“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.

Earworm: moments of clarity and silly songs

‘Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.’

— Soren Kierkegaard

I suppose this is a kind of footnote to my post on nostalgia.  I can’t remember when I read the quote above, but it would definitely constitute an epiphany moment. Not an epiphanette you understand — a full-blown epiphany.

It’s been a piece of wisdom I’ve held close to my heart and it’s helped me in all sorts of ways, so this is perhaps a bit arrogant, but it has also occurred to me that perhaps Kierkegaard isn’t quite right.

I think there are also moments in life when something happens and you know, just absolutely know, that it will change you forever. And I think it’s also possible in those moments to catch a glimpse of the person you will become.

I experienced post-natal depression and there were times in the first months of my son’s life when I was closer to giving up on existence than I had ever been or have been since; like really close.

One night, probably around 2am, when he’d woken crying for about the fifth time, I snapped and decided that I had to take him back to the hospital and explain that I’d made a terrible mistake and would they please just take him off my hands.

I was out of bed and stumbling around looking for clothes and all the time I was thinking about what to pack for him, and mentally writing the note that I’d hand over to make sure “they” looked after him properly. I remember composing the bit about his favourite toy (he was about 5 weeks old) and how he liked particular songs to be sung to him … and as I was trying to remember the name of the girl band that sang “Kisses for Me” on the Song for Eurotrash album …. I knew I wasn’t going to give my son away.

Call it arrogance, but I knew in that moment a) no-one would ever look after my baby as well as me, and b) that I was going to be a good mother. I saw a future that was clear and defined and although not easy – it still isn’t 15 years later – it was my future.

Until that 2am epiphany, I’d tended to take the easy way out of things; to abandon projects that got too hard. But in my son,  I found a project I couldn’t walk away from.

Has it made me a better person? Probably not. I still waste time thinking of excuses for not doing things when I’d be better off just getting on with it. I do still walk away from things that I don’t think are worth the effort. But perhaps the difference is that now I know I CAN stick with something no matter how horrible and difficult and terrifying it is.

And since this is an earworm post; this is the version of “Kisses for Me” I used to sing to my howling infant. I loved the TV programme Eurotrash, and the album of Eurovision songs connected with it is an absolute mine of fabulosity.

Oh, and the band is called Kenickie.

This is a response to the Daily Post Prompt: Earworm

Others you might enjoy:









Weekly photo challenge: nostalgic for what?

Infant class, Sinclairtown School, Kirkcaldy, Fife 1966?

Miss Simpson’s infant class, Sinclairtown School, Kirkcaldy, Fife 1966. I wonder if any of us look back on those days with nostalgia?

Nostalgia: a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition (Merriam-Webster dictionary).

Spoiler alert: I’m not nostalgic.

I can’t really think of a single thing or time from from my past that I get particularly sentimental about, or yearn to relive or return to.

I admit that I kind of miss the few years  in my early twenties when I was slim and promiscuous (these two things are almost certainly connected), but if I’m honest, the sex may have been great but the rest of my life was still a mess.

I don’t miss the past because mostly I don’t remember it with much fondness. That’s not to say that there haven’t been moments when I’ve felt really happy, but in general I don’t think I ever learned how to turn life over to find the bright side. I’m definitely a “glass half empty person” with an uncanny talent for locating large black clouds to stand under.

I’m particularly not nostalgic for my childhood, so I guess my choice of photo probably counts as an attempt at irony.

I hated being a kid. I was all the “un’s”:  un-athletic, unattractive, unpopular and probably pretty un-likeable. I hated school because the only thing I was any good at was the actual schoolwork, and lets face it – that doesn’t really count for squat in kid universe. I think even the teachers didn’t really like me. It’s ok to be brainy, but not nerdy too.

At home I had to contend with parents who were so desperately wrestling their own demons they didn’t have the time or perhaps the sensitivity to notice that I was miserable, stunted, lonely, suffering.

And anyway, none of that really mattered since my main role in the family was to give my parents something to brag to their friends about – preferably a glowing report card at the end of every term with a few sensational exam marks in between. This I did, but no matter how good I was, it was never quite good enough. “Ninety eight percent! What happened to the other two?” Eventually I learned that they coped with my deficiencies by massaging the truth of my achievements a little. I’m not sure if they did Apgar tests when I was born, but if they did my parents would have insisted I got 11 out of 10.

So really there wasn’t much point in trying … Except … Except that I wanted them to love me, and I didn’t know of any other way, so I kept on getting A’s and knowing that without the little plus sign, they might as well have been D’s. For a long time it didn’t even occur to me that there was any other point to education.

So I guess I’ve wandered through vast tracts of my life totally without any sort of navigation device. Which is probably ok, because I didn’t know where I was supposed to be going anyway.  I still don’t really.

If I was making this up, I’d be able to tell you that at some point I had an epiphany; a moment of clarity when it all started to make sense and I got my life on track, blah, blah, blah.

Sorry. As a narrative, this one doesn’t obey any rules.

I’ve probably had lots of mini-epiphanies — epiphanettes if you like. I’ve probably even tweaked bits of my existence as a result. Whatever.

I’m a different person now. Maybe my present – reasonably happy – existence is the result of lots of dialectical hopscotch, or maybe it’s just what happens when you get older and slower and less willing to give a shit.

What I do know is that although I still find black clouds and get caught in their storms, I can also make my own shelter and dry myself off and carry on. I’m not waiting for anyone to rescue me.

I can go back to university after 20 years and get A’s because I want to do each assignment as well as I can – not because I think it will make someone love me.

I still don’t have a destination in life, but I have a morality that helps me navigate each day, and at the end of most of them I feel ok.

So right now I feel no nostalgia; and I almost hope I never do because that would mean life and I had stopped getting better. And that would be a shame after how far we’ve come.