“No place more I’d like to bring you …”

Soft focus, colour shot of Langholm Hotel building, Mangaweka New Zealand. Shot by Su Leslie 2019

Langholm Hotel (now apparently closed), Mangaweka, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie 2019

No place more I’d like to bring you than
this one-pub town
approached in low gear down
the gorges through the hills.

Now they’ve built the bypass
the drinkers left are locals
& odd commercial travellers.
Quiet afternoons like this you hear the falls.

On the post office corner
a blue flag floats. I bought
a hot meat pie at the store
a new harmonica.

A public bar drinker
tells me what I want to hear.
I play for him later
songs on my harmonica.

We know each other now
I buy my round of beers,
I catch up on the news
in small-town public bars.

They ask me why I travel
and never settle down
I lose two games of pool
and hitchhike out of town.

A Mangaweka Road Song — Sam Hunt (1971)

Mangaweka is a tiny place, home to around two hundred people these days. There is a school, a post office, an art gallery and a cafe, but seldom have these been open as I’ve travelled through.

State Highway One runs parallel to the main street (Broadway). The buildings are old; mostly single-storey timber shops and service buildings. Husks of a once thriving town.


Main street, Mangaweka. Image: Su Leslie 2019


Main street, Mangaweka. Image: Su Leslie 2019

It is a strangely beautiful place; a little slice of the New Zealand Sam Hunt was writing about in 1971, and which I remember from a road-trip in about 1980. Our reason for going was to see the old Mangaweka Viaduct before it was pulled down; having been replaced with a new section of rail line through slightly less unstable land.

Even then, it was as if Mangaweka was defined by loss.


Post Office, hairdresser and perhaps a shop. I’m not sure as it never seems to be open. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Two years after Hunt’s poem was published his friend, artist Robin White, painted one of the town’s buildings.


Robin White, Mangaweka, 1973. Image: Christchurch Art Gallery.

It remains:


Image: Su Leslie 2019.

Every now and then, buildings in Mangaweka come up for sale. The latest is the old Bank of New Zealand. I mentioned it to the Big T and we looked at the online real estate listing. He was excited. I wish I could be, but I’m struggling to share his optimism that the town’s fortunes will turn (at least in a time-frame that would work for us).

That’s because last week I drove through a lot of small New Zealand towns that are struggling; unable to provide sufficient jobs for young people or compete with online retailers and the chain stores in larger towns. Throw in a raft of government regulations requiring expensive earthquake strengthening of many older buildings, and the outlook seems a bit grim.


Bank of New Zealand building, Mangaweka, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

For such a tiny place, Mangaweka has captured the imagination of many; including me. Each time I set off to visit my dad, I secretly hope for signs of new life in the town; a reason to stop and do more than feel nostalgic for a New Zealand that I fear will disappear.

Ragtag Daily Prompt | nostalgia




Too ra loo ra too ra loo rye aye


Those were the days. Music on vinyl, with liner notes. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Start singing “too ra loo ra too ra loo rye aye” to anyone of a certain age (around about mine), and I suspect many of us will start, if not actually dancing, then at least tapping our toes.

The song is “Come on Eileen” from the 1982 album by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I found it impossible not to dance then, and nothing much has changed.

Sarah at Art Expedition is hosting 30 Days, 30 Songs for the month of June. You can see her latest post here.

Why not join in — you don’t have to post every day.

The Changing Seasons: March 2017

First light on Mt Ruapehu, Central Plateau, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

First light on Mt Ruapehu, Central Plateau, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

I’m being a bit metaphorical with this Changing Seasons post, focusing on my road-trip with the boy-child last weekend.

Since he left home last June, I’ve only seen my child for more than a few hours at a time when he has been ill; in need of that special “mummy” care.

Last weekend we visited his grandfather in Whanganui; a road-trip of around 700km together. While it’s far from the first time we’ve traveled together, it was the first time we could share the driving and the costs. More importantly, as I quickly realised, we also had to share the decision-making.

My son is an adult now and the seasons of our respective lives have changed.

His road-trip ended at New Plymouth airport; with a flight back to Auckland and work. Mine involved a few more hours in the car (about half of them in Auckland traffic) — and a chance to get all nostalgic about New Zealand’s beautiful rural hinterland.

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge hosted by Cardinal Guzman. Please visit to see the Cardinal’s month, and find links to other participants.

There are two versions of the challenge:

Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1):

Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):

Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

DP Photo Challenge: Nostalgia, take 2


My son and his grandmother at a family wedding in London, 2006. Photo: Su Leslie

The boy-child left home earlier this year. Always an independent soul, he has adapted well to living in a flat and seems happy — if not as well-fed as he was at home.

Do I sound like a bad parent if I say I don’t miss him?

To qualify that: I don’t miss the conflict and tension that characterized the months before he moved out. And while I am still quietly celebrating a full fridge, an empty laundry basket and a cheerful offspring, I am a little nostalgic. My child has grown up and our relationship has changed.

The boy-child at his workbench with wood-working tools, aged about 3. Image: Su Leslie, 2001

Home handyman. Image: Su Leslie, 2001

The boy-child learning to cook. Image: Su Leslie, 2006

Learning to cook, aged around 8. Image: Su Leslie, 2006


On holiday in Munich, 2015. When will we next travel together as a family? Image: Su Leslie.

I do miss the funny, energetic child who filled my life for 18 years, but celebrate the capable and self-sufficient adult he has become.

Song for Sunday: the boy-child’s early taste in music

Fourth birthday. The "family cake" to be enjoyed with Grandma Lisbeth and Uncle Derek who were visiting from the UK. Photo: Tony Gray, 2002

Fourth birthday. The “family cake” to be enjoyed with Grandma Lisbeth and Uncle Derek who were visiting from the UK. Photo: Tony Gray, 2002

It’s a beautiful day, the boy-child has taken himself off to visit a friend in South Auckland, and it’s a good opportunity to work on his wishes book. So in lieu of musing on my life with the B-c, here is one of his first ever favourite songs. I know it came out in the year he turned four, so I’ve added a birthday photo too.

This post was written as part of my countdown to my son’s sixteenth birthday. Here’s what’s gone before:


















Six word Saturday: on being allowed a weekend sleep-in

The boy-child's first soccer team. Photo: Tony Gray 2004

The boy-child’s first soccer team and the beginning of early-start Saturday’s. Photo: Tony Gray 2004

No more early morning soccer games

This post was written both as a contribution to Six Word Saturday, and as part of my “countdown” to my son’s sixteenth birthday.

You will find the previous countdown posts here:





… and some other Six Word Saturday’s here:

Six Word Saturday






On raising children and not getting enough sleep

A few hours old and sleeping peacefully. Not a trick much repeated in the boy-child's first year. Photo: Su Leslie 1998

A few hours old and sleeping peacefully. A trick not much repeated in the boy-child’s first year. Photo: Su Leslie 1998

School’s started in earnest for the boy-child and with it the dreaded early mornings. Today was the first in months the alarm has gone off before it’s properly light outside.

I have to say – I really wasn’t ready to get up!

The infant boy-child was a terrible sleeper; managing 2-3 hours at a time during the nights of his first year, and hardly sleeping at all during the days. After a while, just the sound of his cries were enough to cause physical anxiety in both the Big T and me; a sensation which lasted for years afterwards.

Today, the alarm clock did much the same thing – that harbinger of six o’clock rising and, worse, the onset of autumn and then winter.

When the boy-child woke during those first nights, we used to put the Counting Crows album August and Everything After on the CD player and turn the volume up. Strangely, it helped calm the baby, and even now does the same for me.

Today was definitely a Counting Crows morning.

This post was written as part of my “countdown” to my son’s 16th birthday:




Phoneography Challenge: still life with fancy lettuce

Still life with fancy lettuce. Photo: Tom Gray, 2014. Taken on iPhone4, edited with Aviary Ultimate Photo Editor.

Still life with fancy lettuce. Photo: Tom Gray, 2014. Taken on iPhone4, edited with Aviary Ultimate Photo Editor.

I’ve been so busy preparing the house to go on the market and organising the boy-child for his return to school that I’ve hardly been out – let alone out taking photos. And this was actually the boy-child’s shot – just taken on my phone.

He saw this sign at our nearest fruit shop yesterday and couldn’t resist photographing it.

It took me a while to understand the depth of his amazement at the term “fancy lettuce.” I’m used to the fact that our closest fruit shops are in a part of Auckland that was, until a couple of years ago, pretty much rural. They are what’s left of a series of old market gardens, opened at a time when New Zealand was a simpler place – and certainly not the consumer paradise it is now.

When I was a kid,  grocery stores sold four types of cheese – Mild, Medium, Tasty and Colby. They were all versions of Cheddar, except possibly Colby and I’m still not sure what that is. Bread came in “brown” and “white”, and as far as I can remember there was only one variety of lettuce – Iceberg  – although in the absence of alternatives, we just called it “lettuce.”

I’m not sure when local market-gardeners diversified and started growing other varieties, but it doesn’t surprise me when these are subsumed under the term “fancy.” It’s such an old-school Kiwi-ism.

The boy-child has grown up in much more sophisticated time. He knows his ciabatta from his sour dough and could easily pick out Romaine, Rocket and Lollo Rosso in a lettuce line-up. So for him, the notion of “fancy” lettuce was just very, very funny. In fact, he’s still laughing.

This post was written for the weekly Phoneography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally. You can see Sally’s post here, or check out some other entries: