Heartfelt Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

December 7, 2011


“Swaying pine trees, brutal wind gusts… put 9000 cyclists to the test in the annual Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge event…. Strong wind gusts made riding treacherous for road and mountainbike riders in the 35th annual 160-kilometre lake circuit on Saturday. Large pine trees swayed precariously in 85kmh wind gusts. Cyclists, pedalling into energy-sapping headwinds, negotiated scattered branches and debris…”  Dom.Post 28/11/11* 

This time last week I was a tortoise on two wheels- definitely not a hare- in the 35th Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. At least I didn’t turn turtle in the blustery conditions. Quite a few entrants didn’t even start.

After a 6am start in the slow pack, my time of 9 hrs 46:57 in the 60-69 years solo 160 k division (I just qualified-it was the day before my 70th birthday) put me 328th in the division but, apart from the timing equipment, who’s counting? It was great just to finish again in the conditions, described as “one of the more difficult rides on record”, in reasonable condition. Three months after my last Taupo outing in 2008, I had two stents inserted after a coronary.  

 New Gear

My previous three Taupo rides since 2006, once in the 40K relay and twice in the 160k solo ride, were on my old second hand road touring bike which I bought off a departing Swedish cycle tourist who wasn’t murdered in 1991. It came complete with four panier bags for camping gear.

For three years I was the only Taupo entrant with paniers and a rear vision mirror. Bikes are built either for speed or for comfort and mine was in the latter category, unlike the emasculatory razor seated road bikes that are de rigueur.

This year was different. My Canadian mate Gord Miller, doing the Solo Challenge at Taupo for the second time, has tried for years  to convince me to get a more suitable steed for the event. It was my daughter Sandra who applied the killer psychology. She has an Events and PR company and does the public relations for the Pure Black Cycling Team*

First she got me some sporty PB riding gear. Then she persuaded me to get a sleek carbon fibre Cadent* bike from Avanti, Pure Black sponsor, to match the outfit. It’s  a speedy machine with a slightly ‘softer’ attitude for riders who want something a little more relaxed. It made all the difference, especially with the wind, and the Geltech cover over the original seat was almost comfortable.

I did also add a snappy Vaude clip on under the seat detachable carry bag. I like to be self sufficient and carry more food and water, extra clothes and tools than most, despite the support stations en route, though stories about an on board kitchen sink are calumnies.

Pure Black riders were 1st and 2nd over the line. I was 4236th  overall so they were probably pleased I wore a high viz. vest over my sporty PB  racing shirt. 

I was also helped this year on the nutrition front by Shane Miller, Gord’s son, a gym instructor and high performance coach from Ottawa. Last time I cramped up 10 times on Hatepe Hill at the 132 k mark. This time nary a twinge after a good balance of protein and pasta and several magic potions during the ride. None would have got Lance Armstrong into trouble.

My father Gordon Lukey was a well known long distance cyclist and endurance record holder and all round iron man in the days of gravel roads and no gears. He would have been amused at the hi tech nature of cycle riding today and the fancy fashion and food but he would have applauded the numbers participating.

Life cycle

The biblical age is a bit hard to come to grips with, though these days maybe it’s only mature middle age, at least for the fortunate survivors thus far. The big 70 is inevitably accompanied by a bit of philosophical introspection.

The old black joke is ”A fatal coronary is nature’s way of saying ‘slow down’. Sadly, just a few weeks ago the old friend I usually stay with when doing Taupo died suddenly while still in top gear in a top corporate job with lots of demanding overseas travel. Earlier in the year he put off accompanying his sister on a cycle tour of France because of the demands of the business.

Only three weeks ago, on a Rotary cricket tour of NSW- (geriatrics in pursuit of hattricks-or even a single wicket) – the player in our opponents’ team in the third game, who had just received Man of the Match award, collapsed and died. Sad, but what a way to go.

It’s important to keep doing things you like to do or that provide new challenges while you can. Always at my back I hear times winged chariot…

Supporting Heart Kids

Heart Kids 2011

Thanks to those who supported my Heart Kids web page as part of the Taupo Challenge. Overall $57,000 has been raised to date this year-donations open until 31 December-see my HK webpage below*. Alternatively you can txt HEART to 2427 to make a $3 donation.

#Lyall Lukey 3 December 2011
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


We’re (almost) All White Jock

June 24, 2010

“He’s fine, he’ll be playing tomorrow…. He’s just resting. I asked him not to train…  Hopefully Ryan is okay. If he’s not, I’ll play…   He’s got a little tummy problem like we’ve all gone through…”    All Whites Coach Ricki Herbert- playing it close to his chest before the Paraguay game.

 It’s just over 7 hours to the All Whites Football World Cup game against Paraguay. As for the last two Thursdays TV ONE’s sports commentator is standing in a deserted rugby ground to introduce the News at 6 Sports segment.  They could just bluescreen in the stadium for Saturday night’s All Black Test against Wales but because they’ve got the mobile technology they’re determined to prove it.

 What’s the first item and the first real live cross? (Though with the agonizing time delays between question and answer it would be better to pre-record and edit). Yes, you’ve got it-the other World Cup. The one we’re doing quite well in, against the odds. The one even more of us are staying up to watch at 2am tomorrow morning.

In the past week the All Whites have done a reverse William Webb Ellis, dropped the ball on their toes and gone for it, carrying a lot of increasingly fanatical fans with them. The NZRU has got cause for pause for thought. Well away from the FIFA fiefdom, the fracture in the Kiwi monolithic rugby pedestal is clearly visible. Whereas the All Blacks have had the heavy hand of expectation since the initial Rugby World Cup-the only time they have won- the All Whites weren’t rated by many at the start of the season to qualify for the Football World Cup, let alone grab at least a couple of points.

With two draws in the space of five days white is certainly the new black . Against Paraguay it will be literally because the All Whites can’t play in all white so they’ll be all black temporarily.

While we’re counting down to kick off let’s remember what’s happened so far and replay the famous goals. A Bafokeng great football moment* at the fag end of the game against Slovakia. Then the opening goal Mbombela bombshell, with Nelsen’s Nelspruit defenders hanging on to draw against the balletic and ballistic world champion Italians.

You have to feel for the Slovaks-Czechmated by the Kiwi’s Lazurus move right at the expiry of three minutes of extra time. Okay, it was more of a stalemate-an improbable draw not a win, not that you would have known by the extent of the domestic euphoria outbreak as New Zealand notched up its first FIFA World Cup point.

Against Italy a few days later the Kiwis displayed grit and elbow grease reminiscent of some of our best netballers. On the other hand the Italians won the diving display hands down and filched a flock of fouls. It was obvious that they’d been trained at the Andy Hayden School of Sports Diving and Method Acting (SOSDAM). The alarm bells were certainly ringing early on and many Italian fans mistook them for church bells, so deep in prayer were they for most of the game.

As The Melbourne Age reported, shortly before the All Whites opened their Football World Cup campaign, their captain Ryan Nelsen was asked whether his team would be putting on a haka to flex the emotional muscles pre-kick off. ”Skinny white guys doing the haka?”, he said, shaking his head. ”Mmm. Very intimidating’.”  

 They certainly found other ways to beef up their self- belief.

Skinny Maori (and Danish resident)  Winston Reid  used his head to net a last-gasp equaliser* against Slovakia to earn the All Whites their first points at a World Cup. “This is the most important goal of my life… I try to get forward more often but don’t often score, so this is great.”  The nation agreed.

In the Italian game Nelsen and his fellow stout defenders didn’t allow tiredness to cramp their style.  Paston was very busy and very protective in goal,  the Italians splaying 33 shots at goal to New Zealand’s 3. 

The All Whites have had to call on the Kiwi diaspora and the pull of the national jersey to field a mixed team of amateurs and professionals to qualify for and play in the finals.  If football transfer fees are an accurate football currency, Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz is worth more than 35 times the whole  All Whites squad.

Whatever happens against Paraguay in a few hours people will remember the leadership and the team spirit demonstrated on and off the field by Ryan Nelsen and his hardy lieutenants.  At the end of both games there were no kisses but more than a few hugs. Goal.com named Nelsen world player of the week by an international football website, for ”inspiring his side to two draws and giving the All Whites a shot at last 16 qualification”.

Nelsen has been battling a stomach bug today. Perhaps after 15 years the dreaded All Black Bacillus has risen Phoenix-like,  like the All Whites themselves.  Even if  the captain makes it safely from the poop deck to the bridge is  it too much to expect his team to complete a draw trifecta, let alone snatch a win, and make it into the next round?

My head says  to be  realistic and pick Paraguay 2 New Zealand 0.  But I wouldn’t put a bet on it and my heart whispers that the New Zealanders might just have one more escape trick up their white sleeves. The elbow of Godzone? Then we really would blow our own vuvuzelas. 

Win, lose or draw the real winner from this extraordinary World Cup campaign will be  football  in New Zealand, though many of us still put our foot in it and insist on calling the game soccer. 

    #Lyall Lukey 24 June 2010 
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

 BLINKS Pr-print    Vid-Video   So-Sound   Mm-multimedia

Football World Cup 2010: All Whites at finals   Beating Bahrain to qualify 13/11/09  Vid

Goal against Slovakia The All Whites scored in the final seconds of their first pool game to equalize against Slovakia and gain their first FIFA World Cup point. Vid

All Whites’ goal in 3D animation  v Slovakia  Mm

2010 FIFA World Cup Italy(1) vs New Zealand(1)Highlights   Mm

The ABs in Camera and in the Cake Tin. Will it be a photo finish?

September 20, 2009

“Smithy just wanted to try something and just get a bit of a gauge of trying to see  things I’m seeing as play unfolds.”  All Black Dan Carter   

“In a patterning system, like the human brain system, there is no stronger magic that can be used than the magic of repetition.” Michael Hewitt-Gleeson,  School of Thinking 

This is a blog of two halves. I’m starting it before the All Blacks Wooden Spoon test against Australia in Wellington tonight and finishing it after the game ends. Will the fans be baying for the blood of the All Blacks coaching troika or will the rejigged team do enough to prevent the Rugby Union’s stakeholders adopting trenchant Transylvanian tactics?

 Earlier in the week one of the coaches was in the media spotlight for trying out some new technology. According to a Press story by Richard Knowler, Dan Carter was sporting a  camera on his head gear at training in order to feed images back to a laptop for coach Wayne Smith to get a first five eight’s view as to how he reads the game of rugby. 

Apparently it is now commonpace for players to wear GPS chips on their backs to record how far they’ve travelled during training but this is a  new technological twist.

 [TV shots of the dressing rooms-the All Black huddle tight. Hope the forwards can stay this tight on the paddock, especially at scrum time. Cut to the Wallabies coming out onto the ground wearing track suits, something that ABs don’t seem to do, even in cold weather.]                                                                                                                            

 Of course there are much more sophisticated tools for investigating the central nervous system. What rugby cyborgs really need is to be hooked up to mobile neuroscanning equipment to display, in real time, their neurons firing as the brain literally lights  up to  make cranial topographic mapping possible.

 The key is not just the physical peripheral vision of key playmakers but an understanding of the central role the almond-shaped amygdala plays in determining how players respond unconsciously to emotional situations, which is what all sport is really about. Brain explosions are not something that  conventional video cameras can capture and map, though fans have seen a few of these unaided recently.

 The technology would also give interesting feedback from females as they encounter Dan’s AB abs in underwear ads. (-see Blink*)

 To paraphrase School of Thinking Founder Michael Hewitt-Gleeson: the atoms of the brain are  nerve cells or neurons. Each neuron is our fundamental intellectual unit. It is an information-processing system and the basic product of these units is messaging much more amazing than SMS-more expansive and less expensive.

Neurons are perfectly designed messaging systems. They have two ends: a receiving end and a transmitting end (or an input end and an output end). At the receiving end each of your neurons has a convenient tree-like system of dendrites – input wires – which can receive information from other neurons. is a vast network of about 100 billion neurons and each one of your neurons has up to 50,000 connecting wires (dendrites) with synapses. That’s a lot of brainpower.(-see Blink*)

[Now the Battle of Anthems—one sided as usual: All but one of the Australians sing manfully and actually look young and free as they sing in almost joyful strains. The St Patrick’s College Boys Choir sings  a stunning unadorned rendition of the NZ anthem. Several ABs have actually learnt the Maori first verse. Dan Carter does the best, actually opening his mouth and lifting his head up, but most of the others look like ventriloquists. They do come to life during the haka,  Ka mate!  ringing out so clearly you could just about hear it at Te Rauparaha’s old Kapiti Island base.]

Axons are like ‘telegraph wires’ that transmit electrical signals along their own length. At the end of its wire the axon’s electrical signal is transformed into a chemical output – a neurotransmitter.

A neurotransmitter is a package of chemical information which has an effect on the neuron that receives it in much the same way that a fax or an email is a package of information which has an effect on you when you receive it. The way this chemical package effects the neuron receiving it is by causing a change in its electro-chemical activity.

 To Send or Not To Send, That’s the decision says Hewitt-Gleeson. Indecisiveness lingers at the binary divide.

 [The All Blacks start  decisively, with menacing purpose, the ball in hand, not kicked away…but Dan uncharacteristically misses an early penalty quick from a handy possie.  The Aussies have hardly touched the ball in the first 5 minutes… then kick their first penalty opportunity after 8 minutes-and repeat the dose 3 minutes later, a little against the run of play.]

But despite all its intellectual firepower, the malleable, self-organising brain is still slow to change its perceptions of the world.  When new ideas are presented they are always appeared with pre- existing ideas, which are already embedded in the brain.

 This is why most marketing campaigns take much longer than is commonly thought, to change consumers brand perceptions. It follows that marketing campaigns-and maybe rugby strategies and tactics- should not be changed so often. It takes time to develop a new team mindset. Too much chopping and changing causes neurological confusion.

 [Cory Jane scores a brilliant try-catching his own kick and breaking free of outclutched hand, setting the game on fire but it’s  not enough to evince a reaction from the immobile visaged Steve Hansen, who, if he ever loses his day job, could coach aspiring poker players].

Cambridge-based researchers have provide new evidence that the human brain lives “on the edge of chaos”, at a critical transition point between randomness and order.(-see Blink*)

 [The scrums tonight veer more to chaos although the lineouts are more ordered, a distinct improvement on the non-linear shambles of recent games.]

 It is a natural behaviour of the brain to form patterns. Our perception is more than the receipt and processing of sensory images. Wrong thinking can start with mis-perception.  Changing the way we see our world can radically change our behaviour. 

 A  pattern is something that is repeated more often than randomness or chaos. The architecture of a pattern is repetition. That’s why in a patterning-system like the human brain system, repetition is the most powerful learning strategy you can use.

 That’s also why there is a great deal of repetition in any effective training-on the sports field or in the world of work. The critics of “rote learning” fail to understand that repetition helps to build patterns in our brains so it becomes easier for us to use the licence-free necktop software we each come equipped with.

 As Hewitt-Gleeson says: “In a patterning system, like the human brain system, there is no stronger magic that can be used than the magic of repetition….. You can choose your own repetitions…Ever since you were born advertisers and religions have used repetition to program your brain. So, you may as well use it yourself to embrace the patterns that YOU decide are most useful for your own brain. Take charge!” .(-see Blink*)

 [The All Blacks have definitely taken charge. The fulltime score is 33- 6, with 16 unanswererd points in the second half through some great back tries.   Perhaps they used the new technology to plot the GPS coordinates to find their way to the tryline. I’ll need to watch the highlights package to see the bits I missed by looking at the wrong screen.]

In the end, as you might expect,  the game was more of a triumph of teamwork than technology, with the All Blacks taking the cake at the Cake Tin and ending the  Tri Nations season on a high, with several new players earning their rations of hard tack.  Steve Hansen looks positively rapturous and relieved.

After two losses at home this season the late win doesn’t quite qualify as peaking between World Cups.  King Henry and courtiers needn’t worry about getting the chop. The block has been quietly wheeled way and the axe put into storage. Not that there were any unattached likely coaching pretenders in the wings-unless they go for a neurologist and a real psychologist.

Te Rauparaha composed Ka Mate as a celebration of life over death after his lucky escape from pursuing Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato enemies. He had hidden from them in a food-storage pit, and climbed back into the light to see a hairy friend.  

 The All Blacks, some of them also hairy men, will feel a deserved warm glow as they savour what ended up as a decisive victory when it could have been the pits.


 Neurons And Neuro-Transmitters (4:51)   Literally mind-boggling stuff from the Discovery Channel.

 http://www.schoolofthinking.org   Michael Hewitt-Gleeson  School of Thinking  Software for the Brain.

 The human brain is on the edge of chaos  The Cambridge study.

 Dan Carter in his undies   AB’s abs.

  Lyall Lukey 19 September 2009   http://www.lukey.co.nz/

A hedge for the 2011 Rugby World Cup?

August 23, 2009

 “ Sport often brings out the worst in us and it’s something that we can ill afford to have on the sidelines or on the field at school sport.”   Garry Carnachan, Director, New Zealand Secondary Schools Sports Council

 Unlike last weekend’s unseemly schoolboys’ rugby brawl, which involved a hundred players and spectators from Kelston Boys High and Auckland Grammar School, when I played against Kelston, as a 14 year old member of a Papakura High School junior rugby team, there were no spectators and no trouble. 

Weeks before, after hitchhiking to Hamilton, I had watched the first game of the 1956 Springbok tour against Waikato in Hamilton from on top of a free perch on a handy hedge. Deadly Don Clarke put the boot in and kicked the winning points.

 For the final and deciding test of the series against the All Blacks I was determined to make it into the ground at Eden Park. With hundreds of others, I queued all night, to the sounds of  guitars strumming and sausages sizzling,  and then, when the gates finally opened, joined the 100 yards dash to the huge slab of concrete which provided a legitimate Scotsman’s grandstand on the embankment.

Once you were in the packed park you could not get out: the Relief of Mafeking had nothing on Eden Park. The ground had a trickle-down micro economy which functioned courtesy of the sloping embankment.  Old hands came equipped with Mr Goodyear’s inflationary cycling invention, the dextrous and decorous use of which would today make a great YouTube post on the benefits of recycling.

 Peter Jones scored his decisive try for the All Blacks to complete the first ever series win against the Springboks and the sky was dark with a shower of programes and  newspapers. (In the after match comments relayed by the ground’s sound system the Jones boy dropped “buggered” into the conversation in a way which first opened the door to Toyota’s later “bugger” commercials).

In those days of full houses were taken for granted and crowd behaviour, while robust and vocal, seldom degenerated into hooliganism.

For those who couldn’t make the games in person the alternative medium was radio -a quantum step up on the dotty pre-wireless system involving Morse Code  messages being elaborated with poetic licence before being displayed, rugby phase by phase, on a large board to the assembled crowd in places like Cathedral Square, which beat having to wait for the first edition of The Press to know the result of big games.

 In 1960 as a new university student I tuned in to the radio at 1:30 a.m. to catch the live broadcast of the All Blacks v. the Springboks games in South Africa, with the exciting cadences of Winston McCarthy  ” ….. it’s a Goal!  (This was not then a normal time for youth socialising-the pubs still closed at 6pm).  The Don was at it again, but we lost the series. We could have done with players like Pat Walsh, who, like other Maori players, was left at home so as not to offend the susceptibilities of the Afrikaans dominated rugby hierarchy.

I heard the radio broadcast of the crucial last test at the Canterbury University Ski Club at Temple Basin, looking out at a moonlit  Mt. Rolleston. Alas, the ABs failed to scale the peak of a series win in South Africa.

We also got to see some belated film footage as shorts at the movies. New Zealand only got TV in 1960 -one black and white channel, plus appropriately dated productions like the Black and White Minstrel Show,  and was not geared for sports broadcasts. It was some years before rugby tests were rebroadcast in their entirety, let alone broadcast live.

Fast forward to 1974 and the Commonwealth Games and colour TV was introduced in time for us to see Dick Tayler clean up the 10,000 metres. Then it was satellite, replays, and slomo. 

Free to air live broadcast rugby via television and radio was regarded by Rob Muldoon as the modern equivalent of bread and circuses-maybe not opium for the masses but at least anaesthesia.  But in the last decade we have left the democratic days of free to air live broadcast rugby and reached for the Sky.

Today, so long as we are on the right side of the digital divide, we get the digital dividend: MySky, On Demand programming and live streaming on mobile devices, possibly sponsored by the Opticians Society.  Sky is no longer the limit.

In the age of professional rugby television rights are the major source of revenue to the New Zealand Rugby union.  With the multitude of multi media channels the NZRFU has got the message.  Live gates are less of a factor financially though is crucial to have a full house of paying extras to create the right atmosphere on TV. 

In the days since the unseemly Kelston Boys and Auckland Grammar rugby stoush there has since been a call to ban unruly spectators at school games. The school fracas has triggered an obvious thought. Why not go the whole way and ban all spectators at all rugby games, whether unruly or otherwise?  

After all, the NZRU has often seemed to be moving in the direction of a policy of spectator deterence by its heavy handed stadium policing. 

You may think a spectator free big game is virtually impossible, but, in fact, it’s virtually possible. The modern game is focused on the TV audience, which is why games are scheduled at strange times after dark. Of course, you still have to have the right crowd atmosphere and in the absence of paying spectators it would be costly to hire extras.

The answer is animation from Weta Studios. They have just supplied the digital goods for James Cameron’s new 3-D film Avatar.  Filling the Cake Tin in Wellington with sober but animated spectator avatars who don’t streak and otherwise make a spectacle of themselves would be a piece of cake.

The only problem for the NZRU with the looming 2011 Rugby World Cup is that at this event the international body takes all the revenue except for the gates, so I guess the Union will have to insist on persisting with real spectators in the meantime.

I saw the All Blacks win the first Rugby World Cup at Eden Park in 1987-a task so thoroughly expected then it has come back to haunt their self-belief in every World Cup tournament since, despite- or perhaps because of -the positive prior commercials in which they featured. 

With the  three figure ticket prices on offer for the finals, to  be there live, while they attempt to finally repeat the victory, I might just have to find another hedge. 


 Greatest Rugby Duel: Springboks v All Blacks – Part 1

 Rugby World Cup 2007 Commercial

 Toyota Commercial “bugger”

 http://folksong.org.nz/big_don/index.html   NZ Folk song “Big Bad Don”  

                       Lyall Lukey 23 August 2009   http://www.lukey.co.nz/

Insulting Our Intelligence

June 27, 2009

“I was assaulted by five Kiwis”  French Rugby International Mathieu Bastareaud.

In the spirit of the dogged pursuit by the New Zealand constabulary of the French state terrorists who clumsily sank the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 in Opération Satanique,  killing a photographer in the process,  five Wellington detectives spent five days last week exposing the “I was assaulted by five Kiwis” claim of French Rugby International Mathieu Bastareaud.

 Even Inspector Clouseau would have pounced like a panther and quickly realized that Bastareaud’s alleged “assault” was an inside cover up, if not an inside job. There were, after all, three rugby players, including the now disgraced Bastareaud,  and  two women who entered the hotel together early on Sunday morning. Numerical gender equality niceties, expressed in an equal ratio of males and females, has not always been top of the social agenda of rugby players in post-match warmdown mode. (And certainly not for Australian NRL players, who are in quite a different League). 

Perhaps there was a competitive  maul or a melee, with Bastareaud being sent to the blood bin by fellow players. Whatever the real story, in good French culinary tradition he is now being fricasseed in his own juices. French fries with that? 

If the French Rugby union take any action, say, like banning him for ten games, Bastareaud can take heart that, applying the Rainbow Warrior judicial penalty rebate scheme, he will only really be banned from two games-and given a Club Med holiday. 

The French water should be immediately removed from  the lying Bastareaud’s name.

[Diabolical Video:    In the absence of the purported cellphone video coverage footage of the alleged assault, here is some top secret footage of the French DGSE in training and in action in Sacre bleu!   This may not be satanic but it is certainly diabolical and viewer discretion and parental guidance are advised.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hvo1AFGJDkM ]

The way the rugby ball bounces

February 21, 2009

It would be a supreme irony if a Maori rugby team were not able to play some or all its proposed games in South Africa because it is a “racially selected” team. 

As a young student, I took part in the “No Maoris No Tour “ protest before the All Blacks tour of South Africa in 1960.  I was obviously a good loser and soon had my ears adhered to the radio in the middle of the night to the enthralling call of commentator Winston McCarthy.

In 1976, the year that New Zealand triggered a boycott of the Montréal Olympics by African nations because of the equivocal policy of Robert Muldoon’s government towards South African rugby, I visited the Republic as the guest of Round Table South Africa  (the service club not a business association). Ironically the movie on the South African Airways flight from Sydney was on the life of Scott Joplin, with hardly a white actor to be seen.

The next movie I saw a few days later, in the Northern Cape town of Prieska, was a Northern, the Afrikaans equivalent of a Western, about the heroic white settlers, holding out against the guerrillas in the mist. Apart from some long shots there was hardly a black actor to be seen. At this fundraising black tie but whites only “premiere” put on by Round Table I had fresh memories of touring Soweto a few days before, just weeks after the riots of 1976, to see the legacy of damage and talk with some of the  youth involved.

Just before the Prieska movie I had been shown a tour of the town. We stopped at a tennis game being played on a corporate tennis court for me to take photos.  Almost as if this had been choreographed for my benefit  (perhaps it was) there were four players, in the nomenclature of the day a European, an Indian,  a black and a  coloured. I was momentarily impressed by this multicultural display before reminding myself that such a game of literally mixed doubles was prohibited in the town’s public facilities and in the rest of the Republic.

Membership of Round Table then was more English than Afrikaans and more liberal than, say, the South African Rugby Union but it, too was segregated racially. However, the black tennis player, who rejoiced in the name of Petrus Pollyanna, was an honorary member, accorded the same sort of  temporarily colour blind status given to Maoris in touring All Black teams after 1960.

Petrus also doubled as the movie projectionist, as I found when the film broke down part way through and, as a zealous teacher,  I helped rethread the derailed 16 mm film. Afterwards Petrus invited me back to his home. He lived only 3 km from downtown Prieska  in a segregated black area but in socio-economic terms it was like driving from the middle of Ashburton to a less favoured part  of Mumbai.  The Petrus family lived in a small rented house on state land. Pride of place in the living room was a photo of  a family member incarcerated on Robbins Island with Nelson Mandela.

We discussed the Soweto riots and his view of the state of race relations. His optimistic attitude fitted his surname but while he was proud of his honorary Round Table status, if  apartheid was openly challenged and  things got hot he was quite clear where his allegiance would lie. “ …if this house catches fire, I will do all I can to save my family but the house and the land are not mine.”  The implications of the bulk of the population not having a  real vested interest were chillingly clear.

The conflagration was averted and the new rainbow world of South Africa was proclaimed when President Mandela wore the national rugby jersey to celebrate South Africa’s Rugby World Cup win in 1995. Now, ironically, the new slogan could be “No Pakeha No Tour” unless commonsense prevails and the cultural dimension of a Maori rugby team is appreciated, together with an understanding of the level of intermarriage and other cultural interaction in New Zealand for more than 200 years.