It was indeed a sad day when I heard of the death of Simon Smith, over Labour Weekend. He died doing something that he truly loved and that was sailing up the eastern coast of the North Island to Russell, taking part in the annual Coastal Classic, a yacht race that has been going now for 41 years. Many thousands of yachts and many thousands of crew members have taken part over the years in this iconic race from Devonport Wharf to Russell in the Bay of Islands.
I first got to know Simon back in 1981, when we were based in Hamble River, which is on the Southampton Waterways in England, prior to the 1981-82 Whitbread Round the World Race. I was crewing on Ceramco New Zealand, skippered by Peter Blake, and he was a crew member on a yacht called United Friendly, skippered by the world renowned yachtsman Chay Blyth. During the race, all the crews mixed at the ports of call, while working on their boats, in preparation for the next leg. In thinking back, I recall some of the social activities were rougher and more dangerous than two of the Southern Ocean legs put together.
Over the years, I bumped into Simon on a regular basis. He was a highly respected teacher at Westlake Boys’ High School, and was due to retire in December this year after over 35 years of service. He was a rugby tragic and he was a sailing tragic. He was a special man and will be sadly missed by so many people.
Let’s now wander down to Devonport and the corner of Church St and King Edward Parade, where Auckland Transport, in their wisdom, have put in a new pedestrian crossing. This is part of the long trail of new pedestrian crossings, cycle ways, traffic calming and new gardens that have suddenly sprung up in the borough at the cost of some $4 million and counting, according to my men at the coalface. After you have wandered down there, you may have noticed that AT has, in their wisdom, attempted to put in a Belisha beacon for the new crossing. The local residents protested that a flashing light 24/7 might be a bit much, so the powers that be have now put in a street light on both sides of the crossing. Apart from the cost and the need for a crossing at all, AT again in their great wisdom, have put the light pole dead centre in the footpath. I know this is too funny to be true, but trust me, it is true. But wait, there is more. AT have put in the yellow bubbles set in the concrete for the blind, but put the pole for the light right where blind or non-observant people will collide with it. Then one wonders, really do you need a light at all, as not that many people will be crossing the road in the middle of the night to have a swim?
Getting back to this nonsensical construction throughout the borough, as I mentioned in my previous column, the new bus stop outside Bruce Yarnton’s Menswear is a huge accident waiting to happen. I see now that AT has coned off part of it, as it is a tripping hazard and extremely dangerous with those big hunks of wood. God knows what the planners were thinking when they planned this one. Maybe a brighter idea for AT would have been to upgrade all the footpaths in Devonport as they are getting past their use by dates. They were actually constructed in the mid 1980s and a lot of it is badly in need of repairing. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that, as outside The Patriot several weeks ago, it took contractors some weeks to repair around 20 square metres of cobbles.
It is good to hear the new Government is going to review quite a few things, such as some of the speed reductions, Three/Five Waters, the light rail to the airport (that would have disrupted Dominion Road for two decades). I see that back in late October before the new Government was sworn in, the incoming new Prime Minister was asking why all these projects that were in line to be cancelled were still chugging along and costing thousands. People still being hired, and consultants still charging.
Again, we are staring down the barrel at Christmas, where does the year go? I thought it was only older people who commented that time goes very quickly, but even younger people I know have commented on the speed at which the year disappears.
As I usually say around this time of year, we all need to get out and see the people we care about, do the things we love and enjoy our lives.