Alan Young 19.11.19 – 19.5.16

May 21, 2016

Alan Young, who starred as Mr Ed’s human side kick in the eponymous television programme, has died.

Alan Young, famous for his role as the human companion to a talking horse in sitcom Mister Ed, died on Thursday (local time), at the Motion Picture and Television Home in Woodland Hills, California. He was aged 96.

The UK-born, Canadian-raised actor had lived in a retirement community for four years. His children were with him when he died of natural causes.

In the series, which ran from 1961-1966 on US network CBS, Young played architect Wilbur Post, who owned the wacky talking horse with his wife, Carol.  Mr Ed would only talk for Wilbur, and could occasionally get him into trouble.

Young was also the voice of Disney character Scrooge McDuck on Duck Tales and voiced several other animated characters. He had made numerous cameos on dozens of TV shows. . . 


366 days of gratitude

May 17, 2016

Our second son would have been celebrating a birthday today.

But he died just 10 days after his fifth birthday. He had a brain disorder that left him with multiple handicaps and had led to the death of his older brother, Tom, when he was only 20 weeks-old.

When Dan died I was sad, but I was also relieved. Looking after a five year-old who could do no more than a new-born child was demanding and I knew our lives would be easier without him but I also know they are better because he lived.

His death freed us up to do things which were difficult to do with him but his life made us realise we shouldn’t take them for granted.

It was easy to say he couldn’t do anything but he taught us to appreciate simple pleasures, to lose the ignorance we had about intellectual disability, how fortunate we are to be part of a close extended family and circle of friends, that ability isn’t a right but a privilege and that love really is stronger than death.

Today I’m grateful for all of that.


The other side

April 25, 2016

Last year we went to Germany in search of the farm my farmer’s great-grandfather left in the 1800s.

He and his brother left to avoid conscription during the Prussian warand never returned.

We found the farm and in the village close by we came across a war memorial on which there were the names of those who had died in World Wars I and II.

Among the names was the German version of Ludemann.

He could have been fighting Ludemanns from New Zealand and Australia who were related to him.

It brought home to me the arbitrary nature of life and death and the tragedy of war which pits ordinary people against other ordinary people who are on one side or the other because of where they happened to be at a time and place.

Today, on Anzac Day, we rightly remember and honour those who served with the allies at home and abroad and especially those wounded or killed.

But at this distance from the awfulness of those wars and in the hope of peace, it’s not inappropriate to also remember that there were people like us on the other side.


Victoria Wood 19.5.53 – 20.4.16

April 22, 2016

The multi-talented Victoria Wood has died.

Victoria Wood – who has died at the age of 62 – was one of the UK’s best-loved entertainers with a career spanning more than four decades.

A Bafta award-winning comedian, actor, singer and writer, Wood was probably best known for her 1980s comedy series Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV and for her on-screen partnership with Julie Walters in the comedy sketch series Wood and Walters.

She wrote and starred in the hit BBC sitcom Dinnerladies and branched out into drama – writing and starring in the 2006 World War Two ITV drama Housewife, 49 – an adaptation of the diaries of Nella Last – which earned her two Baftas.

Wood was also popular for her live stand-up comedy shows, which were interspersed with her own compositions accompanied on the piano.

Made an OBE in 1997 and then a CBE later in 2008, Wood’s much-admired talent lay in her brand of humour which was grounded in everyday life – full of astute observations of popular culture and the mundane elements of life. . . 

The Poke has 21 of her best one liners which include:

 

  • We’d like to apologise to our viewers in the north…………it must be awful for them.
  • A man is designed to walk three miles in the rain to phone for help when the car breaks down, and a woman is designed to say, “You took your time” when he comes back dripping wet. . .
  • I haven’t got a waist. I’ve just got a sort of place, a bit like an unmarked level crossing.
  • I once went to one of those parties where everyone throws their car keys into the middle of the room. I don’t know who got my moped but I’ve been driving that Peugeot for years.
  • The first day I met my producer, she said, “I’m a radical feminist lesbian.” I thought what would the Queen Mum do? So I just smiled and said, “We shall have fog by tea-time.” . .
  • I’ve got a degree, does that mean I have to spend my life with intellectuals? I’ve also got a life-saving certificate, but I don’t spend my evenings diving for a rubber brick with my pyjamas on. . .

 


Merle Haggard 6.4.37 – 6.4.16

April 7, 2016

Country singer Merle Haggard has died:

Merle Haggard, the grizzled country music legend whose songs such as “Okie from Muskogee” and “Fightin’ Side of Me” made him a voice for the workingman and the outsider, has died. He was 79.

Haggard died Wednesday, his birthday, of complications from pneumonia at his home in Northern California, his agent Lance Roberts told CNN. . . 


Stuck in anger

February 23, 2016

After our first son, Tom, died I found myself getting angry over all sorts of things that normally wouldn’t have worried me.

It was only at a Women in Agriculture day, entitled beyond aspirin for feelings that are a pain in the neck that I worked out why.

I didn’t blame anyone for Tom’s death. He had a degenerative brain disorder and we had both had the best possible care from the start of my pregnancy.

But what I learned that day made me realise that although I didn’t blame anyone and it was no-one’s fault, I was still very angry that the son we’d loved had died.

The facilitator taught us to name, claim and tame our feelings. Once I’d named the anger and claimed it – worked out what I was feeling, why and the effect it was having on me – I was able to tame it and pull myself away from it.

I was reminded of this while reading about the man who allegedly chucked the muck at Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee:

The man who allegedly tipped a chocolate and flour mixture over Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee lost his son in the February 2011 earthquake.

John Howland arrived at the Christchurch District Court on Tuesday on what would have been the 20th birthday of his son, Jayden Andrews-Howland.

He said he attacked Brownlee “to prove a point”. . . 

“The Government, they’re heartless.” Howland said.

“They don’t listen to people. They don’t care about us, don’t care about nobody.”

Howland said he had been planning the move on Brownlee “for a few years” and hoped his actions would make the Government “get their s… together and sort this blimmin city out and all the people that are suffering. It’s just bulls…. I’ve just had enough”. . . .

The only point he’s proved is that he’s stuck in anger.

Attacking the Minister at any time would be wrong. To do it after yesterday’s memorial service to quake victims was also insensitive and lacked respect for the others who were at the service to commemorate their own losses.

This is the third time a government minister has had something thrown at them by angry people in the last couple of weeks.

The first was the dildo that Steven Joyce copped at Waitangi, to which he responded in good humour.

The second was the glitter-bombing of Prime Minister John Key at the Big Gay Out.

And the muck chucked yesterday completes the shabby trifecta.

In an editorial, published before yesterday’s muck-chuck, the Listener opines:

Josie Butler wasn’t exactly breaking new ground when she hurled a rubber dildo at Cabinet minister Steven Joyce on Waitangi Day. Her choice of missile may have been novel, but the nature of the act was ­wearisomely familiar.

Elements of the protest movement clearly regard physical assaults on politicians as a legitimate tactic. Don Brash, then leader of the National Party, was struck hard in the face with a clod at Waitangi in 2004. More recently, brothers John and ­Wikitana Popata assaulted Prime Minister John Key at Te Tii Marae in 2009 – an act that their uncle, Hone Harawira, then a Maori Party MP, gave every ­impression of excusing.

It doesn’t need to be Waitangi Day for the angry and dis­affected to justify hands-on attacks. Act MP John Boscawen was speaking in a debate during the Mt Roskill by-election campaign in 2009 when a rival candidate, campaigning on a “People Before Profit” ticket, smeared a lamington on his head. And when broadcaster Paul Henry tried to enter Auckland’s SkyCity Casino for a charity lunch – unconnected with politics – in May 2015, he was jostled, menaced, abused and spat on by a screaming mob purporting to be concerned about child poverty. . . 

Butler’s dildo attack prompted a commendably droll response from Joyce, who tweeted that someone should send a video to British comedian John Oliver – noted for his lampooning of New Zealand as a weird place – and “get it over with”. Sure enough, Oliver devoted more than four minutes of his HBO show Last Week Tonight to the item. But amid all the chortling, he made a serious point: “If you threw something at a politician in this country, you’d be dead before the dildo hit the ground.” That, at least, is a point of difference about which New ­Zealanders can be proud.

Levity aside, there’s another serious issue here. Physical attacks – whether with a dildo, a lump of earth, a lamington or a gob of spit – are not part of the repertoire of legitimate protest. They are an intrusion on the rights of others. They are also a sad admission that gestures of inarticulate rage are too often preferred over the skills of reasoned debate.

It matters not whether any serious harm is done in such incidents. In a civilised, liberal democracy, people engaging in politics are entitled to expect that basic rights, such as freedom of speech and movement, will be respected. It’s legitimate to ask what would have happened had the Waitangi attack been aimed at Jacinda Ardern, say – if she had been hit in the face by a big rubber teat thrown by a skinhead protesting about refugee immigration.

Some might consider it not to be funny if a woman gets hit. Yet a female journalist was in fact struck on the breast by Butler’s dildo after it bounced off Joyce.

There is no question that throwing a missile hard enough to hit two people constitutes assault, though Butler appears to have escaped prosecution. So what happens now if young people are punished for throwing rubber missiles at teachers or students with whom they disagree? Are they not entitled to cry “hypocrisy”?

The reality is that Brash, Key and Joyce were entitled to go to Waitangi to celebrate our national day without risk of assault. Similarly, Boscawen was entitled to take part in a political debate without being subjected to the humiliation of having a lamington planted on his head. The boundaries of reasonable protest will always be blurred but ­physical intimidation is never acceptable. It constitutes an assault on democracy itself.

It’s also counterproductive, since it conflicts with most New Zealanders’ views about how public life should be conducted. This may not bother hard-core protesters but it is a problem for the wider left, because as long as ideological zealots continue to parade their angry intolerance, the mainstream left will be tarnished by association. . . 

There is a place for righteous anger but there was nothing righteous about these protests.

The first two were political, the third partly political and partly what appears to be unresolved grief.

Regardless of the motivation, throwing toys, glitter bombing and chucking muck are not legitimate forms of protest.

Freedom of expression brings with it the responsibility to express it without infringing other people’s rights.

In New Zealand we have remarkably unfettered access to our Members of Parliament.

People who let their anger overcome them as these three protesters did, do nothing for their cause, potentially endanger their targets and innocent bystanders, and threaten the accessibility the rest of us have to politicians.

 

 

 

 


Christchurch five years on

February 22, 2016

Today is the fifth anniversary of the earthquake which struck Canterbury at 12:51 in the afternoon.

It’s a time to remember the 185 people who died, the many more who were injured and those who still carry the scars, whether they be mental or physical.

It’s a time to celebrate the courage of those who helped to save others, the compassion and support from people near and far, and to recognise that over-used but still appropriate word, resilience of Christchurch and it’s people.

Each time I go to the city I marvel at the positive changes and feel great sympathy for those still dealing with the challenges the earthquake and the many aftershocks, have left in their wake.

A lot has been achieved in the rebuild, there’s still a lot more to do.

John Key's photo.

Today is a day of reflection but it’s also a day of great hope and optimism.

Today we remember the events of five years ago in Christchurch and those who lost their lives. But we also reflect on how far we’ve come, what’s been achieved and look forward to the future with a renewed sense of optimism – John Key.


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