Ngati Stewart Gathering, June 2, 2013

When I was 5 Dad took me to play rugby league with the Otahuhu Rugby League Club. Dad’s mate would come around some weekends and they would drink beer on the front steps of our house while us kids played bullrush. Kurt Sorenson was one of those kids. He was bloody hard to tackle too.

I remember the first game I played was at Cornwall Park and we lost 36 nil. I remember Dad saying ‘Did the other team score 12 tries against you?’ Tries were only worth 3 points back in the olden days.

That was when Dad and Mr Sorenson decided it was time for the kids to practice tackling while they looked on and drank beer in the sun.

Anyway, rugby league was pretty much in it’s infancy back then, and so was South Auckland really. At some stage it was decided to set up some new clubs and Dad was one of those who got the Mangere East club going. He was on the founding committee and I was a foundation player. I had a pennant that hung in my bedroom for years that said 1963 Foundation Year. I lost it of course.

The football club soon became Dad’s other passion and he spent a lot of time coaching teams and giving his time to advance rugby league as a wholesome game for kids to learn.

Dad coached some great players, some legends in fact. He was instrumental in starting up the now national rugby league tournament that runs throughout the school holidays and he took the first ever schoolboy rugby league team on a tour of Aussie. He set up sister club status for Mangere East and Ryde Eastwood in Syndey and helped establish the first links to New Zealand players entering the Sydney competition.

He even brought in one of the first illegal pokie machines. If my memory serves me correctly he even got convicted for that.

All the time Dad was building up the rugby league club he had 6 growing sons and a daughter.

7 kids might seem a lot today, but in the 60’s it wasn’t too rare. Dad always joked that he had 6 sons to carry his coffin and his daughter would support his wife at his funeral.

That’s exactly what happened.

Dad worked as a freezing worker as a meat packer in the B Packing Room at Hellaby’s. Short back and no sides and on strike every Christmas.

He worked hard, starting at 4 am in the killing season, and he came home absolutely tired. He had a good woman looking after the kids and her name was Mum.

From an early age the Stewart kids were taught how to behave in public and soon learned that Dad had many eyes out there keeping watch on his kids and making sure none of them went off the rails.

We didn’t go to people’s places to play, we had a big section and we played together. We stayed at our grandparents places or at our cousins places in the school holidays. Everything was family orientated.

On Sunday’s our grandparents would come and get us and take us to Cockle Bay for a swim and then we’d come home after and Mum would feed us up on Pipi fritters.

We grew up like that. A big family, but close. As we grew the family got bigger. As teenagers our friends were encouraged into the wider family, calling Mum Ma or Mrs S and Dad was Mr Stewart. Dad would round us all up at Christmas and we’d take taxis up to the Cossie Club to get drunk and then taxi it home again where he’d make sure we all were safe.

Then the sons got wives and children and they were all welcomed into the tribe, and slowly it got bigger and bigger and Mum and Dad started organising big family get togethers at Buckland Road. Dad built a swimming pool and spent untold hours looking after it, but he never once went in it. It was for the kids and their friends.

As Mum and Dad got older the family gatherings started shifting to other people places to give them a break, they were getting a lot older now.

And they kept getting older, and the family kept getting bigger and it was all good

Then Dad got sick and he died.

We kept the family gatherings going, and they kept getting bigger.

Then Mum got sick and she died.

And the family gatherings kept going and the family kept getting bigger.

And everytime we get together there are new babies and new wives and husbands and the family keeps getting bigger.

And now the 6 sons and the daughter are getting older.

And they sit and their children bring them the grandchildren. And the aunties and uncles meet the cousins and the nieces and nephews all go and play down the back and are just about at the age where they will need to be watched in case they are smoking dope and sly grogging.

This weekend Mangere East Rugby League Club celebrated it’s 50th jubliee probably at the clubrooms in Mangere.

The Ngati Stewart all got together this weekend at Andrew and Lisa’s place in Waiuku.

In our own way we celebrated something special and unique about each one of us, the bond we have that is our birthright and is ours for ever, even after we have gone.

I don’t know much about why a man is born, or why a man dies, but I know why he lives and that is to do something to give his life meaning.

Today, in Waiuku, we celebrated that.

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Changing Gear

blogdexterI’ve got a bit of a band going these days. It’s called Servo. Like us on Facebook.

It’s not much but at the same time it can be everything if I want it to be.

My mate Robbie from my teens is the drummer, my neighbor Matt is the bass player and up until a few weeks ago my niece Danielle was the other guitarist/singer.

We play garage punk music covers from bands like The Clash and The Troggs and Frank Zappa and The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

I’ve always been involved in music in some way, ever since Robbie taught me to play the drums in the 70’s. Now that I’ve got the time to put into a band it’s purely for fun, but there was a stage there for a while when I thought I could do more with it and i ended up writing a bunch of songs.

I never stopped writing songs though, but not in order to seek fame and fortune. It was more to just have a way of expressing things in a way that meant something to me.

My blog will be peppered with links to my songs and videos so if you’re not used to that yet, you soon will be.

With my songwriting I usually write and record alone but recently I have teamed up with Pj Newton, who has performed at my annual farm concert at Waikaretu. I reached out to Pj because the kind of songs I have been writing recently have tended to be more suited to a woman’s voice and a softer touch than I tend to get when I move into my studio.

We came up with a few nice songs but what we both really noticed was how easy it was to work together.

So we decided to give it a weekend and see what came out of it.

It started off early on Saturday morning with us meeting up in Manukau and heading back to the farm. Light lunch followed by a relaxing afternoon of the pair of us singing songs to each other around a slowly evaporating whiskey bottle. Pj cooked an amazing feast and after dinner and more whiskey we shifted the party into the studio.

It didn’t take long to kit Pj with an electric guitar, a blond Epiphone Dot 335 with a set of Seymour Duncan Vintage Blues pickups. I plugged her into my Vox AC30 with an sm57 piping it into the deck and put a Blue Baby Bottle mic in front of her.

And away she went.

We finished late, or early, depending on what you call 5 am. Sunday was very similar to Saturday. By the time we were done we’d decided it was worth taking this a bit further.

What we’ve come up with is a foggy notion of a plan, a road to follow I guess. No one is really sure where to road is going, but it feels like the right road to be on right now.

Pj will work on her solo material with solo performances and in the confines of Servo gigs, opening with as a solo artist and building up the set from there.

It gives Pj a vehicle for her solo work as well as a band for the group stuff she has in her repertoire and it provides Servo with a much needed new voice.

So far everything has just fallen into place without any of it requiring much effort.

We’ll get the full band together soon and see just how well it all gels and we’ll post some music and videos along the way to keep the record straight.

In the meantime here are some photos, songs and a video of the weekend just gone.

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Bleeding

Let Me Tell You About Bernie

Bernie

Bernie

Last night I went to Bernie’s 56th birthday party in Thames.

There were 60 others there.

Let me tell you about Bernie.

Bernie is an old school mate. At school Bernie was one of those pivotal teenager cool guys. He was taller than everyone else, had longer hair than everyone else, he had better parties than everyone else and didn’t have his head up his arse like a lot of ‘cool’ people did.

Everyone knew Bernie and when I hooked up with Ross Hudson included in that hook up was invites to Bernie’s parties.

Ross, Robbie Paul, Roger and I would all pile into one of our cars, usually Roger’s 57 Customline if we had enough gas money, grab a crate of DB Green for the St George Bottle Shop and head out on a Saturday night on the hunt for the good old days.

And we found them too.

So Bernie was part of that old school tribe of ours. So that makes him a friend of some 40 years.

Towards the end of last year Bernie wasn’t feeling well. He went to the doctor, the doctor sent him for tests.

He got asked to go in and was told he had terminal cancer and was going to die.

He had more tests and more tests and spent a lot of time in hospital and at home grieving with his family and friends.

I’ve never been told I was going to die, other than the time I was involved in trade unions, and I can only start to guess what it must feel like to get news like that.

Well Bernie had to deal with all of that, tell his partner and his kids and his friends that he was a walking dead man.

He started reflecting on a lot of things, as you would.

Before he could finish he got called back to the doctor.

The hospital was mistaken.

He didn’t have cancer after all. He was in fact fine. It was a mistake.

So this year for his birthday Bernie invited everyone to Thames to thank them for all the support and love and to tell them that he loved them back.

So there we all are in a crowded restaurant, with 60 of us sitting at the world’s longest table and a bunch of other diners wondering what was going on, then Bernie stood up and told us his story, and how much different his life was now compared to November 2012.

When he finished, everyone clapped, his family, his friends, the other diners and the staff.

It was a special night, for a special friend, and it was humbling to be there for it.

Happy birthday Bernie.

Let’s do it again in another 56 years bro.

The Road Is The Goal

The Road Is The Goal

The Road Is The Goal

Ever since I was a little chap I’ve been encouraged to set goals and pursue them. It took me a lot of years to find this advice isn’t for everybody.

It might suit some people but it’s just not suitable for me. I’m too random, too easily distracted, and I have trouble prioritising things. I like to take my time and enjoy diversions.

I did an apprenticeship with the New Zealand Railways and hold the record as the apprentice who took the longest time to complete his indenture. Ever.

I just had other things to do.

I was playing in rock bands, falling in love, having babies, going to the beach, sleeping, coming home from parties and having a life.

Becoming a tradesman was a real nuisance to all of that.

When I eventually did complete my time I realised that I had learned a lot more than just what my trade entailed.

I’d learned for example that being blindly focussed on reaching a goal you set 6 years previous meant you ran the chance of missing out on some bloody great opportunities along the way.

Goal setting is limiting I reckon.

You set your sights on the final goal but you tend to ignore opportunities that come along that don’t fit your ‘goal’, so you let them pass you by.

Not always, but often, this is the case.

I think for some people it’s better to establish the there is a road to the goal, and the road itself is in fact the goal.

When something comes along that distracts you, or interests you, or demands your attention, stop and check it out.

It might turn out to be what you were looking for all along and never knew.

I thought the goal was being a coachbuilder, it turned out that was just part of it. The road is the goal. Enjoy the scenery. Stop for coffee. Take photos. Listen to the music. Smile at the people rushing by.

Stay on the road.

It’s Moments Like Those You Need Mintos

John Minto 1985

John Minto 1985

Today is John Minto’s 60th birthday.

Happy Birthday John!

Today’s photo was taken in 1985 in a little flat in Newton on the night that the High Court issued the interim injunction preventing the New Zealand Rugby Football Union from sending a representative team to South Africa.

The injunction was issued after two rugby club members protested to the court that the tour would not promote rugby in New Zealand which was the constitutional objective of the NZRFU.

In 1981 I knew little of sports in South Africa, or racism in sport in general. The NZRFU inviting an apartheid team to tour New Zealand in 1981 changed that for me and a lot of other people.

There are a lot of arguments that still rage today over the 1981 tour, but all that proves is that racism in sport is divisive.

Towards the end of the 1981 tour I was so impacted by what I had seen that I had brought a 35mm camera and had started taking photographs and developing them in a darkroom in the bathroom.

By the time the tour was over I had a job as a photographer.

1n 1984 the apartheid South African Rugby Board invited the All Blacks to tour apartheid South Africa as a representative team from New Zealand.

Many people opposed this tour and I was one of them. I started going to small protests and always took my camera. By the time the No Tour 1985 movement was in full swing I was attending most of the planning meetings and I photographed the entire anti-tour campaign as best as I could.

I met some incredible New Zealanders along the way, people who put others first and made huge sacrifices to pursue something they truly believed in.

I respect everyone who signed a petition, attended a prayer vigil or took to the streets to be counted made sure that the 1985 Tour never went ahead.

But at the head of all of this there was John Minto.

I’ve been involved in enough committees and organisations to know what leadership is, and more importantly what it isn’t.

It isn’t saying ‘Follow Me’

I watched countless times as John Minto, as leader, made sure everyone’s opinion was heard and considered. He made sure that there was a level of protest available for everyone who wanted to participate at a level they were comfortable. And he encouraged people to go as far as they felt was right. From prayer vigils to facing baton charges from riot squads. At that time he was challenged by many of rugby’s big names, all of whom we have most likely forgotten by now. And that is as it should be. People who defended racism in sport are best forgotten.

I consider John  Minto to be one the great New Zealanders, and one of the greatest leaders this country will ever see.

Leadership is not something we see a lot of anymore. We see a lot of greed and self interest, we see a lot of bad people doing bad things. We see too much mediocrity.

We see these things every single day.

Today is a good day to celebrate John Minto.

 

 

What Would You Say?

If they took me away
And shot me today
What would you say?

homeThe state is beefing up it’s spying powers.

Not because it needs to, if that is what it was about then we could actually have an intelligent discussion.

No. This is to cover up the prime minister’s shoddy administration of the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) Kim Dotcom case. Kim Dotcom upset a lot of the US government biggest financial supporters. And as a result the GSCB was enlisted for a foreign government to spy on a New Zealand citizen.

When it was found out that this secret operation was illegal, Key, who is the sole person able to protect us from the GCSB breaking the law, said he didn’t know anything about it. We know that’s not so.

The GCSB said the law was ambiguous and confusing in relation to what it’s powers were over spying on New Zealanders.

Really?

14. Interceptions not to target domestic communications

Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

That looks as clear as dog’s balls to me, but I’m not an intelligence person.

We have agencies whose job is to operate surveillance on New Zealanders, the police and the S.I.S do this. We don’t need to extend the powers of an organisation that has demonstrated a clear preference for acting illegally to serve foreign interests. We certainly don’t need to extend those powers simply to retrospectively cover up the poor job the prime minister has done protecting New Zealanders from illegal spying.

These new powers allow the GCSB to break into our homes, place cameras and bugs, listen to our phonecalls, read our emails, monitor our internet use and watch our every movement every second of every minute of every day – without a warrant.

And without supervision as we saw when they acted illegally over Dotcom.

I don’t often write songs and record them and make videos…

But I felt the need to do and say something because I think doing nothing is to support this kind of garbage politics…

Spies

If they took me away
And shot me today
What would you say?
What would you say?

They read your mail and mine
watch your every move online
tapping your phone
filming inside your home

They watch where you sleep
the company you keep
they hear what you speak
every day of every week

The GCSB
they’re watching you and me
they’re your facebook friend
never guess it’s pretend

They make their own rules
with those self serving fools
elected instead
by that hole in your head

The lists that they make
Are the people they take
Outside by a wall
where they shoot them all

If they took me away
and shot me today
what would you say?
what would you say?

Spider Web

Spider's Web

Spider’s Web

Out in the garden early today as the sun was rising and heating the dew off the plants and spotted this.

Shadow Of Doubt

Shadow of Doubt

Shadow of Doubt

For a short time in the early 80’s I lived with two mates from the railways, Mike Jeffries and Lance Eavestaff.

Mike was a thrill seeker. He rode a big fast bike, jumped out of airplanes every weekend and was a male stripper for hen parties. He liked to live dangerously. We all called him Jaffa.

Mike’s father was Detective Sergent Murray Jefferies of the Otahuhu Police Station who had a bit part in the book below.

I hadn’t taken much notice of the Crewe Murders to be honest as the trials unfolded, but you couldn’t really ignore the efforts of the Thomas retrial committee as they fought to free an an innocent man.

Mum was a wardsmaid at Middlemore while Thomas was hospitalised during his imprisonment. I remember her coming home to Buckland Road one night and telling me ‘He is innocent, I can tell by his eyes, he couldn’t have murdered anyone’

That was good enough for me.

Anyway, once Thomas got pardoned there was a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the case and the police all got together before it. Mike’s father was working in Gisbourne at that time I think but he was called up to Auckland for the pre hearing briefings and came around to visit Mike at my house.

I showed him this picture and he asked for a copy of it.

I also told him I thought Thomas was innocent and had been fitted up.

He wasn’t as keen on that, but he took the photo all the same.

As it turned out Mum was right about Thomas, he never murdered anyone, and the cops framed him with planted evidence.

He did ten years in jail.

Arthur Allan Thomas is the reason I oppose the death penalty.

Mike went on to form a tandem skydiving company in Taupo. He’d take people up in his areoplane and harness them to himself and take them down to earth again safely. He was a really experienced jumper, 1000’s of jumps. One day it all went wrong and he and another guy died when both chutes failed to open. Bloody tragic.

R.I.P Jaffa.

Born Again?

And how appropriate to kick off the reborn website on Mother’s Days?

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day

My mother was my hero, and mothers everywhere still are my heros. This is not to denigrate the role of the father, that is important too, but  in my case it was a different role that Dad played. Mum was the person whom taught me about love and tenderness. About caring and sharing. And about treating every one the same.

Which is not to say Mum didn’t have favorites, she did. She had 7 of them.

I can’t speak for everyone, and I hope others have similar stories about their Mums but my Mum really was the person who shaped me and made me who I am today. From my sense of fairness to my ability to cook a meal, all of this was nurtured by Mum.

She was the one who took us to sport’s on the weekend and cheered us along. She introduced us to music and explained where toys came from at Christmas, she picked us up when we fell over and dressed our wounds. She could spread a meal over any number of mouths at a dinner table and she never turned down any one who stayed for a feed. She was the one who arbitrated the sibling wars of our childhood and she was the one who went hungry if there was a shortage of food. She had the oldest clothes and the coldest baths.

She really was a superhero.

When she died it was with all of us close at hand and we gave her a send off fit for a hero.

But in reality, she is still with me every day, I hardly think about her not being around. Every night when i go into the kitchen and cook dinner, she is there making sure I do it right. When I go into the garden I notice her favorite flowers. When I hear music I can hear her singing along to the older songs.

I believe people live forever if you remember them, and honor them in the right way.

For the last few years I haven’t been able to celebrate Mother’s Day, because Mum isn’t around.

But I have two daughters who are Mums, and they are great Mums, so from this year on I am giving them Mother’s Day presents and thanking them for being such good mums to my grandchildren.

I’m sure of you have a look around you will see heaps of mums being superhero’s every day. I have heaps of friends who fit this description and I never get tired of telling them that I think they are heros.

Because they are.

So this Mother’s Day, if you don’t have a mum to wish happy mother’s day to, find one. Tell her what a champion she is. Tell her I sent you.

🙂

Here’s a slideshow we did for our Mum… our bridge over troubled water.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

What Do You Call An Act Leader In A Suit

When John Key ordered the party faithful of Epsom to help rig the last election he told them to vote for the former National party Police Minister John Banks.

How did they feel seeing their MP in the defendant dock on Friday.

John Banks, Government Minister

John Banks, Government Minister

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8646686/I-haven-t-committed-any-offence-ACT-leader