Friday, 26 September 2014


Wheeling and dealing down on the farm
A sample read from The Scapegoat  by Peter Blakeborough

Cambridge, New Zealand, 1905
Back at the farm Cedric Asker called on Ambrose McHugh again.
‘Willis says it’s still a marginal deal for me to buy your farm, but I’ll get a final answer early next week.’
‘A few more days won’t make any difference, Cedric.’
‘There is something else you should know, Mr. McHugh.’
‘What’s that?’
‘There may be an opportunity to buy something else that won’t be such a large commitment for us.’
‘I appreciate you telling me that. But it makes no difference to me, Cedric. You should consider all options and take professional advice.’
‘Thank you, sir. It’s a carrying business that’s about to go into liquidation because the owner is in poor health.’
‘If its Albert Hooper’s carrying business, you’ll get it dirt cheap, and as for poor health, it’s really just a case of too much grog. It could be a good buy.’
On the Tuesday morning Cedric and Granny Ruby Asker sat in the bank manager’s office again.
‘I’m sorry to have to tell you that the bank will not be in a position to advance any money for the purchase of Mr. McHugh’s property. It’s outside the bank’s criteria,’ Willis hesitated for a moment. ‘Unfortunately, the bank has not been able to grant any more time for Albert Hooper to meet his obligations. We have already taken possession of his business and assets in the name of the bank. A creditors meeting was held yesterday. The Hooper’s have already moved out and the bank is now able to negotiate a sale, if you’re still interested.’
‘Yes. I’m still interested.’
‘Is there anyone else that you would like to assist you while we do an inspection and draw up a sale and purchase contract?’
‘Yes. Mr. Buckland and Mr. Freeman. We have already met Mr. Buckland and we’re told he’s a very good lawyer. Mr. McHugh recommended Mr. Freeman as a good accountant.’
‘You understand, of course, Cambridge is a small town and, often as not, the parties end up sharing the same professional advisers. Buckland and Freeman have been representing Mr. Hooper, but I shouldn’t let that bother you. I know that both are absolutely trustworthy gentlemen. That's the way we often do business here.’
‘Yes. I understand.’
Later that morning they all met at Hooper’s former property on Laurent Road. Willis showed them through the three-bedroom weatherboard house, which still had the Hooper’s furniture. Outside he pointed out the boundaries, horses and the wagon that had been used in the carrying business. Then he explained how the liquidation would proceed.
‘Now, gentlemen, and ah, Mrs. Asker, as liquidator, I have certain powers and responsibilities. First, the bank is the only secured creditor and gets paid in full before the unsecured creditors receive anything. In the event that all creditors can be satisfied then the former owner will be entitled to whatever remains. However, in this case, it is unlikely that there will be anything left for the previous owner, not even the furniture.’
Cedric caught the look of horror on Ruby’s face. He knew instantly what she was thinking. These professional wolves would not only put a man into bankruptcy, without batting an eyelid, but they would just as readily strip him of his dignity and last stick of worn-out furniture. If Cedric and Ruby wanted the Hoopers to get their furniture back the creditors and the liquidator would expect them to pay more to take over the business. Was there another way that the Hoopers could retrieve something?
The bank manager continued with his discourse.
‘The amount outstanding to the bank is one hundred and forty-seven pounds. The unsecured creditors are owed forty-two pounds, making a total of one hundred and eighty-nine pounds. The assets have been valued as follows. Ten acres of level pastureland at five pounds per acre is fifty pounds. A three bedroom, ten-year-old house is seventy-five pounds. Then there is one carrier’s wagon, seven years old, at twelve pounds; six horses at five pounds each is thirty pounds, and finally, the items of furniture, as listed, ten pounds. That totals one hundred and seventy-seven pounds, which leaves a deficit of twelve pounds to be shared by the unsecured creditors.’
Willis gave a little cough to clear his throat.
‘Unfortunately, if these assets are sold at their current market value there will be nothing left for the Hoopers. I have not included a goodwill figure because, since the business is no longer operating, that is entirely at the discretion of the purchaser. However, in all honesty, I must point out to Mr. Asker that Hooper’s former competitors will be lining up down at the branch line to deliver to his former clients.’
Buckland and Freeman quietly nodded their agreement.
‘Well, it’s over to you, Mr. Asker. If you are prepared to pay a hundred and seventy-seven pounds it can be all yours with immediate possession. With your own contribution from your savings, plus the contribution from Mrs. Asker senior, the bank will approve a mortgage to cover the balance.’
Cedric scratched his ear thoughtfully as he studied the figures again.
‘The ten acres of land seems to be priced a bit high for land that’s not doing anything other than grazing a few horses. It’s not producing any crops, fruit, or vegetables, other than for the house. The fences are run-down. It’s not worth five pounds an acre. The house hasn’t been decorated, or painted, since new. It needs substantial expenditure. The wagon is on its last legs and will need replacing quite soon. My offer, Mr. Willis, is a hundred and fifty pounds.’
Willis was taken aback and it showed immediately in his face.
‘Mr. Asker, I admire your pluck. But your offer cannot be taken seriously. Have you considered the position of the unsecured creditors, and that of the Hoopers?’
‘Yes, sir. I have. I believe the unsecured creditors have contributed to Hooper’s downfall in no small way. Take the general store. The Hoopers have purchased more than essentials on credit. There are many items they could have done without. And this one here, the publican, he sold them liquor on credit, month after month. What kind of man would do that?’
‘I agree with your moral sentiments, Mr. Asker. You’re exactly right. But, as liquidator, I’m obliged to consider only the legal situation. The claims of the unsecured creditors are legitimate.’
‘Yes. They are legitimate claims,’ Buckland confirmed.
‘What about the valuation, Bruce?’ Willis turned to the accountant.
‘I think Mr. Asker is very close to the mark, Alf.’
The bank manager looked quickly around the faces that were waiting for him to break the impasse.
‘Alright. Can we settle at one sixty-five?’
Cedric shook his head slowly and Ruby spoke for the first time.
‘One fifty-seven pounds, Mr. Willis. Take it or leave it.’
Willis thoughtfully scratched his balding head.
‘I’m sorry. I can’t sell for less than one sixty-five,’ he said firmly.
With equal firmness, and a poker face, Cedric created a lie.
‘Well, you can’t sell for more than one fifty-seven. You see Granny Ruby… I mean Mrs. Asker, has already told me that she would withdraw her support if the price was more than one fifty-seven and I respect her wisdom and considerable business experience.’
Willis stared at the papers in front of him for a moment in silence.
‘Well, we do have to sell,’ he said at last. ‘Alright, we’ll settle at one fifty-seven pounds. Congratulations, Mr. Asker, and Mrs. Asker. You’ve done very well indeed and I wish you every success. Now let’s all go back to the bank where we can get everything signed up.’
As their carriage moved along Laurent Road Cedric casually turned the conversation to the former owners.
‘Incidentally, where are the Hooper’s staying now?’
‘I believe they are with relatives in Victoria Street,’ Willis volunteered.
‘That’s right,’ Buckland confirmed. ‘From memory, I think it’s about number five.’
After the formalities had been completed Cedric and Ruby walked back to their new property.
‘Was there a reason, son, why you wanted ten quid off the price?’
‘No. We got twenty quid off the price, didn’t we?’
‘But wasn’t it ten quid that you really wanted?’
‘Was it?’ he said with a grin.
When they reached the property he immediately harnessed the horses to the wagon and drove them to the front door of the house. He loaded the Hooper’s furniture onto the wagon and set out for Victoria Street. From the gate he called to Ruby.
‘Even a liquor shicker should be able to sleep it off in comfort.’
Ruby smiled as she waved to him. He was such a good young man, and so different to the beast that fathered him.

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Sunday, 21 September 2014


Team Key bounces back after dirtiest ever New Zealand election campaign

The New Zealand general election of 2014 will go down in history as the election of foolish political blunders, as well as the dirtiest ever campaign.
Prime Minister John Key

John Key’s National Party has been returned for a third three year term, and this time with a clear majority of seats that will enable them to govern alone. For the third time Labour, the largest opposition party, has been swept aside, but this time with less than 25% of the vote.
The Green Party came in at just 10% after opinion polls showed them nearing 15% a week out. The New Zealand First Party’s fortunes rose several points after the last opinion polls had them hovering around 6%. The Maori Party support shrank to barely 1%, but they won one electorate seat to keep the party on life support. The Act Party secured their usual one seat, a gift from the National Party, and so also did the United Future Party.

The new Conservative Party lead by personable Colin Craig failed to win an electorate in New Zealand’s two vote MMP system, and also failed by less than 1% to make the 5% threshold for gaining a party list seat. The Internet Mana Party also failed to sway the voters, either to vote for them or to listen to their pleas to dump the so-called corrupt National Government.
Labour Leader
David Cunliffe

This was not an election for co-leaders. The Greens have had a divided leadership strategy for several years, usually a male and a female. It sounds fair and democratic, but clearly the voters want a place where the buck stops, and they are not concerned about whether it is a male or female. The Maori Party with its single leader won a seat. The Mana Party with two leaders did not win anything. But there are additional reasons for their defeat.

Let’s look at the blunders of the campaign.

Prime Minister John Key made one of the biggest blunders, but he is a natural brush-it-off survivor. He failed early in the year to dismiss senior minister Judith Collins after a series of embarrassing mistakes. It is not a good look to have to fire a minister in election year, and Key almost allowed the anti-Collins campaigners a free hand to bring down the whole government. A month out from Election Day, as the pressure mounted, he had no choice and Collins resigned instead of disappearing quietly from Cabinet, after the election.
Laila Harre

The two Maori parties have been a costly mistake for Maori. But here we are dealing with blunders within blunders. One Maori party was one too many for most Maori who ignore the Maori electorates and register on the general roll. The Mana Party splitting from the Maori Party was a blunder that will seal the fate of both parties. But the Mana alliance with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party was just another nail in the coffin of apartheid politics in New Zealand.

Kim Schmitz, aka Kim Kimble and Kim Tim Vestor, on the run from US authorities, had a plan to bring down the government to save his own substantial bacon. Enter Laila Harre. Harre is a former member of parliament with an excellent record as a campaigner, reformer and minister. She is also a skilled lawyer – a fact that I can attest to having been on the same side as her in court many years ago. But Laile, not known for making blunders, made a huge one when she teamed up with the Internet Party.
Internet Party founder
Kim Dotcom

The promised dirt from Kim Dotcom and journalist Nicky Hager failed to see the light of day and the voters were not impressed by the emptiness of their threats on the eve of the election. In the end people who may have been swayed turned to National again.

The Labour Party has a capable leader in David Cunliffe. He made few errors and in debate was a match for the prime minister. Cunliffe, like David Shearer and Phil Goff before him, has the ability to fill the prime ministerial shoes. So why did they do so poorly?

The New Zealand Labour Party philosophy has not changed since its inception in 1916 as a party of battlers from the coal-mines of Westland in a time when most New Zealanders were poor. The party was founded by die-hard socialists who didn’t want to keep up with the Jones’s, but were hell-bent on dragging the Jones’s down to their level.
This clown would have run
a better election campaign.
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Labour reached its peak during the 1935 election campaign and rode high again in the 1938 election. But after that the party philosophy started to loose its relevance and its association with the unions and compulsory union membership became its biggest albatross. Except for occasional bursts of strong leadership and electoral success, most notably with Roger Douglas and Helen Clark, Labour has been a spent force.Labour is now talking about soul-searching.  But the soul is dead. Labour can never rise again with its 1916 philosophy and it should disband and start again with a new left alliance encompassing the Greens and the remnants of the Maori parties. When New Zealand First leader Winston Peters finally retires the new party of the left may even pick up some of his left-overs.

It is certain that a new united, forward-looking force of the center left is needed. My pick for the best people to be involved include David Cunliffe, Phil Goff, David Shearer, Te Ururoa Flavell, Laila Harre and Russel Norman. But will they be courageous enough to see it through?

We’ll see.

Saturday, 20 September 2014


The wild colonial days in Australia

A sample read from the fast-moving, historical fiction novel Nathaniel’s Bloodline by Peter Blakeborough

The bar crowd was boisterous with lots of shouting and singing under a blue haze of tobacco smoke. In spite of the din at least two patrons that Ruby could see were sleeping soundly with other patrons stepping around them. In a corner several women, that she thought might be prostitutes, seemed to be waiting for men. She pressed close to Andrew Asker’s side as he ordered his tankard. She took a small sip of the amber liquid and grimaced as she swallowed it. She considered the taste for a moment. It was nothing like she had expected. She looked at it and took a larger sip. She grimaced again and closed her eyes as the liquid gravitated passed her taste buds.
‘Oh! It’s different, ain’t it?’
Author Peter Blakeborough with three of his books
She held the tankard out for Asker. He took it, had a long swig, smacked his lips in satisfaction and handed it back to Ruby again. She had another small sip and quickly passed it back. She watched in awe as he up-ended the tankard, letting the entire contents slide down his throat.
‘That’s how it’s done, Ruby.’ He said proudly and let go a loud belch of satisfaction as they left the bar arm in arm. She giggled at his vulgarity and wondered what her mother would have thought about someone displaying such dreadful manners in public.
When they got to Windmill Street they stopped two houses short of Ruby’s house. Gently, Asker pulled her towards him and kissed her on the cheek again.
‘You’re lovely, Ruby,’ he whispered in her ear.
‘You too, Andrew,’ she breathed before pulling back slightly and looking up at him with a magical twinkle in her eyes.
They laughed and she made a half-hearted attempt to break free from his embrace but he held her firmly and kissed her passionately on the mouth. She put her arms around his muscular frame and pulled him towards her, returning his kisses with fervor. Suddenly she broke free and ran towards the house.
‘See yer tomorrow, Ruby.’
‘Yeah. See yer, Andrew.’ She looked back briefly and then she was gone.
As he walked back along the street with a spring in his step Asker realized that he had become totally besotted with Ruby. She represented everything that had been missing from his life for years and she was beautiful and fun loving. Suddenly he was in a celebratory mood and he went into a bar and had another drink. He was sure that the luck of the Askers was moving into a positive win stage and, as any gambler knew, you can’t win if you’re not in, he told himself. As he was about to leave the bar in search of a card game he was approached by a flamboyant lady of the night.
‘Not interested in that, miss,’ he told the woman firmly. ‘Where’s the nearest gamblin’ ‘ouse to here?’
‘Feelin’ lucky, is yer, lovey?’
‘Yeah. Got a feelin’ it’s me lucky night, miss. Where’s the nearest game to here?’
‘If you’re feelin’ game, lovey, I can take yer through the red door an’ up the stairs an’ yer can get lucky with me.’
‘I be spoken for, miss,’ he said without pausing to think about the short time he had known Ruby.
She pointed through the smoke haze to a green door.
‘That’s the place. Oh, I be so disappointed with yer bein’ such a good looker an’ all. Come back if yer change yer mind, lovey.’
‘Thanks, miss.’
Inside the den he found Joker Hammond and Billy Cox seated at a crowded table and as usual the largest pile of money was on their side of the table. He watched the play from another table for a few minutes before being invited to join them. His first hand had nothing useful and he passed up the opportunity to bet. The next deal gave him three Kings and he made a token bet and lost. Then he had two more losses before being dealt three Aces and two Jacks. Casually he eased up the stakes until several players had most of their bankroll invested. When the hands were shown he casually scooped up his winnings and thanked them all for the opportunity to play. Across the table one of the loosing players jumped to his feet and flashed a knife in Asker’s face. Asker froze as the loser’s eyes locked onto his.
‘Now yer look ’ere, Johnny-come-lately. Just keep playin’.’
‘Keep playin’ by all means, if yer be able. But count me out, sonny,’ Asker said coldly. From the corner of his eye he had already seen Billy Cox move like greased lightning, pistol in hand.
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‘Now yer look ’ere, mate.’ Billy held the gun to the gambler’s head. ‘When Andy says ’e ain’t playin’, then ’e ain’t playin’. Andy means what ’e says, kid. So drop the knife or yer brains ain’t gonna touch the ground till they’re beyond the Black Stump.’
‘All right, mate. Was only jokin’.’
The man with the knife slowly lowered himself into his seat while the dealer, a cigarette hanging from a corner of his mouth and one eye shut to keep the smoke out, shelled out the cards as though nothing had happened.
Andrew slipped quietly out of the den keeping his eyes straight in front as he stepped around the prostitutes. He hurried to another bar where he celebrated his good fortune and lucky escape with another drink. Apart from Ruby something else had been on his mind for the last two days. When he got back to his room he found a sheet of paper and struggled to write a note in his barely literate hand.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Buses, trucks, taxis and at least 7 million kilometres
My bus and coach driving career started at Eastern Buses, Auckland in 1964. Below is a summary of the Eastern Ford fleet during the 1950s and 60s courtesy of the Omnibus Society website:
Eastern Buses, Bucklands Beach, Auckland. 5 Buses all with NZ Motor Bodies bodies. #7 (and probably #6 and #8) initially registered to Thomas Herbert Hadfield trading as Eastern Buses. #9 and #10 probably registered initially to Eastern Buses Ltd.

Chassis Nbr/VIN
Original Reg
Later Owner
Later Reg
P.103 (1956)
Eastern Buses Ltd
694TF B33+11F; No LTSA record

No LTSA record

Eastern Buses Ltd
P.104 (1956)
694TF B33+8F; Initial reg to Thomas Hadfield

Eastern Buses Ltd
694TF B33+8F; Initial reg to Thomas Hadfield

Caves Buses Ltd, Whakatane

W Thatcher, Whakatane


L B Henderson, Porirua


R Squire, Porirua


M H & V M Carter, Palmerston North

Movan; LPG; CoF exp 10/07

P.107 (1956)
Eastern Buses Ltd
C84BFS B33+8F; LTSA says first reg 1952
A V Beehre, Te Aroha
Date on LTSA is nonsense

S Rea, Waihi


J Gardiner, Waihi


Registration lapsed


P.108 (1956)
Eastern Buses Ltd
C84BFS B33+9F; No LTSA record

P.109 (1956)
Eastern Buses Ltd
C84BFS B31+7F; No LTSA record
Probably re-registered

This is how my bus driving career started in 1964, at Eastern Buses, Bucklands Beach, Auckland, New Zealand and driving the above buses. After doing the driving test in a 1930s Bedford OLB they put me on the city run with #6. It had a wooden frame on a Ford chassis, but with a Chev straight 6 engine. The transmission was a 4 speed with an Eaton 2 speed axle. The service brakes were hydraulic and the parking brake was a Cardan shaft which was almost useless. It had a less than full span front axle which made it take corners like a keel boat. It was a bit of a challenge. I can remember many times meeting Brent Timperley in #7, which leaned even more than #6, on a narrow S bend near Pegion Mountain. We had to be careful not to clip the roofs as we passed. We were only supposed to clip tickets.
A 1946 Ford bus from the same batch as the Eastern Fords.
Note the narrow wheel base at the front.

After a few months I was promoted to the 1950 built #8 which was a nice one to drive and had the full span front axle. It also had a Chev engine which was on its last legs when I took it over. They asked me to take it quietly and not to worry about running late. That worked well until I took some holidays and returned to find a Bedford engine being installed. I was as proud as a dog with two tails until one day when one blade of the cooling fan parted company. The blade came through the side of the engine cowling, nicked my trousers and left an imprint up the wall, across the roof and down the other side.

I drove #7, #9 and #10 quite a bit too, but #8 was the best of that bunch. Later they promoted me again to a Thames Trader and a Commer with a TS3 two-stroke. They also had two shiny new Bedford SB3s which were used on charters and tours. In those days Eastern did day trips from Auckland to Rotorua for the Government Tourist Bureau. We were given a written commentary to learn a few minutes before departure from the cruise ship.

In the latter part of 1966 I moved from Bucklands Beach to Otahuhu and went to work for the Passenger Transport Company (PTC).

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