra miles

19/12/2020

My daughter Jane has gone many extra miles, figuratively and literally, to raise awareness and funds for research into low grade serous ovarian carcinoma since she was diagnosed with the disease in 2017.

When she came across the Kilt Walk she encouraged other women with the disease and their supporters in the UK to take part, decided she needed to lead by example and asked me to join her.

After she was diagnosed I said I’d do anything I could to help her. I hadn’t anticipated that meant walking up Dunedin’s Signal Hill three times in a morning, but that’s what we did.

She chose the hill because of its link to Scotland through the rock from Edinburgh Castle at the top.

All the funds raised went towards the research being done by Professor Charlie Gourley at Edinburgh University through Cure Our Ovarian Cancer. and were matched pound for pound by philanthropist  Sir Tom Hunter.

Jane and I appear, briefly, in the video at 3:17 with Stella the chocolate lab who accompanied us.

Among the advocacy work Jane is doing, is a petition to improve outcomes for women with ovarian cancer.

It is urging the government to support the development of ovarian cancer awareness/education campaigns for the public and health professionals; ensure women with OC symptoms have timely access to testing; improve access to approved therapies and clinical trials; and dedicate funding to ovarian cancer research.

Every week four New Zealand are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, every week two New Zealand women die from it. That is more women dying of this disease than are killed on the roads each year.

These dreadful statistics aren’t peculiar to New Zealand. All over the world many women are diagnosed late because they, and too many doctors, don’t have sufficient awareness of the disease; there isn’t enough access to tests and approved treatments and there is too little research.

The action the petition is urging will save lives.

It is non-partisan and has the support of Cure Our Ovarian Cancer, Ovarian Cancer New Zealand, Talk Peach and the NZ Gynaecological Cancer Foundation.

Please sign it here and encourage others to sign too.

You don’t have to be in New Zealand or even be a New Zealand to sign. Better awareness, treatment and research anywhere will help women everywhere.


Charley Pride 18.3.34 – 12.12.20

13/12/2020

Covid-19 has claimed Charlie Pride:

Charley Pride, whose rich baritone voice and impeccable song-sense altered American culture, died Saturday, December 12, 2020, in Dallas, Texas of complications from Covid-19 at age 86.

Born a sharecropper’s son in Sledge, Mississippi, on March 18, 1934, Pride emerged from Southern cotton fields to become country music’s first Black superstar and the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“No person of color had ever done what he has done,” said Darius Rucker in the PBS American Masters film Charley Pride: I’m Just Me.

Pride was a gifted athlete who at first thought baseball would be his path from poverty, labor, and strife. But his musical acumen was more impressive than his pitching arm or his hitting skills, and he emerged as one of the most significant artists at RCA Records, with chart-topping hits including “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” and “Mountain of Love.” He won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award in 1971, its top male vocalist prize in 1971 and 1972, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.

His final performance came on November 11, 2020, when he sang “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’” during the CMA Awards show at Nashville’s Music City Center with Jimmie Allen, a modern-day hitmaker who counts Pride among his heroes. . . 


Des O’Connor 12.1.32 – 14.11.20

16/11/2020

English comedian, singer and television present Des O’Connor has died.

Des O’Connor once said that all he did was walk on to the stage, chat to the audience and sing a few songs.

It was a formula that made him one of Britain’s best-known stars, an old-fashioned showman who could turn his hand to almost anything – fronting his variety programme, hosting chat shows or presiding over the quiz Countdown.

An almost ever-present face on UK television, he held the record for more mainstream appearances on the small screen than any other performer.

O’Connor, who has died aged 88 after a fall at his home in Buckinghamshire, also carved out a successful career as a singer including four Top 10 hits and more than 30 albums.

Desmond Bernard O’Connor was born on 12 January 1932 in Stepney, East London, the son of a Jewish cleaner and an Irish dustman. He contracted rickets while he was a child which resulted in him having callipers on his legs until he was seven.

He was also badly injured in a car accident and spent some time in an iron lung which disrupted his primary school education.

During the war, the family moved to Northampton where he signed as a schoolboy player with Northampton Football Club although he only made the third team.

It was while working in a local shoe factory that he discovered a talent for making people laugh, once recalling his ability to reduce the firm’s typing school to giggles and to be the main source of entertainment on works outings.

His prowess as a performer came to the fore during his national service with the RAF, when his commanding officer insisted he take part in a talent show. . .


Finding hope inside loss (it’s not what you think)

08/11/2020

Megan Devine on finding hope inside loss:

Intense grief isn’t like ordinary life, and ordinary tools aren’t always helpful.

Meditation inside grief isn’t about feeling “better,” it’s about finding kindness exactly where you are (even when where you are is painful).

This 9 minute meditation is an excerpt from my audio book, the Grief Experiment, available at http://refugeingrief.com/. Hop over to the website to find lots of good stuff for grieving folks, and for friends & family who want to be supportive (they just don’t know how).

Megan Devine’s Refuge in Grief has some of the most helpful resources I’ve found.


Geoffrey Palmer OBE – 4.6.27 – 5.11.20

07/11/2020

English actor Geoffrey Palmer OBE has died:

With his hangdog expression and lugubrious delivery, Geoffrey Palmer was one of the best-known actors of his generation.

He cut his teeth on the stage before launching a career as a character actor in a variety of roles in film and TV.

He was perhaps most famous for a series of TV sitcoms including Butterflies, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and As Time Goes By.

A reserved man, he usually remained out of the public gaze when not appearing on stage or screen, and rarely gave interviews. . . 

 


Just be nice (not)

01/11/2020

Megan Devine on being nice:

How many times in your life have you heard “hey! Don’t say that!! BE NICE!”?? If you’re like many people, you’ve heard that phrase so many times, you say it to yourself every time you’re annoyed or upset by something.

It’s an automatic reflex. “Be nice” is what we tell ourselves when the truth feels too harsh to say out loud.

“Be nice” is what other people say when they’re afraid you’ll upset the status quo, or make things weird when you call someone out on their actions. And “be nice” gets aimed at grieving people when we complain that, no matter how “well intentioned,” certain things just feel like crap.

Things like, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “at least you had them as long as you did” feel dismissive and rude because they ARE dismissive and rude.

But you can’t just say that to someone. Can you? Find out in this video…. on being “nice.” (and what to be instead).

Megan Devine’s Refuge in Grief is one of the best resources I’ve found.

You can find it here.


Self-kindness inside grief (and any other kind of hardship)

25/10/2020

Megan Devine on self kindness:

Being kind to yourself is one of the hardest things to do. OTHER people might deserve kindness and compassion, but you? You know too much about yourself – the things you did and didn’t do, the ways you failed or didn’t try hard enough – to ever be kind. Let’s find a way around this, okay? For all you’ve had to live, you deserve kindness. . . 

Megan Devine’s Refuge in Grief is one of the most helpful resources I have come across.

You can find it here.


Step Up stepped up

11/10/2020

When our daughter was diagnosed with low grade serous ovarian cancer and told her likely life expectancy was five to 15 years, I told her I’d do anything I could to support her.

Two Fridays ago that meant walking 30+ kilometres as part of her Step Up challenge for Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month.

Most of those 46,483 steps were along the shore of Lake Wanaka on the Millennium Track, which passes the much-photographed Wanaka Tree.

An hour or so further on I added some height to the challenge, climbing Ironside Hill.

 

Although I did it by myself I wasn’t alone in accepting the challenge.

Jane and a friend climbed Roy’s Peak, overlooking Lake Wanaka.

Others stepped up in Australia (one of which was five mountains in a day with a jig at the top of each); in Canada (a bike ride  across Quebec) in the UK and in the USA.

If you would like to help fund lifesaving research which is the only hope for too many women, most in the their 20s and 30s, who get the diagnosis Jane did, you can do it here.

 


Helen Reddy 25.10.41 – 29.9.20

30/09/2020

Australian singer and feminist icon, Helen Reddy has died:

The Melbourne-born Reddy, whose trailblazing life was dramatised in the recent bio-pic I Am Woman, was regarded as the queen of 1970s pop with her hits including Delta Dawn, Angie Baby, Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress) and Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady.

After arriving in New York as a 24-year-old single mother of a three-year-old with just over $US200 to her name, she overcame years of struggle in the US to become the world’s top-selling female singer in 1973 and 1974.

She won a Grammy for I Am Woman, had her own weekly prime-time television variety show and branched into an acting career on screen and stage that included a Golden Globe nomination for Airport 1975.

The stirring anthem that became her best-known hit turned her into a feminist icon. . . 


Max Merritt – 30.4.41 – 24.9.20

25/09/2020

Rock legend Max Merritt has died:

To most New Zealanders, Max Merritt – who died overnight aged 79 – is best known for ‘Slipping Away’, a Kiwi anthem from the mid-1970s. But his career stretches all the way back to the very beginning of rock and roll in New Zealand.

In 1975 Max Merritt and The Meteors were struggling in London and playing the same venues as the then-emerging punk bands. They’d been signed to the fledgling Arista label but the A Little Easier album met with little success. The band had been largely forgotten in Australia and New Zealand when a second single, ‘Slipping Away’, was released off the album, which would give Max Merritt the biggest hit of his career, 16 years after his first record.

Maxwell James Merritt was born in Christchurch on April 30, 1941. At age 12 he was taking guitar lessons with no great enthusiasm, impatient to replicate the hit songs of the day without having to endure endless renditions of ‘Home On The Range’. The boredom was sorted when his teacher, a second-hand dealer, was imprisoned for receiving stolen property. . .


Step Up & sign to save lives

21/09/2020

 When you are living on limited time there is a really strong urge to look inwards and just focus on yourself. . . .But the more I learnt about my cancer, the more I realised I couldn’t do nothing. The treatment I take belongs to a class of drugs approved for breast cancer 43 years ago. For forty years it was sitting on a shelf but no one knew it could help women with my cancer because the research wasn’t funded. This isn’t just about me, though yes I really want more time because I don’t have enough. But it’s also about the women who aren’t here to use their voices, and the women who will sit in that doctors office in ten, and fifty years time. And whether they get told you’ll likely die, and I know how awful that is to hear, or if their doctor will be able say we can get you through this. I can’t do this on my own but together we can

These were my daughter’s words in conversation with Jim Mora yesterday.

 

Jane has low grade serous ovarian cancer.

She was told, when she was diagnosed, that her likely life expectancy was five to 15 years.

That was three and a half years ago.  A young woman diagnosed at a similar time with a similar stage of the disease died earlier this year.

Given her prognosis, Jane could be focusing only on herself. Instead she’s fighting not just for herself but for all the other women who have, or will get, this dreadful disease.

You can help her by signing the petition.

It is non-partisan. This isn’t about politics, it’s about women’s health and lives. The four gynaecological cancer organisations behind it have worked across parliament to get cross-party support.

You don’t have to be in New Zealand, or be a New Zealander to sign.

The other way to help is by donating to Cure Our Ovarian Cancer.

To mark Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, Jane has launched a Step Up challenge.

I’ve joined it and will be walking the Millenium Track from Wanaka to Glendhu Bay and back (it took about six hours last time I did it).  You can donate here  .

If you want to go further, you can join the campaign and Step Up yourself.

A Canadian is cycling 1000km, a kiwi is climbing a small mountain, an Australian is running his own race for an hour – as far as he can go, a woman from the UK is going for an 8000 step stroll, and an American is dedicating her birthday. It’s completely up to you.

But if you’re stuck for ideas:

  1. Choose an activity – walk, run, cycle (or something else!)
  2. Measure your activity – in time, or steps or distance or destination
  3. Decide if you’re going to do it one day, some days or every day in September
  4. And remember – it’s not what you do, but why that matters the most. You’ll be helping fund crucial research to help women live longer.

You can also follow Cure Our Ovarian Cancer on Facebook and  Twitte and Instagram.

Jane’s personal blog is janehascancer.com

You can catch up with her in the media here.

I wrote about living under the cancer sword here.


Interview with God

30/08/2020

Whether or not you believe in God, the scenery is stunning.


Peter Green 29.10.46 – 25.7.20

26/07/2020

Peter Green who co-founded Fleetwood Mac has died.

Peter Green, who has died aged 73, was one of the greatest Blues guitarists Britain ever produced.

His shape-shifting riffs and long, improvisational excursions made Fleetwood Mac one of the most exciting live bands of the 1960s Blues explosion.

He first picked up a hand-me-down guitar at the age of 10 and, like many of his peers, began to devour the import vinyl that trickled into the UK from the States. He studied the greats – Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and BB King – combining their tensely coiled playing style with the shimmering vibrato of The Shadows’ Hank Marvin.

But he actually started his professional career as a bassist, until an encounter with Eric Clapton persuaded him to ditch the instrument.

“I decided to go back on lead guitar after seeing him with the Bluesbreakers. He had a Les Paul, his fingers were marvellous. The guy knew how to do a bit of evil, I guess.”

He later had the seemingly impossible task of taking over from Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Fans were unconvinced at first, but after a handful of incendiary performances, he won them over, earning the nickname “The Green God”.

The musician was humble about his skills, however. “I didn’t really know what I was doing on the guitar,” he later told Guitarist Magazine. “I was very lucky to get anything remotely any good. I used to dash around on stepping stones, that’s what I used to call it.”

Mick Fleetwood on the early Fleetwood Mac

In 1967 he poached Fleetwood and bass player John McVie from Mayall and formed Fleetwood Mac – naming the group after its rhythm section.

It was here that his compositional skills came to the fore – creating songs that were tender and truthful, but often with an undercurrent of menace. Black Magic Woman incorporated Latin blues and two exquisite solos, while Oh Well’s pounding riffs inspired a thousand metal bands. . .


Average deaths per day

14/07/2020

From Information is Beautiful:


Are You Bogged Mate?

07/07/2020

Warning: this video has references to suicide.

The stigma around talking about mental health is proving deadly in rural australia – particularly with young men.

Mary O’Brien is the powerhouse behind Are you bogged mate?, and she’s making change where it matters. 

If you need help in New Zealand:

Rural Support Trust : Contact us any time. Call 0800 RURAL HELP

Contacts for local Rural Support Trusts are here.

More information and other contacts:

For counselling and support

For children and young people

For help with specific issues

For families, whānau, friends and supporters

  • Skylight – 0800 299 100
    (for support through trauma, loss and grief; 9 am to 5 pm weekdays)
  • Supporting Families In Mental Illness – 0800 732 825
    (for families and whānau supporting a loved one who has a mental illness)
  • Common Ground – a central hub providing parents, family, whānau and friends with access to information, tools and support to help a young person who’s struggling
  • Mental Health Foundation – for more information about supporting someone in distress, looking after your mental health and working towards recovery

 


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