Reflections: pieces of eighty


By Peter Carr

Last Thursday was an incredibly special day for me which has set me off in a reflective mood. More on that later.

In 1954 several interesting events took place – which included the Queen and her beloved Prince Philip visiting our country – Roger Bannister running the first sub-four-minute mile – Marilyn Munroe married Joe DiMaggio – Senator Joseph McCarthy commenced his rail against USA-based Communist sympathisers – and Kiwi Sir William Hamilton invented the boat-driven Hamilton jet engine. All remarkable or perhaps notable events.

But for me the important occasion was the 80th birthday, in that year, of that remarkable orator and author Winston Spencer Churchill. Which he described in a speech on that day that ‘turning 80 was the most memorable occasion of my life’ – a striking statement considering the enormous peaks he had climbed politically and socially over those 80 tumultuous years.

So why am I harking back to reflections of one of the world’s greatest leaders?

Well, it has, last Thursday, happened to me. And I, too, am in reflective mode looking back at achievements, sad memories, happiness to still be alive and in good health. And asking myself ‘what would have been?’  had I taken a turn to the left or the right somewhere in my past.

Having been born into war-ravaged England in 1941, when running in the middle of the night to an air raid shelter was an every-day task, I look back on my life – proud of some achievements and sad at opportunities I chose not to take. Clearly a momentous decision for me was to move to New Zealand over 50 years ago to embark on a life in a country that was geographically remote, far too dependent on trade with the UK and layered with politically driven financial restrictions.

Understanding a three-year government when used to a five-year bicameral political system took some time to illustrate the former produced poor governance and the latter delay and frustration when new legislation was being considered.

But it has been, generally, a good life. One of the more successful decisions has deciding to live in this delightful town. Shortly after arriving I became embroiled in the governance of the Chamber of

Commerce which was enlightening and satisfying.  Later I was beckoned towards rowing administration at the nearby beautiful lake and a deep dive into volunteering at Mystery Creek.

All bring happy memories. As I watch the rapid growth of Cambridge, I have refrained from bemoaning that the village atmosphere will be lost. Such is not the case providing we have sensible local political oversight.

When the remnants of the Cambridge Armed Constabulary, post 1864, decided mainly to stay here and found a tree bound, militarily street encompassed town, who would have thought that they would succeed to the height that they did? That they conceived the Town Belt and wrapped it in an invisible fence was, of itself, a stroke of brilliant foresight.

Yep – being 80 in Cambridge is not bad. In fact, it is damned good all round.

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