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What was the best birthday present you ever received, and why?
This will date me, but the best birthday present I ever received was a toy revolver. Not just any toy revolver, I hasten to add, but a whopping great replica of a Colt 45 revolver.
It was silver- plated and had a bone handle with a long-horned steer's head carved into it. Oh, all right, it wasn't real silver, and the handle was plastic, but to a boy of eight it looked pretty genuine.
And, that wasn't all. This replica revolver could be broken open, just like the real thing, to reveal six replica bullets nestling snugly in the revolving cylinder. By attaching special adhesive caps (A tiny explosive charge - those really were very different times!) to the base of these "bullets'', snapping the revolver shut, and pulling the trigger, you could not only produce a very realistic "gunshot'', but also a very impressive cloud of "gunsmoke''.
In 1964, for a boy of 8, it was a truly magnificent gift!
What smell do you find irresistible?
This question also requires a return to my childhood.
Surrounding our North Otago farmhouse on three sides, stood a high macrocarpa hedge. Every autumn, it was my father's practice to trim off the hedge's spring and summer growth with his clippers, gather up the fallen branches, and burn them.
To this day, I cannot smell the resinous perfume of the macrocarpa without being instantly transported back to my time as a country boy.
What is your least favourite thing about humanity?
The ease with which human-beings abandon their morals. All that is required for ordinary people to descend into savagery is for someone in authority to reassure them that what they are being asked to do has been sanctioned at the highest levels, and that they will not be punished for doing it.
What is one strong childhood memory?
I've already shared a couple of these. There is one in particular, however, which has stayed with me all my life.
It was early on a bright and sunny North Otago morning: Saturday, 23 November 1963. I found my mother weeping uncontrollably in the garden. "Mum, what's wrong?'', I asked, wide-eyed. "Oh, Christopher,'' she sobbed, "President Kennedy's been shot''.
What is your message?
Not mine, but the best I've yet encountered. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.''