The Church of La Pieta, Venice is a sublime and very beautiful church.

Going to Venice like Florence is a very special journey into an other-worldly aesthetic heaven that most mere mortals never get to experience in their lifetime.


Berlioz Requiem is my favourite Requiem. And this extract, Sanctus, is my favourite part of this sublimely beautiful Requiem.

Sanctus, Sanctus means Holy Holy in Latin. Deus is God. I learnt Latin at high school, the extinct language of Ancient Rome.

All the bright children learnt Latin and French and the less academic did woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing. This was in the first two years at Onslow College in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital in 1970 and 1971.

Berlioz said that of all his great compositions, this was his greatest. And if all his works were lost, this is the one that he’d like to keep. Of course composers of Berlioz’ greatness could write such a masterpiece again note perfect out of their head. It’s like that with genius.

I’m grieving my mother Valerie Jean Elley who died on Sunday 19 January. So I’m playing this today for mum.


Dad: Highly intelligent, individuallstic and free-spirited.

Donald Elley of Bellingen – February 17, 2020:


My mother’s death

My mother Valerie Jean Elley died on Sunday January 19, 2020 aged 91 in Auckland, New Zealand.

I’ve written a series of 23 blog articles about mum, her life and our relatives since.


My father died 7.5 years ago on August 5, 2012, a week after his 87th birthday.

My parents and grandparents were humble people who didn’t seek the limelight or the recognition and praise of men.

By writing about them on this, my personal blog-site, they are getting more recognition than they achieved in their lifetimes, due to the internet and popularity of this blog-site.

My father always said that he wanted his life to speak about the Lord Jesus Christ and Christianity.

Although a well-known Protestant clergy in New Zealand and beyond, spiritually authoritative and highly educated and literate, Dad refused to write a book or otherwise promote himself.


Dad walking into Alana his grand-daughter’s and Jeff’s wedding with mum, holding his shepherd’s crook in 2008.


Blog article August 7, 2012

You could never say my dad was a boring man.

I’ve woken up the last two mornings with free spirited or funny events of dad’s life on my mind.

I’m not sure why dad was like this.

Dad’s father Jim Elley was a free spirit but eccentric rather than a mirth creator.

Dad’s mother Georgina Elley was big hearted and a good woman but not overly a funny lady.  She did however have a mirthful side.

New Zealand relatives in 1959: From left My paternal grandfather Jim Elley, my mother Valerie, Jim Elley dad’s brother, Georgina my paternal grandmother, my dad and little me. My teddy, which I still have on a shelf in my bedroom, is having a sleep on the floor. He has no eyes and an ear is falling off. Too much love from a toddler.

Grandma Georgina used to squirt milk at us kids while she was hand-milking her two cows, with a sparkle in her eyes and a grin.

Whatever it was and wherever it came from, I do not know the source of my father’s free-spiritedness and good humour.

Perhaps it was just a mix of genetics, his formative years and the individualistic culture of New Zealand.

Dad struggled with his health for the past 8 years and in the past few years in particular.

Dad was a diabetic for 50 years. The long term use of insulin negatively affected his body and his brain. His humour declined but never totally disappeared.

Dad was lucky to live past the age of 37 as he contracted diabetes in the 1960s.

No one knew what was wrong with him. It was the early days of diabetes diagnosis and knowledge in New Zealand.

New Zealand was a remote back-water in the vast aqua sea of the South Pacific Ocean and it was even further behind Europe and America in knowledge.

In the 50s and 60s when I grew up as a lad, there was a saying, “Australia is 10 years behind America and New Zealand is 10 years behind Australia, therefore New Zealand is 20 years behind the world”.

We used to not mind at all about this and would make comments like, “Yes, and we don’t mind we’re 20 years behind America because we don’t want all the bloody yankee culture anyway”.

In those days New Zealand was more aligned with Britain, British culture and British humour.

In the case of dad’s diabetes it was good that the New Zealand medical profession wasn’t too far behind the eight ball. After much searching and anguish by the doctors, dad was diagnosed as a diabetic, using the cutting-edge American research and medical knowledge.

Dad’s diabetes was a defining feature in dad’s life.

If dad got “low of sugar” due to his blood sugar levels, everything could go pear-shape.

If you have never seen a person in insulin shock, take my word for it, it’s a scary thing. Especially if it’s your dad who you love and you know that insulin shock leads to unconsciousness and quite quickly to death.

I remember the ambulances being called around to our house in Tawa, Wellington, in the 1960s in the early days of dad adjusting to his diabetes because dad was having a diabetes-related health episode.

It may be that dad’s diabetes caused him to be more spontaneous and free spirited than other people.

I’ve noticed that since I’ve come through a serious life-threatening health burn out in the past fews years that I live every day to the full and in the moment. If there is something to do or something to say, I take the moment and just do it.

Dad wasn’t reckless and he wasn’t a mad risk taker but he was definitely free spirited.

Here are a few tales of dad’s funny and free spirited side.


Dad was a very competent pastor and a patient and well-trained pastoral counsellor.

Sometimes there were pastoral incidents and difficult people which dad would find interesting ways to cope with.

As a parish pastor in Khandallah, Wellington, New Zealand, dad used to get one particular lady phoning him who was better at talking than listening and quite obsessive-compulsive.

Sometimes she talked so long and so compulsively that dad would put the telephone hand-piece in the drawer of his desk. Dad would then open the drawer and pick up the phone occasionally to see if she’d stopped talking.

The pastor in his office. Dad in his home office in Khandallah, New Zealand’s capital in the early 70s. My father Rev Reuben Donald Elley known as Rev Don Elley, a free spirit. Dad lived close to the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit of Jesus. A true man of God and of prayer. Dad fought valiantly to have the heretic Professor Lloyd Geering banished from the NZ Presbyterian Church. Dad died in August 2012 aged 87.

On the subject of dad’s study desk drawers, Dad was a compassionate and humane pastor. Dad always had a packet of cigarettes in a drawer of his desk. Dad never smoked. He had the cigarettes to offer to any people who came to him for help in distress and who were smokers who didn’t have any cigarettes on them but needed to calm down a bit. In my teenage years I found this stash rather handy when I ran short of cigarettes. I hate smoking now but I dabbled for a few years in my teens.


Dad always had a variety of hats and he would often buy or acquire hats that were not the social norm.

Mum’s dad Bert Brooker was bald and liked hats but they were always the conservative bowler hats of his era, in line with his profession as a barrister and solicitor.

My maternal grandfather Ernest Herbert Brooker. An eminent and highly respected New Zealand barrister and solicitor. A New Zealand Presbyterian Church elder (spiritual leader). A godly man. A man of prayer.


By contrast dad’s hats were always individualitic and almost always outside social norms.

When mum and dad were on a world trip in 1969, in Russia dad bought a Cossack bear fur hat. Dad used to wear it around conservative Wellington, New Zealand on his return.

In his old age he got one of my Aussie Akubra cowboy style hats off me and he used to wear it on outings from the rest home with his shepherd’s crook to support him.

Dad was a true character and we all loved him for that.