The sweetest goodbye: 'Her last words were always I love you'

My sponges soon became a treat between the two of us. I would make the cake, load it up with cream, put it on a pretty plate and present it to her in that little room. She would sit up in bed and eat it like a judge on the panel of a baking show. On those visits, she became master of the kitchen again. She would tell me if the oven needed to be hotter, if I didn't line the edges of the tin properly, if there was too much flour or too little, "I'll show you one day I hope, love. Maybe soon," she said.

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Why being made redundant in NZ is so tough

On 15 May 2009, Jack Taylor was an employee in the cutting room at Christchurch clothing manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin. It was a Friday, when staff worked a half day. Not long before their shift ended, the 350 staff were divided into two groups and, like lambs to the slaughter, directed to different rooms. The receivers had been called in and the company would be folding, they were told. Workers in one room were given notice their jobs would end later that year. Those in the other room, including Taylor, were told their jobs would not exist past 12:30pm that day. "We were told to go to our lockers, take our personal gear, and leave the premises," Taylor says.

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Life hackers

Gene editing has the potential to improve lab research, create new crop varieties, eradicate pests, wipe out pathogens, manage threatened species, and bring extinct ones back from the dead.
That’s the idea, anyway. The reality is we haven’t done much of this yet—and we’re still in the middle of asking ourselves if we should. New Zealand could be at the forefront of gene editing, or take a principled stance against it.

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Scott Dixon's journey from his Nissan Sentra to motorsport legend

While Dixon now holds a near-historic driver's resume, has a wife, two kids and a true athlete's build, you don't have to squint that hard to see that kid with a pillow strapped to his backside driving a Nissan Sentra in Pukekohe all those years ago. The grin is still as boyish as it was back when he was driving karts and saloon cars.
On the raceway, you know where those 20-odd years have gone though. Ice pumps through Dixon's veins. His mind becomes a complete, constantly moving rational calculus of fuel spent and optimal speeds. On track, the Kiwi picks up exactly what he needs – and disregards the rest.

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The gap between the rich and poor at university

"People in New Zealand believe - and want to believe - it's an open society. It's something New Zealanders hold close to them," says Alan France, a sociology professor at Auckland University and an expert on class and youth.

"It's a view and has always been a view that New Zealand rejected the traditional class systems of the UK and tried to set up alternative systems. But all they did was create a new system based on land and property rather than work."

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One night in Auckland

Outside the casino, the moneyed and the desperate smoked in the light of the Sky Tower; across the street the secondary industry of the pawnshop had shuttered for the evening. A young Asian man spat heavily into an outdoor ashtray, the Pakeha woman next to him, with a lifetime smoker’s deep wrinkles, looked up from her phone in disgust. An American man in an Aertex shirt described his new cross-trainers to a female companion: “You’re a woman, you wouldn’t understand.”

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How the discussion around suicide ignores crucial voices

Sophie keeps her condition a secret because to other people she appears “normal” and the stigma, despite years of campaigns urging New Zealanders to be more open-minded, is too strong.
“People like me who have long-term mental health concerns don’t want to be a drain on society. I have a great job, good relationships, and am generally doing well — but I know how precarious my situation is. I’m one brain chemical misfire from losing everything I’ve worked for.
“We get shunted aside because we can’t be trotted out as problems that are easily fixed.”

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Sam Hunt: The last outlaw poet

Can you picture Hunt in the downstairs room, declaiming Yeats and Auden to no one? "Pathetic, in a way," he admits. "I remind myself of a character out of Dylan Thomas." 

From the hundreds – no, thousands – of poems and quotes stored in his head he produces Thomas' Quite Early One Morning. There are sad lines about the old contralto Clara Tawe Jenkins, who sits at the window and sings to the sea, for the sea does not notice that her voice has gone.

"F...ing beautiful. I've loved those lines since I was probably 8 or 9 years old.”

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Breastfeeding: Why is it such a battle ground?

Kate’s still angry. “As someone with complex health issues, to have ‘breast is best’ rammed down your throat past the point of reason is crazy, as is not discussing formula. This cookie-cutter stance doesn’t take people with health issues into account.”
And there’s a trickle-down effect. Kate, who visits an Auckland hospital six-weekly for her pain condition, once pulled out a bottle in the Westfield St Lukes parents’ room. “One of two mums there said, pointedly, ‘These chairs should only be for breastfeeding mothers.’ I left, then started bawling.”

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Johnny Cash, Michael J Fox, John Walker...and me

I wasn't sobbing so much for myself as for my girls, Alex who was then six, and Rosie, three. I was sobbing because of my fear for what might become of them if the disease was to progress rapidly — and who is to know how quickly, or how slowly, it will progress, we only know that it will — and I might not be in a fit state to look after them and provide for them. Would I be able to run with my children? Would we be going on the long-promised "someday-when-my-ship-comes-in" trip to Disneyland with me in a wheelchair? How would I be when the children graduate from university?

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The politics of crime - how the hunt for votes filled our prisons and threatens Minister of Justice Andrew Little's plans for reform

Look at those people inside prisons, he says. So many mental health issues, addiction problems, family violence and inmates who are themselves victims of crime.
"If I don't follow my conscience and my political obligations to say we can do different things and better things and achieve better results, I'd be failing.”

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A tale of two currents

For kayakers like Venable, it is the diminishment of wilderness that is the main reason for opposing Westpower’s plans for hydro on the Waitaha—not merely the loss of a kayaking opportunity. Although most of the river would be unaffected by the scheme, the loss of the final reach would mar the experience of the whole—like tearing the last chapter out of a thriller.

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The first WAGs: A 1970s All Black wife on rugby and women’s lib

It’s a freezing mid-week day. There’s an aftermatch function: men only. There’s nowhere for us to go. I approach the door. I say, I have some wives of the All Black team with me, and we would like to come in. Through the comforting cloud of cigarette smoke I can see the players drinking beer, and the officials drinking sterner stuff. The man from the rugby union is resolute. If he lets us in, the floodgates will open. You’ll want fancy stuff to drink, he says. But, he says, moist-eyed with magnanimity, if you’d like to help out in the kitchen with the other ladies, you’re more than welcome.

We go to the pub.

Photo: Barry Durrant

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Sam Neill in Uncharted territory with new series

It's the next morning and Neill is dutifully doing his media one-on-ones at the Hilton. He was staring out to sea when Canvas arrived in the room with the Antipodes sparkling water and mini Whittaker's chocolate bars. Neill has claimed Cook was "a hard man to read". But what to make of this actor who, on the one hand travels with miniature plastic pink pigs he captions for laughs on social media — and on the other champions big and serious causes. Neill has spoken out against cubicle dairy farming in the Mackenzie Country. He recently suggested a boycott of Cadbury's should its Dunedin factory closure go ahead. He is appalled at the Australian Government's decision to detain 1600 asylum-seekers in Papua New Guinea.

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