Once upon a time, way back in 1990, I broke my arm playing rugby against Mataura.

Mataura in Southland, just like Patea in South Taranaki, was a freezing works town. To be honest it wasn't that difficult to break bones against Mataura. They bred them tough in Mataura and they bred some great rugby players.

Incidentally the following year, 1991, was to be my last in senior rugby. When we journeyed to Mataura with what we thought was a pretty good Riversdale side we were upstaged by a 17 year old upstart at halfback. His name? Justin Marshall. Probably if I knew him at the time, I would have recognised the ball boy. His name? Jimmy Cowan.

I digress. Back to 1990. Sitting out most of the winter in a plaster cast taught me three things. How difficult it was to dag sheep, how much I missed rugby and, perhaps most importantly in the long term, it taught me how to write.


English was never my strong suit at high school and, like many, I couldn't for the life of me figure out the relevance Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice or Arthur Miller's equally droll Death of a Salesman.

But it's funny how fate takes you in different directions in life. A great mate of mine was the sports editor at the Gore Ensign. I convinced him to let me write one sports column for the local rag. Initially my writing skills were pretty basic but because I was bored and needed a creative outlet, I learnt from every correction the sub-editors made to my copy.

I then nagged the editor of the Southland Times until I got a column. That led to the Otago Southland Farmer, then this fine publication and now my column appears in the New Zealand Herald on line.

When I look back on all the columns I've written over the past 27 years, I think the one I most fondly reflect upon is the piece I wrote, albeit somewhat facetiously, about choosing a year in which to be born if you could turn back time. I chose 1950 and some of my reasoning was as follows:

It meant I would have been old enough to remember the 1956 Springboks tour and the greatest rugby test series of all time. I would be able to recall the Cuban Missile Crisis and JFK's assassination in all its gory detail. I'd have been a hormone-raging teenager at the height of the sexual revolution surrounding the advent of the mini-skirt and the pill, whilst bopping away to the British Pop Invasion.

I could have celebrated with a beer when man landed on the moon and legally gone to A Clockwork Orange. Godzone was truly a land of milk, honey, full employment and a great All Blacks forward pack under the stewardship of two Wairarapa farmers, Kiwi Keith Holyoake and Brian Lochore!

That's not to say being born in 1950 would not be without its pitfalls. New Zealand, with nothing open in weekends and a six o'clock swill in our pubs, must have been dreadfully dreary. Weekends were the domain of mercilessly mundane Sunday drives to visit dull relations.

Imagine cars without synchromesh transmissions, power steering or air conditioning? No Sky TV or smartphones! Heck, televisions barely existed and rural party lines meant any one of a dozen neighbours could eavesdrop on your phone calls. And can you imagine 10-man rugby based around being able to kick out on the full from anywhere on the paddock?

But despite all the downsides of the sometimes austere half-gallon, quarter-acre, pavlova paradise that was New Zealand in the '50s and '60s, recent examples of pandering political correctness make me hanker for those simpler times I rather nostalgically wrote about.

Giving a river the rights of a person? Giving a paedophile murderer the right to petition to wear a hair piece in prison when he used the offending 'rug' to aid and abet his escape to South America? Allowing a trans-gender, former male weight lifter to compete against women on a completely uneven playing field? Or the latest where a Dunedin Intermediate has removed gender stereotyping from the school's uniform, meaning boys can we wear a skirt to school, should they choose to?

Last week on my radio show I enraged some of my audience by saying that when I grew up, it was simple; you were either a bloke or a sheila! Politically incorrect in Riversdale in the 1960s meant voting Labour not National.

I reluctantly accept this is no longer in keeping with the times. We need to be accepting of all things, even if we don't readily accept them. The world is changing at an exponentially faster pace on a daily basis. Get off the hamster wheel of change and you risk being left behind, never able to jump back on. I love the modern gadgetry of my smartphone, smart TV, computerised car, you name it. Technology is taking business, farming and communication to places we've only dreamed about.

So why then do I yearn for the simplicity of 1950?