What makes men of genius, or rather, what they make, is not new ideas, it is that idea – possessing them – that what has been said has still not been said enough.

~Eugene Delacroix

Society expresses its sympathy for the geniuses of the past to distract attention from the fact that it has no intention of being sympathetic to the geniuses of the present.

~Celia Green

Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.

~Wolfgang A. Mozart

At our Ceili on Saturday night we were addressed by Dave Pellett, a man dealing with his own mortality and a significant brain tumour. Dave has been the sound man since the inception of our local Ceili over four years ago. He is also a skilled musician, playing and teaching flute and recorder. He can do none of this anymore. He has lost a lot of weight, appears fragile and walks slowly and deliberately with aid of a cane. When he spoke emotion and the shattered pathways in his brain led to sizeable gaps between each sentence. The words were uttered in a croaking, rasping manner, like a man on his last breath. But the phrases Dave managed to share were touching and meaningful. I trust I do them justice below:

“When Jax and I decided to leave Auckland [they’d led full lives, raised families and found each other relatively recently] we travelled all over the country in search of a community that would suit our needs. We wandered as far as the west coast of the South Island and Coromandel on the North Island. Our two principal criteria—no traffic lights and the reactions of the strangers we approached. For too long we’d experienced the sometimes unfriendly anonymity of the city. We sought the informal charm of old rural New Zealand. When we arrived in Mangonui in the Far North one experience told us we had found that which we sought. Two cars were passing and stopped; the drivers knew each other. As they caught up on news, traffic backed up in both directions. No one showed the least bit of impatience. No horns were honked. Clearly, these people realised time was to be used, not burned away in busy-ness.

“Community is never more important than when an experience such as I’ve had forces you to receive help. Jax and I are extremely grateful for the love and practical support we’ve received. I don’t wish this experience on any of you. Value this community while you have your health.

“Finally, if there’s anything you’ve been putting off that you’ve always wanted to do, don’t wait. Do it. You never know when your card will be drawn.”

Dave spoke with me during supper afterwards. He mentioned one of the unexpected gifts his experience had created. Their two families, children, their spouses and grandchildren, had been brought close together, closer than they’d ever have ventured under ordinary circumstances. Adversity has its rewards if one is prepared to acknowledge them.

Wendy, the drummer in the band and the MC on the night, mentioned one quote she had read that reminded her of Dave. It was attributed to Blake and I paraphrase it below:

The straight road leads to success. The crooked road to genius.

Mark Twain once said that thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered – either by themselves or by others. I would agree with Wendy. Dave is one such genius. He thinks and lives outside the box. I am grateful he’s been part of my life.

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The Beach Dancers. John in Purple Wig!

I’ve made several posts over the last months describing my family’s involvement with our monthly Céilís in Mangonui. I thought I’d paste below an article I wrote this week for the Northland Age, a local paper. Hopefully it creates for you a picture of this special event. The photos should help too.

Saturday, September 19th saw the unfolding of the monthly Céilí (pronounced ‘kay-lee’) in the Mangonui Hall. One of the features of a Céilí is the opportunity for attendees or band members to present an ‘item’ at some point in the evening. These items can take the form of a song, a dance, a story, a skit or an instrumental performance. Over the three and a half years the Céilí has been running in Mangonui there have been some pretty amazing items. The September Céilí was no exception. First, after about four dances, MC Brian Farrant announced there were some people about to arrive modelling 1920s beach wear. In bounded 8 members of the Kaitaia Scottish Country Dance club led by their gregarious leader, Brian’s wife, Gladys Farrant. The beach wear was colourful, if not exactly true to the period, and the dancing performed by the group brought smiles and laughter to the audience. Not to be missed was Gladys chasing fellow dancer and interestingly attired Ron Rice with a child’s plastic spade.

One of the founders of the local Céilí, Jill Freeman, entertained with the hilarious story of the gender of a computer (a story currently making viral rounds of the world via emails) and later, after more dancing and supper, Kerikeri’s Bill Dawes demonstrated his considerable prowess on the tin whistle. One listener was overheard saying, “That first song was powerful. It brought tears to my eyes.” Bill was quick to point out after his poignant offering that it was all done on a $5 whistle!

The Céilí band, Spootiskerry Spraoi (pronounced ‘spree’), was there as always providing foot stomping, toe tapping music led by band leader Jax Pellett on fiddle. This band gives their musical accompaniment entirely voluntarily and the composition of the band is fluid as members take off temporarily to fulfil other obligations. Replacement musicians jump to the fore to ensure great music is heard and danced to every month. The aforementioned Bill Dawes was one such fill-in on Saturday together with Grant Goodwin on the Bodhran (‘bow-ran’). People who were lucky enough to attend Trial by Jury by the Bay of Islands Singers would have seen Grant in another musical role.

The Céilí organisers invite you to attend on the third Saturday of every month at the Mangonui Hall. The next one will be October 17th. The doors open and the music starts at 7.00 pm.

Dancing begins at about 7.30 pm. Entrance fees are $2 per adult plus a plate for supper. Entry is free for accompanied children. It doesn’t get much more reasonable than that.

This is good old fashioned fun for all ages in an alcohol-free setting in the enchanting ambience of historic Mangonui Hall on the waterfront. Come along and enjoy. No dance experience is necessary and it is perfectly permissible to simply watch.

The Kaitaia SCD Beach Dancers in Mangonui

The Kaitaia SCD Beach Dancers in Mangonui

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John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.

Our most recent Céilí (pronounced ‘Kay-lee’) was celebrated on Saturday, January 17th in the old, wooden-floored Mangonui Hall here in New Zealand’s Far North. The hall is situated across from the wharf in the quaint fishing village of the same name.

Doubtless Bay

Doubtless Bay

By the way, Mangonui means ‘big shark’ and this is time of the year when the beautiful and harmless (to humans, at least) Bronze Whaler sharks come into Doubtless Bay to give birth.

I’ve mentioned our Céilís in previous posts and thought I’d take the time to tell you a little bit more about these great community events.

 

As always, participants had a great time. The local Céilí band, Spootiskerry Spraoi (meaning ‘oyster witch having fun’) did their usual outstanding job of entertaining and inspiring those who wished to get up and dance. At a Céilí there is no obligation to dance. Some go simply to enjoy the music and camaraderie. As everyone says, ‘It’s great fun to watch.’

 

The music and dance is mainly Celtic, meaning that much of the music has its roots in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, SW England and Brittany. The original Celts moved into southern Europe from the East several thousand years ago and eventually migrated to the British Isles. Their descendents can be found throughout Europe today.

 

This is folk dancing for the whole family with some dances having their origins in places as diverse as Greece and the Ukraine. Anyone, regardless of age or experience, can join in. Every dance is demonstrated and called. In other words, there is plenty of guidance provided throughout. And the emphasis is always on having fun!

 

Our Céilí happens on the third Saturday of every month. The doors open and the music starts at 7.00pm and the dancing begins at about 7.30pm. Entrance fees are $2 per adult plus a plate for supper (in other words, it’s a potluck). Entry is free for accompanied children. You have to admit this is a good deal for an evening out.

 

One of the traditions of Céilís is that anyone can contribute an item during the course of the night – for example a song, a dance, a joke or a story.

 

This is good old fashioned fun for all ages in an alcohol free setting in the enchanting ambience of historic Mangonui Hall on the waterfront of a placid and gorgeous harbor. We (our family) feel absolutely blessed to be part of the Céilí community. These monthly events are brought about through the combined voluntary efforts of many people including the band members. I encourage anyone out there to initiate dances like this. They are incredible community-building affairs. They say the Aquarian Age is about working together in groups. Our Céilí embodies this principle. By the way, the traditional Gaelic spelling of Céilí is Céilídh.

 

Here are the names of some of the dances that we often do:

 

Gay Gordons
Dashing White Sergeant
Strip the Willow
Virginia Reel

Two Step

Troika

 

The video is not from our Céilí but gives you a sense of the fun of it!