David Minifie & Deborah Williams                     Phone +64 3 359 3478

31 (b) Highsted Road                                         david@minifie.co.nz

Christchurch 8053                                          dmw14@ext.canterbury.ac.nz

NEW ZEALAND                                                            SKYPE: DebWNZ                              

21 March, 2009                         2008 Annual Letter

Dear Friends

There seem to be more highlights each year. Life runs on at a hectic pace!

Our 2008 year began at Quaker Summer Gathering in Auckland and ended with Summer Gathering in Christchurch, which we helped to organise.  This year we took part in the Quaker Spiritual Nuture Course which involved flying to the Quaker Settlement in Whanganui  (affectionately known as “Quaker Acres” ) three times during the year.  It was great to get away from the bustle of everyday life and have some time for ourselves. We learned more about Quaker history, read some of the basic books on the list, wrote assignments, formed support groups and tried to take more time for our own spiritual growth.  The first assignment was on our personal spiritual journey so no research was needed! We found that management of time and taking time for ourselves are our greatest weaknesses. This year we also attended Quaker Monthly Meeting for worship for Business more often as we have realised we must do our part in the decision making.

In January 2008 we had a lovely, relaxing stay in Port Underwood in the Marlborough Sounds while doing our annual Blenheim wine tasting tour.

Photos are David and Deb’s cousin Virginia in the kayaks and then David giving us a tune on his flute.

Our annual Garden Party was held in February.  Celebrations began with a 30th wedding anniversary of friends in February and a 6 month early Scottish themed 60th birthday for Russell Genet on 5 July. David’s hair was suddenly a bit longer and redder as he read Robbie Burns’ Ode to the Haggis.

From May to October we went to various films offered free-of-charge by the German Film Club (with subtitles) at the University of Canterbury. Sometimes Marian and others accompanied us afterwards for a simple dinner (plus wine) in a local restaurant. We also had our usual subscription to the Court Theatre and went to other live theatrical presentations such as the brilliant production of FaustChroma, whose German author was present at the play.

Wendy Genet, theme party organiser extraordinary, designed an amazing 64th birthday Magical Mystery Tour for David a week later in July. All invitees were suitably dressed in costumes ranging from a yellow submarine to David’s cousin dressed as her mother (complete with winged glasses) at the time of the Beatles. We were driven in a minibus to various venues where we sang various Beatles songs: 

Arts Road down at the University doubled as Abbey Road,                             

at the Helmores Lane bridge we sang Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds while brandishing sparklers, around the corner in Desmond Street it was Ob-La-Di Ob-la-Da, a statue of the Lady Madonna down at the Roman Catholic basilica garden heard our tribute and we ended up at Sergeant Pepper’s Steakhouse for desserts.

In September Deborah’s university alumni were invited to go to the Mount John Observatory in Tekapo for a viewing of the moon. We took that opportunity and thoroughly enjoyed looking through the magnificent telescope at the moon and other celestial bodies. One of those WOW moments in life!

October was the month for the French Fest at Akaroa (Maori: harbour long). Deborah made French badges as a fund raiser for the Alliance Française and managed to get the French Ambassador, Michel Legras to wear one. She even got invited to board a French naval vessel for a cocktail or five.













At the domain the next day Wendy and Russell rose to the occasion and dressed up as the French duo of Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart, complete with goggles and flippers.

We have welcomed travellers from Sweden, Japan and the USA through SERVAS. We stayed with a wonderful hostess near Kaiteriteri in November and Deborah is writing this letter on the kitchen table of hosts on Dunedin’s peninsula in January, 2009. Recently we hosted Mary Brown a Quaker from New York for two meals. A retired librarian, she has just been working in the Antarctica out in the field. She is a volunteer firefighter back home! It was through a Peace Tax activist, Dan Jenkins, that we were put in touch with Mary!

A sad time was the postponement of the Civil Union ceremony of David’s second daughter Koa and her partner Spider. Unfortunately Spider’s mother Betty became very ill and passed away not long before the wedding was to have taken place. Spider and Koa took time out to grieve their loss. We are looking forward to the ceremony this year on 4th April.

We have had several weddings – Claire, David’s assistant manager at Victoria St had a lovely wedding in January, 2009, in a Koru patterned dress to Fraser. (The koru is the Maori name given to the new unfurling fern frond and symbolizes new life, growth, strength and peace. It is an integral symbol in Māori carving and tattoos.) David’s friend Alec’s daughter Anna married Peter early January. We went to the lovely Quaker Civil Union of Elizabeth Duke and Elizabeth Thompson in Dunedin, 24 January ’09 – the first Quaker Lesbian couple to marry in New Zealand. Allan and John were the first Gay Quaker couple to tie the knot.

In January, 2009, Deb’s cousin, Virginia turned 60 so we celebrated by shouting her to the Wellington concert of Leonard Cohen, whose music she had only latterly discovered. It was a wonderful concert. Our friend Wendy insisted that she wanted lots of presents for her **th birthday at an evening picnic in the Botanical Gardens so we took her at her word and she got 54 presents. Serves her right that some presents had been recycled yet once again!

We have managed to get to a few of the University of Canterbury wine tastings this year.

We also renewed our First Aid certificates with St John and we were given our own personal plastic dummies to bring home for resuscitation practice!

In April we consulted a very outspoken sharebroker named Chris Lee and thereafter took all our trust monies away from our financial advisor. We are very glad we made this move to more conservative investments just before the world crash.

Caroline, Deb’s older sister has never been to Mount Cook or Aoraki/Aorangi. We had planned to take her there in December but David fell ill with a virulent form of the ‘flu so we didn’t make it. Hopefully we can make it this year.

Early December we enjoyed another of Wendy's brainwaves. We had a race meeting - at 31(b) Highsted Road - complete with horse droppings down our drive, courtesy of one of our friends who shall remain nameless, but he can't fool me. The idea is that everyone designs a race - names of horses, jockeys, form, breeding etc. Decides the first three horses which are in a sealed envelope, then calls it. Bets are taken and paid out and any money over went to the Salvation Army. There were awards for the best dressed man and woman.

End of Feb ‘09 we went to our first murder mystery. We dressed in character, followed the instructions in the book which involved gradually revealing things about your and the other characters and at the end deducing who the murderer was. During the evening our hosts, Dirk and Janet De Lu, provided us with a delicious meal. A feast for the body and intellect and lots of fun.

We miss our darling cat Possum. She was the love of our lives. The very day David was carving her name into her headstone a kitten in similar tortoise-shell colours arrived in our garage. Deborah has dubbed her Nez Noir (French: Nose Black) but our neighbours to whom she belongs call her Lois. She comes once or twice a day for a cuddle but does not usually stay for long which suits us fine.

In mid 2010 we plan to be off to France to be the volunteer Resident Friends in the Quaker House in Congénies between Nìmes and Montpellier in the south of France. We expect to be there about 6 months and perhaps you will visit us.



My year always begins with not enough work and quickly picks up to too much work! I was so pleased to have my French class for 5 to 8 year olds who come with a parent continue into its second year. We have enjoyed a new book of songs and games which are so helpful for learning. Later in the year I had a private student from the exclusive Brethren school who did the three year Year 11 French course in one year and achieved the highest grade. I had applied for a position in the school teaching French but could not sign the contract because eg they are not in agreement with membership of unions and I am an “honorary” member of the primary teachers union for medical health purposes. They also did not want me to talk about evolution and required me to wear a skirt (not in the contract). As most people will know I mostly wear trousers because I tend to get cold and trousers are warmer and secondly to hide the large scar on my left leg made by the surgeon who screwed and stapled my leg back together 20 years ago!

This year I am teaching French for 90 minutes a week at St Peter’s Roman Catholic Primary School on the other side of the city. Next term I will do an after school class for the Years 1 to 3 pupils of the private Anglican Cathedral Grammar School. It seems that this is my German year as I have an adult beginner class of 9 people, a private student and now a mother a daughter starting next week!

I have continued to visit the same man in prison as I have for about 10 years. Unfortunately he has had another setback and has been sent to a North Island prison for a Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Course for 6 months. It is a sad fact that the drugs are rife in prisons. Next week I will attend the graduation of his 30 year old daughter from a similar course outside the prison system. In 2008 I took some young boys three times under the Child Access scheme to visit their father in a drug rehabilitation unit in the prison. In March two weeks ago I attended a seminar on Prisons and Problems at the Quaker Settlement in Whanganui. Recently I volunteered for the Sycamore Scheme but I cannot go twice a week as required under the scheme. See http://www.pfnz.org.nz/sycamore_tree.htm

The Blood Bank has given up on me as I seem to have such low blood pressure that I am below their minimum level. I have been giving blood plasma for quite a few years.

I took part in medical research into swallowing (fat and thinner tubes fed through my nose) at the end of 2007 and into the audibility of speech of those who had suffered from disease. I have agreed to take part in ‘flu vaccination research this year.

From the end of 2007 I did a language exchange with Guillaume who was over in NZ on a working holiday visa from France. I enjoyed his company and we had quite a few laughs. Chantal, who housesits in French Polynesia on Moorea Island and here in Christchurch and I also did several exchanges. I can thoroughly recommend it as a way to learn a language and make friends! As I am a member of the French Alliance Française I try to get to their talk by a native speaker once a month and to the breakfast on the last Sunday of the month.

Mum is now 95 and has her two new hearing aids which she uses for quiet places. She loves going out for lunch but she is getting slower and less stable. We are all off to the Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins this evening.

I got involved in a minischool reunion. In 1958 (50 years ago!) I was in Form 1 class which also had Form 2 girls in it. They were having a reunion and I was invited to take part. As I was the only one from my year first contacted, I ended up on the organising committee. We had a fun reunion with a wonderful dinner in the evening and a song written for the occasion. We are about to publish a booklet with news of the all the people we could contact. The next Fendalton Open-Air School (so named because some classrooms opened up at the back to the fresh air and sun said to be good for one’s health) reunion will be in 5 years time.













We have an annual Culture Galore celebration organised by our Christchurch City Council. It is an afternoon of dance, food and general celebration for the ethnic groups who live in the city. Last year I had a stall advertising my services as a language teacher. This year I took along my new badge making machine and made badges mostly for children to their own design.

At the Quaker Fair which was part of the Dallington Community Fair on 13 September I dressed up as a clown but did facepainting. I was so absorbed in the job that I didn’t notice that all the other tents had been taken taken down and most people had gone home when I finally stopped!


Playing music has continued to be an important part of my life. I play the flute regularly (most Wednesday evenings) with Elizabeth Edgar’s group, and for special occasions we assemble the Cashmere Wind Ensemble. This year we played for our garden party and also for the Harlequin Players 30th Anniversary.

I have been a supporter and patron of Harlequin for some years. I also support Repertory Theatre and a number of other organisations, the main one being the NZ Body Art Competition in Auckland, where I am a judge and the sponsor of the air-brushed section.

This will all change for me, as I plan to sell my business in the next few months and retire. Selling the business is quite difficult in this economic climate, when banks are not lending the amounts they were and people are apprehensive about the future. I have been very busy as my manager at Wairakei Road has had two months off for a knee replacement, while I have been preparing the business for sale - sorting 28 years of accumulation.

People ask me what I will do when I retire – well I plan to do very little. Practise my flute – as I have been so busy I have had to get by with minimal practise, but can generally manage. I have a cupboard full of music that I want to try. And a pile of books to read – if I remember how! Put in solar hot water and a new bathroom, and spruce up my French – as Deb and I plan to be resident friends at Congenies next year. I am also planning a large retirement and 65th birthday party. Then relax.

I have been Clerk of QIET (Quaker Investment Ethical Trust) for over a year. I have tried to publicise it by speaking at other Quaker Meetings and Summer Gathering. Sorting out what we can do – generally trying to make it more relevant to Quakers. I have some great fellow Trustees and Administrator. I will miss it when Deb and I go overseas.

Looking forward to Koa and Spider's Civil Ceremony in a couple of weeks. My sister Kay and her husband Bard are coming over from Australia and staying with us. It will be good to see my oldest daughter Janine who is always very busy with work and study in Wellington. The youngest, Martha has started her OE and is in London. She is a journalist and has been able to find a job, which is a relief these days.