Old Catlins tale a blast from the past

Looking out at the snowy ranges yesterday morning, Mark Pettinger says ‘‘some of us in Cromwell...
Looking out at the snowy ranges yesterday morning, Mark Pettinger says ‘‘some of us in Cromwell this morning are wondering if Cyclone Gita was really a ‘tropical’ cyclone’’. Good point Mark — I think it was such an intense storm it helped drag up colder-than-usual air for the time of year from the south. But it does seem ironic. Photo: Supplied
It's the end of another busy week here in the WWT office and we have a few stories to get through before thinking how best to spend the weekend.

First, though, here's a great yarn from Tom Landreth, of Cromwell, which he cheerfully labels ``Terrorism in the Catlins''.

``In the 1920s-30s, my uncle Stan Cook, with his wife Nell, had a farm at Tawanui, in the second stage of development, with many logs and stumps still to be cleared. As a result, my uncle became familiar with the use of gelignite to blow up the stumps and used it regularly for several years.

``On retirement, he and my aunt took a position as caretakers for the local women's rest rooms on a main street near the town centre. They lived on the premises and my aunt had a small problem when hanging out clothes on wash day. There was a hard clay pan below the surface and water could pool just below the clothesline after rain.

``Uncle Stan was consulted and came up with a solution - `I'll just blow a hole in that clay pan and all will be well', he said (or words to that effect). `Now, half a plug of gelignite should be about right.'

``Unfortunately he was overlooking the fact that a plug was now twice the size since his days on the farm.

``Come D-day, a hole was punched down, the gelignite lowered into position, the fuse lit and my uncle retired inside to await developments.

``Suddenly there was a mighty blast which rattled the windows up to 12 houses away. The clay pan was fractured and dirt flew far and wide.

``At the general store a short distance away, an ashen-faced owner rushed out to a shed where he stored ammunition to see if it had exploded.

``Today this would have caused widespread alarm. But when the dust had settled and peace was restored, it was accepted as just an unsuccessful attempt to adapt farming practices to urban conditions.''

Crikey, all that work to remove a clay pan. I hate to think how much gelignite Uncle Stan might have used in his retirement to shift a tree stump.

Bath time

Brian and Ursula Sinclair have been renovating their bathroom and made an interesting discovery.

``In saying renovating,'' they say, ``it turned out more like demolition - to remove the bath we had to dismantle most of the surrounding walls, as the bathroom seemed to be built around the bath!

``When we finally got it out, we not only found it had claw feet, which are detachable, but we also found a date and signature. The house was built in 1939, when the bath was put in. This was an exciting find.''

The Sinclairs say if anybody recognises the signature, please email them at bbss.sinclair@xtra.co.nz. Oh, and copy us, too, so we can share the happy ending.

St Bathans camping

Some feedback after ODT colleague John Fridd's paean for DOC's St Bathans Domain camping site.

Mike Howell, of Lawrence, says he has also enjoyed camping at the domain.

``It's got absolutely stunning views. But one of the big downsides is the wind - you can get some shocking big winds whistling through there.

``John said it doesn't cost anything. That's true, but there is actually a donation box just as you get in the gate. You can miss it very easily. Donations are still necessary to help with the upkeep of the site.''

Mike also queries how ``local'' the local Pride of the South brew John slipped to the Austrian camper actually is. For truly local, he says, they should pop down to the Lauder pub for one of the craft beers on tap.

Rainy epithets

I'm surprised at the lack of suggestions for the great New Zealand phrase for heavy rain. You'll remember this comes after the Daily Mail reported British weather forecasts were going to use more colourful, local phrasing to describe rain.

There's a massive elephant in the room which I have no option but to shine the spotlight on. It seems the most common Kiwi vernacular for lots of rain is ``it's pissing down''.

Not really the most elegant expression; far more prosaic than ``raining cats and dogs'' or ``raining stairrods'' or even ``hosing down''.

Any better suggestions out there? Give it some thought over the weekend.


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