Good old fashioned steam powered trains

Happened to come across this item about a place close to the origins.

The railway station featured, the main one for the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, is about 10kms from where I grew up. It’s just down the hill from my grandfather’s farm, and across the road from another relative’s farm.

The branch line closed in the mid-1960s: I have a very vague memory of watching a small engine, without any train, chugging under the bridge by the old electricity board building on Waiuku’s Kitchener Road, probably around the time the line shut. I would have been, though, only about three or so.

Bit of a story with how the railway line came to be built in the first place: in the late 19th century, the locals agitated for a branch line to be put in.

Such decisions were made by cabinet ministers in those days, and the Prime Minister, Richard Seddon, tended to award such infrastructure projects to electorates which had been farsighted enough to elect an MP which supported his government.

As the area was, at the time, part of the electorate held by the then leader of the opposition, William Massey, the locals were told to go whistle.

The government changed in 1912, Massey was PM, and he got them their railway, though not right away – World War One intervened.

I gather it never made a profit and had to be constantly subsidised by the government. According to that story linked to above, the line now manages without any such government support.

When I was a kid, after the line closed, the station premises were used by Karaka Bulk Spreaders as a fertiliser depot.

The vintage railway went in, gradually, from the early 1980s. The bit that extends into my home town, Waiuku, runs through another relative’s farm, where we used to do hay every year.

It was kind of neat – we’d be part of the show, it seemed, as the train came through.

The vintage railway is recommended, for any of you Aucklanders – or anyone in holidaying in Auckland and wanting a day trip out to the country .

I’m biased, of course, but its a great place to visit.

There was even a song about it, albeit written and recorded, oddly in 1977 – during the period between the railway being closed circa 1968; and the vintage railway opening sometime in the mid-1980s.

Warning: contains yodeling. Catchy, though.

As a bonus, here’s the Kinks, singing about trains. It’s off their masterpiece, the low-key, out-of-its-own-time, Village Green Preservation Society album, which, by a coincidence, was being recorded around the time the Waiuku branch line closed.

 

So gloriously different: Do Not Adjust Your Set

Scene: A field. An unmistakable historic figure from 200 years ago stands, alone and glowering, in his French uniform, his arm tucked in characteristic pose. 

A stentorian voiceover demands, rhetorically: ‘Why did Napoleon keep his hand inside his waistcoat?’

Napoleon pulls his hand out. His trousers fall down. 

This was one of the earliest things I can remember laughing like a drain at for several hours afterwards.  It is stuck in my mind for that reason and also because it was the first time I realised how you pronounced ‘Napoleon’. 

 I had read the word – probably in Look and Learn magazines –  but had no idea how to pronounce it.

Napoleon was, I think, played by either David Jason or Terry Jones.  The sketch  was from  Do Not Adjust Your Set, a tv series made in Britain in the late 1960s by several people who went on to form of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

It is best described as a kind of children’s version of Monty Python, although it pre-dates that series.

It was shown in New Zealand in the early 1970s –  I think 1972.

And I loved it.  The combination of eccentricity,  humour,  and historical references like the one above was just magical.

It was just so gloriously different. 

It’s been on my mind at the moment because I threw together an iTunes music playlist for a road trip last month labelled “Brits” which included the obvious ones such as the Kinks and Madness and Ian Dury and the Jam and the Smiths…and then, for light relief, the Bonzos.

Vivian Stanshall was…well, an alcoholic nutter, and probably rather awkward to be around. A brilliant eccentric, though.

The Bonzos only had one hit – I’m the Urban Spaceman – and the B side was this lovely piece.

I first heard this on a jukebox in an Auckland cafe, sometime in the mid-eighties, and lay on the floor under the table laughing uncontrollably.

 

 

Rugby – that ’70s Show version 

lions 1971

There was a time when rugby test matches had a sense of occasion. Now, it seems, they’re a bit like the latest software upgrade. Don’t worry about missing this one, there will be another along in two or three clicks of a Yes I Have Read The Terms and Conditions.

Even the Rugby World Cup…hell, it only seems the other day the first or second* most famous whitebaiter in NZ history (and son, btw, of my 7th Form History teacher) was lining up a shot at goal at Eden Park.

This year?  I have an uneasy feeling. And so, for now, I’m going to take a dip in the steamy bathtub of nostalgia. I like it, and besides, it has a cute rubber duck.

So, here, first: an excerpt from the fillum Footrot Flats about rugby.

It might as well be a documentary. Captures the attitudes and dreams of an era perfectly.

And then there’s this moment, from winter 1977. The try that won the series against the Lions. It wasn’t the first test series I’d followed – that was the previous year, when the All Blacks went to South Africa – but this has happier memories.

Firstly, of course, the ABs won, unlike in South Africa, when the tests were almost 16 players versus 14, partly because the All Black selectors did not take a first class fullback or an in form goal-kicker, and partly because the referees were South African and delivered some crucial, dodgy decisions at critical moments, especially  in the fourth test (one referee is reputed to have half-apologised, afterwards, to an All Black by saying ‘you have to understand, I have to live in this country’  .

Secondly,  and of growing importance in the mid-1970s, was the Lions series did not have the moral ambiguity  attached to the South African tour.

Personal example: at the age of 12, I could follow the 1976 series: by the 1981 tour, I was not watching any of the games (and never have since, btw, even on Youtube), rowing with my parents and getting into scuffles at school on the issue. (note, too – I didn’t start scuffles physically, but being unable to keep a smart arsed comment to myself used cause situations to develop )

The  NZ Listener, in those days, had a monopoly on listing what was on TV. Yes, that’s right. The newspapers were allowed to print the TV listings for that day, but no one else was allowed to print them 10 days or so ahead, as the state owned Listener did.
Whenever the All Blacks had a test series, the Listener would have a big preview edition, usually with the All Black captain of the era on the cover (can still recall a great pic of Andy Leslie, the 1974-76 captain, balancing a ball and looking purposefully into the middle distance, before the South African series).

There was a centrefold pull out, with all the games n the tour: you could pin it on the wall and market off the scores in each game.

They were kind of neat. Well, I thought so.

The other oddity was around whether the tests would be broadcast live on the telly. This  was never officially announced or included in the tv listings.

The Rugby Union, you see, was worried fewer people would go to the games.

It didnt’ make a blind bit of difference because everyone assumed the tests would be on the telly.

And everyone was right. Rioting in the streets would have eventuated if the games hadn’t been broadcast.  Would have made what happened in 1981 look like a friendly game of swingball in comparison.
The first test of the Lions series coincided with National Field Days at Mystery Creek, and me and my brother   were there with Dad. One of the the stalls – it may have been Livestock Improvement – had connected up a tv and the place was crowded out well before the official kick off time at 2:30pm.

Remember: this is despite it being officially uncertain whether the games were to be broadcast or not.

The other thing I note about this Lawrie Knight try is how people are reacting to it. The crowd, of course, goes wild, but then by this point in the game the crown was probably fairly well lubricatd.

Look at the players, though. They’re probably quite pleased, but in most cases its kind of difficult to tell.

They’re certainly not going berserk and hugging each other like soccer players.

That’s another thing which has changed, changed utterly.

Russell Brown has a piece on this here:  he points to a wider degree of comfort with emotions amongst New Zealanders, especially men, and I think he’s right there, but of course he suggests it might  be something to do with drugs.

Now, this is not my area of expertise, so I have to defer to Russell’s much greater knowledge of the topic. And it is quite possible – very possible in fact, – that the use of various substances is more widespread than I have noticed.

But I have my doubts.

No doubt a Colin Meads or similar would put it down to too much pasta and salad eating by test players, not enough mutton, and far too many women teachers.

Again, I think this is unlikely.

I just think we’ve loosened up a bit. Also, there is a degree of emotional incontinence   around now which has probably swung too far the other way.

It would not do to greet every success as if we are slighty embarrassed by the whole thing. (although, surely, if we are embarrassed by the whole thing, it should be ok to express that)

Besides, emotional repression has been unfairly maligned, at  times, I feel. There is a place for it. Sometimes you do have to Not Make a Fuss – be it about a good thing or bad thing.

There is such a thing as a happy medium.

Well, a reasonably content medium, anyway.

We don’t want  to get too carried away.

* Whether you like The Bone People nor not, I rekkin Beaver has to compete with NZ’s only Booker Prize Winner for this title. 

Grog – lessons and tips

The Christmas party season is coming up. Summer Bacchanal and all, season of fruit pies, plum duff, beaches, barbies and sandflies.

And lots and lots of alcohol.

So please take the foregoing as a different version of the usual seasonal warnings from those po-faced finger waggers who get paid to deliver those sorts of warnings.

Although an extremely well behaved type these days, I’m blowed if I’m going to turn all pious about other people letting loose. Just get someone else to drive, and try to keep the noise down if other people are trying to sleep, OK?

I stopped drinking – voluntarily – when I decided to try for law school and I vowed I would not drink again until I got accepted.

My pledge became academic (hah!) part way through that year when I got glandular fever and managed to get hepatitis at the same time. The liver has never been the same since, and these days I confine myself to the odd glass of wine, the odd beer, and, on occasion, a good single malt to round off the week.

Until my mid 20s I liked Jim Beam and beer. In that order. And on occasion I was very silly and paid for it in the usual ways..

So here’s a few lessons learned, generally the hard way.


Drinking and children’s playgrounds

Drunks are often attracted to children’s playgrounds after dark. It seems a real hoot to play on the gear in the middle of the night when you’re completely chooked.

DON’T.

The sequence of events, many moons ago, in Picton:

1. Drink a lot of cheap wine. (mostly Blenheimer, although someone* had the bright idea at one point of mixing vodka with it.
2. Think – woohoo! Trampoline! EXCELLENT!
3. Run out to trampoline, which is quite a way away.
4. Take flying leap onto trampoline, landing double footed in the middle of it.
5. Yell “YEEHAA!!” or something equally profound.
6. Fail to take momentum into account.
7. Notice a slow uneasy feeling in pit of stomach as the rebound hits, going up up up…
8. Notice in particular the nice forgiving trampoline drift slowly back below and – THIS IS THE IMPORTANT BIT – behind.
9. Look down and realise the Marlborough earth, at the tail end of a long, drought-stricken summer, is a bloody hard thing to land on at speed, drunk or sober.

Martinis

1. Don’t drink them on an empty stomach.
2. Don’t then think, Ooh, I need some sustenance, and grab the nearest thing available.
3. Especially if the nearest thing is a handful of pineapple lumps.
4. ESPECIALLY don’t do this just before taking part in an impromptu public speaking competition.


Climbing:

I used to get the urge to climb things. This is strange, as I was pretty bad at it, but a lot of people try to do things they are bad at when they are pissed.

On the way from a do at the old Press Club in Auckland, yelling suddenly “Stop the car!!!” the driver (who, some years later, capped off a distinguished career as Editor of the New Zealand Herald)  hits the brakes, everyone thinks I need to chunder.

But no. We’re going past a building site with a large crane and I have decided I can climb the crane. Right Now. I leap out of the car and run towards it. Got up a few rungs before three of the guys from the car hauled me down. (I actually have no memory of doing this, but the friends who pulled me off it do, and they showed me the bruises.)

Lunchtime drinking:

Be very wary of lunchtime drinking if you are going to be drinking in the evening as well.

A rule of thumb – which I found to be accurate – is that, to get an idea on the impact on your system, double every drink you took at lunchtime, and imagine ingesting the lot in one go at 6pm.

That’s roughly what happens if you start drinking again in the evening. I don’t know why.

Water
– for every drink of alcohol, drink a glass of water. Amazingly effective.

Recovery

Milk thistle. This is a herb which is very good for the liver and which can even moderate the effect of the post-drinking headache. It’s a wonderful discovery. You can get in most chemists and health shops and even the supermarket these days.

Before you go to bed – glass of Berocca. Use it to wash down a couple of milk thistle pills.

For breakfast:

Lambs fry, bacon and fried sput, along with orange or grapefruit juice and coffee.

Cheers.

*Possibly me. Details of the precise chain of causation are, for reasons which should be reasonably obvious, somewhat unclear.