Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Two Olds

Retirement  - no such thing!
I well remember when my father retired.  He chose not to take up a government offer to come chief judge in a New Zealand Pacific protectorate, in preference to his first love, fishing off the rocks on the Coromandel peninsula.

Not that I was surprised at this as he had by then had enough of party political interference in the appointment of the judiciary.  He had also served his country in Word War II which included several years in a German POW camp; he was captured on Crete as many New Zealanders were.

The thing about Dad was he never publicly expressed any negative views about such matters, such was his legal training.  When the time came that he could retire he "packed up his tent" and went fishing.

So today as I reach the official NZ retirement age and become eligible to reclaim back a small portion of the large amount of tax I have paid the country over forty years, I am reminded of the day my father chose relaxation over re-employment.

In my own case and to paraphrase a Chinese expression it is a case of 'the two olds'.

I turned sixty as a Permanent Resident (PR) in Singapore thereby qualifying for a plastic card that identified me as a 'senior citizen', travel and other concessions.  While this was much appreciated, I felt a bit of a fraud as I was in lucrative full time employment with no intention of retiring from my senior appointment with the British Council.  Singapore has subsequently raised its retirement age since my departure.

Now some five years on and back in New Zealand I still don't really believe that the day has come when I have qualified once again for this status in society.  Yet another piece of plastic arrived though the post entitling me to an even broader range of tempting discounts; not that discount facials and new tyres hold much appeal.  But as my Mother used to say, it is the thought that counts.

The other thing about 'retirement' at an arbitrary age is that it seldom if ever happens.  Where a few generations ago you were given a gold watch for long service and gently ushered out the back door, most of us now spend at least some time on pursuits that are tied into our former full time employment.

I am just as active now in the digital, online world as I ever have been which keeps the creative juices flowing.  The beauty is I no longer have to sit through the tedium of irrelevant staff meetings nor in my car braving the rush hour.

The brave,digital world that allowed me in my working life to communicate with clients, colleagues and friends around the globe, does so still.  So when I think about it, nothing much has changed except that I occasionally miss the face to face socialising that took place in the many staff rooms I frequented.

And I do miss Singapore; the arrival back home at Changi airport, the tropical thunderstorms and verdant foliage, the colourful creepy crawlies and the warmth of its people.  I am blessed that many of them in the 'Little Red Dot' and people I knew and worked with in NZ, remain friends still.

There was an article in the local press yesterday quoting a specialist who has said "Life expectancy in New Zealand is higher than ever, but early retirement is killing people".  The gist being that keeping the mind active keep you living longer.  They could well be right.  The thought of sinking into a lethargic torpor holds no appeal whatsoever!

I can't think of one person I know who has retired to the couch.  All of us are actively engaged in work and/or society. Which just goes to prove that we 'Baby Boomer's', despite the dire predictions of our parent's generation, aren't any lazier than those that went before us.

To paraphrase a certain BBC fox puppet "Boom, Boom" and long may life remain so.
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Friday, 18 October 2013

NUS's University Town Now Officially Open

Good to see NUS's University Town officially open.  When I was working for the Alumni Office it was still in the design stage.

The idea of a cohort or two living and studying on site is a good one; building a sense of community beyond the usual halls of residence.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Today's Art - Winter Stalks

Winter Stalks
Roger Smith, 2013
Copies of this print are available framed and unframed here.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Sport And Sportsmanship No Longer Share The Same Bed

If you don't like sport then look away, for this is a short and sharp 'rugby rant'.

More precisely it is a commentary on the sad reality of contemporary sport which in many cases now seems devoid of its one important quality, 'sportsmanship'.

I remember with great affection attending the 1956 rugby match between the visiting Springboks team from South Africa and my home province Taranaki.  Resplendent in my amber and black knitted hat which my mother had spent many hours producing, I went with my father to stand on the terraces to see the match.

It was cold as only a Taranaki winter can be but I soon warmed up jumping about with excitement at every flowing movement of the game.  And there was plenty of action, the provincial mascot (a bull called Ferdinand) leaping around with equal vigour.

The 1956 rugby match between Taranaki and the visiting Springboks team
Nobody really gave Taranaki much of a chance of winning but it was team spirit and the home crowd support that saw them match the tourists and produce a very creditable draw.  Several of this provincial team's best performers later went on to become All Blacks.

But this was just one such regional match amongst the many over the years that I enjoyed.  The noticeable difference between then and now being that these earlier players gave their all were part of a wonderful amateur code, unsullied by trappings of so-called 'professionalism'.

Fast forward fifty plus years and we are are in a different era when it comes to sport and what constitutes sportsmanship.  In my day no individual was bigger than the game itself even if you were a star player.  If it was a team sport, you were part of the team and did your best by them for the greater good.

Nowadays it is quite apparent that sport and sportsmanship are diverging markedly. It is all about how much money one can make as a sportsman, or sportswomen.  The impact of any personal decision upon a team is a secondary consideration if at all, to be disregarded if the the money is right.

Being a great athlete does not automatically equate to being a great sportsman, if sportsmanship and the team are measures of one's success both on and off the field.  

In my day our ambition was to play for our province and if you were good enough receive national honours.  A hefty pay packet was never the motivation nor even a consideration.

This past week we have witnessed the less than edifying spectacle of a New Zealand athlete holding both the NZ Rugby Union and the Australian based National Rugby League to ransom as he dithered between accepting one contact offer or the other.  This same player also displaced another who had been previously selected to represent New Zealand at the Rugby League World Cup.

Let's be frank about this - no player is greater than the game itself. This athlete chose to play league in the end so cut him adrift and forget about chasing or signing him in the future.  There are other younger players coming through who should be nurtured and the money that was on the table over this contract offer could be put to better use.

The media (who are making such a meal out of this turn of events) should also be reminded that just last week they were describing the rugby test between the All Blacks and the Springboks at Ellis Park in South Africa as "one of the greatest ever".

The aforementioned player was not in the team and did we suffer as a result?  No we did not.  

The Ellis Park match was great game because it was hard fought, both sides giving their all for the team and because of the sportsmanship shown by the South African captain when an official's error could have jeopardised the opposition's chances.

Today's editorial in the New Zealand Herald neatly sums up the actions of the player I referred to above:
"Williams has good instincts on a rugby field. On the wider field of life he leaves a lot to be desired."

And that is the lesson that sport should be teaching us - sportsmanship is all about consideration for others and working hard for the collective good.

And, if you are a rugby player like I was, surviving eighty minutes in the forward pack on a muddy field was foremost in one's mind!

The author (circled) played representative provincial rugby for Manawatu Juniors in the late 1960's and was part of the championship winning Palmerston North Teachers College teams in 1967 and 1968. Prior to that he played most of his rugby at New Plymouth Boys High School where he was a boarder.
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Tuesday, 8 October 2013

New Art Print - Helter Skelter

Helter Skelter
Roger Smith, 2013
Get a copy here.