Letters of complaint: SMS#31

SMS31 Letters of complaint#2
Good morning to you all
It has been brought to my attention that this cartoon series is seriously flawed. The two major reasons; one the artist can’t draw and it is time to replace him, and two his themes are all over the shop with many loose ends never being tied up.
My response to complaint one: I have informed him (the artist) that many regard him as a talentless layabout. He responded by resigning on the spot. He said it would give him more time to spend with his family. I turned his resignation down flat. Frankly, the prospect of him spending more time with his family makes me all shaky.
I have yet to discuss complaint number two with him. I am not sure if I have the fortitude to bring it up.
Yours sincerely
The editor


Another day in lockdown

I’m enjoying friend M’s daily recounting of life in Covid-19 lockdown at Lockdown Wellington 2020. It’s such strange times. No point in me recounting my days. There’s very little variation from one day to the next to life in the bubble.  It’s a matter of hunkering down and getting through. Daily walks were a bit thin on the ground for me for the first couple of weeks or so, but now (because I have a step counter) I’m trying to get an average of 10,000 steps a day. Not too difficult. Even today, when I didn’t go for a walk, I managed over 6000 steps. And that’s because I spent a fair bit of the day in the garden, digging, lifting, shifting in my version of garden musical chairs.

I’m walking rather like tin woman tonight – a combination of today’s gardening on top of a bit of an overstretch (for me) of more than 14,000 steps on Wednesday (though I know that’s chicken feed to my cyclist and serious walker friends). But it wasn’t the step count, per se, that caused the aches but rather the endless steps down from Amritsar to Rangiora Street. I knew it would be tough on the knee but wasn’t quite so prepared for the effect on the calf muscles. Still, I’m grateful I could do it. If you want the details about the gardening musical chairs, check out Haphazard Gardener.

A day of remembrance tomorrow with Anzac Day. Among those we’re remembering is great Uncle George, my grandad’s brother who died in first world war. We have a memorial medallion with his name on it, as was given to all next of kin of service personnel who were killed in the first world war. So young.

Keep safe, everyone, and be kind.



Lighthouses and landscapes

We spent the last of summer travelling around the lower North Island, avoiding Highway 1 as best we could and taking time for detours along the way. We took a fortnight – last week of February, first week of March – and snagged what arguably was the best weather of the summer. Lots of lighthouses and beautiful landscapes and coastlines.

I recorded our journey in a daily blog, Lighthouses and Landscapes. In these days of Covid-19 lockdown, I thought it would be a good project to convert the blog into a journal, as I’ve done with some other trip blogs. But this time, with much help and encouragement from friend M from T, I decided to make it an online-only journal rather than one to be printed. You can check out the results at Lighthouses and landscapes. North Island road trip 2020. For best viewing, use the Full Screen view.

Happy vicarious road tripping.


What is there not to like about omelettes. Particularly if the omelette is paired with a home-made apple and carrot sausage patty (don’t panic yet, I use readymade sausage meat). The apple and carrot sausage recipe is next up in the cooking department. I made them this morning and took a heap of photos. Now, in the meantime, cook you and your partner an omelette and serve it up with . . . hmm, some bacon maybe.

You can find the recipe here: Omelette recipe

J is confused: SMS #19

SMS19 J confused
J is confused about the tartan trousers (not PJs). I explained. I found them on the remaindered remainder rack of the buyer’s remorse section at a large shop that has a wide variety of goods of varying utility. I, being one to never walk past a stunning deal, got the last two pairs, hence when one pair ended up in the bin, there was the second pair ready and waiting.


The pen ran out: SMS #17

SMS17 The pen has run out#2
I am worried about Syd’s whereabouts. I am sure he will come back and probably tomorrow, however when we were in France back in 2012, he disappeared and when he finally turned up, he was the leader of a group of pigeons he met in Marseille. Still that’s another story. J thinks the worry is making me fade away. I said that is not the case; it is just that my pen ran out when I was doing the face bit. I fully expect to roar back into life tomorrow when I will have found my new pen. Also, I am determined to stay positive, maybe dear old Syd will pop out of the blue.




Clarification: SMS #16

From the editor

Thank you for all those who have sent cards, flowers and chocolates in the belief that the Sydney’s Morning Squawk artist suffered a nasty injury through falling over in the street. Please be assured that the artist is in rude good health and will get an editorial clip around the ear for worrying so many people. In addition, please be assured that Sydney has never been harmed in the production of the cartoons.

The offending cartoon passed the editorial process through some sleight of hand on the part of my staff. There are now comprehensive protocols, processes and policies in place that will ensure this situation will not recur. The artist did offer to resign, giving as grounds a desire to spend more time with his family. I knocked that on the head tout de suite.

In the meantime, I have enjoyed the chocolates. Remember to continue to send all cards, flowers, and chocolates to the editor and never directly to the staff.

Best wishes and stay safe.

The editor


SMH07 Jan reads the Tubby Boat news , Vancouver

Done a bunk: SMS #15

SMS15 Sydneys done a bunk#3
This is J editing. I know it is not easy. Trouble is though, Sydney saw the red penning of his squawk yesterday. He flew off in a huff and hasn’t appeared since. J and I are very worried. J is worried he will show up again and I am worried he won’t. I cannot imagine not seeing him again. J says the main problem is that I imagined seeing him in the first place. Sometimes. I think J lacks empathy though I wouldn’t say it out loud.

False squawk: SMS #14

SMS14 out of hospital
False squawk. Turns out the ambulance, sirens and lights were not needed. As Sydney pointed out J had tied the face mask too tight and once at hospital it was removed and I came round quite quickly. They did though, remove the tartan trousers. It was a bit painful; took off all the hairs in the lower regions. Be warned, don’t let the hairs on your legs grow through the fabric of your trousers. The calamine lotion helps. The hospital gave me some shorts to wear. J picked me up from the footpath outside the hospital. The good news is no one bothered me on the footpath.

Sydney’s morning squawk #11

SMS11 Nothing like an early morning run #2
I have changed the direction of my walk and sure enough, as I suspected, I do not need to climb as high. I won’t tell J about this bcause she will only say something smart and it’ll take me 3 days to think of a reply. And we all know that a rejoinder delayed is a rejoinder lost. Anyway, I say there is nothing like an early morning run and believe me, what I do is nothing like an early morning run. More tragic shuffle.

Sydney’s morning squawk #9

SMH09 at last peace and quiet resized1
There is debate about wearing face masks to stop the spread of germs. Initially I thought it was overkill. J said overkill is a really bad turn of phrase for the age we live in. She followed that by insisting I wear the tartan face mask. Still at least I don’t have to wear it around the house… yet. She gave me a cheery smile (at least I think it was a cheery smile) when I left for my morning walk.



Sydney’s morning squawk #8

SMH08 you have worn them 008 resized2
The tartan PJs are not PJs. They are judo trousers awarded only to top flight judo exponents from Scotland.

I came by them in one of the UK’s most prestigious op shops. They came complete with a label attesting to this. The label was authentic because it was handmade. They have caused some arguments with J saying they are PJs because they do not have pockets. I countered by saying that Scottish judo exponents wear a sporran and anyway you would never see pockets in a kilt. Sadly, I didn’t make this reply till two days later. I hate it when my best rejoinders fizzle because of a time lapse.

More travel, less travail

So often travel turns out to be travail. At least this is what happens to me.

I will give you an example. A few years back on a previous French trip we determined to go to the Airbus factory. The instructions for getting there seemed clear, as did the instructions that required visitors to register online for a tour of the factory. Needless to say, we didn’t manage to register for the tour and we got lost on the way.

The good side, though, is when we finally arrived at the factory, a tour had just started. And two of the registered particpants hadn’t turned up. The reception staff slipped our 80 euros into the till and shuffled us into the recently started tour. It was all in French, which suited J but left me occasionally bewildered, often baffled, and sometimes klutz-like.

And so to this book. This is my story about the 2014 journey to Paris and beyond. J, who travelled with me, tells her story in another book. Her writing is much more travel than travail. She tells of the places we went to and the things we did. I guess there is a place for that in travel writing.

You can read the whole story here.  More travel less travail 1



I’ve been thinking #1: Navigation lights

I have been thinking. Early morning walking can be a bit hazardous. The danger comes when others hove into view and one cannot be sure that the oncoming has seen you. Now, at sea, at night, there are very definite collision avoidance instructions; you know red to red go ahead and other rhymes (red over red the captain is dead and red over green sailing machine). Don’t be fooled, there is nothing cute about these. They are intended to avert calamity.

My idea is to adopt nav lights for walking in less than optimal visual conditions. So, I would have a red light on my left shoulder and a green light on my right shoulder. To complete the ensemble, I would have a white light shining out my rear. This lighting configuration would signify a person walking at walking speed. When the person was of a younger ilk and was either scootering, running, jogging, skateboarding or in some other way being propelled along the footpath, they would have the same lighting configuration with the addition of an all-round white light on top of their head.

Now the Government needs to mandate this form of lighting to ensure safety on our streets. I will email the Prime Minister about this. I reckon it will be law by sundown; so, look out your lights.

Sydney’s morning squawk #7

SMH07 Jan reads the Tubby Boat news , Vancouver
Happiness is a cafe table, a newspaper, a pain au chocolat and a long black.


Typical that we discover a great cafe on the day before we leave a place. There on the corner of Homer and Smith, just a couple of blocks or so from our hostel in Vancouver, we came across the Buzz Café, in an art gallery. It has vegetarian and vegan food, good coffee, and a super nice ambience. (Vancouver, 2015)

Sydney’s morning squawk #6

SMH06 Confusion resized smaller

Nothing but confusion followed by confusion. J says yesterday’s pic was all wrong in the caption department. She said it’s not her who is over-catering – she said she said it is me who is over-catering. I said no I am not over-catering. She said yes you are, you are cooking too much!! And then she called me a ‘dolt’. Four weeks of this – I ask you.


Star plant: Salvia

My purple salvia is a star plant in the autumn garden. The bees, honey and bumble, are loving it. As soon as the sun’s out, they get busy. Impossible to get a photo that shows how many, but on a warm day like today, there’s at least thirty at any one time.

The salvia is crowding the path but I don’t want to cut it back while it has so many bees. This salvia (actually, there are a couple planted together) was transplanted to this sheltered position against the sunroom in spring 2018 and it has bloomed continuously since summer 2018/19. It didn’t take long to reach the eaves. It gets trimmed regularly to make the path useable, and it bounces back quickly. It’s easy to strike cuttings from the prunings. My guess is the parent salvia will be short-lived given its vigour, but hopefully I’ll have replacements growing elsewhere.

Sydney’s morning squawk #4

SMH04 Dose Cafe, Paris resized

Back in the day, on holiday in Paris, we found Dose cafe on rue Mouffetard. They served coffee just like at home. It became a regular morning stop. We would occupy a table near a power outlet, fire up the computers and sit drinking coffee and writing. I felt very chic when we did this. I hoped the locals would see me as a Hemingway type figure, and J, to me was just like the author of Travels with Myself and Another.

Sydney’s morning squawk #3

SMH03 Sydney on stretcherSydney was stretchered off, straight back to the SPA (Seabird Protection Agency). He is now under sedation for a sore beak and will not, I repeat, will not be allowed to leave for several days. And he will be limited to nothing more than Scrabble.  Knowing Sydney, though, it will soon turn to squabble. A phone call is bound to happen, maybe J and I could sneak off.