PO Box 2 Blackball

Paul Maunder's blog



The daffodils appear

The daffodils appear, beautiful virginal children. There’s a patch on the museum site which never flower. Each year I avoid mowing them for a month, then run them over in frustration. Gaynor put me right. ‘Wait for them to wilt and turn brown before you mow them. You can hasten the process by gathering clumps of stalks together and tying a knot in them. Then, next season they’ll flower.’


Some balmy days gladden the soul. The blossom trees are blossoming, the first shoots appear on the apple tree, the willows have budded, the chooks are laying and kereru flop heavily from a tree as I walk down the track to the creek.

As I watch the leaders’ debates I realise again that when both sides are managing within a neo-liberal capitalist framework, government is as much about spirit as about policy. National, as led by Bill, are mean-minded, punitive and puritan ‘realists’. Labour, as led by Jacinda, are youthful, warm and want to be generous. National increasingly micro-manages those at the bottom. In their view, the dysfunction is their own fault. It’s time to insist that such people haul themselves up by their bootstraps, to start having goals, to get their kids meeting national standards, to wipe out the gangs and let the riches trickle down. Labour sees that the stress of poverty causes dysfunction. Behind Labour is the old socialist slogan: A better world is possible. For National the better world is here, you just have to persuade everyone to get it together enough to clamber onto the first rung of the ladder.

National aren’t great on smiles and they give me the creeps. Who would want to be mothered by Paula Bennett or Judith Collins? Or fathered by Steven Joyce or Bill?

Somewhere, lurking in the shadows, is the monster of climate change, towering over this family argument. No one dare mention it. It certainly hasn’t come up in the debates so far. Bangladesh and parts of India are under water; Texas is flooded, California and Spain are burning up, the sea level rises, Hurricane Irma… in this context generous or mean spirits are a laughable matter. The poor old Greens would like to bring it up, but they don’t want to be seen as negative. Metiria touched on a negative reality and got burnt. Negativity doesn’t win votes. So let’s love New Zealand and hope to hold on.

Down by the creek I find the perfect rock on which to stand and do the exercises. It allows a renewal of technical energy.

You can’t mow down the recalcitrant daffodils. Let them fall and wait a season.

Finally, If you really want a spiritual uplift watch this video based on a song and photos from the Spanish Civil War.




On the one hand I want to write about spring, the transformation as the willow trees clothe their branches, as daffodils push into the light, as new growth appears on seemingly dead sticks of blackberry, as myriad blossoms decorate the apple tree, as ducklings play in the pond, bopping one another like unruly kids, as lambs appear and grow ridiculously fast, as people load their cars with plants at the garden shop, as each day brings confusion as to what to wear.

But on the other side of the planet, a hurricane drops three feet of rain on Haiti overnight, before swatting the coast of Cuba before heading for the southern US state. As I ponder the Ministry of Business and Innovation report on economic development for the Coast, I find it alarming that climate change is not mentioned. How can educated experts write about future development without considering the greatest threat facing us, or mention precarious work, or inequality, or the region-city divide that is growing in alarming proportions… Midweek, Grant Robertson gave his talk on the future of work and its relevance to the Coast. A good talk, a nice man, but the local leaders were absent, apart from a token presence by Development West Coast – too busy beavering away at the MBI recommendations, which have immediately become Holy Grail.

In Albert Mall, I watched a group of Chinese tourists take excited photos of a Camelia bush and the Chinese restaurant. Is the tourist experience largely nonsensical? If it becomes the main driver of an economy does the sense of nonsense pervade?

Marama Davidson and some other prominent women headed across the sea to Gaza. The Israeli Defence Force seized the boat, detained the occupants temporarily before deporting them – a ritual of recent times. At least they’ve learned that it is better not to beat them or kill them. A stunt, sneered Judith Collins. Potentially embarrassing, said the PM. Climate change shouldn’t be mentioned, nor should Gaza – both unpleasant topics, like child poverty. Aaron Smith is much better news: a bit of scandal, a penitent All Black.

But it is spring. Down on the field there are now three hares cheekily tormenting the dogs. Can’t catch me.

After a passing rain storm, the drops of water falling from the willow tree create a mosaic of small eruptions in the puddle below. Mesmerising – as the starling chicks in the roof tap and scratch a new life for themselves.

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