Matches Maketh the Fire?

6 Oct

This piece was inspired by the following news story in today’s Rotorua Daily Post:

Cigarette stub warning after blaze  (Hold the [ Ctrl ] key down while clicking; it will open the news story in a new window, and you can get back here without distractions … heheh. This applies to all links in any web page.)

No mention in the piece was made by the possibility of the blaze being started by a still burning match–I guess because lighters are more frequently carried around by smokers.

I was a young child when I learned about matches. On the farm, there was always an understanding that a dropped match (back then wax matches were common) could easily start a summer fire in a hay crop or in the bush. (Another concern was a matchstick could get munched by a grazing stock, and splinter in its mouth, throat or farther down.)

So smoker farm workers would return the dead match to the box.

But as wax matches were so easily touched off, the Vespa (then even the Beehive brand “new” safety match) was returned to the box with its head at the opposite end of the box from the rest of the “live” heads.

R Bell & Co Wax Vesta matches

Bryant & May_RJ Bell_Beehive wax vestas & matches

Beehive matches box_earlier design        Beehive matches_twelve boxes_early design

Note the twelve pack of matches–children with little spending money would buy their dad a carton of matches as a birthday gift! ‘Quelle horreure!”

Today’s smokers borrowing my box of matches get Really Annoyed finding dead matches in the box! I still cannot let myself drop a match! I can’t even put it into an ash tray, after seeing an uncle light up his pipe and drop the hot Vespa into an ash tray. An unlit Vespa was lying there, and the heat from the blown out match was enough to set fire to the Vespa. (Aunty was Not amused.)

I believe hunters, campers and outdoorsy types can and do take wax matches along. They are safer now, not being lying loose in the box where the friction of them jumbling together could and would set the box afire. Thus they are stored in a tin, not the former cardboard matchbox.

Match superstition started during Boer War when night snipers picked off British soldiers as they lighted up. —
Match superstition started during Boer War when night snipers picked off British soldiers as they lighted up.

There was also a superstition–“It’s unlucky to light three smokers’ cigarettes from a single match”.

This came from war times. In the dead of night a sniper from the “other side” would see the flare of the match being lit, then the glow of the first to light up, the second to light up–and that was enough for them to work out where the third would-be smoker was, and shoot him.

(The link is to a Wikipedia article giving more details of the superstition on usage in popular media.)


Going Native…

21 Jul

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Think Global, Act Local.”

The global problem I often find myself thinking about…reading National Geographis, following environmental sites, watching documentaries…is the loss of local species of plant and animal species. It is horrific to know the reducing populations of animal species — so many to list. It is worrying to know how jungles, forests, swamp and marine environments are being destroyed by industry or spoiled by pollution.

I cannot do anything on a global scale — not even via donations. Being out-of-work after years of a debilitating health condition, and with the poor exchange rate from NZ$ to an overseas organization which may be working to make a difference is rather frustrating.

Locally? Different story…

I used to live along the street from the last patch of indigenous “bush” (native forest) which was home to our two most noisy song birds: Kerere (NZ Bush Pigeon) and Tui (dubbed by colonials as the Parson Bird).

The small patch of bush was part of the grounds of a private girls boarding school, and their annual magazines for years back always contained students’ written works (poems, short stories, articles) based on the glorious sound or sight of these two birds. The bush was protected under the NZ Historical Places organization, but nonetheless its boundaries have over the years been encroached upon by suburban homes “over the fence”. Home owners had felled trees in the bush over their boundary, to remove the cause of the extensive shade thrown by full-grown trees.

Shortly after we moved there, we saw both birds flitting and swooping from the protected bush up the street, across neighborhood gardens, to reach tall feed trees farther down the street. My children were horrified to be woken one morning by a neighbour’s chain-saw felling a Rata three houses down.

I knew which trees we could plant to offer feed to the Tui, and was glad to have in the garden a massive clump of Harakeke (flax) which has flowers offering nectar.

Later, in the grounds of one workplace I found self-seeded sapling Kowhai –another nectar source. I was allowed to pull them up and I distributed six of the strongest to colleagues who had new life-style blocks, and advised them to plant a flax bush right beside the Kowhai, to act as a wind-break to the sapling while it was still tender.

The other saplings I took home and potted up. From the Kowhai trees in the local Queen Elizabeth II park I gathered seed pods, and sowed a hundred in trays. I was rewarded with ninety-seven seedlings. My aim was not to sell the seedlings, even after raising them to planting size. What I wanted to do was take one to every neighbourhood between our house and the native bush, and present them each with a flax and a Kowhai to plant out.

Disaster…I was felled by Stiff Person’s Syndrome and required a “tin hip”, then three days later another as the surgeon botched the first replacement. The SPS took a hold on my life, leaving me in a hospital bed. The summer was a drought, and my darling husband was at my bedside every moment when not at work. His concern was for me…above my seedlings, which all shriveled away to leafless twigs.

We removed to another area completely, me being still bed-bound. In the first rental home, I could see from my bed a Puriri tree (no english title for it) smothered with beautiful bright pink flowers and later with berries. Tuis would call in at the Puriri to feed. One day a large flock of them arrived, feasted and flew away. They were there so long and in so large a number I took a photograph to be able to count them–eighteen. About twenty minutes later a larger crowd flocked in to the same tree. Again, too many to count unaided, but another photograph revealed this flock comprised twenty-three Tuis!

We were in that house for a year before moving to our current home. So, still thinking globally but having to/wanting to act locally, I again have dreams of sewing seeds for Harakeke and Kowhai, to be able to give to neighbors here in this area, I want to replace the Star Magnolia in our sunny back yard with a Puriri, to add to our two young Kowhai trees.

Tuis and wood pigeons do come to town here, but are a rare sight, as we townies have a city planted with imported deciduous trees from the northern hemisphere, whose leaves clog the storm water drains, and which do not produce food for the Tuis, Kereru, or the little Silver-eye birds.

I wish the local city/district council would plant natives as street trees. Native trees are almost all evergreen, so their leaves drop all year round, and are so small they are no nuisance to the storm water system.

in the meantime, let’s go native in our urban gardens, to support our declining native bird life. Please.


“What do you want to do when you leave school?”

10 Jul

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Futures Past.” : As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How close or far are you from that dream?

As a “kid” of sixteen (my final year of secondary school), if anyone asked me “what do you want to do when you leave school?” my reply always was the same. It shocked my mother so much that every time a customer (in our family dairy, where I worked after school and weekends she would interrupt and find a “job” for me to do in the back room.

“I’m going to be an educated bum.”

My feelings were based on my decision at the beginning of that school year to go “on strike” at school. And that was based on three years of attending a school at which a very, very small number of the teaching nuns were trained as teachers. The school was ill equipped, text books were years out of date,  we never worked once in the science lab, and the atmosphere was gloomy–except for the grounds, to which I would retire during catholic education classes, on the pretext of going to the grounds to study … whichever subject that nun also taught me.

I had barely scraped through the previous year’s qualification, School Certificate. At the time the passing requirements were a 60% pass in English, and enough %ages in four other subjects to amass more than 200 marks. I managed 204. And the only two reason I managed that were…

  • As an Elocution student since the age of twelve, I had learned much about the classics for performance reading in the annual exams. I had been so good a student that by the end of Fourth Form my elocution teacher had offered to allow me to study during the following year for an Elocution teacher’s certification. I had decided not to, as that would have been on top of studying for School C. (These days, I realise I should and could have done both.) But what I’d learned made the School C English exam a doddle.
  • At the dairy, among the magazines was one of those collection publications – buy one a week, maybe the binders, and by the end you had The Purnell’s Illustrated Encyclopaedia of the Second World War *. My dad allowed me a magazine weekly, and I would take it to school and read it whenever I could. And re-read it, many times over. When I went into the exam room for School C. History, I dreaded it, as I knew our school lessons had been worthless. But the second question was “Explain the many factors in Europe which led to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, and its consequential effects.” Bonanza! I spent the whole three hours writing just on that question alone, asking the invigilator for extra answer paper.

As for other subjects… I had studied Biology by asking the lads from the state school when they came into the dairy for a milkshake or ice-cream “Are you studying Biology tonight?” and if he/they weren’t, I’d borrow their Biology text and read it between customers, and he/they would collect it from the dairy on their way to school the next morning. For their cooperation, dad would give them a free mince pie. Sadly, I didn’t get a good exam result – just enough to get barely over the required 40% pass.

Hence my flippant response.

On my final day at school, I walked into the dairy to work, and Mum pointed across the shop to me …

“You start work at the accountant’s on Monday.” That was that. (Imagine that happening these days? Yeah, right.)

After a year there, they let me go. So I decided (much to Mum’s delight, she being a teacher) to try teacher training college. At the interview for selection, I was asked the usual …

“And what makes you want to be a teacher?”

“I don’t really. I can’t honestly say ‘because I love children’. I just want to have a go, and see how I feel after qualifying.”

“Well,” said one of the selection panel. “That’s probably the first honest answer we’ve heard. We’ll see you in Kelburn in February.”

How easy was that? And although I took a break during training, I did graduate and qualify. The certificate is framed. and leaning against the base of the wall, waiting for new glass. I’ve taught full and part-time children at all levels of compulsory education, some years of part time work in a different class level each half-day. I’ve taught in the State system and in a private secondary school. I held a Principal teacher (sole charge) in a way-out-back rural school. I’ve taught in the WASP communities, and in mixed ethnic communities. I’ve taught gentile mother’s little darlings, and hard-case forgotten children. I’ve lectured at tertiary level, after taking a degree in I.T.

And loved it all.

* Title may be “off”…the long-term memory is set to write-only/

Poor choice of Word – 3

18 Jun

Much of NZ was in grief at the death of our rugby star, Jerry Collins.

On the evening following the funeral, which was being covered by all news media, during the news program at six o’clock on TVone the reporter made an unfortunate blooper…

“…and as his carcass-[face in shock]-casket was carried …”

Needless to say, in the late evening news, another clip was found to air.
I wonder if the TVone on air (ie via internet) showed the News programme, because I know NZers will not believe me, and want to check.

21 House-hold Cost Cutters

13 Jun

21 Household Cost-Cutters

  1. Budget, budget, budget
  2. Allow your children to learn–let them see the budget, till runners, household bank statements, the bills and paying them, parents discussing the monthly household running costs
  3. Buy long-store consumables in bulk for discount–but not if they require refrigeration or freezer costs to keep
  4. Eat healthily–reduce illnesses and doctors’ and prescription fees
  5. Everyone exercises–(walking or cycling, sport, gardening, a recreational activity) to avoid bad muscle tone and health conditions, and avoid gym costs
  6. Keep the children’s allowances low–open a savings account for each one
  7. All boarders pay for their keep—even your children after leaving school
  8. VOIP—do away with that telephone bill each month
  9. Combine gas and electricity providers—possible dual fuel discounts
  10. Internet banking—pay an estimated “half” of the bill a fortnight before the complete amount is due
  11. AutoPay—avoid late fees
  12. Grow your own fruit and vegetables–organic is cheaper than chemical gardening
  13. Search for bargains on essentials–online or in catalogues
  14. Forget fashion–practical is longer lasting
  15. Everyone in the house learns basic clothing care and repair–even makeover dressmaking
  16. Buy on LayBy–get what you want without any price hikes while it waits until you have all the money saved
    • Chart children’s LayBy payments so they see how many more payments to go.
  17. Pay off the highest interest credit card or overdraft first–no matter what
  18. Call your credit card supplier and arrange a temporary spending block on it–ensure it’s Your choice when to unblock it
    • As the balance drops, arrange for a reduction in the allowed overdraft
  19. Learn to do without–especially it’s not within your budget
  20. Get rid of the DVD player and the DVD hire card
    • Prefer reading – the library is free
  21. Sell redundant kitchen gadgets–they use $$ to run them, whereas hand equipment is cheaper to buy and free to use

ME and AC/DC

27 May

In 2012, on a blogging group (blogster? multiply?) we were challenged to pick our favourite music performer/group, and use their titles to reveal something about ourselves. This is that post, revived…

Are you male or female: GIRL’S GOT RHYTHM

Describe yourself: PROBLEM CHILD

How do you feel: SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES

Describe where you currently live:  SIN CITY

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: HELL AIN’T A BAD PLACE TO BE

Your favourite form of transportation: HIGHWAY TO HELL

Your best friend is: RIFF RAFF

Your favourite colour is: BACK IN BLACK

What’s the weather like: THUNDERSTRUCK

Favourite time of day: You Shook Me ALL NIGHT LONG

If your life was a tv. show: SHOW BUSINESS

What is life to you: FLING THING

Your current relationship: DOG EAT DOG



Wouldn’t mind: LET’S GET IT UP

Your fear: T.N.T.

What is the best advice you have to give: ROCK AND ROLL AIN’T NOISE POLLUTION

If you could change your name you would change it to: WHOLE LOTTA ROSIE

Thought for the day: MONEY TALKS

How would you like to die: SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES or FLICK OF THE SWITCH



Poor Choice of Words (2)

27 Apr

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ring of Fire.”

If my memory serves me correctly, I can only offer as a response to this day’s prompt with the following.
The reason it is my only response is, when I heard of this,
I laughed so hard it has burned into my memory and blocks any other possibility.


The estate of Johnny Cash turned down a request from an advertising company
to use one of my personal favourites of his recordings,
“Ring Of Fire”, in an advertising campaign.

The product to be advertised?

A haemorrhoid cream!


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