The chief Tarawa and his brother Tuwharanui set sail from Hawaiiki for New Zealand with their two pet fish known as O-Potiki-mai Tawhiti, meaning ‘pets from afar.’ Landing at Waiotahi Beach, Tarawa found a spring for his pets, and the spring was known as O-Potiki-mai-Tawhiti, because of the continual reference to the fish. Opotiki became a populous Maori centre and was the home of the Whakatohea tribes. Captain Cook, sailing along the coastline in 1769, commented on the dense population of the area. It was a place of bounteous fishing and violent battles, the sea running red with blood following one attack by the Ngati Maru invaders in the 1820s, followed by the attacks of the colonial forces in the 1860’s.
Thankfully, war is no longer waged in this glorious part of the North Island of New Zealand. For it is here that many a young family come to enjoy the beauty of the land. Nowadays, they cruise in air-conditioned comfort to their destinations. Previously, three children sat in the back of small cars such as Morris 1300’s, sweating in the heat, even with the windows wound down. Trips such as these were what my sister, myself and my brother had to endure, travelling from Auckland in search of paradise. There weren’t DVD players back then to numb our little minds and save us from appreciating the scenery, so we played every game from I Spy to Car Cricket, and occasionally fought over minor injustices.
We arrived at a house we had swapped with a family who were enjoying our place in Auckland. There was fishing first thing in the morning; I can still remember the smell of the fish being fried. The gentle water was warm to swim in, and there was a dinghy on which to row around the point. This was our summer holiday: long sunny days, the commentary of cricket on my father’s old radio, the swingball being thumped about, games of hide and seek. And when the days grew to a close, we would all collapse in the lounge and reach for a ‘holiday book.’ Those books which were spread around baches throughout the country for summers such as these. Alistair Maclean featured prominantly, Reader’s Digests, celebrity autobiographies, travel books filled with adventures to far flung corners of the earth. And there were the funny books, those books which were just perfect for raising a tired, happy smile at the end of a summer’s day.
New Zealand writer (and public speaker extraordinaire) Joe Bennett would have been a hit back then, as he is now, with his easy to read, irrepressible humour and wry commentary on the world as he sees it. His books are filled with previously published columns which have appeared in various publications throughout the country. They are down-to-earth, fun, silly, subtly intelligent, and occasionally evoke a genuine laugh. They are the perfect books for reading just as the sun is setting, the sea is gently lapping the shore, and the cicadas fill the air with their happy buzz.
On offer for these holidays are ‘Alive and Kicking,’ and ‘Laugh? I Could Have Cried.’ The former are his recent works, the latter a collection from the past decade. Both just right for when you are resting your weary bones. They are a light-hearted look at the world – everything from politics to sport to religion to food to pets; you name it, chances are high you’ll find his unique brand of humour has been applied to it.
Laugh? I Could Have Cried
Alive And Kicking