Tag Archives: community

How is your day?

A simple question often asked, a nicety, exchanged as a way to kill the silence, friends who know me will know my motto of don’t ask a question you don’t want to hear the answer to…… Continue reading


A Bed and a Dresser

“No problems shifting these days” he quipped, “all I have is a single bed and a set of drawers”, I don’t know what I am going to do, my daughters don’t want me. Continue reading

On the road

I first drove over the Kaimai ranges in 1979, I had been there before with others and in fact I had walked over the ranges before I drove over.  These days the road is well made gone is the notorious hairpin bend which I once rounded sideways due to ice, no gravel patches either.  It is a steep drive from the Matamata side.  The road is deceptive in that it is well built but it is just not designed for speed.  Continue reading

There be Monsters (Well Mad Max at least)

Fetch your pitchforks and clubs, light your torches gather your prejudices and leave your intellect, compassion and empathy Imagein the cupboard, there are mad people afoot! Well in Morrinsville there are.  If you are a Morrinsvillian then you may know who I am talking about, it doesn’t matter really as most places have their own Mad Max.  In this instances I will give you a thumbnail sketch, he weighs about 45 kgs, walks with a bit of a stoop these days, often wearing a full length oil skin coat, at times quite a natty dresser but then something missing you may see him in gumboots, an incongruous sight.   He is in his late 80’s now by his reckoning but gets out everyday and walks downtown, it used to be with a suitcase in his hand but these days he uses a Zimmer frame.Image

Why Mad Max you ask, well his name is not Max, he is called Aubrey.  Now Aubrey is an articulate man who is full of stories, I am not sure how much is truth, legend or just plainly made up to fill a gap of memory.  Aubrey is probably autistic, he says he plays the piano every day (complains that he needs his glasses and that he is not allowed to play before 8:00 am).  Aubrey lives in supervised accommodation these days, he used to have his own house. Now as I have written before kids can be cruel, they are like chickens really.  If chickens see something different about another one or they sense a weakness they will peck that chicken to death, turn on it and harass it hence the expression a pecked hen.  Well Aubrey is different, viewed with suspicion (an old man who lived by him self and wears a long coat).  Kids would walk along past his house on the way to school and throw things or insult him, invariably Aubrey would have enough and chase the kids and throw things on occasion.

Now I know this as a fact because he did it to my daughter once, she assured me that she had not wound him up that it was the girls in front of him that had.  On this occasion Aubrey threw something and it hit her and made her bleed. I was outraged who the heck is this Mad Max?  I called the Police and insisted that they deal with him, a menace to society, should be locked up.  Mad Max roams the streets looking for kids to harm.  Well the Police contacted Aubrey and told him off, issued him with a warning.  The story could end there but it doesn’t.  He wrote an apology letter and I saw something.  We invited him to church and he came to our house for Tea.

Aubrey is a harmless man who is different, he is talented articulate and even engaging.

He like most of us want to be seen as normal and to have the things that we all want.  He was even married briefly, unfortunately it seemed to be an attempt to fleece him and the community stepped in and sorted it out.  I saw Aubrey this morning whilst I had a coffee and we chatted a while.  I thought I should see him a bit more but I won’t.  Truth is I am too busy and life is like that.  I will stop and say hello, always wave and no doubt mourn his passing when he leaves this mortal coil.  Aubrey tells me he is looking forward to be in a place where everyone is friendly.

It is no secret that I dislike Morrinsville, for a whole lot of reasons but probably more than anything else I dislike my personal situation right now.  But let me say this.  Aubrey is safe in Morrinsville, he can walk the streets without fear, he became unwell one day and we bundled him into a car and took him home, no problems.  There are a few people, simple souls, the Delta Dawns of the world who live here and live here safely.  The cannot count some of them but lord help a checkout operator who gives them the wrong change, our community watches as they are dealt with and deals with those who would exploit them.  So thank You Morrinsville, lets extend that to the entire community, lets give a dam,who knows what may happen. Wherever you are, next time you see a monster in the street, put your pitchfork and clubs away, and smile or say hello!  I cannot guarantee the response but it is worth a try.


Murder up close and personal

Death came visiting on Jan 13, he reached out his clawing grasping diremptive hand and took my friend. Robyn was a mother, daughter and friend to many. Robyn was a foster child in our care many years ago, Robyn called me dad.  Sunday Jan 13 Robyn was murdered in her home.  I know who it was and the manner of her death but this is all sub judice and largely irrelevant beyond the fact that she was murdered.  Robyn Alma Grace was 43.

Robyn had her struggles in life, many disappointments and trials but like many of us her needs were simple, she wanted to love and be loved.  I remember her as an extremely lively young woman with a mouth that was shall we say quick to invective and quick to laughter as well.  She was a fiery independent woman, hard working and caring.

Robyn was one of many young people who came through our home and the hostel and family home we ran.  I read about Robyn’s murder at knew that Robyn lived in Picton but it didn’t register for me as I thought Robyn was younger, although on reflection I think that I was in denial.  I didn’t check it out I didn’t want to know.  On the following Thursday I picked up a paper and there it was her full name and then there was no denial.  The shock and horror of the matter started to settle in.  I haven’t seen Robyn for 25 years however last year Robyn popped back into my life through facebook.

Robyn was having difficulty, she had a growth on her face and it wasn’t been taken seriously.  I assisted Robyn in being taken seriously.  It turned out that Robyn had melanoma.  I organised support for her all from a distance as we live some distance apart 620 km to be exact.  I have to admit that Robyn was very needy and that it suited me to have the distance as Robyn had lost none of her intensity over the years and the best I could do was to reach out through my networks.

I experienced this death almost as a voyeur, I realised that it had affected me much more than what I thought.  I have experienced violent death before and quite horrific as well but I was not connected to the victims. This connection has made it personal and I am unable to stand apart from it so I choose to move through it.

Robyn experienced mental illness and her murderers did as well.  Mental illness is so difficult to deal with.  Finding a balance between individual freedom and societal responsibility.  I used to conduct a non denominational service in a large Mental Institution nearly thirty years ago.  I used to preach forgiveness once a month regular as clockwork.  Particularly forgiveness of self, however there are some people whose mental illness is beyond anything that they can do about it and it is with these people that we do not do very well in New Zealand.

Mental health providers are underfunded and overworked and the science of saying who is dangerous is very inexact however I think we err far too often on the side of the individual rather than on the side of a safe society.  We have to decide however if we want a liberal society then we need to spend the money to monitor and help those with mental illness who pose a potential threat far more intensively.  We also need to ensure that as individuals we report behaviours that are concerning and those who work in mental health need to get with the programme and lose their mantle of the expert and need to listen to community concerns about people with much more sincerity.  I have experience in trying to get people help and it is a minefield of people trying to pass the buck and professionals who are either too jaded too liberal or so enamoured with their own misguided infallibility that their judgement is clouded to say the least. Underfunding exaggerates the problem and often families are left to deal with situations way beyond their level of ability in the guise of community care. With tragic outcomes.

In the case of Robyn’s murder there will be no doubt an examination of the role of the mental health providers in the interaction with her murderers, that is appropriate but it is too damn late for Robyn! We need to demand a more accountable better funded and more responsive service to those who live with mental illness and the society that they live in.

Go free my friend Robyn no more pain and suffering for you my amigo!