Sunday, May 31, 2015

Right to Die?

A stunning piece appeared in the Kapiti Independent News today. Former Presbyterian Moderator John Murray wrote it and while his own view is unambiguous, he picks up the terrible irony of a hearing in a court used to judging alleged criminals rather than sensing the terrible truth as it affects a clearly innocent woman.

As last Monday approached I felt that all that would be said in the three or four days would not reveal anything that we did not already know. John, who sat in the public gallery, seems to have found that. But even that recital of what we have heard before has obviously moved him.   

He pleads that we engage seriously in the kind of informed debate that our parliamentarians are refusing to have on our behalf. I'm for that... 

Lift the Liquor Bans?

So the “Super City” of Auckland is going to review all its Liquor Ban areas. There's talk of lifting a substantial number of them.

It’s not long since we had to move heaven and earth to get alcohol banned in certain streets and parks and foreshores where the abuse of liquor was a public disgrace. Much of this kind of behaviour has been reduced where bans have been enforced. And we have a better regulatory environment for them now.

But perhaps the new rules came down rather too heavily and created a whole lot of LB areas where no demonstrable need existed. Maybe there was the kind of knee-jerk over-reaction with which so many social regulations are put in place. Certainly, I have a lot of sympathy with those who suddenly found that their accustomed picnic spot could no longer allow them a glass of wine with their lunch.

But I hope that the current relaxation in the use of liquor bans in appropriate public areas will not throw open the doors to the kind of behaviour that we used to see in the Bay of Islands. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Robin Hood Budget?

The National-led Government proposes to increase entry and exit charges at the country’s borders and is removing the $1000 gift to every worker enrolling in KiwiSaver. They could have used these two moves to achieve the long-promises surplus in this year.

But in this week's Budget the Government has not done that. Rather than offer the first suplus for nine years, they plan to increase spending on the poorest of our families. It looks like a neat Robin Hood principle: take a little from those who can afford it, and give it to those who are most at risk in our society.

But their motives are not unmixed. Our economy-led conservative Government is realising that investing in the 600 children a year who come to the attention of youth services will have a payoff. Normally half of these youngsters will end up as adults in prison, costing anything from $300,000 to $1 million each in their lifetimes. If an “investment” at this time can reduce this long-term cost, it makes economic sense. It's a fascinating move in a very conservative budget.

Question: Does the Government get credit for compassion for the poor, or merely for sensible budgeting. Either way, I guess, it has to be a good plan and we need to see more of that kind of thinking from those we trust to steer our country through these challenging times.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

It was a Happy Double 80th!

Image result for 80th birthday images
We’re so grateful to all who contributed to our combined 80th birthday party. Not least of all is the group that was least represented at the event: the medical people in Paihia, Whangarei, Auckland and Takapuna who are persevering with keeping Dave going when his realism tended to overtake his optimism since he got the cancer diagnosis thirteen years ago - there were no plans for an 80th birthday then.
Last Saturday, 16th May. saw huge and unexpected attendances from among the wider family with people travelling from all over to what Bev and I had thought was going to be a fairly modest, local event. We expected that we’d see our Kiwi grandchildren. But we were blown away that Emma was able to make a surprise visit from Sydney. All three spoke assuredly and amusingly. However, new great grandbaby Cohen David made not the slightest noise the whole time, capturing all hearts in a different way. We had a very special family dinner for twenty in the dining room where the younger generation at a table of their own obviously enjoyed themselves. (We were delighted that the Thomas clan also took the opportunity to have one of their famed get-togethers later during the evening).
Several of Bev’s twice-a-week Indoor Bowling friends were there. In fact, as a guest list expanded to include different groups, we received hardly any apologies at all! It was also very special to have the barbershop chorus and quartette along. These mostly very average singers have given us a very special experience as we have been settling into a new way of life. And it was a good rehearsal for a major performance we are doing at Centrestage Theatre next week for Age Concern’s free concert for oldies — we’ll probably be singing to some who are much younger than we are!
It was fun to be reminded of some of the experiences that we ourselves have recalled from time to time. It was fascinating to be told of events that had completely passed from our minds over the years. We appreciated comments on our contribution here in the last year or so. And it was moving and humbling to hear Keith Rowe’s summation of the contribution we had made in church and community over the years. I think I said afterwards that it was a bit like being at one’s own funeral! It was a very special time.
We were all really impressed with how the Village staff and facilities met our needs for this event. Inconvenience to other residents seemed to be minimal and no requests were too hard to meet. There was plenty of room for everyone to sit at tables but chairs were easily drawn together at one end for the obligatory slideshow on a giant screen.
Chef Amanah and the kitchen staff prepared beautiful and appropriate snacks for the afternoon. But they also produced casual lunches for a few and a big dinner for twenty family in the evening as well as their regular catering for seventy residents in the Serviced Apartments. Amanah is keen to do more of this kind of catering and we can certainly recommend her.
We had half an hour of informal time, then refreshments and some speeches. The Chorus sang a couple of numbers and we re-assembled to view the Golden Wedding slides, this time with commentary from Dave. We cut the cake that Joan carried on her knees all the way from Dunedin and our minister Robyn sang a moving blessing. The Chorus closed the afternoon with the Irish Blessing.
People said they appreciated the balance of the afternoon’s programme and of course Christine did an absolutely splendid job of keeping it all on track. Moving into a more comfortable phase of her own journey with cancer, she took time off work and spared no effort to see that everything went smoothly. So she was our number one guest at Dave’s  birthday dinner on 20th; it was a neat way to bring our 80th celebrations to an end.
We didn’t manage to speak to everyone personally last Saturday. So this is an appreciation of all that was done for us and said to us over the last few days—and years. To have such friends, to be held in such high regard and to be able to move forward with each other, is as much as anyone can possibly ask.

Our thanks and love to all

Bev and Dave Mullan

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A change of heart

Image result for seales lecretia

It must have taken some political will for the Government to decide to expand the very minimal tax on capital gain from house properties re-sold within a short time. A serious capital gains tax has been a principle that they have consistently refused to entertain. Even the Labour Opposition left it out of their last election manifesto!

But times change, and I have to have some respect for leaders who have become able to re-think decisions and policies that have become out of date. Even if the effect of the change is not likely to be very significant.

I guess it's my hope that the lack of consideration of End of Life Choice will also be something that parliamentarians will re-visit. I fear that particular cause doesn't carry the kind of economic pressure that is coming from the overheated Auckland housing market. But Lecretia Seales' application to the High Court on Monday 25th (See 9th May) is raising public awareness, The moment for a change of thinking may be approaching.

South African Decision

9th May
I see that today's NZ Herald has published the news about the South African High Court decision about physician assisted death.
Well, friends, you read it here first! Here's my post of 5th May.
Incidentally, I hope you're all signing the VES petition - it's only asking the government to "fully investigate public attitudes". That's hardly a controversial proposal, surely!

5th May
The South African High Court has ruled that a cancer sufferer should be permitted to seek an assisted death without the doctor concerned being charged with any crime.

There is a touching little link with New Zealand. The applicant,  Robin Stransham-Ford, was a high court advocate in South Africa and he said that when New Zealander Sean Davison was in trouble with the law over his mother's assisted death, lawyers in South Africa said nothing. Stransham-Ford said that when his prostate cancer became terminal, he saw his application to the court as a way of making amends for remaining silent.

Ironically, it is reported that Robin  died of natural causes on the very day his application was granted.

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society of NZ has been given leave to be associated with a similar application which will be made to the NZ Court on 25th May by Lecretia Seales. As in the South African case, this application, if it is granted, will apply only to her. But a precedent of a kind will be created.

I am going to send a donation to the fighting fund for this application. And spending most of today on yet another hospital procedure in connection with my prostate cancer I hope very much that it will be successful. It will not change the law, but it will prod a disgracefully disinterested Parliament into at least taking the issue seriously.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Family Budgeting

Now that some of my own books have been published in digital format I'm turning my mind again to a history project that ran aground a dozen years ago.

Family Budgeting in this country is a remarkable story. From the first formal commencement in in the far North in 1960 with strong support from Maori Affairs, it has evolved into a massive effort in almost every part of the country. A pile of taxpayer funding goes into some paid coordinator and administrative expenses, but the key is the vast volume of voluntary work done day by day by 1700 ordinary people who try to help families in financial difficulties. 55,000 enquiries were received in 2012 and budgeters were seeing more than 22,000 families for regular visits.

Not too many of the "steam budgeters" of the early days are still around and as one of the survivors I have been asked to put some material together. There's not much to work on. Most of us operated in a fairly informal style, without much attention to records. At least one very comprehensive file that I assembled disappeared completely after I left Dunedin in 1982. So research for the book is turning out to be a bit of a mission.

But, as I said in a recent post, the odd challenge is something that makes some of us want to get up in the morning.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Should've had a Murder Mystery Birthday!

Image result for 80th birthday
17th May
We had a blast at the combined birthday party yesterday. There was a great crowd, the Village facilities were excellent, and the conversations, informal and formal were fun but also very moving. Indeed, after some of the things that were said about us I felt that we must have died and were listening to tributes at our funerals!

Actually, I've been to quite a few funerals where people have commented that it was a pity that the deceased couldn't have heard the tributes.  In a sense, yesterday, Bev and I were very touchingly given an opportunity of that kind. It was a pretty special time.

After most of the folk had gone we had a a gorgeous roast dinner for about twenty family in the Village restaurant.  Today the new great-grandson departed for Blenheim and the grand-daughter from Sydney was taken to the airport and Bev's family flew back to Wellington, we're catching our breath at home.  What a weekend!

12th May
It's all go around here. A bit of a get-together next Friday for our joint 80th birthdays is turning into a major event with the Village catering team turning on a generous afternoon tea for 80.  80 people for an 80th celebration has a nice ring to it. Of course our barbershop chorus will be along for a sing. And there'll be slides and reminiscences from all over the place. Afterwards we'll have an evening meal here at the Village for the closer family. It promises to be quite a day.

We're also resurrecting our original Murder Mystery for a Village evening a few days later. Having not done this one for a couple of years and having a computer or two go down in that time, has made it quite a lot of work to put the show together again. But a stunning menu has been posted on the Village notice boards and the 70 or so available seats have been booked out for some time. All ten suspects have got their background material by now and I think they're looking forward to a lot of fun.

I keep on doing things that we thought I would never do again. Or, indeed, never at all - we never figured I'd make it to the first great grand-child or that he'd be coming to an 80th birthday party. Fantastic. My PSA isn't behaving itself lately but we're getting on enjoying life with some great bush walks, some really enjoyable singing as the Chorus becomes a little more proficient, and lots of interesting things to do.

But it was a very early start this morning and I think I will take an unaccustomed Nana nap while Bev is away at indoor bowls...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Scans and Prayer

Yesterday we spent most of the day getting to the hospital and back for a Scintigram. Apart from showing up some cracked ribs from a fall, it doesn't convey much to me.

But when I at last got home it was an interesting challenge to devise a way to prepare a "2014 and 2015" comparison which I am now carrying around on my phone and showing to anyone who asks to see it. (So far, nobody, actually.) 

In the intercession on Sunday morning I was a little disturbed to hear someone read from the circulated prayer book that "we give thanks for David, who is doing much better and we pray for the improvement to continue" or words to that effect. Quite apart from the fact that I didn't give permission to be mentioned in public, I really do not like this book of personal beggings to God in public worship. It too easily becomes just a gossip column and in my case the information given on Sunday was absolutely incorrect. And anyone who has asked me or looked at my blog knows that my PSA has shot up again recently. How can God help the situation when the information offered to her is absolutely incorrect?

But, wait, I have it all wrong. There are no less than three Davids in the church pastoral list. And I am correctly listed as Dave. So it can't be me, can it? 

Or can it? How would I or anyone else know? Let's stop reading out gossip in worship and calling it intercession. 

Toenote (that's a very small footnote) When I led intercession here I just held up the book and prayed "for the people and situations close to our hearts" or something like that... Won't that do?