Editor Virginia Larson sends a postcard from China.
The message came to Middle-earth from the historic heart of the East’s Middle Kingdom. “Ni hao from Xi’an,” wrote North & South editor Virginia Larson from China, where she was visiting her Beijing-based son Laurence, a singer-songwriter who’s handily fluent in Mandarin. “Buying tickets on the bullet train to Xi’an? I could have ended up Korea!”
One of China’s oldest cities, Xi’an is the eastern starting point of the Silk Road and home to the famous Terracotta Army (eight of these 2000-year-old warrior figures go on display at Te Papa in mid-december).
One night, the pair were out for dinner when an artist’s tray was delivered to their table. “I thought Laurence had ordered us a calligraphy lesson on the side. But no, it was edible: a potato-pastry ‘brush’ you dip into an ‘ink’ sauce and crunch into. In Beijing, they paint turtles; in Xi’an, they eat paint brushes...”
there, I again had no problems. So, I rented for 28 years with two landlords who rarely raised rents and maintained their properties – and did so willingly. This leads me to wonder why we need central government involved. Just as landlords should check out tenants, tenants should check out landlords. That would remove those landlords who abuse tenants, without the need for regulations. DUNSTAN SHELDON HAMILTON
HEAL YOUR GUT
I found Sarah Lang’s cover story, Gut Reaction [October] superbly good, both for the writing itself and the content. Sarah does quality research. She’s intelligent, articulate, real and hilariously honest. She is oh, so funny and insightful, and I delighted in how richly and well she uses language.
And well done, Alexandra Smith, for dodging diabetes so diligently! My next step (as a pretype 2 diabetic) is to read and implement Michael Mosley’s book, The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet, which I had already purchased. MARJORY MCSAVENEY AUCKLAND
Your correspondent Sarah Lang may be interested to know that New World and, I assume, other supermarkets stock “Food Snob” Buffalo Feta; also “Angel Food” Cheddar, which is softer than ordinary cheddar so would not grate well. However, as I have a dairy allergy, it is wonderful to now enjoy cheese on crackers again. Also, the chefs here sometimes serve me dairy-free ice cream. FAYE QUAYLE, CHARLES FLEMING RETIREMENT VILLAGE, WAIKANAE
After absorbing Kate Richards’ Milk Monitor appraisal of fancy milks [October], I went straight to the fridge and poured myself a glass of blue-top. My mind flooded back to post-war England and shopping with my granny – me carrying a heavy nonplastic bag, she clutching the family ration book.
Milk was delivered to your door, then. I remember watching, fascinated, as cows were milked on a dairy farm, and the farmer offering me a mug of fresh, warm, frothy milk. From that moment on, Granny had to put a mark against the level of milk in the bottle to prevent me from drinking too much. Now, for the first time, let me reveal that when no one was looking, I used to take a drink and top the milk back up to the line with water!
Who would have believed all these years later that no longer would milk be delivered to your door, but would achieve almost craft-beer proportions. JOHN NORRIS WHANGAMATĀ
I read with interest your piece about kea [ On His Best Night, He Shot 67 Birds, Nerd Nation, October]. It seems every South Islander has a kea story. I have a friend who gave an involuntary ride to a hitchhiking kea on his pack for over an hour while tramping near Arthur’s Pass.
And kea certainly do laugh. The writer and artist Molly Falla captured this perfectly in her book A Kea on My Bed (1974), starring a pet bird called Mr Kea. “He certainly had his own ideas about things,” she wrote. “Cigarette smoke was something that puzzled him. Annoyed with Bob one day for smoking too near his face, he promptly turned his backside and ‘squirted’ onto Bob’s trousers with uncannily accurate aim, then ran off cackling with ribald laughter.”
You can find more amazing stories about kea in the memoirs of Albie Collins, the late Wānaka kea hunter quoted in your article. He took a far darker view than Falla. Once, he claims, his suspicions on seeing a flock of kea helped search parties find two lost trampers.
“I said... if you go up there tomorrow morning, you’ll find that there’s blokes in that gully. They said, what do you mean? I said, the keas are feeding on them.’’
When the trampers were found, all that was left, according to Collins, were packs and bank books! “A lot don’t believe keas do that sort of thing,” he wrote, “[but] I’ve helped carry one or two off the hill that were only dead for a few hours at night and all the meat [had been] picked off the palm of their hand and wrists.” HENRIETTA BAKER CHRISTCHURCH
One would certainly hope that with technological and scientific advances, a cure for migraine will soon be found [ A Cure for Migraine?, September].
Some years ago, I ran a support group that participated in research and also lobbied on behalf of migraineurs. Our group had men and women members, young children, teenagers and through to people in their 80s. Young children and older people found the onset of migraine quite frightening, especially when sight became impaired and the pain, generally on one side of the head, intense. Being able to advise and support these people was the important aim of the group.
We participated in research in a number of areas and successfully lobbied for workplace changes to recognise migraine as an illness. Educating employers was an important and satisfying achievement. Having an advertisement that trivialised migraine removed from television was another. Some of our findings were:
1. Women who had never had a migraine but were going into menopause often get migraines for the duration. Conversely, some women did not experience migraine during menopause but began having them afterwards.
2. Older people often experience cluster headaches as well as migraines. The pain and frustration of these can lead to suicide but this is uncommon.
3. Men and women in jobs requiring intense concentration had more migraines than those in other types of work.
Weather conditions such as the hot Canterbury nor’wester and the cold of Southland winters can impact migraineurs. Among the many triggers are diet, bright and flashing light, constant stress and (in rare cases) strong perfumes. Genetics and hormones also have an impact and this is currently being researched.
As mentioned in Lydia Monin’s excellent story, the pain of migraine can become overwhelming, but there is help available. KATHIE HUGHES CHRISTCHURCH
Mike White’s Hop To It (Four Corners, August) on James Mcnamee and Fletcher Pilditch’s hop-growing venture in Garston, Southland reminded me of my old school mate – and All Black hooker – Terry Mccashin, who died a year ago at 73 [see photo, above].
Terry was New Zealand’s craft-beer pioneer. He took on the big brewing duopoly of Lion Nathan and Dominion Breweries when he founded Mac’s beer brand in 1981. Mccashin’s Brewery in Stoke is the oldest craft brewery in New Zealand.
I played rugby in the same team as Terry when we were both students at Horowhenua College in Levin in 1958. He played hooker then, too. BRIAN COLLINS WELLINGTON
I read with interest the story in your May issue, The Greatest Race (You Never Heard Of [on the coxed four who won New Zealand’s first rowing gold medal, at the 1968 Olympics]. I thought you might like to know some of us do remember it vividly.
I went to the Mexico Olympics looking for a job, as all the staff were volunteers in those days, and my boss was the New Zealand Olympic team physiotherapist, Stan Paris. They didn’t need any extra staff, but they did include me in some of their activities. When I could buy a ticket for an event, I did. But if I couldn’t get a ticket for something I wanted to see, Stan would loan me his official pass.
On the day of the rowing he did just that, and I went on the bus to Xochimilco to the rowing course. The gate staff didn’t worry about identity cards that didn’t necessarily match the wearer. I stood by the building part way along the course and yelled for the fours as they went past. We heard they’d won and also understood they had been given oxygen, as they certainly were in O2 debt.
It was a great rejoicing later back at the village. As a Kiwi, I was invited to help celebrate that evening. Stan needed his pass to come and go from the village so one of the team loaned me his gold medal to get in. I can’t remember whose it was but, as I was of similar age to the athletes, the Mexican gate keeper assumed I’d won it myself – and the crew were in such a state of excitement they were obviously winners! It’s the only time I have worn gold, I am sorry to say. I did a few tourist trips with some of the team members, too, and was often asked for my signature, along with the athletes’, by admiring small children everywhere.
At the closing ceremony, tickets were unobtainable. This time, discus thrower Robin Tait came to the rescue of a physio friend from Australia and myself. He was so large we could both stand behind him going through the checkpoint into the stadium without being seen. It was a terrific finale with mariachis and the Mexican wave.
Somewhere I have a slide of the rowing crew passing the marker pole I stood by. I wish them well for the 50th anniversary. I will wave the towel I have as a souvenir! JAN CAUDWELL, VIA EMAIL
“Terry Mccashin was New Zealand’s craft-beer pioneer.”
Above left: Colourfully painted turtles for sale in Beijing. Above right: A bride poses in an alleyway in Xi’an. Virginia Larson and son Laurence at the Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an.
Cheeky kea, so it seems, aren’t always a laughing matter.
Horowhenua College’s rugby team in 1958, with future All Black hooker Terry Mccashin at far left in the front row and letter writer Brian Collins in the back row, second from right. “[ Terry] played hooker then, too.”