Looking forward to Waitangi Day

Questions and optimism from Glenn McConnell

Here’s a young journalist who always asks questions that get me thinking all day. Glenn McConnell writes an occasional column in the Dominion Post and I enjoy his clear writing and fresh viewpoint.   Today’s article (link below) is no exception and well worth a read in the run up to Waitangi Day. Continue reading “Looking forward to Waitangi Day”

Farm Holiday

New Zealand farm stay in Mahia

I haven’t been on a farm holiday since I was a kid and Kathleen and I walked a long way across the hills and the farmer’s son gave us a lift home in the helicopter. These things stay with you.

So last week instead of our pre-Christmas family long weekend blobbed by a lake, this year I thought we’d go for some kiwi action and booked three days on a farm in Mahia and it was everything a farm holiday should be.

There was a good looking and friendly young farmer in stubbies and a rugby shirt – a bit of confusion when my son said he was saving to go the world cup next year – World cup’s not next year? Oh, soccer? The football/rugby divide. It’s real.

His most hospitable wife wandered past, with baby farmers in tow (the blondie dressed like her dad and keeping those dogs in line) to check we had everything we needed in the glampy shearers’ quarters which were spanking clean, very basic, and just perfect for a family of 6 unloading a stack of books, a football, a few board games and a well stocked chilli bin.

We “helped” sort and drench the lambs,  watched sheep shearing and the rounding up of the cows. There were smart dogs doing their thing at the shrill whistle of the shepherd and pet pigs, a pony. We rode trail bikes up hill tracks for breathtaking views.

The same things I did on a farm holiday as a kid and I thought nothing had changed, until our 2017 farmer explained the native bush replanting in the gullys, the erosion protection, the focus on environmental care.  I think slash and burn was still in fashion when I was young.

We had Uncle Ted along from Canada for a bit of a kiwi experience, so on the rainy day while the grass got drunk we walked the Nikau rainforest and soaked in Morere Hot Springs and the following day, with all the leaves sparkling, we walked the circuit at Kinikini, in lush native bush.

I reckon a farm holiday should be on every family’s list.  I’m a Wellington city girl and have spent limited time on farms – childhood visits, a few friends on farms growing up, an occasional horse trek, thistle pulling jobs  – but there have always been hills with dots in the background calling me closer. It comes with being a New Zealander.

Standing in the sheep sheds with the dogs and the farmers felt like finding my roots.

 

Sheep shearing New Zealand.jpg
Fast, expert sheep shearing on Mahia farm

https://www.bookabach.co.nz/28964

Native Bush.jpg
Kinikini loop track, Mahia Peninsula scenic reserve

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/east-coast/places/mahia-peninsula-scenic-reserve/things-to-do/mahia-peninsula-scenic-reserve-track/

 

 

Camp fire story

A shaggy dog story by Tristan Bayliss

Stories are the best way to entertain the kids around a camp fire, and they need to be adaptably long, shaggy, and with a structure that makes them easy to remember.

Last week, rafting and camping on the side of the Mohaka river, our storyteller had a group of kids enraptured by The Ballard of Henry Tidwell, the last man to suffer the death penalty in New Zealand. (Only he wasn’t, I found out later.)

I asked him how he did it and here is his advice.

When I tell a very long shaggy dog story, people ask how it is possible to remember so many details, and often dismiss it as impossible for themselves. The truth is, if you follow these few simple tips, anyone can (and should) tell a long and complex story to entertain friends and family around those campfires or on long trips. For the purposes of explanation I have included a very long story, The Ballard of Henry Tidswell, a version of which  was told recently on a camping trip.

  1.     Punchline  

The shaggy dog story starts with the ending, with an idea of a pun, or a joke. It doesn’t have to be uproarious, as the whole point of this sort of story is the journey to get there. In some ways, an ending that makes your audience groan rather than laugh is a good result. In this example it started with an old joke around the ambiguous meanings of the term ‘conductor’.

  1.   Structures

This is the most important rule for successfully telling a longer story. This is the skeleton that you hang the story on, and what makes the whole thing possible to remember and achieve. The structures can be familiar pictures or simple sequences, with a finite pattern or infinitely expandable. The example story is full of different structures, some obvious, some less:

  • Henry keeps one penny for each shilling, then 2, then 3 etc. For the purposes of this story, it finished at 4, but could easily have expanded to 12
  • The time between Mary’s spending sprees halves each time, first 2 months, then 1 month, 2 weeks, 1 week etc. Also the cost of each purchase rises; first a shilling a week, then 2, then 3 etc. These structures build tension by creating the sense of rapidly approaching disaster
  • Each time Mary makes a deal, she gets a new dress of a different colour, and the sequence is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Not only is it easy to remember the rainbow, but the darkening end of the spectrum matches the story as it darkens towards the end
  1. Visual Associations

This technique is what enables you to include the richness of detail which makes a good story. It requires developing a pictorial thinking and memory, which is far richer and more effective than a language or conceptual one. Make a visual picture of each scene, and when it comes to that point in the story, simply recall the picture in your mind’s eye and describe what you see. It will be different each time as you forget some things and include others, but it will be more alive and the amount of detail possible will be limitless. Also you can include visual themes that are connected to the structures, which aid the memory.

In this story, for example, the things Mary purchases are associated with the colour of her dress, e.g red for Rosie the house help, orange for the copper and brass washing machine, yellow for the yellow curtains and furniture etc.

  1.  Repetition

This also is related to the structures, as you naturally have repeated scenes and dialogues, but if you can focus on a particular catchphrase and repeat this at opportune moments, this is like a little homecoming within the story and can bring great delight to your listeners, especially children. If done well, you can merely suggest the line and the audience will finish it for you. In the example, we have the repetition of “because she was clever with her hands” which has been given subtle variations for the benefit of an older audience. Also the punchline itself has been used as a catchphrase in this story, which rather than lessening its impact as an ending, enhances it, for the listeners have to think twice before realizing it now has a new meaning.

  1.  Characters

These are what bring the humour and life to a story. Give your characters a back story (even if you don’t relate it, but just for your own sake to bring the character alive). Use mannerisms, accents, speech impediments, anything that makes them interesting. The only caution I would place on this is to leave your main protagonist quite plain, as it can be tiring for an audience to listen to a constant put-on voice, and also it allows their imagination to inhabit the character easier if it remains slightly amorphous.

  1. Practice

Lastly, eloquence is not something you are either born with or without. It requires practice to develop, and then constant practice to maintain. Take whatever opportunities you have, the best practice being, of course, telling bedtime stories to your children. Start by memorizing traditional folk tales or fairy tales (practise using your pictorial memory) and telling these without the book there (perhaps by candlelight). This will build up a rich store of phrases, characters and story archetypes which you can use in your own made-up stories later.

Happy storytelling

Read The Ballard of Henry Tidswell, adapted by Tristan Bayliss.

Provincial kiwi airport

Long haul starts here

This is the cafe at Napier Airport, end of August and start of a long haul flight –

A middle aged woman chews slowly, an unlikely candidate for bright pink hair. Her husband sorts papers on the table, itinerary, boarding passes, confirmations.

You know it’s New Zealand because the guy in khaki cargo shorts and trainers who is sprawlled with his feet on a chair looks in context.

The TV is loud overhead, shouting the news. No one looks up. The accent is sharp and twangy. A bit strident. Sounds like many of my women friends. Distinctly kiwi.

We’re two steps down from “smart casual” here in the provinces. No sharp suits passing. In fact, nobody is passing. I’m on the early flight to Auckland and only the long haulers are early, that nervous buffer of contingency reserved for those with ongoing tickets.

Here there are phones at the table, but they are shared, photos, details passed around small groups. I’m looking for families but don’t see them, no kids here this morning. Our ages are from 30 to 60 and people are communicating quietly – last minute advice and love. It’s slow talk and I can’t hear it, but there is a comment, a thoughtful nod, a sip of coffee, a reply. I am imagining – You’ll probably have the garage finished by the time I get back. If the weather holds. What’s the forecast for Rome? Hasn’t rained for 100 days. Nice.

It’s the support group for the departees. I recognise them because I’m departing. I also have the pre-flight frisson. A little extra awareness that recognises this is not everyday life. We all have neat, small bags the floor beside us, touching the leg, held close. Without that bag you’re lost.

Though not so much anymore apparently, my son reminded me when he dropped me off. Very different from my earlier journeys when physical tickets and travellers cheques were tucked into folders with brochures and notes and we held cash in the denominations of each stop over country. If you lose stuff now you just log on from anywhere and everything is in the cloud. Good idea to keep enough cash in your pocket for a day, tide you over until you get a new card issued.

There’s no personal crisis in travel now.

The announcement to board brings the travellers to their feet. Hugs and kisses. The suits are here now, they walk main door to the gate, no waiting around in the cafe. Time is money. They’re not really in suits, either, but classy coordinates, ironed (not travel soft like the rest of us), scarves and groomed hair, shoes that make a noise on the tiles.

In the plane there is music by Thomas Oliver to settle to, a nice touch that will make the locals smile.

We’re fast off the ground.