What I Did This Year — Part Two

There’s a lot of ground to cover in this part, so let’s leave the pictures to do the talking.

In March, The Boy was in a frightful car accident and was hospitalised for a month.

Fill* and The Boy — Auckland Hospital, March 2019. 

After three months at home and regular physiotherapy, he returned to full-time work in July. He’s a little over people telling him how lucky he was. But oi was he lucky.

My father died in May.

The Reverend Moe Silipa Mamea (retired), 1926–2019.

He was 92 and he’d had an excellent innings (he loved his cricket). His natural athleticism may have skipped me entirely and gone straight to his grandson, but I’m grateful to have his patience, perseverance, and tact.

My father had some unfinished business and I volunteered to sort it out. In June, The Lovely Wife accompanied me to Samoa.

Mount Vaea from Togafu’afu’a — June 2019

The wife loved the heat and humidity — apparently we’ll be visiting each year henceforth — and the pace of life there is glacial. Nice if you live there, a little frustrating when you’ve only a few days to get stuff done. It was a welcome interlude, considering.

Half-way through the year, my dreams began to have a recurring theme involving some massive weight slowly crushing me.

‘Twas only The Kitten missing me.

Still Life With Chickens is in its second year of touring. This year it did a couple of stops in the North Island, did a circuit of the South Island — and in August, it had its Australian premiere.

The Lovely Wife on a ferry — Sydney Harbour, August 2019.

The Lovely Wife and I attended the premiere where we had a grand yarn with Martin Edmond and Mayu Kanamori, and we explored the Emerald City by tram, bus and ferry. Still Life is off to Shanghai later this month for its Chinese premiere.

Somehow, amidst all of the above, I persisted with my masters course.

* This teddy bear joined the Mamea Aiga in Christmas 2002 when The Boy, then aged six, announced his arrival: I got a teddy bear and his name’s Phil! The Lovely Wife and I exchanged looks and asked where the name Phil came from. It says so right here, The Boy said, turning over the sewn tag: “Polyester Fill”.



I have a number of reputations to uphold, among them a prodigious appetite for saturated fats. Cheesecake and doughnuts have been a staple for a large part of my life, and I can only presume that obesity and diabetes have been kept at bay only by the love of a good woman and semi-regular exercise.

A recent research trip presented my hungry eye with ‘cream choc donut[s]’, a big-city steal at $2.50 per. Seeing my longing look at it, The Lovely Wife suggested I stop being dramatic and just buy it. The thing was, I knew that just two mouthfuls of one of those triple-threats would be enough — but since a partly-eaten doughnut is anathema to any self-respecting Samoan, I would have to eat the rest of it.

I looked at her and sadly told her that those days were over lied that I was not in the mood for doughnuts. She still saw my final melancholic look at those doughnuts, but being the lovely wife that she is, she said nothing.

The last few years, the consumption of such delicacies has resulted in less of the comforting ‘good sick‘, and more of the just plain sick feeling. I suppose it was the tail end of a longer transition period* where, once-upon-a-takeaways, I could eat whatever I wanted, and nowadays I mostly/sometimes/less-often-than-I-really-should watch what I eat.

I’ve passed a gastronomical milestone in this life. It’s just a sign of age. A constant of life is change, and change is inevitable.

Time, perhaps, for a new food-oriented reputation.

* The first sign would’ve been when The Boy, then eight years old, began to out-eat me at most meals.



Image courtesy Auckland Theatre Company.

The lead up to the opening has been more public than I expected. The write-ups and mentions continued in the Herald, the Listener (hardcopy only), and Tagata Pasifika have been nice to read and watch.

On opening night I was accompanied by  The Lovely WifeThe Girl and The Boy, and I was very, very happy to have my family with me. The opening night audience liked the show — that’s always grafifying. The early reviews in BroadwayWorld and Concrete Playground are positive.

For some reason this doesn’t feel real. Maybe it’ll hit me at some point — soon, hopefully, maybe — that I’ve achieved something tangible, something to be inordinately proud of. Instead I’ve been looking over my shoulder, waiting to be awoken from some impossibly good dream.

I’m biased so I shan’t exhort you to see the show.  But I will point you in the direction of the Facebook page and Twitter feed so you can decide for yourself.


E Day Plus 5

From the correspondence of D F Mamea, Esquire, newly of Northland.

The Kitten makes the best of her circumstances.
The Kitten makes the best of her circumstances.

Dearest Lovely Wife

Dave the Chimney Sweep arrived and went to put a temporary fix on the burner when he straightened and looked at me: Sorry, mate, he said, but it’s so buggered it’s unsafe to use.

He has thus uplifted the wood burner and most of the flue to rebuild in his workshop, and The Boy and I are now without heating.

I’ve told The Boy an old flatting trick of wearing as much of your wardrobe as you can to keep warm. (I refrained from telling him the other old flatting trick of heating the house by turning on all the hobs on your stovetop and turning the oven on high and leaving the ovendoor open.) We shall rearrange living and sleeping arrangements: he shall move his sleeping gear into one of the bedrooms (he’s been enjoying sleeping in the expanse of the great hall which is furnished with only two easy chairs and a most-kindly-lent 40-inch flat screen); I shall move my sleeping gear into the study; and the remaining bedroom shall become the new and temporary lounge with the easy chairs and flat screen. We’ll downsize our living spaces to maximise heat retention.

It’ll be fun. For the first week.




E Day Plus 4

From the correspondence of D F Mamea, Esquire, newly of Northland.

Fowl Aer residents.
Fowl Aer residents.

Dearest Lovely Wife

The Dog and The Puppy didn’t finish their dinner from last night so I only topped up their bowls for breakfast. I’m a little worried about their lack of appetite but they were still reasonably active. The Boy took them for a walk and there were no complaints (from the dogs) (or the boy). Their food supply shall be adjusted, their behaviour and waistlines closely monitored.

The Kitten doesn’t like her SPCA food. Only minutes earlier, I heard her sullenly chew a single mouthful of it before leaving the house. Another animal to keep an eye on.

There are still ten ex-Laingholm chickens in the Green Zone, plus the inherited guinea fowl and bantam. They seem settled as they hoovered up their food. I hereby dub their chicken house Fowl Aer.

Dave the Chimney Sweep had a look at the reluctant and smoky wood burner this morning. This needs more than a sweep, mate. He said it needed to be removed completely and overhauled: the baffles were buckled and rotted out, the flue had split, and a couple of other things I didn’t hear because my mind was screaming, It’s winter! The nights are cold in winter! Since being without a burner was not an option, he’s due back first thing tomorrow morning to put in a temporary fix that will keep the fire useable for the next few months.

The Boy and I tried a nearby takeaway (‘nearby’ being fifteen minutes drive from the fortress). There was a fetid tinge to the smell of cooking oil in the air that didn’t bode well. Our fish and chips were edible: The Boy give it a 7, on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is terrible and 10 is excellent; I gave the food a 4 for being edible and filling.

The Puppy rests between patrols.
The Puppy rests between patrols.

All warmed by full stomachs, the dogs and I did a perimeter check in the dark. They do like the opportunity to walk and sniff. I’m less apprehensive than the first couple of times I did it. The idea of walking through a forest at night isn’t sound when you think about it. But walking through a forest you’re increasingly familiar with is different — there’s much less likelihood of getting lost or being jumped by ninjas (and if the latter, this being private property, I can walk the perimeter strapped).




The Camry Sportswagon

The Sportswagon, circa 2008
The Sportswagon, circa 2008

Almost ten years ago, we acquired a second-hand, New Zealand-new stationwagon. The Boy, seven at the time, took one look at the Advanti Racing alloy-shod Camry 220 GL and declared it a sportswagon. I suppose when you’re seven and you’re a Holden V8 fan with a cap and jacket to prove it, you make do with what you get.

I grew up with a succession of Ford Falcon stationwagons. A lot of my childhood holiday memories include lying in the rear cargo area, in a cocoon of blankets and luggage, en route to some faraway destination; if I got bored, I played polite games of shoot-’em-up with the driver of the vehicle behind us.

I never thought I’d end up driving a Toyota as an adult. They’re so ubiquitous that… well, I thought Other People drove the damned things. Not me.

But the Camry grew on me. The 2.2-litre engine is a good compromise between around-town trips and our annual cross-country holidays. It’s wide enough to give each occupant room to move — on long trips, the kids would fill up the backseat and footwell with a myriad of items to keep them occupied. The rear cargo area can accommodate: luggage for five; film-making gear; a month’s grocery shopping; or firewood aplenty (with the backseat folded forward). It’s a workhorse, baby, and it can take on any job you throw at it.

I know that, alloys aside, we’ve got a stock Camry. But there’s something about our ‘wagon that makes it stand out from the rest of the ‘wagons out there.

And you know what it is? They’re not sportswagons.

(This post started out as a bit of a love-post in 2007. I thought I’d published it ages ago but obviously haven’t. So why now? The Camry is about to be retired. We added 200,000+kms to the odometer, traversed State Highway 1 innumerable times in it, and it has long been Fortress Mamea’s faithful and reliable war- and work-horse. A farewell ceremony involving fish ‘n’ chips and lipstick is scheduled in the very near future.)


Tessa 2000-2012

The Cat – actual handle Countessa de Kitty-Kat – was buried in the fortress pet cemetery late last week.

When I first met Tessa in 2002, she was a bit of a poor excuse for a feline – watching her climb a fence always made me flash on the unfortunate Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. She wasn’t heavy or anything – just… out of practice with being a cat, or something like that. She was friendly enough (no random attacks received), well-mannered (when handled with care, she gave fair warning when enough was enough), and low maintenance (she always toileted outside).

In 2003, Tessa went through a number of major life-events. The aiga, numbering three humans at that time, moved westward to what was to become Fortress Mamea. The new abode had its own resident cat, Pablo (full handle Pablo Ninja Cat), a large and gregarious chap. The aiga swelled with the sudden arrival of a fourth human, The Boy. And then The Dog was acquired.

Each change was a challenge for Tessa. She sealed her place in the fortress hiearchy with the patient and successful stalking of a mouse under the oven. She shunned Pablo who enjoyed our company until the word ‘diet’ was mentioned, whereupon he adopted the lovely Gladys across the road (who feeds him – I shit you not – on a 24/7 basis). Tessa’s relationships with late arrivals The Boy and The Dog could easily have been the final straws… but both boy and canine soon found their place in the fortress hierarchy (below the cat).

The fortress grounds have ample trees and vegetation, and soon enough, Tessa learned how to scale fences and trees like a real cat.  The local fauna have provided other exercise, the past decade scattered with the remains of a mouse, bird or rat tastefully left outside the back door for the unsuspecting barefoot occupant.  In winter she loved the wood burner – curled whiskers a specialty – while in the summer she soaked in the sun like a four-legged black hole.

Tessa will be missed.  She was loved by The Girl and The Goddess.  And although The Boy and I dreaded the racket she would make at the back door to be let into the house for —

a). fuss,
b). food,
c). warmth,
d). company,
e). a). through to d).

— we have found ourselves waiting to hear it in the morning, curses on the tips of our barely awake tongues – only to realise Tessa is no longer with us.

May there be plentiful 1kg blocks of tasty cheddar cheese wherever she is now.


Schedules and Deadlines

The Mamea household1, for the sake of the adults’ sanity and convenience (and the prevention of corporal beatings), gets through each week with the help of a dinner schedule.  The schedule for Term 1 of 2007 is:

  • Monday – macaroni cheese
  • Tuesday – baked potatoes (courtesy of The Boy)
  • Wednesday – vegetarian surprise
  • Thursday – nachos (courtesy of The Girl)
  • Friday – pizza
  • Saturday – semi-planned surprise
  • Sunday – last-minute surprise

The children’s daily demands of What’s for dinner? are already answered, our (mostly) fixed shopping list ensures we get our core nutrients, and there are no more moments of standing in the kitchen wondering what the hell to stuff the kids’ mouths with.

Adults’ sanity – check.  Overall convenience – check.  (And no corporal beatings in three years, two months, two weeks, one day and counting2.)

Schedules, like lists, provide certainty.  Y’know: something to look forward to, or work through, or work towards.  Like goals.

Or deadlines.

And schedules and deadlines ensure Things Happen.

Besides being handy for things like moving house (don’t forget the pets or children, in that order) or going on holiday (ensure the selection of travelling music is equal between adults), my writing time is rarely without a deadline – I shall write ten pages of something/anything/everything until noon or I must write ten pages before I am worthy to watch an episode of Law & Order, Season 3.

Some days, the ten pages write themselves….  Well, the pain of typing text onto the blank screen is manageable.

Most days, I stave off the urge to do (long avoided) housework and/or try not to panic as noon approaches at double-speed and/or fight off any number of other procrastinating techniques, and I write and I write and I write.

As long as I’ve done a day’s writing, I don’t get restless, guilty or cranky with family members.  Well.  Okay.  It doesn’t stop me being restless from being pulled out of The Zone (I was in the middle of a great set piece!), or guilty that I didn’t spend more time with family, or cranky (because Who wrote this shit? or It’s so haaard and I hate it and why can’t producers just feel the craftsmanship?”).

Yeah.  The writing journey has its moments.

But on any given day, I know what I’m having for dinner.

1 – I hope my family forgives my possessory credit here.  But they’ll understand.

2 – Which, incidentally, is the length of time our entire blended family has been together.