Thursday, April 28, 2016

Enemy Camp - David Hill

Vincent O'Sullivan covered the topic in his play 'Shuriken' over a decade ago.  The 'Featherston Incident' has become known as one of the most shameful events in New Zealand's WWII history. Up to 600 Japanese prisoners were held there from 1943 to the end of the war, the prisoners a mix of civilians, soldiers and sailors captured or committed under the War Act. 

Hill tells the story of the mutiny of a number of Japanese officers who try to comit Hara Kiri to protect their honor after capture and instead, are slaughtered by frightened, trigger happy guards, stirred up by propaganda and nativity.

The story is narrated, in a diary format, by school boy Ewen, whose dad works at the camp and was a a soldier in Greece.  His humanitarian stance throughout the story a surprising highlight. 
Ewen's mates are Clarry and Barry Morris.  Clarry suffers from polio. The boys are taught Japanese by Ito, a Japanese officer.  From him they learn all about the Japanese camp experience from their point of view -  “for us to be prisoner is to be dead person”.

Add to that pressure from American troops seeking intel about Japanese troop movements in the Pacific, the fierce loyalty of the  Japanese warriors and their intense pride and hostile reactions from those who have fought the Japanese and been tortured and you have a mixture primed for conflict.

This is a brilliantly written book.  Short, punchy.  A good size for students and adults to digest.  I zoomed through it on a week of train commutes.  And the whole account of this tender is sensitively done. It's clear that the boys are the eyes for the reader, but they can't interfere.  They are the impartial camera.  A very readable novel.


The Featherston incident, 25 February 1943

Two kilometres north of the quiet little Wairarapa town of Featherston, a small memorial garden marks the site of a riot that resulted in the deaths of 48 Japanese prisoners of war and one guard. A further 63 prisoners were wounded.

The memorial plaque
A plaque commemorates the site with a 17th-century haiku:
Behold the summer grass
All that remains of the
Dreams of warriors.

Featherston was the site of New Zealand's largest military training camp during the First World War, housing 7500 men, before being dismantled after the war. It was re-established in 1942 to house 800 Japanese prisoners of war.
The riot broke out as a result of some of the Japanese prisoners refusing to work. Capture was humiliation enough for some of these men. News of the riot was kept relatively quiet as a result of war-time censorship. There were fears that the Japanese might retaliate against Allied POWs in Japanese camps. An inquiry was quickly organised in early March and the guards were cleared of any wrongdoing. It pointed to a clash of cultures made worse by the language barrier. The Japanese seemed unaware of the terms of the 1929 Prisoners of War Convention that stated that compulsory work for POWs was permitted; the camp had only a fragmentary translation of this available to the prisoners.

Two of the Japanese officers, Adachi and Nishimura, were found to have stirred their fellow prisoners into action. The Imperial POW Committee in London edited the New Zealand report to minimise any propaganda value that the Japanese government might have gained from the incident. The report claimed that the guards acted in self-defence when charged by a crowd of 250 prisoners throwing rocks. It also noted that the shooting ended as quickly as possible, lasting about 20 seconds.
Memorial garden at Featherston

Others claimed, however, that the actions at Featherston were in retaliation for the mis-treatment of Allied POWs held in Japanese camps. Those who defended the actions of the guards that day were quick to point out that the Japanese prisoners had been generally well fed and housed and that this incident was an exception to the rule. It was noted that the Japanese were in no position to complain about one isolated event for many Allied prisoners fared much worse in Japanese POW camps.

A Few Hares to Chase: The Economic Life and Times of Bill Phillips - Alan Bollard

The Phillips curve is world famous in 'Economy  land'. Its inventor was an engineer, a genius, a man who led a pretty exciting life and contributed to economics in many different ways. Born and raised on a remote farm in rural New Zealand, the first part of his life was a search for adventure. During the Depression he worked in construction, and roamed the roads and outback of Australia picking up casual work from gold mining to crocodile hunting. In 1937 he traveled through militarizing Japan, a guerrilla war in Manchuria, Stalin’s Soviet Union, and growing tension in Europe. On the outbreak of war, he joined the RAF and re-armed planes in Singapore before incarceration in a Japanese Prisoner-of-War camp. There he learned languages, invented gadgets, and built a clandestine radio. No longer seeking adventure, life was now a search for economic stability. Demobbed, Phillips scraped a sociology degree at the London School of Economics (LSE), before convincing a skeptical faculty to let him build a hydraulic model of the economy. This beautiful, complex machine was a great success and Phillips was headed for serious economics. Subsequently, he developed new ideas for stabilizing economies, began to use electronic computers, developed the Phillips curve, showed ways to help an economy to grow, and developed new techniques to model economies. Always innovative, he later worked on stabilizing the Chinese economy, wracked by the Cultural Revolution. Dr Bill Phillips pioneered a dozen new directions in economics, making him one of the most innovative and influential economic pioneers.  

 Not long before his death in 1975, the New Zealand economics community wanted to recognize Phillips for all his achievements. So they published a commemorative book, with chapters written by all the international economists and they presented a copy to Phillips on his birthday in November 1974.  Sixty years old and wheelchair-bound after a stroke, he carefully accepts the book. He clearly can't move or speak very well, and is just as clearly frustrated by this.
He listens as he's told it's a recognition of all his achievements.  His response is typically modest, and understated. He just says: "Oh, I didn't do much. I just set off a few hares for people to chase."


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pipi at Home - Recipes by Alexandra Tylee/Photography by Richard Brimer

For anyone who's zipped through Havelock North, you'll know that Pipi café is a welcome distraction from the surrounding vineyards and farmer's markets.  Set in a Victorian style house that could well do with a lick of paint, with blankets for artworks and an overgrown English country garden out back it's shabby chic and Kiwi rustic is the main attraction - that and Tylee's also rustic but wholesome food.  This is not her first book but it's probably her most useful and accessible. 
With a brood of young whippersnappers herself there's a big emphasis on family food that can be produced quickly and will satisfy most palettes around the big scrubbed farm table.  Potato Hash cakes, for example are not very difficult (in fact, I made them up today for brunch with only half a glance at the ingredients and method). There's an old fashioned cornbread recipe that approximates the Southern version, with courgettes for added texture.  And there's a big emphasis on puddings.  Jamie Oliver will love this section, with references back to the meals our gran used to make.  Actually, the need to slow down and take time over a meal is inherent in many dishes here.  For those of us who spent way too much time in Ohakune, there's a carrot steamed pudding, and a blueberry tart (with cream of course), and an enticing chamomile panna cotta (which I NEED to try!).  The hazelnut roulade with chocolate mouse and cherries.  My Granma called that chocolate rolly-polly.  in fact there's an element of chic-granny in all Tylee's food.  The other theme is about using what's seasonal, like fruits and veges that are only available at certain times of the year.  Tylee mentions that Havelock North's abundant cornucopia of fresh is her inspiration.  One imagines she has suppliers lining up with pine boxes of apples, pears, grapes, nuts and other goodies.   And that's all well and good, but not all of us are so lucky.  I mean, in Wellington getting hold of a cheap, plentiful supply of figs, for example is nigh on impossible! 

Alexandra Tylee
What is accessible is the down to earth is her thought process.  For example, she's aware that not everyone is into fancy dining so like River Cottage Hugh, she trundles down to the local hall, in this case in Poukawa, to whzz up a 'Yoga Lunch' - a good excuse to road test some mostly gluten free, sugar free food like a Kale and Red Cabbage Slaw (very yummy), a Quinoa and Smoked fish salad with tahini and coconut cream (unusual) and a roast carrot and cashew nut salad.  The accompanying photos in this section suggest that the clientele to impress were not the standard ladies who lunch but the midweek blue rinse brigade.  At least they'd be no complaints about the honey cheese cake if the sausage rolls and cucumber sandwiches went missing in action! 

Pipi is famous for its unusual pizza toppings but there's only a couple here under the title 'Pipi Truck'.  This is the cafe's side venture that gets wheeled out during event like concerts at Mission Estate.  The two on offer here are so simple there's really no need for a recipe.  One is a mix of roast peaches, prosciutto, rocket and fresh mozzarella.  The other is Figs, blue cheese and bacon .  Vegos need not apply! At the back f the book are som very cool 'Extras' such as beef bone broth, cherry tomato relish, celery salt (for seasoning) and a herbed butter called Cafe' De Paris which is awesome on steak and steamed veges like peppers and courgettes.  There's also a few basic which are straight out f the Edmonds' and, I feel a bit pointless without a better description of what to expect.  There's pizza dough the way Pipi makes it - which is the way I've always made it.  So nothing learned here.  And Flaky Pastry.  Which I learned at school and now can't be arsed making, though if I did it would be like this.

Like Jamie Oliver's book, pictures tell stories about the food and the cook.  There are lots of close ups of Tylee's family and a smattering of daily chores like wood chopping plus the occasional scene of her with the kids baking up a storm.   On the whole, photographer Richard Brimer chose to avoid the usual 'chef and the kids' clichés because we all know that mostly the little blighters never stay in one place long enough to finish any one task s any photos that were take on them kneading dough or whisking mayo would be clearly contrived.

Overall, Pipi at Home is a book of new and old classics.  There's nothing really new in it - more some affirmation and a bit of love for anyone who's a halfway decent cook wanting a book that's not too 'chef-ish' but still shappy-chic enough to make the every day and ordinary fare feel like you've just nipped down to your local café.  And judging by some of the photos of half rotting sheds and un-weeded gardens with strewn blankets, scones on the patio with tea in old 'best china' porcelain, a secret excuse not to mow the lawns.