MY SMALL-BOAT DILEMMA

Grapevine 1/2017:

MY SMALL-BOAT DILEMMA
(on one occasion I almost died)

I spent a whole day in a small boat last weekend. Which took more courage than you think. Small boats and me don’t agree. Small boats make me sick. Well, they have in the past …

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THE JOY OF CAMPING

Grapevine 4/2016:

THE JOY OF CAMPING
(the best things in life are free)

On the off-chance that it might stop raining for more than quarter of an hour, I’d like to share a hot summer tip with parents who’ve already started panicking …

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ROAD-RAGE

Grapevine 3/2016:

ROAD-RAGE
(I could’ve got seriously hurt)

It all started with a phonecall. Daughter and hubby were going to look at a car. Did we want to meet them at the dealers’ and take a look, too. We were already out and about … so yes, why not?

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SPAGHETTI

Grapevine 2/2016:

SPAGHETTI
(I have it on good authority)

I had a flashback the other night. We’d been enjoying some chat-time over dinner with our 21-year-old grandson and his lovely young partner …

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CUDDLY LITTLE BUNDLE OF FUN

Grapevine 1/2016:

CUDDLY LITTLE BUNDLE OF FUN
(I look far too young, right?)

I don’t know what you did in the holidays, but I did something I’ve never done before. I spent a week with my very first great-grandson! And, one balmy evening, he fell asleep in my arms …

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PASS ME MY POLES, PLEASE

Grapevine 3/2015:

PASS ME MY POLES, PLEASE
(and stop mocking us)

In the ongoing effort to keep our bodies beautiful, my wife and I have taken up pole-walking. The only thing that bothers us is the way onlookers stare, and smile in a condescending, pitying kind of way …

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BATTLING THE BLIZZARD!

Grapevine 2/2015:

BATTLING THE BLIZZARD!
The world’s biggest storm?

We decided to surprise a young grandson yesterday. We decided to turn up unannounced and watch him play rugby. We decided to park near the playing fields, sneak onto the sideline, and wait for him to spot us. But we didn’t allow for the weather …

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WHAT RUBBISH!

Grapevine 1/2015:

WHAT RUBBISH!
You have been warned …

We were babysitting recently. For No.2 Son & Wife. Although, given that their youngest kid is eight and their older kids are teens-going-on-adults, ‘babysitting’ is hardly the word. We felt more like Camp Mum’n’Dad on an exhausting school trip …

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RIGHT ON TARGET!

Grapevine 4/2014:

RIGHT ON TARGET!
My lips were sealed …

Got an early-morning call from a small blonde grandson. “Hi Grandad,” he whispered. “I want to tell you something cool but you mustn’t tell Gran ‘cause my sister wants to and she isn’t awake yet …”

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MOMENTS LIKE THESE

Grapevine 3/2014:

MOMENTS LIKE THESE
Kids say the darnedest things …

It was a laid-back sunshiny afternoon. We were seated in an outdoor café, catching up with family after a break overseas. The grown-ups were sipping frothy coffee, the kids were sucking fruit-smoothies through straws …

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GETTING A BIT EXPENSIVE

Grapevine 2/2014:

GETTING A BIT EXPENSIVE
Last Saturday it came to a head …

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I made a promise to a young grandson. “I’ll pay you five dollars for every try!” And I meant it. I wasn’t trying to bribe him or corrupt him – just motivate him …

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GUILTY AS CHARGED!

Grapevine 1/2014:

GUILTY AS CHARGED!
My grandson spoke the truth …

I’m not normally a grumpy grandad. I want my grandkids to like me, not hate me. So, as much as possible, I avoid getting stern and cranky unless it’s really warranted. Which it was the other day. I mean, what would YOU have done …?

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WHERE’S A STREETMAP

Grapevine 4/2013:

WHERE’S A STREETMAP
when you need one?

It may not sound that funny now, but it was funny at the time. And my wife and I are still giggling. We’d arranged, you see, to have dinner with friends. Our friends live across town, and we’d been there before, so they shouldn’t have been hard to find. But they WERE …

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THE A-B-C OF PARENTING

Grapevine 3/2013:

THE A-B-C OF PARENTING
The alphabet for mums & dads …

AGEING: A rapid decay process caused by exposure to children. The main signs are sagging of the body, wrinkling of the skin, and softening of the brain.

BANANAS: What parents have gotta be if, after having one screaming, sleepless, colicky baby, they choose to have another …

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LITTLE WOLF

Grapevine 2/2013:

LITTLE WOLF
My ancient Gaelic roots …

I’ve sometimes felt envious of people who have important-sounding names … names that suggest ‘somebody’ instead of just ‘anybody’. Let’s face it, the name ‘Cooney’ has never really helped me stand out from the crowd. But all that is about to change …

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DOING MY BIT FOR BIRDS

Grapevine 1/2013:

DOING MY BIT FOR BIRDS
My cat needs counselling …

I’ve always had a soft spot for birds. Not sure why. But our feathered friends kinda get to me. I marvel at their ability to stay effortlessly airborne. I’m grateful for the colour and song they add to my life. And, from somewhere deep inside, I feel SORRY for them …

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THE WOMEN IN MY LIFE

Grapevine 4/2012:

THE WOMEN IN MY LIFE
Don’t get me wrong …

After years of being told that men and women are the same, I’m relieved to learn that it’s now politically correct to admit what anyone with half a brain has always admitted: namely, that men and women couldn’t be more different if they tried. What do I mean? Well, it’s not rocket-science, surely …

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CANNONBALL!

Grapevine 3/2012:

CANNONBALL!
On broken sleep …

I’m not sure if this is a common problem with blokes my age, but I don’t sleep as well as I used to. The days of plopping my weary head on a soft, fluffy pillow … going out like a light in no time at all … enjoying one pleasant dream after another … and waking bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed eight hours later – those days are a distant memory.

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MY DOG HAS FLEAS

Grapevine 2/2012:

MY DOG HAS FLEAS
Ukulele-playing grandkids …

I come from a musical family. And, though singing was never my strong suit (I’d rather be run over by a truck than attempt a solo), I did feel obliged, as a small conscientious boy, to do my tuneful best with a musical instrument. Any musical instrument …

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THE CAKE

Grapevine 1/2012:

THE CAKE
In train-ing …

Grandmothers are meant to be soft. Everyone knows that. But I’m married to a grandmother who’s so soft she’s squishy! When it comes to doing stuff for her grandkids, she’s always been a pushover. And, these days, she doesn’t even need to be pushed! Like, several weeks back, when her oldest grandson ordered yet another birthday cake …

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IF YOU THINK YOU CAN

Grapevine 4/2011:

IF YOU THINK YOU CAN
A challenge …

I love mottos. I love the way a motto can grab a big life-lesson and shrink it to a few small words. Mottos, one-liners, sayings – call them what you like – can drive home a point, hit the nail on the head, and pack a punch more powerful than a two-hour lecture. Mottos make you stop, make you think, make you laugh. And mottos, sometimes, help you grow …

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HANDS FREE AT LAST

Grapevine 3/2011:

HANDS FREE AT LAST
Hi-tech trouble …

I have a love-hate relationship with phones. Always have, always will. Yes, I know. The technology’s brilliant. I mean, you can use a phone these days to take photos, surf the net, make music, locate lost trampers, and even mow lawns. But phones have become far too complicated, for my liking …

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GORSEBUSH

Grapevine 2/2011:

GORSEBUSH
My hard heart softens …

My wife and I have, over the years, welcomed untold pets into our household. We’ve gone beyond the call of duty when it comes to giving four-legged waifs and strays a place to live and food to eat. So when a tiny, furry, black-and-white orphan was delivered to our front door the other week, I said “Thanks, but no thanks …”

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THE CHRISTCHURCH QUAKE

Grapevine 1/2011:

THE CHRISTCHURCH QUAKE
Lost for words …

I was overseas when the news broke. In Peru. Three thousand metres above sea-level, in the rocky, mountainous Andes. We got woken by a text from our daughter, and when we turned on TV there it was, all over CNN and BBC: Christchurch in ruins … another ghastly earthquake … people in the rubble … bodies in black bags …

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THREE KIDS & AN OLD GUY

Grapevine 4/2010:

THREE KIDS & AN OLD GUY
Kids say the darndest things …

It’s probably no accident that we were given two ears and one mouth. It suggests that we should listen twice as much as we talk. Which is good advice, I reckon, for parents and grandparents …

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MAGNIFICENT ME!

Grapevine 3/2010:

MAGNIFICENT ME!
John has nice legs …

I’ve got nice legs. My wife tells me that. Okay, they’ve never stopped traffic or won any prizes. But, as legs go, they aint half bad. In fact, my entire body (allowing for a bit of well-earned sag and droop) is really quite magnificent …

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TO MY DESCENDANTS & HEIRS

Grapevine 2/2010:

TO MY DESCENDANTS & HEIRS
John leaves instructions ...

My dear children, you are now all old enough to realize that life is a precious but finite quantity, and that I, your father, will not live forever. So I’ve prepared instructions as to the final disposition of my remains …

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I LIKE HUMANS

Grapevine 1/2010:

I LIKE HUMANS
John applauds our differences ...

Humans, in my opinion, are fascinating. No matter where I am – here at home, across the ditch in Oz, up north in Asia, on the far side of the world in Europe, Africa, the UK or the Middle East – I find myself utterly captivated by the humans I meet …

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CAR WARS

Grapevine 4/2009:

CAR WARS
John shares some home-truths …

My wife’s not a good passenger. She never has been. Oh, I love her dearly and I’d rather travel with her than travel alone. But she can’t help herself. She has to tell me how to drive – like she’s an AA instructor or something. And we often end up calling each other names …

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A FUNNY THING HAPPENED AT RUGBY

Grapevine 3/2009:

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED AT RUGBY
John gets very embarrassed …

A funny thing happened to me last weekend. Funny in an embarrassing kind of way. And while I don’t want to tell everybody (I mean, I’ve still got my pride, right?), I do feel the need to tell somebody. I think it might help if I could share it – you know? Get it off my chest, like they say. I mean, I don’t need a counsellor or anything like that. No. Just someone who will listen. Someone who cares …

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RUBBER DUCKY

Grapevine 2/2009:

RUBBER DUCKY
John tracks down a beep …

I know this probably sounds paranoid, but I’ve become seriously scared of technology. My life is being taken over by gadgets, gizmos, wotsits and whizz-bangs that are a whole lot smarter than they need to be. My aging brain is no match for their digital brilliance. And I have ample evidence that they’re coming to get me …

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GOD BLESS THE ANIMALS

Grapevine 1/2009:

GOD BLESS THE ANIMALS
John receives instruction on prayer …

One of the more pleasant duties I get to perform as a grandfather is praying with my grandkids. And those prayers are usually peaceful, bedtime affairs – a few choice words sent heavenward as a prelude to sleep …

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ON HOLY GROUND

Grapevine 4/2008:

ON HOLY GROUND
John, up-close with a Californian Redwood

I’m an amateur gardener at best. I can’t speak Latin to save myself. And I struggle to say “sequoia sempervirens” with a straight face. But I happen to know that California’s Coastal Redwoods are the tallest, most majestic trees of all – because I recently shared a couple of hours with some, up-close-and-personal, in the dark, quiet depths of Muir Woods, near San Francisco …

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SERIOUS FUN

Grapevine 3/2008:

SERIOUS FUN
John laughs in the face of pain …

When I reach the age of 120, I’ll probably be interviewed on television. I’ll probably be asked, “What’s the secret of your longevity?” And I’ll probably say, “Laughter and fun!” Because these two ingredients have featured large in the first 60 years of my life, and they will (I hope) in the second …

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THE CHOIRBOY

Grapevine 2/2008:

THE CHOIRBOY
John sings solo …

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that my grandkids are exceptional. Okay, you probably think yours are, too. But mine REALLY are! They’re exceptionally good looking … exceptionally bright … exceptionally fond of their Granddad … exceptionally talented. And you’d know what I mean if you could just hear them sing …

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ONE OUT OF THE BOX

Grapevine 1/2008:

IT’S THE FISHING – NOT THE FISH
John gives advice on fishing …

I’ve never entered a fishing contest, and doubt if I ever will. Oh, I’ve caught my fair share of fish, and even accidentally hooked the odd big one. But I’m not fanatical enough to get my photo in NZ Fishing News. I don’t own a tackle-box, I hate the smell of bait, I’d rather eat a sausage than a snapper, and I get seasick …

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ONE OUT OF THE BOX

Grapevine 4/2007:

ONE OUT OF THE BOX
John reflects on a life cut short …

I haven’t been my usual, cheerful, chirpy self these past few weeks. You see, I’ve lost a good friend. My one-and-only son-in-law. He died in a car crash. He became one of those ghastly statistics. He even got his name in the paper. And my tidy little world’s been badly shook-up …

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THE RISING COST OF RAISING KIDS

Grapevine 3/2007:

THE RISING COST OF RAISING KIDS
John calculates the cost of parenthood

I can’t remember where I read this. But some bright spark has calculated that raising a child from year 0 to 18 costs a grand total of $160,000! That’s right, $160,000! Which is a bit of a shock, eh. I mean, just imagine what you could do with all that money …

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GREEN WITH ENVY

Grapevine 2/2007:

GREEN WITH ENVY
John gets envious

My wife broke her arm a while back. Tripped on some foreign steps, went down like a sack of spuds, and smashed it real bad. (I suggested later that she may have had a senior moment. She told me she had no such thing, that she was pushed. I suggested that she was in denial. She offered to push me down some steps.)

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A MAN & HIS TOOLS

Grapevine 1/2007:

A MAN & HIS TOOLS
John shares some DIY tips

I nearly bought a chainsaw the other day. Just a little one. I mean, I don’t actually need a chainsaw. Not right now. But a man never knows when he could use a tool like that. It’s bound to come in handy, sooner or later – eh? That’s why I bought the skillsaw that’s on the floor in my office. And the jigsaw that’s in the laundry by the washing machine. And the cordless drill that’s still in its box on my bookshelf …

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IS ANYBODY THERE?

Grapevine 4/2006:

IS ANYBODY THERE?
John’s thoughts on Christmas …

I’m the proud owner of several size-small grandsons. And they all, without exception, are full of bright ideas. But one of them demonstrated EXTRA initiative recently when he dialled the emergency number: 111.

He was faced with a crisis, you see. He needed help from someone bigger. And, unbeknown to his parents, he called POLICE, AMBULANCE & FIRE.

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ONCE UPON A KEYBOARD

Grapevine 3/2006:

ONCE UPON A KEYBOARD
John on musical nightmares…

I'm a forgiving sort of chap. Not one to record a wrong or nurse a grudge. But it's my wife's fault we bought the stupid thing. It would never have happened if she hadn't called me over and said, "John, come and look at this!"

Now that might sound innocent enough to you. But when you've lived with a woman for as long as I've lived with mine, there are tones of voice and innuendos and subtle unspoken messages that you understand all too clearly …

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A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON AN OVERSEAS TRIP

Grapevine 2/2006:

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON AN OVERSEAS TRIP
John on big families…

I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie, Cheaper By The Dozen 2, but I watched it recently. Well, tried to watch it. On a tiny screen in the seatback in front of me. While eating peanuts from the little packet they gave us. And drinking Coke out of a plastic cup. And wishing I could go to sleep. On this boring, long-distance flight to what felt like the other side of the universe.

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LIKE A SEAL

Grapevine 1/2006:

LIKE A SEAL
John gets taller, stronger & more sculptured

I’m not normally shy. I don’t embarrass easily. I enjoy performing in front of a crowd. But I’ve been doing something each morning over the past three weeks that I’m so glad nobody’s witnessed. I’ve been doing Pilates … with my wife … on the carpet … in front of the television …

She worries a lot about my weight. She tells me I’ll die a horrible death if I don’t exercise more regularly. She remembers a time (which actually never happened) when people would stop me in shopping malls to admire the muscles that rippled beneath my shirt.

And she’s been talking to my doctor, I think, because he’s also on my case.

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THE WETSUIT

Grapevine 4/2005:

THE WETSUIT
John discovers that birthdays can be embarrassing

The older I get the less excited I get about my birthdays. Because each birthday reminds me that I’ve now used up more years than I’ve got left. My future is stretching further and further out behind me. I’m closer to my death than I am to my birth. And my children are starting to look middle-aged!

But there’s another, more serious, reason: BIRTHDAYS ARE EMBARRASSING! Like a couple of years ago, when celebrating with my family in a restaurant that shall remain nameless. There, in the menu, on page four, in extra-large print, were these discounted meals for people 55 years and over!

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HOW DO YOU DOO-OO-OO?

Grapevine 3/2005:

HOW DO YOU DOO-OO-OO?
John tries to forget some mental lyrics

Several years ago, as my children (one by one) were getting their own cars, I allowed myself to believe I would no longer have to cart kids around in mine. But, as my family keep reminding me, “Wrong again, Dad!” Before I could even taste the pleasures of child-free travel, along came our grandkids …

I hardly get to go anywhere these days without at least one such little person in tow – wriggling out of his seatbelt … locking and unlocking doors … asking “Are we there yet?” … smearing icecream on my windows … kicking the back of my seat … fiddling with my stereo … busting to go to the toilet … sobbing uncontrollably … and sometimes bouncing balls off my head while I’m trying to drive.

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BUMPER-TO-BUMPER

Grapevine 2/2005:

BUMPER-TO-BUMPER
John reflects on disabilities

Got caught in a traffic jam on Wednesday. A rush-hour, hurry-up, late-for-meeting traffic jam. A wet road plus a prang had gummed up the motorway. Three-abreast we queued in nose-to-tail frustration – jostling for position, jumping lanes. Long lines of cars in search of off-ramps – motors smelling hot, exhausts belching bad breath, brake-lights glaring redly. Thought about that today. Thought about a different traffic jam, a traffic jam that happens sometimes in my head.

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ONCE UPON A SLOW TOBOGGAN

Grapevine 1/2005:

ONCE UPON A SLOW TOBOGGAN
John recalls an embarrassing day in the snow

The subject of skiing came up recently. Wrong time of year, I know. But me and Mrs Cooney were wasting some lazy days. With friends. In the South Island. Drinking flat-whites and soaking up the scenery. There was patchy snow still there on some of the mountains. And when the subject of skiing came up, I confessed I hadn’t. Ever. “But wait a minute,” I recalled. “I came close to it. Once …”

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FROM WHERE I SIT

John's photo

(a word from Grapevine’s founder)

For more than three decades, Grapevine Magazine has been doing something good for Kiwi families. Four times each year, our friendly, helpful, fun-filled magazine turns up in letterboxes all over New Zealand. And, every time without fail, we hear from readers who tell us – by letter, phone, email or in person – that their relationships are healthier, their burdens are lighter, their lives are richer … thanks to Grapevine.

Families need encouraging – don’t you agree? And ‘Giving Families A Lift’ is what Grapevine specialises in.

I’ve had the privilege through all these years to write my own personal column. Sometimes funny, sometimes not funny, sometimes from the heart … these columns have allowed me to share a little of my own experience of family life.

I hope you enjoy these samples …

Johns signature