Whānau time

Whānau time

It started when Thomas my eldest son arrived at the Airport after four and a half years in Europe. Walking into the terminal I told myself that I was good, I had been good during his departure, then cancelled trips due to Covid and then Cancer. But I felt it. “Are you okay Dad?”, not really, you? “no same for me too!” Then it was a booth breakfast with Thomas and his Mum and I. Twenty four hours ago working, looking after his family, now jammed in the booth, being grilled and given pocket money! It was a great start.

My next son Tim had a big birthday a couple of days later, then it was Dad’s 90th, a trip to Christchurch and a most special celebration – Mum and Dad’s 70th Wedding Anniversary.

Grandma had declined permission for Dad to marry when he was nineteen. You can’t blame her really. But on turning twenty, it was off to the Christchurch Registry Office a few days later in Manchester Street – midweek – and nuptials. Smiles all around and the happy couple settled in Christchurch where they still live. Mum’s still an Aucklander though “that easterly wind always gets you”, and as a family we had many happy holidays at Stanmore Bay, Whangaparaoa.

About 20 marriages a year make it to 70 years in New Zealand. No wonder you can’t find the pre-printed cards at Whitcoulls!

So what are Mum and Dad secrets: good genes, garden vegetables, sugar-infused bottled fruit, boysenberry ice cream, wholemeal bread, married young and keep a healthy bit of disagreement going on are my observations. When I interviewed Mum in advance of the big day she said having your own interests was really important. Fiercely independent was what it felt like as a child. Dad said Mum’s insights on money were really important, he said she was usually right in hindsight. Pocket money for Dad is what we saw.

We had 55 people join us to celebrate the big day All whanau. It felt rich and full.

Then it was my turn – move into my new house, a big birthday and a Whakawātea for friends, neighbours and those involved in the construction.

Going back to work I felt replete. A real turbo boost of those most special to me.

Think I need another break now!


-I really did interview Mum and Dad. Some family were present. It was the conversation you won’t ever wish you had. I’ve done a few interviews in my time. This was beyond special.

-Statistics available on marriage length indicate that in the US about .001 of marriages make 70 years. About 20,000 marriages take place annually in New Zealand.


    Just like riding a ski

    Just like riding a ski

    I’ve been fortunate enough to see if I could ski again after a bit of chop and change in one of my legs a couple of years ago. No one was more surprised than me when I gave it a go at Coronet Peak a few weeks ago, and I managed a few runs, backed up a fortnight later.

    I found myself telling people I could still ski thanks to a special ski week quite some time ago and it got me thinking about that ski week.

    Back in the school holidays in the sixth form (year 12 now) I spent a glorious week learning to ski properly at Mt Olympus Ski field near Lake Coleridge, Canterbury with a group of school boys. It now promotes itself as the place to “Ski in the Playground of the Gods“. It was a big week.

    We got dropped off at a Canterbury Farm Station somewhere, and me and three other boys were driven up in the couple’s two door Range Rover. I assumed they operated the Station, but at that age, you don’t know much really, and I didn’t ask, or was told. Mind your own business my mother would have said anyway! They were club members I do recall, and I can see that the club is still running the field – the Windwhistle Winter Sports Club – as it has since 1932. I’ve had a thing for skiing and those early Rangies ever since.

    Then there was no milk and I started drinking black coffee which tasted quite bitter and was instant – I think that was “normal” then – but I’ve been a black coffee drinker ever since. And on the first day of skiing the instructor told us “leave your poles boys, you’ll be learning to ski properly”. And we did.

    So when I thought I’d give skiing a go at Coronet Peak with limitations to my leg I found I could. What came straight back to guide me were the lessons at Mt Olympus, coming sharply back into focus. Shifting the weight from ski to ski to turn. Poles just for balance.

    It’s worth learning something properly. It stays.


    The original Range Rover was introduced by British Leyland under the Rover brand in 1969 and continued in production until 1996, by then under the Land Rover brand. It was a two-door model until 1981. You’ll see restored two door models for sale in NZ for ~$50,000 and a lot more overseas.

    Going back in time with a prince

    There were sixty of us teenagers, 17-18 years old, apparently selected from a pool of 1000 applicants to be members of what was to be HRH Prince of Wales 25th Cadet Wing of police trainees. I don’t recall in advance knowing that our patron was to be the the Prince of Wales or, as it happens, that this was the penultimate police cadet wing, a programme designed to take school leavers directly into a year of police training. “Last week you couldn’t spell Contsatble and now you are one!“, the more mature recruits reminded us on a banner.

    The prince had a stand up lunch with us during his visit that year, at which time he officially opened the new police college – later designated “Royal” during a visit by his mother the Queen. The only thing I really recall during the lunch was the prince asking us if we smoked cannabis – I can’t recall how the conversation got there – but it was an odd question to ask police trainees. I can’t imagine his mother asking such a question, but maybe it was a reflection of being a leader in waiting vs holding the ultimate position.

    Twice the Queen drove past our family home in Christchurch, from her yacht in Lyttelton Harbour to the central city. Like dutiful subjects, we waited on the avenue, the road deserted, looking for the arrival of the motorcade, with various police and other very shiny vehicles leading, and ultimately the vehicle without licence plates – transporting a queen and her husband, on full show. On one occasion we were certain that she waved directly at us.

    It’s only very recently that I thought about us having the future king as our wing patron – apparently the only time it was granted – there is no Prince of Wales “wing” of police or military trainees anywhere else. Although it’s not completely clear what our patron was supposed to do, but lending his name to our cadet wing seemed to be the main thing, and, according to publicly available information, “providing support and guidance”. As trainee police constables, what was to be important was service – to our community – although it would be fair to say that driving lessons, physical training, and marching were probably more front of mind at the police college that year.

    I noticed that much of the talk at memorial services for the Queen these last two weeks was about her service too. Her service to the Commonwealth, the countries of her Realm, including New Zealand and to the United Kingdom. Growing up and watching from afar, that service appeared replete with beautiful homes & estates, motor vehicles, the bestest outfits and, for some reason, picnics.

    But despite that privilege, there is little doubt that the Queen has been a symbol of stability, if somewhat remote and obscure to almost all of us. She never really appeared to take it easy, shirked from duty unless she was too unwell, or simply retired. They were not options she gave herself.

    Maybe I don’t fully understand it all, but the memorial services with their juxtaposition of military, church and state feels somewhat confronting. Not to mention “God save the King!” being sung in New Zealand, like it was completely normal and 1937. But with that stage-managed backdrop I think we can expect King Charles to reign over us for the foreseeable future. Like his mother, he can be expected to serve, providing in a mysterious way a level of stability and continuity that many people take comfort from. A form of servant leadership. With castles!

    And long may the experiences of the King Charles III cadet wing live on in the 60 teenagers who helped me grow up all those years ago.


    Of the 60 police cadets who started, seven are still serving in the NZ Police, and several are sadly not with us. We’re having our (Covid) delayed 40th reunion early next year. In July 2016 a number of serving police members from our cadet wing had their 35 year service medals presented to them by the future king in London.

    Feedback Season

    Feedback Season

    For many organisations including mine, it’s “year end” at 30 June, meaning lots of work to close out financial performance measures and work out how well we did as humans. Assessments are made against goals – how did you get away with that for an objective?! – and we try as best as we can to assess behaviours on leadership and teaming for the year just past.

    It’s serious business. Countless research and anecdotes tell us people are more likely to leave their workplace because of their boss, not the work, or even the rewards. Leadership has a massive impact on performance, wellbeing, and the one measure most precious to me, happiness.

    I don’t recall anyone saying to me – hate work, the boss is a prick, but I’m as happy as can be. Of course, happiness must just be my thing and satisfaction, professional reward, or contentment might be better descriptors for you. In fact I’ve had my happiness both challenged (it’s potentially superficial) – and reaffirmed (deeper happiness), at the same time by some recent reading on Stoicism. Stoicism considers that happiness can be found through virtue, the four main types of which are wisdom, justice, courage and moderation.

    Using the Stoics virtues can guide us in feedback.

    I think if we could try to give feedback that followed these Stoic principles, it would be a fairly good start for all of us. We could try giving feedback that is:

    • Given in the exercise of good judgment, experience, as a wise person would do – wisdom. Serious feedback needs serious work and is not for the faint-hearted and requires experience. It’s grown up’s work.
    • Fair and equitable according to the receiver’s experience – progressive justice. The platinum rule – treating others as they wish to be treated, not just how you think you might like to be treated.
    • Given honestly and accurately, regardless of the giver’s feeling – courage. Buckle up, this isn’t easy and it takes courage to do it, and do it right. That’s not just “telling the truth” as they can sound blunt, uncaring or abrupt.
    • Given with a sense of reason, balanced against the receiver’s overall performance and the team’s too – moderated. Moderated feedback is kind, generous and fair all at once.

    Of course all is this is about supporting the giver. The receiver needs to be equally as prepared, and a wise receiver of feedback will be noticing the care and attention of the giver and playing their part – like an encouraging, nodding member of an audience – to encourage and help the giver too.

    Go for it!


    ps Stoicism developed in the 3rd Century BCE and flourished in the Roman Empire