DST sets a man thinking…

Roger Rabbits
with Jim Bunny

Since 2am September 24 last year, my life has been running an hour late.

That’s because my clock with the big roman numerals doesn’t do Daylight Saving Time.

It was no conscious protest.

I just didn’t adjust it.

I knew that whenever I looked at the clock everyone was an hour ahead of me.

But of course this weekend, the country, clock and I slip back seamlessly into sync.

No need to tinker with the hands.

Putting the clock back sets off a predictable and depressing seasonal chorus – “April already, where’s the time gone?”

Where’s my life gone more to the point.

Got me thinking about summers long ago when time did not matter.

We were working class southern Presbyterians – we thrived on hardship and loved a basic make-do summer at an equally basic crib.

There was no clock, no watches, so no-one asked for, nor knew, the time.

Daylight Saving Time would not have made one iota of difference.

You ate when hungry – not because it was dinnertime.

You lay down when you were tired, not because it was bedtime.

Putin, Trump and Netanyahu didn’t set the mood of the day because there was no radio or TV.

If you weren’t asleep you were outside.

You rose with the sun and you settled about 10pm, shortly after the last over of cricket when it was just too dark to see the ball.

Sixty years ago

That was Harwood Township – 30 minutes from the Dunedin CBD on the Otago Peninsula.

Sixty years ago it was just a handful of cribs.

Even fewer people.

That summer there was just us, and the flounder, pipi and blue cod and rabbits trussed and stuffed with sage and onion.  

Last chore of the day was to wade out in the shallows at the bottom of the drive and nail a fat flounder for breakfast – bubble-and-squeak, fried eggs and flounder.


We lived in our togs. And most nights they had dried sufficiently to sleep in them too.

Don’t turn your noses up – they were self-laundered twice-a-day when we jumped off the seawall into the high tide.

On a few occasions this family of six travelled three-and-a-half hours in a 1947 Austin 10 – 80 km/hr downhill – to another crib at Kingston at the foot of Lake Wakatipu.

Dad chugging rollies, youngest bro on mum’s lap, no seat belts, and three other boys bitching in the back seat: “Are we there yet?”

A crib is defined as a small, cheaply constructed dwelling.

Yup – that was our fairytale.

Just four walls, two hotplates and a crazy, eclectic assortment of furniture and furnishings.


We specialised in minimalist but magical destinations.

The word ‘crib’ I am told is from Shakespeare’s Henry VI.

“Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs.”

Much more romantic than bach.

And the difference between a bach and a crib?

My old man would say you can walk inside a crib with feet covered in sand and no-one cares.

And a crib is a place which has an outdoor bath.

It’s called a lake, river or ocean.

And it boasted a ‘business’ wing, a long drop with a door that wouldn’t close so doing your business became everyone’s business.


‘Bach’ from bachelor pad or a Welsh word for ‘small’ and ‘little’.

A bach floor will be covered in Bremworth textured loop pile.


A bach will have a bathroom and en suite and Egyptian cotton sheet sets.

So baches and cribs are as alike as pâté and meat paste.

And we were the kid’s that got Mum’s meat paste.

Do you sense the snippiness?

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings you’d wake to the Kingston Flyer arriving from Invercargill – it’d pull up, snorting, steaming and protesting in the dirt square in front of the pub.

To a boy it was more beast than machine.

I’d half expect this iron horse to rear up.

At the same time the Lady of the Lake, the quietly elegant steamship TSS Earnslaw, was noseying around the headland to meet the train.

When it moored we boys helped transfer mail and bits and bobs from train to ship.

We were a crucial, unpaid, cog in the Wakatipu supply chain.

There were the misadventures – and scrapes.


I cramped up in the cruelly cold, glacier-fed waters of Lake Wakatipu after I jumped off the wharf 100 metres from shore.

The bro was rowing nearby and pulled me out.

I suspect he thought twice before saving me.

The dead possum the same bro brought home wasn’t dead.

When he opened the sack, it leapt out, hissed and spat at him and clawed open a deep gash on his leg.

Great entertainment – screaming, blood and a .22 rifle shot to finally dispatch the ‘possum’.

Another bro was in the buff when he fell backwards onto an open fire grate.

Now you could play noughts and crosses on his butt.

It was all very Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn-ish.

Since then work has taken me to some relatively plush hotels around the world – from Kuala Lumpur to San Francisco, New York to Paris and Puerto Rico.

But none have provided me the same pleasure and privilege as a few cruddy South Island cribs.

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