Global sponsors make the wheels of competitive cycling turn, and it’s hard to remember it wasn’t always like that. In Samoa now is a cycling race around the two main islands. It’s straightforward, it’s just a race, but somehow – without this being the intention – it’s more than a race. It has a harder edge than other cycling events to be sure, but its appeal is greater than that, too. It’s a quest as well as a test.
Wally Collins rode in the 2016 Ford Tour of Samoa on an old, borrowed bike. He’s a local rider, fast, but with no experience of riding in a bunch, no training in road racing. His shoes were cleated, but worn, and they kept slipping. This was an improvement on 2015 when he rode with sandshoes on those raised pedals. Steve Gurney, in admiration, went up to him at Tour’s end. While hugging Wally he lifted the front of the bike off the ground. The wheel fell off.
On the second day of the last Tour, on the island of Upolu, Wally hit a dog. Dogs are prominent; some chase the bikes, pugnaciously. Wally’s bike was too damaged to last 300 more kilometres. The riders caught the ferry the next morning to the island of Savai’i. Wally went too, hoping Dylan the tour mechanic could fix his machine. Not even Dylan could. Wally went back to Opolu. That day the competitors completed another stage, and got ready for the Day 3 time trial. Wally was borrowing another bike. He caught the next dawn ferry, and while everyone else (a long way up the road) was still asleep in their beach fales he rode the stage he had missed. He arrived just in time for that day’s 40-kilometre sprint into the hilly interior of the island. Wally would finish fifth on the Tour. As a salute, Auckland’s Philip Moore gave his own bike to Wally at the end of it. Wally told Phil, a few days later, that he had never owned anything like that. He found it hard to believe someone would do that for him. But Phil had done something else for other Samoans, seven years earlier. On the day of the September tsunami he had been relaxing at the resort of Lalomanu. Phil decided to fly back to New Zealand ahead of schedule. His flight out was at 1am; the tsunami destroyed the village later that morning. His departure probably saved the lives of his Samoan family who had planned to join him there; the waves that engulfed Lalomanu were 10 metres high. Back in Auckland, Phil immediately raised $15,000. He and other Les Mills trainers hopped on bikes and had their kilometres sponsored. The money went a long way towards helping rebuild the village. Phil rode back there on the first day of the 2016 Tour. He found a community reborn.
There’s a lot that people do for one another on this unusual tour. It is not without its dangers, so each rider stays as others are counted in at the end of a stage. They stop to help after crashes; there is a bond you don’t find in normal A-grade cycling events. But A-graders wouldn’t take their $10,000 bikes to Samoa for this ride, and they might find the conditions a bit challenging. They might not like being woken by roosters at 3am, for instance. Some Samoan roosters helpfully remind you of the time regularly through the small hours.
Malo lava. Welcome to the way top cycling races used to be when they started, maybe. Here are fit weekend athletes with regular jobs: GNS scientist, company director, fruit importer, mental health nurse. Someone works for DOC, someone else for the Cancer Society. They come from New Zealand, Samoa and Australia. Many have ridden in big cycling events, but none like this. They look the part in their racing underarmour and lycra, but they have no sponsors, no support except for a truck lumbering behind with water and advice. Before the heat of a Samoan morning gets too sapping they can be hurtling down a mountain hill road, the terrain ahead hardly visible in the semi-darkness. Catastrophe is possible with every metre that flashes by. “In any given second” says Wellington rider Brent Thomas, “you have to expect a pig to run out in front of you.” I don’t think you hear that advice in pre-race briefings back in New Zealand. Downhill these men and women travel at more than twice the speed limit for cars on these roads, racing right on the outer rim of their nerves and talent.
There is no doubt about Christian Wenger’s talent, he seemed unbeatable. Christian works for EQC in Christchurch auditing construction work, and was looking good for his third Tour of Samoa win. But at the end of a sprint stage he came up behind a slow vehicle. The car’s hazard lights were on, and Christian assumed it was part of the Tour, and overtook it. The car wasn’t part of the tour, and its driver turned right into his path. Christian’s collarbone was broken. He dragged his bike across the line, still in the lead, but there would be no third victory. His partner Rebecca Marley was the first woman home, though. Christian stayed to watch her win, grateful for donated painkillers, before he was medevaced to New Zealand. “It’s not just a bike race on a tropical island,” he says; “I love the heat, the hills… the friendships. I always come to Samoa with a mindset that ‘anything can happen’ and for me it did. The Tour means so much to me, and the fact I could not ‘complete’ it was devastating, not to ride the final laps of the Apia clock tower and stand beside the other riders and share the sense of completion…”
Mary Lambie, on one of those dark mornings, slowed at the bottom of a hill, trying to see the riders ahead of her. She slowed too much. A stone on the road that might have been flicked sideways at high speed, flicked the bike sideways instead. Mary had a re-shaped helmet, a long gash on her knee down to the bone and was bleeding from both legs and an elbow. She had 80kms more to ride that day, and finished the stage.
Undeniably the setting is consoling; actually it’s just plain gorgeous, with the blues of the ocean running that clichéd adjectival gamut from azure to turquoise. There is every shade of green on land, and marvellous blooms, teuilas, plumerias, tea flowers, crowded yellows and pinks, reds and purples. Local kids shout “Paapalagi!” as the Tour flashes by. Some of them in a remote village don’t quite understand what is happening, they see the riders as strange entertainment, and throw stones. A big one from a slingshot nearly unseats somebody. “Good thing it hit me, not the bike” he says.
Fa’a Samoa is ‘the way’ of the islands. When you hear about a ‘way’ there is usually religion, as with the modern pilgrimages in Europe like El Camino Santiago. Here too are pilgrims. They are riding for reasons bigger than themselves. For the USO riders from Wellington (“Understand your Strength and Overcome”) there’s a determination to improve health for Maori and Pacific men and women. They want to be behind any initiative that does that. Someone else is honouring the memory of his late Samoan wife by riding her home roads. Chris T’eo from Wellington reached the age of 42 and was not pleased when he stepped on the scales. One day on a fun ride he was exhausted after 18 kilometres on the flat. Now he looks like The Rock. Most of the men and women here have something to prove. One rider’s wife and mother died from cancer.
They don’t seem wide-eyed with zeal. They laugh and joke and prank and drink like any other assemblage of sports men and women, there is nothing solemn about this procession around Samoa. But to tough out 30-degree heat on rough roads, to avoid traffic unused to cyclists travelling at speed, and – perhaps trickiest – to escape being bowled off your bike by one of Samoa’s two hundred thousand peripatetic pigs, this is a tour that needs a special determination.
Obstacles require inspiration. In Samoa there is no escaping inspiration; it’s everywhere, in the slogans for Jesus on the buses, the religious lights and flags in the villages, and in the multiplicity of worship venues. (Apia’s Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is one of the grander churches in the world, with medieval themes whisked across to the Pacific, the Virgin and apostles in stained glass among palm trees, with Mary as matai.)
At first there was no interest in the Ford Tour of Samoa. In the beginning, in 2014, was the word and not much else. Organiser Seti Afoa had given up on getting any entrants. Then came a call from Christian Wenger asking if the race was still on. Seti decided to go ahead, even though it would mean a financial loss. Christian lined up against three locals. Numbers improved in 2015, and the Tour of Samoa may now have reached critical mass. Seti still carries the loss, offset by his successful Samoa Swim Series. 2017 will likely see a small profit. Mike McKay, who placed third in 2016, loves the event because it is “thrilling”, full of the unknown, it heightens his awareness of life. The eventual race winner, Tim Robertson, in his victory speech, said “Out of the enduring comes a beauty and a peace, and it makes you a better person. Riding is freedom, and after you have ridden, the world seems a better place. The bike is the vehicle of freedom.”
You can ride this race as recreation: you will deter the dogs by shouting “Arloo!” (“Go!”) at them, which usually works. You will pedal slowly enough not to collide with pigs. You will have time to say “Talofa” as you cycle through pretty villages, and receive a hundred smiles back. You will stay at resorts that suit either your sense of adventure or your desire for comfort. Even at a sedate pace this ride has a curious extra dimension beyond the physical. The cyclists themselves have the usual mix of personal beliefs, probably reflecting Australasian agnosticism. But Seti Afoa tells a story about how his Swim Series got going.
You must swim between Upolu and Savai’i, a similar distance to Cook Strait. Seti enlisted two local swimmers to test the route, and they set off in perfect weather. Close to Savai’i the weather closed in, the rain swept the ocean, currents grew stronger, the waves became towering, and they could not, literally, see the large island they were only a few hundred metres from. Samoa is fringed by reefs, and this was serious. Did Seti pray? He didn’t say. What he saw was the inter-island ferry looming through the rain, heading for the safe gap in the reef. Furiously they swam for the spot, were carried by the surging waves through the gap, and they were safe.
When this tour is over, there is a curious addendum. If you have succumbed to heat on one of its stages, or had too many punctures, and for whatever reason you haven’t managed to complete part of it, there is a final Redemption Ride. You get up in the morning and make up the distance you didn’t cover. You can bail (certainly riders balked), but only one did not complete the requirement. It says something about the place this event is held in, and the small team who run it. There is one road to redemption around these two big islands, nearly every Samoan lives on that road. As a rider you feel intimate, in a sense, with their lives, and in many ways they have plenty to teach us about the right way to live, where family is everything, no-one goes hungry, and the bonds you are born into stay strong throughout life. It’s not the perfect society, but in these crucial ways it’s better than the one we have. Maybe that is some of the attraction for the palagi cyclists who will go there now in greater numbers.
By Jim Mora
Great to be invited onto The Project to discuss proposed extra medical leave for women only.
Yes, enough is enough. A quality broadcaster but if not funded adequately we all suffer.
Radio NZ host Suzie Ferguson. Radio NZ received around $35 million in the latest financial year. Photo / Mark Mitchell
I expect the Government to end its funding freeze on Radio NZ, with extra cash in the Budget next Thursday. A radio industry source told me it was unlikely the freeze would extend into a ninth year.
The public broadcaster has reinvented itself, supposedly so it no longer threatens the commercial sector, and it must be harder to sustain the claim that it is biased towards Labour.
Evidence of a new RNZ strategy can be seen in the much-lauded series The Ninth Floor, which features Guyon Espiner interviewing former Prime Ministers.
Not only was the series well liked, it also set RNZ apart in the media market, providing content that commercial broadcasters would not touch – not even TVNZ.
Finance Minister Steven Joyce – a former broadcasting entrepreneur – will have been aware of RNZ’s wider strategy, which includes making content available free or at low cost to the commercial media.
In the latest financial year, RNZ got about $35.4 million in total government funding.
Easing the freeze would change the approach taken by the past three National governments.
In my view, many National politicians, including Joyce, dislike public broadcasting, but maybe the broadcaster’s new strategy will allow for a more realistic approach to public broadcasting, at a time when some commercial media are struggling to provide long-form content.
Ironically, success can create problems. When RNZ is down, it is criticised as failing listeners. When it is up, commercial competitors claim that taxpayer funding gives it an unfair advantage.
Latest ratings from researcher GfK show RNZ gaining market share.
Beyond its Budget allocation, RNZ will also be getting a share of the proceeds from the sale and leaseback of its Auckland studios. More assets have been marked for sale, with the proceeds to be shared between RNZ and the consolidated fund under an agreed formula.
Great to see Socius director Jim Mora’s The Panel ( RNZ 4-5 pm) remaining at number one in the afternoon radio market – a slot typically dominated by music radio.
Mark Jennings – Mark Jennings is co-editor of Newsroom. He writes about the media industry, business, and tertiary education.
The rude health of radio as a medium has been reinforced with the release of RNZ’s audience ratings figures. National Radio added 44,200 listeners in the 12-month period to April 8, 2017.
That is an increase of 8 percent, giving National radio a weekly cumulative audience of 579,400 listeners, making it the second most listened to station after The Edge according to the GfK survey.
The survey of commercial radio stations was released a week ago and had the MediaWorks’ station on top with a cumulative reach of 662,300 listeners.
The surveys showed radio – public and commercial – is growing at a time when audiences for “print” and “Free to Air” television are falling.
Radio people like to refer to their medium as the “cockroach” of the industry. The latest survey shows not only are more people listening to radio but they are listening longer.
The average time per week a National radio listener spent tuned into the station went up from 12 hours 28 minutes a week to 12 hours 45 minutes.
RNZ CEO Paul Thompson gives some of the credit to technology.
“We’re in an age where everyone has a radio in their pocket these days in the form of a smart phone. You can also do other things while you are listening to the radio, this ability to multi-task means you can still have radio in the mix, that’s not the case for other media. They are not weathering the storm in the same way as us.”
On May 3rd I was pleased to be asked to open a debate/discussion in front of the London Business School Alumni Club’s Auckland chapter. This is an annual evening, with alumni of other leading international business schools like HBS, Yale, INSEAD IMD, AGSM Sydney, Melbourne Business School. The topic was “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.” I affirmed it, well-known economic commentator Bernard Hickey negated it, and Massey University Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas took a middle-ground position.
Here is a rough transcript of my argument –
Mostly my position is fairly orthodox. It consists of three strands of doom, three tendrils – greed, debt and robots. I’m considering climate change and over-population as givens.
I’ll look at greed first. We’re not being paid for this evening, even though you are an audience of top leaders and professionals. You wouldn’t expect we would be paid, the idea of being here for a discussion is enough. If Barack Obama were here, on the other hand…
Barack Obama, the great hope of our time, the best speaker I have ever heard… “we are the change that we seek”. He said income inequality is the defining issue of our time. Barack leaves office, and promptly starts hobnobbing with billionaires. Senator Elizabeth Warren, in the same political camp as the ex-President, said she was “troubled” that he would pocket $400,000 for a speech to a top Manhattan investment firm. “One of the things I talk about in my new book” she said “is the influence of money. It’s a snake that slithers through Washington.” She suggested it corrupts and even imperils democracy.
My position is that trust has been lost in the institutions of authority in the West. We’re uneasy when even the President with perfect principles gets rich in office and then leaves and does this. That feeds into what we recognise as the routine ‘doom’ argument , and I’m quoting more or less from a characterisation of it I saw online a few days ago – “The elite have gorged themselves on globalism, free trade and Wall Street casino-style gambling. They have let us down, we cannot trust them or their values anymore. They haven’t even been good at running things. The losses have been socialised and the profits privatised.”
The Dodd-Frank legislation in America, which shut the stable door after the GFC horses had bolted, doesn’t, apparently, stop financial institutions being too big to fail again and be bailed out again, according to some recent analysis. The core issue has not been addressed. Governments and lawmakers still care about people, and try to make their lives better, if only sometimes to get re-elected. But no-one can tackle greed. This is an undoubted epoch of greed, with shareholders simply demanding – or rather not resisting – so much more profit all the time that this now threatens civilisation itself, i.e. civilised society. The common wealth has been neglected, despised. So, governments address an inequality that they cannot solve.
There are experiments with a Universal Benefit, which others call the magic money tree. We may be able to talk about that later.
We have seen the death of restraint, or to use the old-fashioned word, niceness. I once interviewed Professor Kenneth Minogue from the LSE, he was a great man of his day, and he told me that moral authority had had its day in (e.g.) education. He reckoned the collapse of moral authority is irreversible, and can only return when some outside agent or agency forces changes on society. And that will happen around about now, is very possibly happening as we sit here. I also interviewed Professor Nicholas Boyle from Cambridge, the author of the book 2014: How To Survive The Next World Crisis. His very interesting and persuasive thesis is that in the second decade of every recent century, because it’s then that centuries really change, an event inevitably occurs that determines the shape of the rest of that century for good or ill. Think World War 1, or in the century before that the Congress of Vienna, which bestowed stability for the next 75 years, more or less. His supposition is that around about now, the agent is about to appear, and will likely originate as economic turmoil. And Mervyn King who has just written “The End of Alchemy” might say it may well start in the banking sector.
Trump is not an outlier, he is a messenger, a harbinger. He is one of the game-changers. He is the change that we were subconsciously seeking.
And actually, as I say that, don’t you think it’s right? Can’t you sense in your bones that the world is teetering on the brink of something, whether it’s an abyss or not? The world is sick of the way it’s been going, at a kind of Gaian level? Grant Cleary from Cleary Wealth Management who’s here tonight thinks a version of this is right. I’ll do him the honour of paraphrasing aspects of a recent talk of his:
When elites rise higher and higher while the masses are in morasses the outcomes are never good. Markets are unsustainably high, the bond market is blowing up, increased interest rates and inflation will disrupt other markets like housing. The weight of the EU economy is crushing Europe. America’s forthcoming infrastructure and defence spending means more jobs and together with Trump’s tax cuts there’ll be increased debt and increased inflation. Bonds are at the end of a 36-year bull run, the sharemarket in America has been good for 8 years. We assume it can go on. But that suspends the law of physics. It’s like that moment when Wile E. Coyote runs off the edge of the cliff and manages to suspend himself in mid-air for a few moments by frantically kicking his legs. We are in that economic phase known as leg-kicking.
Irving Fisher from Yale was one of America’s finest economists, he’s still regarded that way. He’s the one who said stocks have reached a permanently high plateau in 1929, three days before the stock market crashed. When it did crash, it seemed inconceivable to him that evident value in shares could be ignored. And that is the trouble with the economist’s point of view. Only a few people are economists. The rest have human nature.
We insist on growth, growth, growth, because the machine won’t run without it, but there are too many now running after the machine.
Predictions are hard, I admit. I collect them. It’s a hobby. And every so often I have gathered enough to write them up for a piece in a magazine, so we can all have a good laugh. People always get the future wrong. The cleverer they are the more wrong they are. There are the famous examples, like (in 1878) Sir William Preece, the chief engineer of the Post Office, predicting “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”
We’re still waiting for the microwaves in our cars that Cuisine magazine foresaw in 1989. We’d be preparing meals on our way to and our way home from work. Not completely unlikely now with Auckland traffic, of course.
Just before the GFC I clearly remember a U.S. economist saying that 1929 could never happen again because of sophisticated financial mechanisms now… which turned out to be credit default swaps, whereby I buy from you a loan you’ve approved for a man in a trailer park with an alcohol addiction whom you’ve talked into buying a house. The sophisticated financial mechanisms in 2017 are essentially an anxious consensus by finance ministers to ignore debt. But debt cannot be ignored no matter how much money you print and it has now reached 330% of world GDP. 74 trillion dollars’ worth of economy and 152 trillion dollars’ worth of debt… and a productivity slowdown. It is like owning a house worth a million dollars and owing two million on it, hoping for a capital gain of 100% and trying to pay the interest while you’re only getting part-time work. Inflation can float debt away, but only with productivity.
Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a speech in China the other day. He said globalisation was generally “great” for the world. But the problem is the pain. The pain is getting greater and nearer. Donald Trump got elected because of the pain. The pain is complex, it’s not just no jobs, but no jobs will be the paramount pain.
Yuval Harari the Israeli university lecturer who wrote the best-seller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, says what’s on the way is a massive new stratum of society he calls the “useless class.” Citizens “devoid of any economic, political or even artistic value, who contribute nothing to the prosperity, power and glory of society.”
The uber driver, himself or herself a tremendously disruptive force, will not be able to make the change to become a skilled software engineer when the skilled software engineers make the uber drivers obsolete. Uber itself is investing hugely in autonomous vehicles.
Only a few will own the algorithms.
It’s not inequality that necessarily contains the seeds of a society’s demise. What will sink us is the weight of the people he calls useless. The trouble is they’re not useless, at the moment many of them are like you and me, consumers, but when they can no longer be consumers… they are… useless.
In past decades, global inequality has fallen, yes, but people were earning the money. We won’t be able to carry all these people. We will bypass a big cohort of them.
But before the masses succumb to their fate, when they realise their jobs have gone – or if they have jobs they’ll have to endlessly upskill and be fluid and be disrupted and work 60 hours a week to be one of the valuable ones – before that inevitability… comes an unmanageable schemozzle.
Science fiction writers are always best at predicting the future, and have you noticed it is all dystopian? The haves live in walled enclaves while the have-nots wail and gnash their teeth in the exterior darkness on the other side of high, Trumpish walls.
You can put doors in walls, there is a way out of this, there will be a way out after the almighty mess, whatever that will be… but right now there is no map. No-one seems to have a map. And with the amount of greed in the world, untrammelled, it would need to be printed on $100 notes for anyone to look at it. That’s the problem
It was an honour to be asked to deliver the address at the Anzac Day Memorial service at the Ranfurly war veterans’ complex in Three Kings. It has existed since 1903, built by Lord Ranfurly as a memorial to New Zealand soldiers who served in the Boer War. He thought it more valuable than a statue, and so it has proven to be. The original house is now being wonderfully refurbished, and around it will be 200 retirement units, to subside the work of the Trust in looking after the veterans of numerous conflicts since World War 2. So, the complex is deeply connected with our military past, and the strategy for its future viability is a smart integration process with the needs of the wider older community. It’s a very clever way of moving forward. The impressive hospital in the grounds has a lovely Field of Remembrance outside now, and on the door of the hospital rooms are names and ranks… it is so nice to see these men and women acknowledged so well, cared for so well. What I said was this, more or less –
Service hasn’t always been so well acknowledged. I’m old enough to remember that long period when Anzac Day was taken for granted, until New Zealand’s younger people made it once again the great day of remembrance that it should be. Aside from reaching the rank of sergeant in school cadets, by finding a stripe in the storeroom and promoting myself from corporal, I have had nothing to do with war. Like many of us here. We are part of the lucky cohort that has never seen war, and of course everyone worries now if that golden era is about to be over. Who knows? I collect predictions. That’s one of my hobbies. Humans are not very good at predictions. When New York’s first apartment building, speaking of building apartments, was planned in 1869, a prominent architect said it would fail, because gentlemen would never live on shelves. Most predictions have a short shelf life, and it’s the same when it comes to war.
The BBC was looking at the peaceful state of the world at the beginning of 2014. Between 1950 (when the Korean War started) and 2007, 150,000 people had died on average every year from war. From 2008 to 2013 that figure dropped dramatically, to 28,000 per year. So, the BBC’s political editor surmised it would even be lower in 2014 and keep getting lower. But 2014 was the year of change – 163,000 deaths. Fatalities have kept climbing. In that same year, the New York Times ran an op-ed with the headline ‘The End of War?’. The well-known economist Julian Simon was quoted. It was his opinion that there was “less and less to be gained economically from it. As people get richer and smarter, their lives and their knowledge become far more valuable than the land, minerals and natural resources they used to fight over.”
That sounded good three years ago; but we live again in uncertain times, as we always used to. Every New Zealander knows about Gallipoli, a decent number know about the slaughter at the Somme and Ypres and Passchendaele. Not many Kiwis, now, know that by the end of the Great War we were the best fighting force in the British army, and in the last 100 days of that war the New Zealanders spearheaded victory after victory. And it was that success that killed my great-uncle Joseph McCreanor.
I had to search the graveyards to find Joe. Our High Commissioner back then wanted NZ’s memorials not to be included on the great Menin Gate in Ypres, which has 55,000 names on it. 500,000 died in the salient around the town. You have to hunt for our names.
Down the road, for example, at Messines, is a graveyard surrounded by farmland, and it was a nice day when we were there, with paddocks of llamas and ponies, and in the distance the hazy pastel outlines of ridges and copses. It’s impossible now to imagine batteries of guns on those ridges, or the knee-deep mud on the flat land. Men of the Auckland, Otago, Wellington and Canterbury regiments have their names on the walls there: from the Machine Gun Corps, the Entrenching Battalion, the Maori Battalion; 700 died at Messines. Right now, if you take yourself back a century, that battle is still a few weeks away. 100 years ago today, New Zealanders were fighting just down the road at Arras, another huge conflict.
But while we know so much about Gallipoli, much of the intricate detail of it, very few really of the post-Gallipoli stories are told, and those stories are about great guts, without much glory. There are a few RSA poppies wedged in cracks in the walls at Messines, to show we do visit sometimes. And poppies there are an everyday item, part of the merchandise of tourism: poppy pins, poppy tins, even poppy chocolates.
On Anzac Day two years ago, getting back to my Uncle Joseph, we joined other New Zealanders setting off in the footsteps of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, marching to assault the fortified town of Le Quesnoy in 1918. This is thankfully becoming well-known history now. Big, thick, 30-foot high walls around the town like a mediaeval castle. The New Zealanders were put in charge of an actual battle for the first time, and they were brilliant. They launched a hugely skilled and successful operation in which no civilians died. They dropped smoke bombs from their mortars right on top of those walls.
It is very moving to stand underneath the wall where Second Lieutenant Leslie Averill went up a rickety ladder armed with a pistol to lead the New Zealanders into the town, expecting at any moment to be shot; dozens of his comrades already had been. Second lieutenants had high casualty rates, they were often intrepid NCOs promoted in the field. Leslie Averill had won a Military Cross at Bapaume a few weeks earlier, and no doubt he knew my Uncle Joe.
It took me a long time to find Joseph in the Bancourt British Military Cemetery, in northern France, in the middle of nowhere. These graveyards are all beautifully maintained, but they are so far from home. And I sat down next to him and all I could think of saying was “We’ve come to see you at last, Joe. Thank you.”
My mother’s family had come out from Ireland; and Joe came too. Joe was in the Royal Marines, and he deserted. He found work as a porter at the Auckland Railway Station and one day he ran into none other than his commanding officer, who was somehow in Auckland. Nothing was done. Joe obviously didn’t forget this, he could presumably have been arrested and court-martialled. There was a deserters’ amnesty when war broke out, and Joe signed up. He loved his family, he had every reason to stay, but he went. He sailed from Wellington with the New Zealand Division and ended up in the 2nd Brigade, which bore the brunt of fighting at Passchendaele and Messines.
Joe was praised in despatches; he was a Lewis Gunner. He made corporal, and then sergeant. The war was only weeks from ending, as it turned out, when the 2nd Brigade rolled the Germans back in the turning-point battle of Bapaume. And you would think this name, Bapaume, would be known by every Kiwi, but we have chosen to remember that war in a different way.
At night, our men had very little cover in the open fields. It was Sniper’s Alley for the Germans. Before dawn on the 1st of September 1918 Joe was shot. That day the New Zealanders broke through and the Germans fled. And they kept fleeing from then on, pretty much. If Joe had lasted one more day, he probably would have survived the war.
But I didn’t know any of that when I sat down beside him, I thought he had made the rank of sergeant and redeemed himself and served well enough, and that was it. But he had received the DCM for extreme bravery on the Western Front. And I saw on the headstone that he had died a Second Lieutenant and been awarded the Military Cross.
We’re now seeing the centenaries of battles where our losses well and truly exceeded those at Gallipoli: 5,000 New Zealand soldiers died at Passchendaele alone. 1000 men who didn’t come back from the Somme have no graves at all. We may have been fighting a vainglorious British war, as some say, but we were valiant.
It may seem to all of us in 2017 that war is simply hell, and simply useless, but it is also simply amazing what men and women were capable of. Nurses were killed on the front lines too. If you’re being shelled by artillery I think you can call that the front line. That’s how some of the nurses died, just doing their rounds. So, although we fight wars with no front lines anymore, it was the same for them sometimes.
It is simply humbling to read about these levels of courage; these were people who should be far better remembered. Anzac Day commemorates all our wars and conflicts, 42 of them since Vietnam, but it began because of that Great War, which robbed New Zealand of a generation of great men and women. 100 years ago, a lot of them were about to die heroic deaths.
Thank you again for asking me to speak, and far greater thanks to all the people here today who have seen service, and who have their own stories to tell, and they are stories we need to listen to, because the leaders of the world at the moment seem to have forgotten them.
It would be wonderful if we continued to look at those crosses in the graveyards with admiration… but if we never had any more of them to look at from now on. That’s not a prediction.
Found this interesting insight into expected social media movements this year. The greatest advice we can offer is stay on top of your social media ( we can help with this) . Remember the social media world never sits still and you don’t want to be left behind.
Written by Ash Read Nov 21, 2016 – What does the future look like for social media?
That’s a question we regularly discuss here at Buffer and one we’re not quite sure anyone has a concrete answer to. However, there are some clues out there as to what the future in 2017, and beyond, may look like.
As part of our State of Social Media week, it feels like a great time to sit back and reflect on the social media landscape and what may be ahead. So let’s take a look at some of social media’s biggest platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter) and discuss where they’re heading and what trends to look out for in 2017.
Ready to jump in?
Before we jump into each platform individually, I first wanted to touch on something that’s been a trend throughout the year.
2016 has been a period of consolidation for many of the biggest social media platforms out there. It seems that most products launch in a niche, with a unique perspective or angle, and then once they begin to hit critical mass, they start to blend into one another.
Let me explain…
Until the launch of Memories, Snapchat had always been about unpolished, in-the-moment content. Instagram was always the place for us to share only our best images and videos until they opened up Stories and encouraged users to share more Snapchat-like content.
The blur between Snapchat and Instagram isn’t the only case of platform consolidation we’ve seen in 2016 either. For example:
In 2017, I believe we’ll likely see more of this trend with every the major platform battling it out to become the go-to place for short, snackable and in-the-moment content. And by the end of 2017, we’ll likely see most of the major platforms enabling users to:
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