Minding The Man – Visits Christchurch an’ Ithers

The Christchurch Visits – my Meandering Memories  – From 1982 to 2020 (?)

“James-Jim” and Brigid had their three bairns – Georgina, Katherine and Hamish in Christchurch after migrating from life in Wellington. 

We visited them many times both in their first abode in Westenra Tce and then in their beautiful colonial-style home in Gwynfa Ave. nearby just down Hackthorne Rd. They were wonderful hosts, and we had many fine dinners and yarns together, meeting old and new friends. 

I recall visits when Georgina was a toddler; when mother Mary Borowczyk from Scotland was staying with them, maybe the mid-1980s; one time we went wind-surfing over at Governor’s Bay … in the fung dark! (Typical James stuff!) We visited Brigid’s parents at Akaroa one time; we climbed up to the tops of the wonderful Port Hills; there was a pleasant lunch at a restaurant near the airport, James having just bought a fine black jacket; we visited several times when Rod and Marie-France from Edinburgh came to see their daughters Bernadette and Sara both living in Christchurch. There was a family coffee and cake at a nice caff not far from Gwynfa, I forget exactly when but it was very nice with great views over Canterbury.   

I do recall well Hamish kindly taking us to the airport after a visit, which makes me think we must either have been picked up by James or we walked from the airport about two hours, add 30 minutes for a coffee break. Actually it was a fine walk, must have done it maybe three times, also the other way back to the airport. 

Then there was Hamish’s great 21st birthday bash, really enjoyed that on Aug.10th, 2012. Hamish had the same birthdate as his dad, Aug. 1st. Hamish and sisters Georgina and Kathryn looked very glam for the party. We met some interesting people such as Brigid’s sister Lucy, also Erica and Rex from Martinborough, and a character called Phil. Also a psychiatrist who used to live in Gwynfa, his children having grown up with Hamish the past 15 years. Robbie said happy birthday on Skype. I also talked to a good person called John who had an apartment near Notre Dame Cathedral! And a woman neighbour of J&B’s who was big in historical architecture of Chch or some such. Next morning I helped to clear up some of the 24 dozen bottles of beer and two dozen bottles of wine – yeh, it had been a great party!

One memorable visit in Christchurch a long time ago, maybe in the late 1980s, was after we had cycled from Nelson to Greymouth, then took the train across to Chch. I parked my bicycle near James’s Landrover, with the result he ran over it. He kindly took us and our bikes (one unrideable) to the airport. I have no memory of how we got back home from Wellington airport.

There was a time, maybe in 1986 or so, we visited with a friend, Frank from Tokyo, my father there as well from Scotland … we played “pétanque” in the garden at Westenra Tce!

Another time, Jim-James’s first son Robbie was staying, about the age of 10, so some 35 years ago, when J&B were at Westenra Tce. I remember Robbie on the trampoline next door. Yeh, maybe the late 1980s – it feels earlier though. In later years, maybe 2012, Robbie was there with his young family.

As I said, there were visits when Rod and Marie-France came to J&B’s for dinner.  I recall meeting Rod and James for drinks at the Christchurch Club, a very swish bar near Hagley Park – Hamish was there, too. It was a great hour in comfortable chairs on the verandah.  

Another visit was in February, 2010 when Ewen and Lynda were there from Scotland – that was fun, the auld school freenz thegither. It was the time I went to their auld hoose on Westenra first, forgetting they were on Gwynfa Tce. I think James got dressed up in tartan! – just to make it even more of an occasion. Rod and Marie-France also joined for dinner.  I think that was the time that Brigid prepared tidy smoked fish as “horsey deuvers” with the lager or a glass of wine. Great to have such cullinary memories with fine cooking of delicious Greek spinach pie called spanakopita.

Dec. 11, 2010:   Visit to J&B’s for lunch, their 28th wedding anniversary! James showed me a colonography on screen, much better and simpler than a -scopy thing. (This was the, trip returning via Nelson to see Pat and Jim).

Sometime in 2011: A little strange I thought on one visit way back, James told me he didn’t have a doctor coz they were “a bunch o’ ‘See U Next Tuesdays’  (of course, he used the real word!), they’re just playing a game invented by Big Pharma companies.”  I empathised saying that maybe as a doctor he also felt he didn’t need one, and Brigid was there, of course. (Brigid was of the opposite opinion, that men need to get to their GP sooner rather than later or not at all.) I told James I went regularly to my doc because I found that talking to an expert about my ailments was a big mental help – to avoid inducing boredom I won’t dwell on my stuff. However, I did ask him how he could criticise his fellow docs, most of whom were doing their best in a difficult job. He said that he used alternative methods, such as acupuncture, vitamins and musculo-skeletal treatments. 

Connected to this was his opinion of surgeons, saying, “Be very careful of them, they just want to cut you open.” He had advised me strongly not to allow an autopsy after the death of my father in 1988, warning that they make a terrible mess of the body, and his death was almost certainly just old age, hard living and heart related.

Then as if to put some flesh on the “nay doc” stance, James told me he believed that life can be lengthened and made better with testosterone. He used to have it injected in his bum but there was a reaction, it was very painful and got worse with each jab. So he invented a way of rubbing it into his skin, using “bio oil”, or some such. He could get it cheap by changing his name using the English translation of Borowczyk, which is Woodrow. We both had another glass … I poured an extra large one for myself.  

A visit in March, 2011: Soon after the hellish earthquakes, B&J showed us damage at the rowing club and out at Sumner. Brigid said that the media hadn’t shown people the real stuff, people who are really suffering and others providing huge help. 

In Nov. 2011:  James kindly and patiently examined the golf-ball like lump under my arm.  He declared it non-cancerous, either being attached to a nerve or axilliary.  An autopsy examination later at Kenepuru Hospital found that it was just a cyst. It was great to have had James’s earlier reassurance.  

Jan. 11, 2012   To see Robbie. Glenmorangie came out before midnight. J&R sat up drinking it.  Walk along Heathcoate to St Martin’s surgery with Catherine at reception.  Lunch at “Cup” up the hill after visiting James’s surgery. 

Mar.23, 2012   Billy C. meeting in Wellington before flight.  Met writer Matthew Turner who has written a book about Japanese protesters against Vietnam War.  Had a good night at Js’s.  Mar. 24th with Denis at Pomeroy’s met ex-mayor Gary Moore. Mar. 25th walk round Hagley.

April 12, 2013:   For Rod’s birthday at pub and James/Brigid’s for delicious dinz.

After Elevate pub on corner at end of Sydenham we went to buy Bluff oysters. We watched telly later, an interview on TV 1 with Beth and Bianca on the expressway. Sat up late listening to old rock’n’roll music, a great night for Rod’s birthday. I’m in Georgina’s room for third time, beautiful feeling of old Christchurch.

April 4, 2014  Both Bee and me, sushi lunch at Sumner and walk on beach. James’s for great sphenacotta dinz. I gave James a “corked” glass for late 65th pressie. News of Brigid’s old flatmate Eric who committed suicide three years before. J and I talked about his resthome business idea. Sat. April 5th  Beth and I met cousin Sue at Luciano’s on Moorhouse Ave. 

Sept. 2014:  To see Rod/M-F … Sara also there for dinz. Great to get Rod’s news of their son, Chris’s second child to be born early October and they hope to get home for that. Also Rod told a terrific joke:

North Spain people blocking entrance to elevator?  Shouldn’t put all your Basques in one exit!  They said our mutual friends Danny and Lyn Cronin are very well, he and Rod still drinking Armagnac quite often. Rod was full of praise for the NHS, saying they had served him very well with a polyp removal from his bowel recently. 

Other visitings:  It wasn’t just Beth and me visiting Brigid&James in Christchurch. They visited us in Levin at the end of 1981 when I had just returned from a year in Mackay, North Queensland, and Beth and I were minding John and Ngaire’s house while they were overseas – Actually James didn’t want to come to Levin but he was pleased to catch up with auld freen’ Grant who also visited for an evening meal round a tiny table; he liked James and made an extra effort to visit from the Wairarapa. James had visited my father and me at Grant’s homestead at Rangitumau in the countryside there in the late 1970s.  

James joined Tom to celebrate my 65th in April, 2013 in Paraparaumu, staying overnight. We enjoyed quite a few wines, just the three of us, Beth having left us to our reminiscing and daft laughs to enjoy a film at the cinema with a friend. That was the broken chair time, but nuff said, it was put together again OK until a professional could make it sittable on.

On August 22, 2015 a couple of days after Beth’s brain operations, James and Brigid both paid a kind visit from Christchurch to go and see Beth lying “oot o’ it, fair stunnert”  in Wellington ICU. Both were very supportive, saying encouraging things. James said, “She’s looking good … considering.”  He also said readings were still OK and stable. Brigid was more guarded, saying there was still a fair dose of Noradrenaline being administered, and she’d like to see that reduced. Amazingly, that’s exactly what happened two days later, the Noradrenaline getting halved again to become five mls / hour.  

It was Beth’s fourth day in ICU when J&B visited and stayed the night at our place. James gave me a hug after a few wines, one of those hugs that would do justice to a wrestling clinch. I was nearly breathless after it! Still, I knew he meant well. Also visiting at the same time were Tom and Karen over from Brisbane, such great support was very appreciated.

Another visit by James and Brigid was when Beth had recovered “nay sae bad”; I think J&B were on their way to Martinborough, maybe in early 2018, seeing relatives there. They went on a hill walk behind our place and got caught in some brambles on the way back. James muttered a few serious oaths since I had recommended the walk, knowing there were terrible thorny things … yeh, right!  “Mah fung legs are a fung mess, fung sair tae, yakunche!” I said, “Ye shouldnaeah been wearing fung shorts, ya daftie!”


In Christchurch, while Brigid pursued a professional career in general practice at St Martin’s, James was betimes a GP, too but his heart was more into learning and practising musculo-skeletal medicine and taking exams in various aspects of medicine, such as pain specialising.

On another visit James told me about their trip to Scotland. There was some medical year reunion, maybe the 25th since graduating in 1972. But that would make the visit 1997 thereabouts. I would have said my visit was more like around 2005 or ’06, so maybe it was a 35th reunion. Not sure. Anyway, it was the time James gave a talk in the McEwan Hall near the medical school. It was to assembled doctors from his graduation year. He showed me the video of it, all about doing his musculo-skeletal speciality in NZ …  half a dozen of the audience walked out.  I felt a bit sorry for him, his specialisation not legal in UK. Must say it was courageous that he talked about it to his medical year. I was glad he told me and showed the video. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t think much of the lack of respect or politeness of his colleagues.

Sept., 2012:  A long time before this, James and I enjoyed a fair bit of the company of friend Warren Burge in Wellington, and many years later we caught up with him again in Christchurch, Brigid joining us over a coffee somewhere. Warren told us about his “tap on the shoulder”, surviving prostate cancer. I think he was maybe in his early sixties. It was good seeing him again after many years. 

On Feb. 28, 2015: There was a visit to Chch to see Mike and Jane staying with J&B who asked me not to tell the result of some big cricket game New Zealand was playing maybe agin Oz. They wanted to watch it later. It turned into a nail-biter of a game somewhere, which they won only just – no probs not telling them coz I didn’t know the result back then. Jane’s brother had died Xmas Eve, and they’d had a fine visit to Japan recently, especially Yokohama. They both love Japan. I gave them a copy of Ed Levinson’s book, Visions of Japan. It was great yarning with Hamish about Auckland life and work, also his flatting there – he was in Chch to do a triathlon next day. Mike and Jane were off to Nelson next to stay in an Air B&B.

In 2012 (Date? Check with Claire): we met James and Brigid on Nelson waterfront in a café there before going to the funeral service for Pat, Claire’s mum .  (I’ve already written about this in connection with James giving me idea for “Living Funeral”.)

Nov. 8 – 11, 2013   We got shuttle from airport arriving Noosa for lunch. James & Brigid arrived later that evening in time for Tom’s 65th celebration dinner at Sails Restaurant on Laguna Bay. Tom&Karen stayed in a luxury apartment with the family at Number 1 Hastings Street up on the hill while we rented an apartment at the Lookout Resort with a fine swimming pool. We had a good time reminiscing with Tom and James. J&B drove us back to airport Sunday, Nov. 10th in time to get their flight home. We stayed the night in a nearby motel and ate at a Chinese restaurant where a kind couple paid our bill without saying, a kind of charitable act. 

Mid-Aug., 2015 :  Great dinz with Brigid&James and Georgina. I was pleased to learn that Georgina was a Labour supporter, National not being green enough for her. 

Brigid said she finds the medical practice difficult now with so many Chinese who can’t speak English well. Also with Cashmere women bringing in their kids with the slightest elevated temperature or whatever.


Oct. 22, 2015:  Great to see Rod and Marie-France again, looking well. Good to joke and chat over old times. Georgina arriving early flight next morning. James off to work at 8.45. Before he left he gave me a couple of necessary painkillers for the imbibing the night afore.

I had a pleasant yarn with Georgina, got a job interview at Air NZ next week. She likes Jacinda Ardern very much. I told her I’d met her at a Kapiti Branch Labour meeting, one of our speakers. 

Brigid told me that all Beth’s demanding is typical in stroke recovery, something to do with loss of recognition of social behaviour.  Great info. coz it’s tought at times.

James told me a great tale of buying a tie for a wedding in some back-country village in NSW in Oz.  He was directed to a garage, the person thinking he had asked for tyres! He got a nice one at a St Vinnie’s but it had H for Honda on it, very small H fortunately. 

Early March, 2016:  Walked Sumner Beach, too windy for a swim.  Got to J&B’s about 6.30, the big main room fair hoatchin’ wi’ fowk, Bernadette’s and Sara’s families. They left an hour later,  and we had a lovely dinner of spanokopita (I think this must be one of their favourites!). About 10.30 James got out the Port and the Black Label… I stuck to his good W5 Sauve Blanc. It was a great little overnight visit to Chch., also catching up with Michele for coffee at Savoires in Merivale. 

Jan. 19-21, 2017:   To see Rod and Marie-France 

After I’d been out at Governor’s Bay staying overnight of the 19th, I met Rod, James and Hamish next evening at the Christchurch Club. James bought me a very nice dark ale from Liberty Brewery, Auckland. We had a fine fish dinner later at home. I gave flowers to Brigid and a couple of bottles of French wine to James. He said the Narbonne Merlot was really smooth. Rod recommended I take a look at “Wings over Scotland”, a critical news programme.  James told one of his favourite jokes about “rubbing the ointment round back passage”. (See “Heard a Guid Yin!” and go to this joke under a great photo of Ewen and James.)

July 26 – 30, 2018  To Wanaka for James’s 70th.:  (Chch overnight 26th, overnight Q’town 27th)  Met Tom and Karen at Captain’s restaurant in Q’town, then longer drive than I’d expected to Wanaka, getting there for lunch, walk by lake, photos of lone tree in lake, noted good looking restaurant called Wineglass;  Brigid made beautiful dinz of salmon and mashed tatties at night. I gave James a bottle of Cognac and a bottle of low-alc. wine; Tom gave him an album of old photos – Brilliant!  Played daft poker game until 1.00 a.m., reminding us of all the crazy games we’d played many decades ago, except back then it was real money, ironic when we didn’t have much! Fine lunch at Mount Difficulty, a bit of a drive to get there but well worth it in glorious sunshine. Great wine tasting of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Pinot Noirs.  Returned via Cromwell.  Out to Italian restaurant in evening. 

On the 30th, we got early morning (8.00) shuttle to Q’town for our flights home arriving by early afternoon. 

This had been the second-last time to see James, next time would be Tom’s 70th in November on Moreton Island, near Brisbane. 

Feb. 12 – 14 , 2020:   To Chch to see Rod/M-F.  Managed to see Rod at Volkstad’s bar with Denis, just for an hour or so.  Both nights staying at Denis’s.