Tag: New Zealand

Wellington Museum, and Word Stories from World War One

When my family last visited Wellington, we visited the World War One exhibition at the National Art Gallery and Wellington Museum, and the ANZAC memorial outside.

This history buff in me thought it was an excellent exhibition—as well as giving the full history of the origins of World War one and the war itself, it also contained dozens of newly colourised photographs from the war. They were both eye-opening and horrific. We’ve all seen photos of World War One … in black and white. These photos are an education, a reminder that those who fought in World War One, the Great War, the War to End All Wars, saw it in unglorious colour: brown and khaki and red.

A lot of red.

For today, I’d like to share something a little different that the word-nerd inside me found fascinating: the phrases from World War One which have become part of our everyday language. Okay, that might depend on where you live and what kind of family you grew up in!


While this is a French word, Australians and New Zealanders only began using it during World War One. Prior to this, we would have said ‘keepsake’.


My parents and grandparents often used this word to describe advertising brochures (aka junk mail), but it was originally used to refer to the masses of (unwanted?) official correspondence from headquarters … often used as toilet paper (needs must, I suppose). Yes, bumf is short for b** fodder.


Strife is taken from German, where strafe means to punish. It’s used to describe various forms of trouble

Blood bath

From a German description of the Somme in 1916. My great-grandfather was decorated for his service on the Somme, but he never talked about it. I guess this tells me why.


When Armoured Landships were originally under development in 1915, they were given the code name of ‘water tank’, because of their box-like structure. The name stuck, and we still call them tanks.

Break new ground

A phrase we often use without thinking of the difficult origins. It now refers to something that hasn’t been done before, but the original meaning was to dig a new trench.


If you’re American, you might not know about the food staple of bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potato). The sausages were called bangers because of their tendency to explode if the casing wasn’t pricked.

What word stories do you have?

Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

We spent a family night at the movies a couple of weeks back, seeing the latest New Zealand blockbuster, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I thought we were the last people in the country to see it, because it’s already been playing cinemas for three months, so I was a little surprised to see the cinema was almost full.

Okay, so it only sat 70 people, but still …

Ricky Baker is a foster child, a kid who has grown up in the system and earned himself a reputation as a real bad egg. His placement with Aunt Bella is his last stop before juvie. So when the unthinkable happens he does what any normal teen would do: fakes his own death and runs off into the bush. Uncle Hector (aka Heck) is obliged to follow, because no responsible adult is going to leave a town kid lost in the bush. Especially not after he’s shown the level of bushcraft Ricky has shown.

One thing leads to another, and soon Ricky and Heck are on the run from the social worker, the police, the armed offenders squad (I suspect all of the armed offenders squad), intrepid hunters, a nutty conspiracy theorist, and some wild pigs.

It’s a toss-up as to who is the most dangerous, but I think Ricky wins. Or maybe the pigs.

Underneath the comedy and bluster and farce, Hunter for the Wilderpeople a tale of family. It’s based on a novel Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, and stars Sam Neill, Rhys Darby and Julian Dennison.

Those of us who were alive in the eighties and remember Crumpy’s TV ads for Toyota enjoyed the vintage Toyota ute in the film, and the cameo from Scotty, Crumpy’s townie offsider.

Yes, he’s looking a bit older 🙂

It is one of those movies where the extended trailer tells you most of the story. Here it is:

Yes, the New Zealand bush really looks like that.

Yes, the prison at the end of the movie is a real prison.

No, we don’t all have guns. Although if we were all going to meet pigs like that, we’d need them.

No, the New Zealand police don’t usually carry weapons.

Although some highway patrols do, in case they come across escaped sheep endangering traffic. I found this out on last week’s episode of Highway Patrol.

And with that, I think I’ve given you enough of a picture of the “real” New Zealand for one week.

New Zealand Flag Referendum: The Results are In

It’s official: we’re keeping our flag.

For the past year, New Zealand has been working through the official process of deciding whether to change our national flag, or to keep the present option. Our crowdsourced approach attracted international attention, including a shout-out from The Big Bang Theory’s Dr Sheldon Cooper:

At least now everyone knows what our flag looks like (we hope).

The project came about because people apparently confused our current flag with that of Australia, and said the Union Jack is representative of the bygone age of colonialism (also true, but most Kiwis have at least some Brits in their ancestry).

This is our flag:

NZ Flag

Not this one:Australian Flag

We started the process by crowdsourcing design options . . . which produced some interesting results. ‘Interesting’ being the operative word. It seems that as a nation, we’re more skilled with MS Paint than with Photoshop.

Flag Reject 2

Flag Reject 5

Many schools used the process to kickstart discussions around the electoral process, the purpose of a referendum, and research into the history of our flag and the Australian flag. My eight-year-old niece informed me the New Zealand flag predates the Australian version, so they copied us (not the other way around, as is often assumed), and therefore they should be the ones to change. I’m also hoping some schools used the process as the theme for art projects and submitted the children’s efforts. This would explain the level of artistic talent on display . . .

An government-appointed Flag Consideration Panel reviewed each of the 10,000+ submissions and came up with a shortlist of forty designs (although one was then removed for breaching copyright):

NZ Flag Top 40
The panel then narrowed the longlist down to a shortlist of four, although a fifth design was added after a grassroots social media campaign.

Flag Final 5
Two referendums (or is that referenda?) were scheduled.

In the first, registered voters got to choose which flag design they wanted to go up against the current flag in the second referendum. Some people voted for their favorite flag, while others apparently took a more strategic approach and voted for the one they liked least (on the basis it would then lose to the current flag in the second referendum). On that basis, I have no idea whether the winning design was the nation’s favorite or least favorite! All I’ll say is that I don’t think the final five represented the best designs on offer . . . maybe the official panel were also using the reverse psychology of the designs they liked least, or the ones which were so inoffensive as to be meaningless.

All the same, we then got a second referendum, choosing between the current flag and Kyle Lockwood’s design. My teenagers had been vocal throughout the entire process, pointing out that it was unfair that they, as the children who would carry this flag into New Zealand’s future, were ineligible to vote while “old people” (me) could. After much discussion (and rolling of eyes), my husband and I agreed to cast our votes as requested (directed ) by our children. They voted, and the wait was on to find out which design won.

The official result was announced last week, on Wednesday 30 March. After ten months and $26 million dollars, we get to keep our current flag.

Three cheers for democracy.

What is a Kiwi?

What about the Kiwi Twist?

I write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. I’ve defined contemporary romance. I’ve attempted to define Christian fiction (and therefore Christian romance). But what about the Kiwi twist?

First we need to clear up a more important question: what is a kiwi?

Hint: it’s not this:
Kiwifruit. Not a kiwi.
This is a kiwifruit, previously called a Chinese gooseberry. It’s not actually a gooseberry, but it got that name after Mabel Fraser brought some seeds back from China, Alexander Allison cultivated them, and people thought it had a gooseberry flavour. Hence, Chinese gooseberry (although the Chinese called it yang tao).

We renamed it ‘kiwifruit’ when we started exporting to the US in the late 1950’s because of anti-Chinese sentiment during the Cold War. Several names were suggested, but kiwifruit stuck because the furry brown fruit reminds us of our national bird, the kiwi, also small, brown and furry:

North Island Brown Kiwi - This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust.
North Island Brown Kiwi

It’s also the colloquial name we call ourselves as a people. We’re Kiwis, and proud of it.

Being a Kiwi has certain responsibilities. We’re required to love rugby and cricket (and never admit if we don’t). We’re supposed to love the beach and the outdoors—not difficult. As an island nation, most of us live within an hour’s drive from the beach, whether it’s the mighty Pacific Ocean, the calmer Tasman Sea, or my own slice of paradise, the Bay of Plenty (named by Captain Cook, because it was and is a land of plenty).

I grew up in rural New Zealand, in a bicultural community where most of the families were involved in primary industry (mostly farmers and orchardists). It was a simpler time: a shared telephone line and only one television channel meant we played outside until it was time to come in for dinner. We ran barefoot, cycled in the road and didn’t wear cycle helmets. We disappeared for hours down to the creek or (later) to the beach.

We’re world leaders in dairy and kiwifruit production (although our lamb and wool production is right down. We now have only six sheep for every person, down from twenty in the 1980’s). We have an almost-free health system that’s the envy of many (and we still moan when the government raises the fee for prescription medicine to $5 per item). We don’t have the right to bear arms, but someone still goes on the rampage with a gun and murders half a dozen people once every ten years, although, we’ve never had a school shooting.

It sounds idyllic.

But New Zealand is a post-Christian society. Going to church on Sunday is a minority activity, and Sunday morning has long since been taken over by children’s sport and café brunches. Prostitution is legal, and advertised in the entertainment section of the local newspaper, right beside the movies and the Garfield cartoon. We’re world leaders in enviable statistics such as teenage pregnancy.


Like many Kiwis, I haven’t just lived in New Zealand. I spend ten years living in London, where I worked in an office with people from all over Europe and Africa (and the occasional Australian). Some were Christians; most weren’t. All had different perspectives on life that have contributed to my own views, to a greater or lesser extent.

We’ve also travelled extensively, both as a couple and as a family. At last count, I’ve visited twenty countries (more, if you count Monaco, the Vatican, Luxembourg and Lichtenstein). And I’ve visited twenty US states . . . although I admit one was a drive-through where I didn’t get out of the car. I’ve met people on their own ground, talked to them about life, about faith. And learned.

These experiences combine to form a world view that’s wider than the tiny rural towns and non-Christian family I grew up in. It’s a world view that’s uniquely Kiwi: we are a young nation, a travelling nation, a nation of immigrants. A post-Christian nation. A nation of individuals who love sport and the outdoors. And a few strange people who love God. And books. Books which show God.

And that’s the Kiwi twist I hope to bring to my fiction. A slice of Kiwi life drizzled with a dash of humour and infused with a global Christian world view.

Thunderbirds Are Go!

During the Christmas holidays, our family visited Weta Workshop in Wellington. As well as being the home of hobbits and all things Lord of the Rings, it is also the studio for the reimagined Thunderbirds TV series, which combines traditional model sets with digital animation.

For those of you who have suffered a deprived upbringing, Thunderbirds was a 1960’s TV show brought to the screens by husband and wife team Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, using their original puppets and the wonders of Supermarionation. The Thunderbirds are the Tracy brothers, Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon, and Alan, who travel the world in their high-tech machines, saving the lives of those caught in disasters.

The 1960’s series has now been reimagined by Richard Taylor of Weta Worskhops, and we were privileged to be able to see inside the magic of Tracy Island. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any photographs because the images are all copyright (and because we actually got a sneak peek at some of the as-yet-unseen sets from the upcoming second series). However, I did find some cool images on Google from various promotions for the show:

Thunderbirds Are Go 1

Thunderbirds Are Go - Tracy Island ©2015 ITV Studois/ Pukeko Pictures
Thunderbirds Are Go – Tracy Island ©2015 ITV Studios/ Pukeko Pictures

There were two things about Thunderbirds Are Go! which surprised me.

The first was that Thunderbirds Are Go! is more than just a Weta Workshops production. It’s actually a joint production between Pukeko Pictures (part-owned by Richard Taylor of Weta Workshops) and ITV Studios. Weta Workshops has constructed the sets, including two different versions of Tracy Island (as an aside,the books on the shelf are all real current books. Our guide made them, using book covers she downloaded from the internet).

But it’s not solely a Kiwi production. This version has digitised characters, not puppets, and the animation is done offshore. As are the scripts. And the voices. The New Zealand end of the show brings everything together, but it’s a global effort (kind of like writing a book).

The second thing was even more surprising. It was the sets. They looked great even under the standard lighting. I could see they’d look even better under proper studio lighting.

But they were made of junk.

Not everything was junk, but there was a lot of junk, and our guide took a lot of pleasure in pointing out all the junk.

For example, The Hood is the main evildoer in Thunderbirds. He’s got longstanding issues with the Tracy family. And because he’s a bad guy, he has a lair that’s largely decorated in shades of black and grey.

It’s junk.

The Hood’s lair includes the insides of two washing machines, the casings of old desktop computers (from back when computer screens were as deep as they were wide), razor blades, fans, the leftover plastic bits from after you’ve constructed a model airplane . . . junk.

But add a fair dose of creativity, a few dozen cans of spray paint and some clever lighting, and you’ve got an ultra-cool lair fit for an evildoer. All from junk I’d have chucked out years ago.

It made me think of us. And God.

Sometimes we think we’re junk. That there’s nothing useful in us. That we’re only good for the rubbish tip.

But we’re God’s junk. He redesigns us, repurposes us, redirects us. Shines His light into us.

And turn us into ultra-cool sons and daughters fit for the King.

The Department of Lies

Christmas in NewTickets to the Weta Cave Zealand is in the summer, so it’s the time the kids have their long summer holiday, and the time businesses reduce or close their operations and we all go off on our summer holidays.

This year, we went to Wellington for Christmas. While we were there, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Weta Workshops, the world-famous home of hobbits, trolls, and all things Lord of the Rings.


While Weta Workshops is most famous for their work on the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies, they actually make physical movie props for a range of movies, from District 12 to Avatar (although that was largely the work of their associated organisation, Weta Digital, who do all the computer animation).

Our guide took us through the design process, showing us how it could take dozens or hundreds of sketches before a design was approved. How a plastic mould was then created—over 80% of the props, from the firearms to the swords to the vehicles, are made of plastic.

She then told us how the plastic models were turned over to the painting department: The Department of Lies.

Why the Department of Lies?

Because they take shaped white plastic and turn it into something it isn’t: a wooden gun, a leather shield, a metal sword. They can make it look new, or they can make it look old. It’s all just spray paint and plastic.

Plastic looks good, but lacks any functionality. A plastic sword won’t cut anything. Won’t hurt anyone. A plastic shield won’t protect an actor from anything other than plastic sword.

The plastic looks good, but it’s not perfect. Modern digital cameras are so powerful, they still need to use real props for the close-up shots. Real swords. Real knives. Real shields.

It struck me that the Father of Lies takes the same approach. He takes the real thing, and substitutes it for a fake. We can only tell the difference if we look carefully, and if we know what the real thing looks like.

And only the real thing will protect us.

That means spending time with God, in His Word, ensuring we know the real thing so we can see the lie. It means spending time with other Christians, learning from them, as iron sharpens iron.

Because we don’t want to be stuck with a plastic sword when the Father of Lies comes against us with the real thing.

Orc Army

Meanwhile, now I know it’s all makeup and plastic swords, it’s going to be difficult to be afraid of those orcs!