Saturday, May 4, 2013

Tiny Tinui paid a high price for patriotism

(First published in The Dominion Post, May 3.)

SHORT OF Gallipoli itself, or perhaps the famous Menin Gate in  Ypres, there can be no better place to observe Anzac Day than the charming rural settlement of Tinui, in the Wairarapa.
Several things make Tinui perfect. First, it’s an enchanting little place, tucked away in a pretty valley and proudly preserved to look much as it would have decades ago. Even the original village jail is still intact.

Second, Tinui has profound historical significance. It was there that the world's first Anzac Day ceremony was held in 1916, when Anglican vicar the Rev Basil Ashcroft held a service in the tiny Church of the Good Shepherd (still in use) before leading a procession up nearby Mt Maunsell to erect a permanent memorial.
A cross stands on the hilltop still, though the original wooden one had to be replaced in 1965 after being battered once too often by the wind. It has become traditional for people to climb the steep track to the cross after attending the Anzac Day service at the Tinui Memorial Hall, where the local women’s institute provides a classic country morning tea: asparagus rolls, bacon and egg pie, club sandwiches and, naturally, Anzac biscuits.

But perhaps the most striking thing about Anzac Day at Tinui is that it brings home, in a way few other places can, the human impact that the two world wars had on small communities.
As part of the service, schoolchildren stand in front of the war memorial and recite the names of the men who went away and never came back. Thirty-six locals died in World War One, including seven at Gallipoli, and 12 in World War Two.

It’s hard to imagine the impact those losses must have had in a small, isolated rural community. Among those killed in the 1914-18 war were two lots of three brothers.
Masterton mayor Garry Daniell told me after last week’s service that many farms in the Tinui district were run by strong, matriarchal women who, when the menfolk failed to come home, rolled up their sleeves and took over.

He also recalled that as a boy aged about 10, he met a local spinster who mentioned that her husband had died in the war. When the inquisitive young Daniell asked his name, she answered: “I don’t know. I never met him” – a poignant way of explaining that marriage was denied her because the war took the lives of so many eligible local men.
* * *

ONCE AGAIN, Radio New Zealand has debased the word “debate”.

It’s currently broadcasting what it calls a series of “debates” on the current review of New Zealand’s constitution. But they are nothing of the sort. 
They are cosy consensus sessions featuring safe speakers who can be counted on to agree broadly on the key issues. While the participants are learned and articulate, it’s dishonest to pretend these affairs are a genuine contest of ideas.

They are a sham, creating the misleading impression that the highly contentious issues under discussion – such as the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitutional arrangements – are largely settled.
The only hint of dissent comes in the few minutes allocated for questions at the end, when one or two brave souls have the temerity to ask pointed questions – such as whether the speakers favour a society in which rights are allocated on the basis of race.

Even my left-wing fellow columnist Chris Trotter is appalled, pointing out that there are plenty of people willing and able to challenge the politically correct orthodoxy of the “debaters”. (Ironically, the same Chris Trotter recently denounced me for suggesting some Radio New Zealand programmes were biased. Perhaps he has had a change of heart.)
This charade closely follows a series of pretend “debates” on the Treaty, also broadcast by Radio New Zealand, to which I referred in an earlier column. The state broadcaster and Victoria University, whose Centre for Public Law organised the events (and stacked the panels with its own academics), should be ashamed. It is a misuse of power – nothing less.

* * *

FASHION, both female and male, is a source of endless amusement.
I keep a close eye on the fashion pages and can pronounce that for women, the frumpy look is "in" this winter. Shapeless clothes designed to disguise the female form are big, along with colour combinations that appear to have been thrown together in the dark.

Stick-thin models continue to predominate, with the added requirement that they must now be pigeon-toed.
For men, the desired look this season is suits that appear at least one size too small, making the wearers look like schoolboys who have put on a sudden growth spurt.  Designers have gone the American way, opting for trousers that end at least an inch above the ankles.

And as always, the most ludicrous examples are the most expensive.


No comments: