My favourite breakfast treat is salmon or bacon eggs bene, served up on a muffin bun on a bed of wilted spinach.
Along the Mount Maunganui beachfront there are a number of excellent places that will do the eggs bene breakfast for you with speed and a cheery smile.
As all fans know, the secret to really good eggs bene is in the hollandaise sauce. I could make it myself at home, but I reckon life is too short to stand over a pot of sauce stirring vigorously to make sure the sauce doesn't curdle or worse still – stick.
Anyway, despite my own misgivings I found myself actually doing this the other morning while listening to the radio news and glancing at the front page of the paper. You can guess what happened next. That was a grumpy breakfast, but it got me thinking about something else. Chickens and mums.
I'm lucky to have four "girls" who do an amazing job for me.
They produce eggs, they eat up all the kitchen scraps, they chow their way through the garden weeds that get chucked into their enclosure and they turn it all into good composty stuff which goes back onto the garden.
But there's more. One of the little-known joys in life is quietly sitting in the middle of your hen pen while the birds are busy with their hen lives. They are curious birds who will come over to see what you are doing and have a "chat".
Life with the chickens – chicken talking - was something my Mum used to do and back then, in my smarty pants way, I would mentally think "Huh! C'mon Mum get a life!" But I can now see why she did it.
It's because there is a real joy in sharing life with chickens on an intimate level. Some people get up in the morning and do meditation or go for a walk or a run; even a bike ride.
It is a way of clearing the head and getting prepped for the day ahead. Sorting out what needs to be done and reflecting on what has been done and how it might have been done better and similar.
Well I've found – which is what Mum already knew - that "chicken talking" will do the same thing for you.
The birds are just happy to have the company. You quickly become part of their morning routine. They don't intrude with mindless clucking because everything they say or do has a purpose.
Watch how a chicken scratches away at the ground and dead weeds and then stares very intently at the exposed ground beneath before the head darts forward and a stray seed or an unlucky insect is snapped up.
One hundred per cent concentration on the task at hand. I got it! So just sit there, clear the head and lift your thoughts above the compost below.
As far back as I can remember, wherever we lived, Mum would always try and have chickens.
It went with my father's desire to always have a vegetable garden. (He'd come home from working on the Tauranga wharf at lunchtime to do a spot of weeding). Both their passions born out of their beginning years as married teenagers with little money but an approach to life that said if you want to eat then "how well" depended on the effort you put into it.
Just like the penned chickens hunting the debris in their enclosure, my parents were very good at living off the land; hunter-gatherers in the traditional rural Māori way as were all our extended whānau.
Weekends were often spent in big family groups going to the beach to gather kai moana or working together on our shared gardens at Matapihi or Welcome Bay where we grew watermelon, potatoes, kumara and corn.
The potatoes and kumara stored in pits on beds of fern, were our supply for the year. Mum made her own bread much of the time too.
It was that sense of self-reliance and self-sufficiency aligned with a strong belief in core Christian values, that gave my little Mum the confidence to take on the wider world and to make a difference.
She graduated from chickens to looking after the community, kids especially, and that commitment took her into a world where many feared to walk. I have a photograph of her and Dad standing proudly in their Māori Warden uniforms with the Māori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu and while Dad went off to make his community contribution by becoming a voluntary ambulance driver and first aider, Mum formed an association with the new (at that time) Mount Maunganui Intermediate School with a special focus on "gang" kids.
Seeing this little lady fearlessly scolding patched up mobsters about their kids' welfare was, well, breath-taking. Her service over many years was recognised by Tauranga's mayor of the day who presented her with one of the city's merit awards.
Mum's need to be part of a flock continued after her "retirement" to Manaia on the Coromandel where she took on teaching te reo at the local school and became manager and mentor for the line dancing kids group she set up. And of course, at home she had a hen pen full of feathered mates.
Mum left us just over a year ago now and this coming New Year's Day we will share a further celebration of her life with friends and whānau. It is the hura kohatu ceremony – "the unveiling" – where the memorial stone on a person's grave is uncovered and blessed.
People are asked to come to a short service at the marae followed by a ceremony at the urupa and then a shared meal back at the marae. It is an evolved Māori tradition that has replaced the former practice where the bones of a deceased person were mourned over one final time before being bundled up and permanently secured in a hidden cave or other hiding place somewhere within the tribal landscape.
I fed my chickens this morning; kitchen scraps and a couple of handfuls of wheat. We had another one of those one-sided conversations. Chickens have a way of looking at you with a head cocked sideways and one beady eye that is quite endearing.
Mum used to do that too but her cocked head and furrowed brow was more an indication that she wasn't quite agreeing with what you were saying.
When I talk to my chickens the joy of my Mum is there with me.