Let’s start in un-bypassed and unlikely-to-ever-be-bypassed Katikati.
People must be getting sick of this. Katikati is a beautiful town. Some towns aren’t. Some have shop-fronts and rundown chippies still waiting for an upgrade from the 70s. Not Katikati. Katikati is as lovely as a well-tended garden.
And, sadly, it also very regularly resembles a traffic jam. Any holiday weekend, even a decent sized event in the Bay, causes gridlock. And after 100 years of asking for relief – yes the first requests were made in 1923 – that’s the way it’s staying.
The most recent reason is that the Waikato Expressway will siphon off enough traffic to clear the Katikati route. This is based on data from five years ago and all I can say is - who knows? It seems pretty unlikely to me, but what can you do? On the bright side, the Expressway is due to be finished this year so we’re about to find out. Ladies and Gentlemen, place your bets...
Oh, and while we’re on Katikati, despite having to cancel its Twilight Concerts this year, the Avocado Food and Wine Festival went ahead with a simply fantastic event. The organisers are to be commended for upping the musical ante by engaging a true New Zealand legend, Sir Dave Dobbyn. And Sir Dave put on a masterclass in class.
There were no bells and whistles; no smoke and lasers. It was mid-afternoon so there weren’t even any lights. He had a straightforward two guitars, keys, bass and drums line-up with a couple of horns for occasional dynamics and colour. They kicked in with the instantly recognisable intro of Outlook For Thursday, and from then on it was a pure greatest hits show.
And it was a reminder of just how many of those hits there are. Early songs like Bliss and Be Mine Tonight; standards such as Loyal and Whaling; Just Add Water, Language, Beside Me, so many great songs before the finish of Slice of Heaven and a beautiful closing Welcome Home.
I still find the knighthood thing weird, but if anyone deserves one it’s Dave, if only for creating so many memorable Kiwi songs
Now, back to an album that arrived just before 2022.
It comes from John Stanley, deputy principal of Otūmoetai Intermediate School, and it will bring a lot of people pleasure. It’s called Stories and the songs are just that: stories about his family, about his grandchildren’s nanny, about baptism, about all sorts... It made me reflect again that I often prefer the imperfect honesty of a local recording to the bland gloss of much commercial product.
John has able help from a band including guitarist Danik Sygrove, Gareth Wallis (bass) and Alfred Newton (keyboards) as well as several other Stanleys, and proves to be a very good singer and storyteller.
Being only religiously inclined towards Dudeism I was a little lost by the opening tale of St Francis, but I’m hooked on the second track, Blue’s Song. After recent events in Tonga it seems very relevant. I’ll condense the full story which John tells in the CD booklet...
In 1994 John was working in Papua New Guinea when they were hit by two volcanic eruptions. His wife and children were evacuated by Hercules five days later, and John followed five days after that. Eighty per cent of the buildings in Rabaul where they lived were destroyed, and the town was buried under two metres of ash. They were unable to rescue their dog, Blue.
The Education Agency John worked for asked him to return, and about three-and-a-half weeks after leaving he did. Locals told him that the army and police had been forced to shoot a lot of dogs who had become starving or feral.
In Rabaul there was no colour, no children, no animals, nothing, until John saw a tiny bit of black amongst the grey by where his neighbours fence had been. It was Blue’s nose. They dug him out and against all odds he survived.
It’s a good story, and a very good song. Check out the album on Spotify to hear more.