Friday, December 18, 2009

Today's random thoughts

Is it wrong when you go the bank - that charges endless fees for seemingly even just breathing near your business account and then you have to queue 1/2 hour to get anyone to help - that you want to take your waiting fee in large numbers of candy canes from the counter?

One can only be impressed when you see a bloke that has the balls to shave his head but leave a little strip right across his head and then grow a beard so his face is surrounded in a neatly trimmed halo - awesome!

Sometimes you can click a link and read on a blog words that touch your very soul. Words that express exactly what you feel but didn't know others felt the same and it totally makes your day - to not be alone, to know you are not weird and that you can change it. The person will never know their eight sentences has affected someone a world away. Someone who is so grateful they wrote it. Even I left a comment on the old post, it probably wouldn't get across what those eight sentences meant. Sometimes you just gotta love the internet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

how will the future view us?

If you read a historical novel, like "Pillars of the Earth", or watch of a movie of a similar era there are the landowners and there are the workers and boy do they work for not a lot.
Some landowners are nice to their tenants. Other landowners are horrible and evil and despite their wealth take everything, while the people that have actually done all the work, go hungry.
When I watch or read these things I don't want to be the ones doing the back-breaking labour, but I want to be the nice landowners being generous to those worse off - while of course living in a big house.
Then I think of today. There is still the split, but it is on a global scale. Instead of on the land outside the big house, it is offshore, elsewhere people are getting paid very little so I can have cheap clothes and shoes and so many other things I buy everyday.
I can't see them so I can live in my castle and pretend they don't exist. I can pretend that can of tuna was not put together by someone working really long hours in the heat and smell for little pay. And yet I read the labels and carefully pick the one that is mostly skipjack tuna since I have been told this tuna is not overfished and is doing okay. But what of the people catching it and canning it?
Sure we get told the wages are low but that is because it is cheap to live in that country. But then from a friend who used to work a call centre in India sometimes after the travel expenses they didn't have enough for food - that doesn't sound like a living wage to me. They were extremely grateful for the job, just as the fish factory workers are. But is that right?
If someone knows it is not enough, surely it is not just to only pay what they do?
A living wage should be enough to live with your immediate family - not have them live somewhere else that you can only afford to visit once a month even though it is only one bus ride away.
In a hundred years - how will the stories be written about our era? Who will be the heroes and who will be the underdogs?
I can look around see much wealthier people and be smug at my small efforts of charity and choosing items on where items are made. But I wonder at what size is a three bedroom house just a big house?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Service by the Lay

I was biking home tonight and passed a place selling stone. It had a sign out the front; "Full Supply and Lay Service".
As a Christian - gosh I hate that phrase, so usually followed by some judgemental statement about something. As an aside I don't think Jesus ever used that sort of condescending approach, he seems a lot more straight up about things - anyway I digress.
The reason I mention the Christian bit is because probably to others this sign made perfect sense but for some reason my brain was on another track. Lay in a church setting usually refers to people who are not clergy(the ones who are vicars and bishops and stuff). The Lay people are everyone else.
So here I am thinking why are they saying "lay service"? Is their service a step down, dealing with the everyday people not the people set aside to be in charge of the stone? Are they planning a service run by the lay and what has this to do with stone?
Then it clicked.
Oh they lay the stone for you.
I didn't even go to any service on Sunday, Lay or otherwise. But I think I need to get some sleep, my brain has gone weird.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another wee story - Prayers of the people - the end

She made a decision. Vera stepped out into the aisle behind Margaret. She slipped her hands onto the handles of the wheelchair.
“I’ll take it from here. I know you’ve got the sanctuary to attend to.”
To her surprise, Margaret looked at her gratefully and stepped aside. Still smiling Vera pushed her new friend towards the oak doors and out into the foyer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

another wee story - Prayers of the people part five

She looked at Reg who was staring at her in surprise across the rows of heads, that were now rising and turning to look at them.
Vera knew she was committed and spoke up. “My bracelet is caught in the little girl’s hair.” She could see Reg weighing up whether that was reason enough to interrupt the prayers. She kept going.
“My friend here has locked her knee and is in severe pain.” She gestured with her free hand at Beryl.
“And.” She wanted to say about the little girl and then she realised the mother was about to slide herself back onto her seat. She pushed her free hand across the pew.
“Don’t sit back!” She ordered aggressively.
The woman frowned at her rough tone.
“Sorry but your wee girl has wet her pants and it has made the pew cushion wet. ” Vera smiled at her.
The church was no longer silent; a general hubbub was slowly swelling. Vera glanced at Beryl. Margaret had been the first on the scene. She had been a nurse and she was already directing people to get ice from the kitchen and the courtesy wheelchair from the foyer. Margaret worked her way into the pew beside Beryl. She put her arm around Beryl’s shoulder and quietly began talking to her. Vera sighed there went her chances of a new friend.
“You’re free,” said the mother, holding the bracelet out to Vera.
“Oh thank you.” Vera felt its weight in her hand and pushed her hand into her jacket pocket.
“Now my next problem.” The mother sighed.
Reg was attempting to regain control from the front. Heads slowly turned away and the music group began the introduction for the offertory song. Vera stood up carefully.
The woman in front took her cue to gather up her wet child as the rest of the congregation stood to sing. She headed down the aisle.
Vera felt a tug on her arm. It was Beryl. Margaret had managed to get Beryl’s knee moving again and was about to help her into the wheelchair.
“I’m so glad you invited me to sit next you. Maybe see you next week?” Whispered Beryl. She straightened up and with Margaret’s help slid herself into the wheelchair. Beryl looked across at Vera as Margaret eased off the wheelchair brake.
“Thank-you.” She mouthed and smiled.
It was a smile that warmed Vera from the inside. She smiled back as she fingered the troublesome bracelet in her pocket. But then her heart filled with rocks as she watched Margaret begin to push Beryl away. Would Beryl see her next week or would Margaret, being the kind, friendly woman she was, be asking how she was this week, offering to sit with her? Vera could see herself standing in the background yet again. Brave one minute but too scared the next, to even make a proper friend. Vera fingered the bracelet again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

another wee story - Prayers of the people part four

“Oh.” Vera was startled. “When did you do that?”
“When I sat down for the sermon.”
“Why didn’t you say?”
Reg’s voice rode across their whispered conversation, “Lord in your mercy.”
"Hear our prayer.” They both murmured automatically.
“Well” said Vera. “I’m stuck too. My bracelet is caught in the little girl’s hair.”
It was Beryl’s turn to look startled. “Oh.”
“Can her mother help?’ She nodded her head at the woman in front.
Vera shook her head. “There is another problem. The wee girl has wet her pants and it is all over the seat. I don’t want her mum to sit in it.”
Vera nodded unhappily.
She listened to Reg, trying to think of some way to solve all their problems. He was nearly finished the prayers. A song would be next and neither of them could stand. The girl would wake up, move her head and her hair would be pulled on bracelet. She would end up crying. Then there was the mother who might sit down and Beryl trying to keep herself rigid in one position.
Reg’s prayers penetrated her thoughts.
“We pray for those in Zimbabwe, Iraq and elsewhere, where living is a daily struggle. Lord in your mercy.”
Vera remained silent.
Her problems hardly compared with those. She felt isolated and alone in the nodding sea of heads.
Reg was winding down. “And for ourselves Lord, we ask in silence for your help. Give us grace to serve Christ by serving our neighbours and our community, loving others as He loves us. Lord….”
The prayer words jolted her into action. “We need help.” The words slipped out of Vera’s mouth before she even knew she had said them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

another wee story - Prayers of the people part three

She looked up and realised the mother of the little girl was kneeling in the pew in front of her.
Vera leant forward across the pew as much as she could, without moving the hand wearing the bracelet. Then she saw a dark stain on the red cushion. Her eyes followed it to its source. The little girl had wet her pants. Vera felt sorry for her and looked at the mother’s back in pity. Now she had two things to tell her. Vera noticed the lady was wearing a light grey skirt. Somehow she had to attract the woman’s attention but make sure she did not sit back on the seat. Vera looked at the wet pew cushion and realised the red dye was probably coming out too. She had to stop the woman from sitting down.
“Lord in your mercy.”
Vera murmured. “Hear our prayer.”
She was going to have to ask Beryl. Vera had been so pleased there was a new person her age. It was a rare event at St. Mark’s. New families were always turning up on a Sunday morning, but her age group were the same old ones that had been there for years. Even better, Margaret, the most outgoing one of them all, had been involved setting up the sanctuary. Vera had the chance to get to know Beryl first. Everyone ended up friends with happy, resourceful Margaret but Vera felt sometimes she could be a better friend if she were only brave enough to act like it. Here was her first opportunity at making a new friend for months and she was going to have to ask for help for being a clumsy fool.
She turned to Beryl, who had remained seated for the prayers. Then Vera saw the tears. Two lines had made their way through Beryl’s foundation. Vera berated herself. She had been so wound up in her predicament she had not even noticed what Beryl was doing.Without shifting her hand, she tried to lean closer to Beryl.
“Are you okay?” She whispered.
There was a pause.
“No” Beryl whispered back without opening her eyes or looking up.
“I’m not sure if I can help but what’s the matter?”
She looked around to see if anyone was noticing what was happening in their corner of the little stone church. Beryl opened her eyes. Vera could see the pain etched in them.
“I’ve locked my knee. It won’t move and it really hurts.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

another wee story - Prayers of the people - part two

Reg’s voice cut into her thoughts. “Lord in your mercy.”
Around her the congregation murmured in unison. “Hear our prayer.”
Shifting her weight, Vera tried to push the catch with her thumb while the hand, adorned by the bracelet, tried to pull the ring part of the catch free. She gave up in disgust at her own helplessness.
She looked at her bracelet, the cause of the whole problem. She stared at the peacefully, sleeping, little girl on the pew in front. Vera had admired her curls flowing over the pew during the sermon. They were so perfectly curled in little concentric circles, she had really wanted to pull one out and see how long it would stretch.
Reg’s voice cut in again. “Lord in your mercy.”
“Hear our prayer.” Vera joined in the response.
“I need an answer to prayer right now!” She muttered to herself.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another wee story - Prayers of the people - part one

It happened so quickly. Vera was caught before she realised what had happened. She tried to pull her arm free. The hairs started to pull tight. She stopped. Hurting the child was the last thing she wanted to do.
Behind the lectern up the front, Reg was continuing with the prayers. Vera looked to see if anyone had noticed her predicament but Beryl, the new lady beside her, and the rest of the congregation, had their heads lowered.
Vera knew it was old fashioned of her, but it felt right to kneel for prayers. Secretly she was proud she still could, the arthritis had not affected her knees yet.
The little girl had stirred in her sleep with the rustle of movement as the prayers began. Vera had leant on the pew to ease herself onto her knees. In that instance of leaning, kneeling and the little girl moving, Vera’s bracelet catch had caught in her curls. Now it seemed the bracelet was somehow weaving itself into the hair. Vera tried to keep her arm completely still. Could she stay like this for the whole prayers?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Racing to Melbourne for the Formula one - the end

We eat Malaysian, Greek, Indonesian and each night evaluate a different gelato shop. We walk down the thin back streets to a bakery to buy the last of today's bread at discount prices for tomorrow's lunch.
At the track a bottle of Gatorade is $4.20 on Thursday afternoon, $4.80 on Friday morning and $5 by Friday afternoon. Saturday my fellow race watcher stops buying Gatorade.
Saturday is qualifying day. We watch qualifying from Brockie's Hill on the back of the circuit and it has a big screen opposite so we can see the timings. The hill is almost empty when we arrive, but once qualifying starts I have to strain on my toes to see the cars through the crowd. Behind us the fairground rides still run with squeals from passengers enjoying no queues.
Ralf Schumacher's Toyota breaks something and on the big screen I can see it crawling slowly back to the pits. When he passes in front of us he is still going fast, it just looks slow compared to a Formula One car at full speed. Kimi Raikkonen secures pole position.
On race day turn nine, our chosen viewing spot, is already neatly laid out as a grandstand of deckchairs and we congregate behind the last row. The race is still five and half hours away and we spend the time subtly fighting to keep our piece of dusty turf.
The crowd is much more cosmopolitan. We meet Daniel from France. He has travelled the world going to Grand Prix. Daniel has a stand ticket but is in the general admission area because he can take better photographs without the double safety fences in front of the stands. Behind us arrives a group of Poles supporting Robert Kubica. Beside us are some Scots.
The tension and excitement builds until finally we hear Formula one engines starting and then the cars appear on their way to the grid and then again for their formation lap.
It is fantastic. First I see the race start on the big screen and then they come into view as small dark shapes that grow rapidly and then they are braking for the corner. A Spyker pushes a Super Aguri car roughly, momentarily off track and then they are gone, the roar of the engines trailing behind. After that the race goes by surprisingly fast. It seems it has barely begun and they are on the last lap. A mere one hour, forty-five minutes later it is over. Kimi Raikkonen's lead in his Ferrari went unchallenged but Lewis Hamilton, in his first ever Grand Prix, takes third.
The crowd pours onto the circuit. I wade ankle deep across the fluorescent pink stones in the corner and then my feet are sticking to the rumble strip as if it is covered in sugar. I find the marbles so often mentioned in the television commentary. They are black, thumbnail size scraps of sticky, tyre rubber. I can squeeze them in my fingers. There are millions of them lying on the tarmac.
We begin walking around the track to the front straight. Again I realise how fast the cars are. It is a long walk. Sporadically there are loud horns as tow trucks carry damaged cars back to the pits.
Workers are already moving across the spectator mounds picking up rubbish. A fan is climbing a fence post to get a sponsor's sign to take home. A large forklift and crane are beginning to dismantle the safety fence.
On the starting grid thousands of photographs are being taken of friends sitting in grid slots or standing on the finish line. The fence alongside the pits is also a wall of people holding cameras aloft. On the other side crews are packing up their gear. The team stands on the pit wall are already down.
We walk the last piece of the track that in a few days will return to being Aughtie Drive. As we walk out the gates, there is a line of trucks with crates on their trailers sporting team names. Everything is off to Malaysia.
I climb aboard a crammed, happy tram for home. I decide my favourite day was Saturday. I saw the Formula One cars twice on track and qualifying was very exciting. It also had the tension of waiting for the climax of Sunday's race. Oh and the toilets at the track are as clean at end of the four days, as they were at the beginning.
In the evening we walk to the famous Italiano stretch of Melbourne, Lygon Street. Seating flows out from the restaurants onto the footpaths. The tables are filled with people sporting team colours and sun reddened faces. A race replay is flickering at the back of a restaurant and commentary is competing with a neighbouring restaurant's music. A waiter squeezes between the stream of pedestrians to deliver a platter piled high with crabs, mussels and a lobster. The Ferrari flags are flying in the gentle breeze. The camaraderie of a shared passion lives long after the gates close.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Racing to Melbourne for the Formula one - part three

The speed of the cars is astonishing. It is difficult to believe a human is inside controlling it. They look unnaturally fast, like a slot car on its track. The speed of the cars distorts the track size. They complete the 5.3km circuit in less than two minutes.
Standing beside the track and whipping my head left to right as the cars scream past, the insane nature of anyone stepping onto the track, chills me. The other unbelievable nature of the cars is how they stop. From high speed to dead slow for the corners is like snapping your fingers. The brakes glowing hot red.
The advantage of Melbourne being the first race on the calendar is all the drivers are out during the practice sessions. The disadvantage is I am not familiar with the livery of the new season's cars and I keep diving into my now coverless programme to remind myself who is who.
We are surrounded by people of all ages wearing bright t-shirts and caps of their favourite team. Families are here with children in strollers, wearing large ear protectors. On Friday the park is swarming with school groups given free passes. Most of them gather around the merchandise and the F1 experience tents. It is stifling in the tents as children get their photograph taken with pit girls to the 'rat a tat tat' of the tyre air guns on the pitstop challenge. The bright orange Gillette tent is busy. You can get a shave by a model and keep the razor. The patrons come back proudly showing orange tinted photographs of themselves and half a model's face. There are also car displays and the Royal Australian Air Force do an impressive F/A-18 jet aerial display at various intervals. The highly tuned engine noise being overhead instead of on the track.
Over the four days we make a plan to move around the track looking for the best spot to view the race. I get an idea of the top speed as the cars roar down the straight. I watch them crowd out of the pits. I see drivers take slightly different lines through the corners.
Every evening after returning from the circuit, we wash off the track dust and head out to enjoy the restaurants of Melbourne.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Racing to Melbourne for the Formula one - part two

The Ferrari drivers finish before we are even halfway to the front but the Honda drivers are coming. While we wait, we discuss which page in the programme is the best one to get signed. I choose the crimson back cover.
Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello emerge wearing black sunglasses. I feel it beginning to get dark. My head is moving away from my body. I crouch down in the dusty straw. I am about to pass out. I don't want to lose my place in the queue.
We wave frantically to friends standing up near the front taking pictures. Drink and lollies arrive and I feel myself returning to the Park. The line has hardly moved and I still have my place.
Finally we are at the front. The drivers are surprisingly short. As a Kiwi, I am used to rugby celebrities and with the huge media hype that surrounds these men, I am not expecting such diminutive figures.
We file past as quickly as it takes to do a squiggle with a vivid. Jenson says "How you doing, alright?" I don't mention my near faint. He has enough problems this year with his car. If only he could know what happens in 2009.
Later I find the marker is rubbing off the shiny cover, no one else is allowed to look at my programme in case they damage the fragile signatures.
Friday is the first practice day for the Formula One. It is raining lightly but still warm. I wear earplugs and a marshal on a motorbike stops to give a pair to a teenager leaning on the fence. Standing anywhere in the park, I instantly know when a Formula One car starts up. The high pitch distorts in my ears through the earplugs and rattles in my stomach. As the cars chop down through the gears and brake for the corners, there is a loud scream and then shockwaves seem to hit my back.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Racing to Melbourne for the Formula one - part one

The last race of this season has just been raced - Next year Melbourne is the second race on the calendar. This was my experience of Melbourne - the first year Lewis Hamilton blazed onto the F1 scene.

At the cramped, hot, downtown ticket office I wait in a spiralling queue for our four-day general admission Formula One Grand Prix tickets. Behind me two grey haired, bespectacled Englishmen compare races they have attended. One complains Suzuka had only one class with just four cars, other than the Formula One. They agree Melbourne is great because of the entertainment and races that fill in the gaps between the Formula One sessions. Despite the sweat breaking out on my forehead, the talk builds my excitement.
No Formula One cars are practising on the Thursday but we decide we cannot wait to see the track at Albert Park. It is near the inner city and we clamber on a tram, free-of-charge with our Grand Prix tickets, for a ride right to the circuit gates.
Thursday is hot, dry and dusty. The park is mostly empty and the ING clad volunteers look pleased to find us to give jellybeans, sunscreen and lanyards. The crackly public address system announces the Ferrari drivers will be available for autographs. In the heat we walk across the closed in, metal bridge over the track and the white plastic pontoon bridge floating on the lake, to finally reach the tent where the drivers will appear. We find the other Thursday spectators in a long red queue. Brown dust from the straw covering the ground, sticks to my sweaty feet. It will not brush off and it embeds in my hands and under my fingernails.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

a wee story - Travelling to Somewhere - the end

I shut the book. I could still hear the gentle rumble of the traffic – it was almost like the sea. I went to see what message had been left on my phone. It was from work. I wandered over to check the email, but I clicked on my web browser and started to search for secondhand tents. I still had my sleeping bag and everything would fit in my pack. The boxes I could dump on my way south. I checked my bank account. There was enough money for a tent. I listened to the traffic. I slid the arrow over the buy now button. I did not click.
I sat back on the box I was using as my chair. It wouldn’t be the same. I have heard there are hotels in Punakaiki now. I bet they have built a boardwalk over that flax swamp. The West Coast had moved on; not back to the great days of the gold rush and the coalmines but no longer how I remembered it either.
I left my search and clicked to check the email. It was just like the phone message - another piece to add to the corporate puzzle I was assembling. I had never bothered to build a career before. I had taken whatever jobs were going until I had enough money to move on.
I started to type a reply to the email. I was on my career path, like the cars outside, heading somewhere. I hoped it would be worth it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A wee story - Travelling to Somewhere - Part three

January 5 1984
There was a lake outside our tent door this morning. We had yacht races on it with our jandals. Dave won. The river behind the tent was bank to bank and we were supposed to be going to Punakaiki. We pulled down the tent in the rain.
We found the Post Office, sent postcards to Grandmas and started travelling. On the way we pulled over to let a truck pass us. It went by so fast and with so much spray, it made our car go off the road.
We stopped at Waiuta. It used to be a town during the gold rush. Now it was just a few chimneys and flat concrete bits. It was hard to imagine a town or anyone living there. On the way we saw a shaft that wasn't covered up. If you were a fool you could go in. It was the best.
We went to Greymouth and had hot soup for lunch that burnt my tongue.
The tent was wet when we packed it up so when we put it up at Punakaiki, the water came through.
After tea there was a thunderstorm with bright lightening. In the olden days a man was promoted from Wellington to here.
Mum slept in the car. We slept with Dad in the tent with the ground sheet above us in case it rained.

January 6, 1984
Today was a nice sunny day so the tent dried out. We saw the blowholes and the Pancake Rocks. They were fantastic. There was a surge pool with the sea crashing and bashing about.
After lunch we went with the DOC rangers to a new reserve. We waded through mud and amongst flax with water up to our knees and in our sneakers. We found a dead Westland Black Petrel. The flax was really tall. I think they want to build a walkway over the mud. It would be a good idea. I don't know how the rangers knew where to go but we suddenly walked out of the flax onto a beach.
We hunted for Pounamu. Mum found some. Her piece was a big round piece like a fifty-cent coin. I found a bit too. I think. I hope.

January 7, 1984
Today we went down the Truman Track into some caves. In the caves were a whole lot of shells where Maori had eaten ages ago. We had to be very respectful.
There was another blowhole and a waterfall. You could stand under the waterfall and not even get wet. There were rock pools and we stuck our fingers in anemones.
We stayed and had dinner on the beach. I guess like the Maori did, but we had bread rolls filled with lettuce, luncheon sausage and cheese. We watched the sun set into the sea from the top of the rocks. Dad said it would look like a light bulb just before it set and there would be a green ring around it, but I missed it. Mum said it was the best bit of our holiday.
When it was dark we walked back up the track. We walked with no torches. We saw fluorescent fungi shining yellow and white in the dark and some glowworms.

January 8, 1984
We packed up and drove home.
I came home to my two fish, Jack and Jill. I had got them for Christmas. They were dead. Their tank was full of green algae and it looked like jelly. They were floating near the top. The pet shop lady and the fish book said you could leave fish for three weeks and they would be all right. But now they were dead so we buried them.
Dad goes back to work tomorrow, he seemed sad. Mum was happy, but not about the fish.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A wee story - Travelling to Somewhere - Part two

Yet inside, upstairs I could see the motorway heading south out of the city. From that motorway you could go anywhere, down towards Tauranga, or to the Lake or keep going to the Capital and the Mainland. I guess some people would hate it – that room overlooking the cars. But I liked watching them zipping past when it was empty or inching slowly when it was full. They were like pieces in a board game. On the near side, cars flicker past just out of my view. Those cars were heading into the city and I felt sorry for them.
The flat was just one of a block – flat, cream painted, tilt slab concrete. At night in the halogen spotlight that spilt out through the double glazing, I noticed the potted herbs in one window, the fake crystal hanging in another and through mine there was nothing because it was all still in a couple of boxes. Boxes wearing the lint of gathered dust, shaken off on the courier trip north. The writing on the sides of them, was careful, rounded black marker for if I ever came home to open them. They hold an old life; perhaps they should just be taken to the dump. All these years, they have stayed closed, untouched, and unrequired.

January 3, 1984
Tonight Mum made damper dough with flour, sugar and water. Dad looked after the fire and we went looking for damper sticks in the bush.
We wanted long straight sticks that we could mould our damper onto the end. It had to be long enough that we could hold the mixture over the fire without our hands becoming too hot. Dave found the best stick. We got handfuls of the damper mixture and squeezed it over the end of the stick. We held our damper over the fire. We kept tapping them to see if they sounded hollow and cooked.
A couple walked past from a campervan that had just arrived. The campervan couple went away and came back with golden syrup. We filled the middles with the golden syrup and got very sticky fingers. The man from the campervan said he hadn't made dampers in fifty years. The lady hadn't made them at all.
When the damper dough was gone, we had hot milos with a tacky taste from our plastic, camping cups. The sandflies were fierce and now I itch. When we were in bed we heard thousands of frogs but they didn’t say ribbit and there was something else.

January 4, 1984
Today we packed up and drove to Reefton and put the tent up again.
We looked around the town. The shops were wooden and there was a cinema with a sign that was made up of thousands of tiny silver disks. It was supposed to sparkle but the disks were rusty. They shook in the wind against the peeling, white paint. On the way back to the tent, it started to rain. It rained hard and soft.
After tea we went for a walk and Dad took us to have a look at this thing. It was the ruins of the first hydroelectric power station in the Southern Hemisphere. I looked down into this pit and there were just heaps of bathtubs lying around with pipes.

This first box had been mostly old certificates, reports and my academic record from university, typed up in black courier font with Degree Conferred, not even in bold. I should probably keep them. I had worked so hard for them and I thought they held my future. Then I found the diary. My cellphone started ringing in the lounge. The laptop replied with a ping of new email arriving.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A wee story - Travelling to Somewhere - Part one

It was salmon pink, covered in velvet and did not suit the room. It was a grown ups room with its dark stained, wooden floor and white walls, waiting for my stuff, that had been packed away at Mum and Dad’s in Christchurch for so long. There was only my pack, grubby grey and red, leaning in the corner, its top dangling open like the pout of a little kid. This was the least interesting place it had been in the last ten years.
Mum was so pleased her youngest was back with a proper job; even it was at the other end of the country. Mary had stayed in Christchurch, now married with two little kids, who were quite good at pouting when I had seen them. Dave was in Sydney climbing the corporate ladder with ease and confidence, unlike my recent nervous jump onto the lower rungs here at home.
I flicked through the pages of the pink diary from when I was ten.

January 2, 1984.
Today was very exciting we went camping for the first time in our new tent. Dad said we should have got the new dryer Mum wanted.
We started travelling at 9:38.
There were lots of little hills in the road and they left my tummy behind. We stopped at Culverden and got a Moro bar each and some plates because Mum forgot to pack them.
Tonight we stayed at Marble Hill. We were in the middle of the mountains with tall peaks and bush covered hills surrounding a meadow of knee high grass. Mum said it was proper camping using our gas cooker and a long drop toilet. Mary said a long drop toilet was not a proper toilet and I agreed. It stinks.
Just beyond our tent was the bush - the tree trunks covered in black mould, disappeared into darkness. I collected drops of yummy bush honeydew off the mould while I tried not to think that it was insect wee. The ground was covered with fallen beech leaves and patches of green moss that was springy to walk on. A little way into the bush, there was a small stream with three tiny waterfalls close together, surrounded by moss. It looked like a dreamland. It was so quiet I thought I could be all alone in the world.

Out the window Auckland’s traffic was filling on the motorway. My new flat was hidden away around a series of back street corners like a cheap backpackers searched for in a foreign city late at night.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Traffic lights - are they necessary?

I recently saw an item on a Dutch town that has now removed all their traffic lights and traffic signals. It is possibly Drachten, which was in the news a few years ago for removing most of their traffic lights, but I can't quite recall the name.
The idea seems to be the buzz of the last few years in traffic safety. The discovery is that removing traffic lights actually makes roads safer for all, with people taking more responsibility for their actions. The traffic guys in my city clearly don't seem to be aware of this - despite London and New York trying it out (fairly big, trendy cities I would have thought that would be worth checking how they do things).
No. Here it seems to be more traffic? Quick bung another set of traffic lights in, that'll fix it!
The other morning I was driving into town and a set of traffic lights was down. It was at a major intersection with five roads coming into it. I approached with intrepidation how was this going to work?
Well it turned out very well, everyone was looking out for each other. I had to come back through this intersection on my way home too and it was still going smoothly. It made me think of the town in the Netherlands, of name uncertain, - they are onto something! My wait was much less than previously at this intersection and it felt more interactive. It felt we were all watching out for each other instead of just being intent on our own journey and how quickly we could get there.
I hope the traffic people here take note of these overseas trends or the younger people coming up get to try it this stuff. The sticking traffic lights in everywhere is just so frustrating and it would seem makes roads no safer.
I did a bit of googling to try and find the name of the Netherlands town - which I didn't but I found this site. I love the unbelievable amount of information on anything on the web. From this site I learnt that the new LED traffic lights (which I had thought were quite a cool idea if you were going to have traffic lights) are not hot enough to melt snow so if it snows a lot you can't see the lights. Another reason just to pull 'em out.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

News or is it?

It has been terrible watching the devastation caused by the earthquakes and tsunami that have occurred around the Pacific rim recently. It is when major events like this happen that I do watch the television news more and I hope for miracle survival stories.
In the reality of news delivery -disaster stories seem to be big business. All the local networks had people on the ground in Samoa within hours almost and seemingly reporters from all their different news shows.
So we have "live" reports and first hand pictures and then weirdly I saw a news promo for the 6pm news. The newsreader said something along the lines of "why are all these earthquakes happening around the Pacific Rim? We'll reveal all at 6pm."
No you won't. If most people remember their basic NZ school geography, they should know about the Pacific Rim of Fire. That is a googlable thing - that is not news. I am wondering about the person who wrote this little bit of script - had they never heard of the Pacific Rim of Fire? I am sure wikipaedia has an article all about it and they do. This is not news. My first thought was how badly is your news show rating that you use encylopedia information to get me to watch? I didn't watch, I remember geography.
But the idea of someone learning about it for the first time and going - "Check this out - it is amazing! There are plates and that is why all these earthquakes happen where they do. Wow I never knew, I'll use that to promote our news tonight." - is kind of cool.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Other people's opinion

It is a weird thing - other people's opinion. I think I have been told through my whole life, not to worry about what other people think and just to do what I think. I find myself saying those same things to my kids. But it is a kind of hypocrisy since I do always think about other people's opinion - what it means and if I should be taking notice of it. Then you see the latest news about Flavio Briatore in Formula One or ex Formula One as he is now.
A few year's ago I read an article all about him that was glowing. How amazing he was to be able to mastermind world championship wins with a lesser budget than other team principals etc etc. It listed all his feats and his strengths and sure it mentioned some of his weaknesses but reading the article, one had to conclude he was a pretty exceptional man.
Now in the light of recent allegations of race fixing he has been derided and the very same news source mentioned his weaknesses in stark, short sentences and a very small nod to his feats of the past. It is the same guy but such a different view.
The whole situation does make you wonder about other people's opinions and how much we should listen to them. What is the truth about anything, even yourself? I can quickly change the opinion on myself depending on what I have done in the last hour or so.
We are undertaking an exciting, new venture at the moment. I can see if it is a raving success no doubt people will say aah it is because they planned well, stuck to their budgets and looked after their customers. If it doesn't work out I guess others will say aah it is because they were inexperienced and naive. Yet whatever happens the same people are involved. How can it be either one or the other depending on the outcome? Opinions are very weird if you think about them too much.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Marketing stories

Karl gave me a really nice Moleskine notebook for my birthday. It is lovely and it has a great story about being used by Hemingway and other creative types. I always have notebooks hanging about for writing in so it is a perfect gift and the history behind it is pretty cool. But my curiosity began to be nagged when I read the information inside about how the books had stopped being produced and then a small Milanese printing company began to make them again. It said bits of them were handmade. Really? Was this notebook handmade in Italy? Nowhere on the book did it say where it was made. But it did have a website - Now I've worked with a couple of Italian companies in the past and websites were not really something they were strong on. Also they usually were .it not .com. Was this really made by a small Milanese printing company?
I looked up the website and sure enough that small Milanese printing company has been purchased by a bigger company with a really boring name. Sure they are designed in Italy but now the handmade bit is in China.
The latest marketing thing is to tell stories about your products makes it more authentic, people buy into the story, etc etc. The problem is when you are just doing it as a marketing technique, it still rings hollow. If you go to this website you read how the handmade bit is done in China but how this is so appropriate because the Chinese invented paper. They know and we know the only reason they are being handmade in China is to keep costs down. Sure it is a book with a lovely history and they are trying hard to market it as that but when it is made by some big comglomerate with a boring name in China - it does take the shine off the lovely back story.
I do still really like the notebook and it is made well but it doesn't matter what marketing technique you use, if the background doesn't back it up, the warm fuzzies are not really generated. Though there is a little thought gathering momentum in the back of my mind. If this was handmade by a small Milanese printing firm - would I have been able to get one outside of Italy? If it wasn't handmade in China - would it have been unaffordable to me?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Magic in my Kitchen

The other day, a magic trick happened before my very eyes!
I was making a crumpet for lunch and despite others' opinions, I happen to like butter, vegemite and melted cheese. It is the best ever crumpet topping.
My crumpet was toasted and I had spread the butter, the vegemite and carefully laid out some cheese on the top.
I put it on a plate in the microwave to melt the cheese for thirty seconds.
Our microwave is not used very often so it sits atop the fridge. This makes it above my head and I have to reach up to put things into it more by feel, than sight. Our microwave is also very old and spins the food around fast.
The beeper dinged. I opened the door and felt for the plate. I lifted it down and as it reached my eye level, to my surprise, there was no crumpet on the plate.
The crumpet had vanished. I thought perhaps this time the speedy spinning had finally been too much and my crumpet had been flung out and stuck to the wall of the microwave by its melted cheese.
I stepped back so I could see the walls of the microwave. They were clear. My crumpet had taken part in a great disappearing trick.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tangled up in words

Language is suppose to help communication I thought but some words are too similar. I was enthusing on about place that sold free trade goods until I listened to myself. I didn't mean free trade, I meant fair trade. How come two such different concepts, with such different ramifications are so similar? Just as well I am not in some trade negotiation, I could agree to anything.
How come awful apparently used to mean full of awe and now means horrible? While awesome, which surely having only some awe is less than being totally full of awe, gets to mean awe-inspiring?
How come a marketer thought it was smart to have a shop sign that said half price, half shop? The two "half" words underneath one another so the poor shop assistants had to explain to every customer that only half the things in the shop were half price, not that it was a half price shop which your brain automatically registered it as.
I listen to my children trying to get their head around a language where you can have "yours" but not "mines" and you can have "listened" but not "heared".
And I still think alot should be an acceptable compound word.

Friday, July 31, 2009

What scares me

Being currently in the middle of a massive life change I am learning a lot about myself. It seems my biggest fear, stumbling block, thing that stops me from doing stuff, is money. I don't mean just a momentary - eek, don't want to spend that - kind of feeling. I mean a terrified, out of control, being sucked down the black hole, light headed, kind of feeling. A hide in a corner and hope it goes away, kind of feeling.
Over the top? Yes.
Verging on paranoia? Probably.
One thing I do know, saying snap out of it and thinking through everything logically is not helping. My current approach is just to ignore it and hope it goes away to where it came from. This is the worst it has ever been but looking back, all my major life changes so far, money stands out as being the thing I most worried about.
It has made me think how for other people money is not this concerning. Some people think nothing of leaving their job and starting a new life in a new country. I always intended to do that and now I am wondering if the reason it has never happened is deep down, it freaks me out!
It has made me think about other people's situations where they seem to want to change their lives because they want something else but can't or won't. Perhaps they are just like me and have a big fear stopping them too but maybe theirs is people or commitment. i imagine if I felt about commitment the way I feel about money, long term relationships would be hard and the idea of having children would be nightmare fuel.
It is weird how much your mind and emotions can interfere with your life. I feel I have no control over these feelings, even though they are mine. So far in the past if I have just got on and believed the more rational thinking about the problem, things have been fine and you would think I would learn from that. It feels almost an instinctive response that I am squashing to get on with my life.
I wonder if we all have these things that shape our lives more than we realise. Most of the time they are almost subconscious and it is only when we challenge them with bold decisions that we realise secretly they have been controlling our lives.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Supermarket's Birthday

Well apparently it is my supermarket's birthday. As part of the party, there were games - well special offers, which for me became a game.
I didn't realise it was the supermarket's birthday so it was the last week of it's celebration, I had not used any of the birthday coupons, cheerfully referred to as presents. They don't let you use more than one at once so it was the big decision which to use with today's grocery shop.
The two I most liked was the instant $5 off your bill or the win your whole shop free. What should I do? Take the $5 - that would be half the bottle of the tasty Riesling that was on special or go for it all for free.
I thought about it all around the supermarket, down the aisles with the staple food items and especially down the aisles with the biscuits and the chocolates and the ice cream. If I won this shop for free, it would be so worth putting in a few bars of chocolate....
I got to the counter.
I still had not decided.
"Do I give you this coupon now?"
"At the end," the checkout chick said.
I still had time to decide.
I watched the items be scanned. This was adding up fast.
It was an expensive shop. Would $5 off be worth it or should I gamble it on a total freebie?
The last item scanned and she looked at me.
I looked at the total.
It was a birthday, it should have games.
I played the game.
I gave the win a free shop coupon.
It was the supermarket's birthday so it won. I paid for the shopping and pretended to be happy about it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Buying a paper shredder

On the telly I was a little unsettled by seeing the ease with which people can steal your identity from documents in your recycle bin. I decided I didn't want my identity getting any ideas of having a more fun life with someone else so it was time to buy a shredder. There seemed to be quite a range of shredders from every expensive to very cheap. Having no expertise in being able to tell the difference I went for cheap.
Once home and unpacked from all its packaging - which disappointingly was inappropriate to shred - it was the on the bench plugged in, eager to shred something. There it was, sitting there innocently by the box, the instructions. They were printed on paper just begging to be shredded. On one level it seemed wrong to shred the unread instructions as the first piece but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed so right.
There were instructions on the shredder anyway. There is a little line of pictures of what not to put through the shredder. There is a person with long hair dangling, there is tie, there is hand - all fair enough so far - then there is a baby and what looks like a bomb. I wonder if the sticker person was given a specific number of he had to include and that necessitated some lateral thinking.
It turns out shredding is quite addictive - maybe that should be warned about on the unit... or maybe it was in the instructions.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The appearance of a white rabbit

Four year old Lucy and I were walking past the cathedral on a cold, windy morning last week, when what should stroll out of the cathedral but a rabbit!
Well more accurately, Lucy was trying to dance an Irish jig and I was trying to get her to keep walking and then a bloke in a rabbit costume, looking a little tired, walked out of the Cathedral entrance. He folded up a sign that said "camera crew working".
He seemed so disinterested, I thought it was just by chance he looked like a rabbit. I thought maybe it was really a costume so he could lie somewhere and film without getting dust and dirt all over his clothes. Then as he turned we saw he had a little rabbit tail.
He was a rabbit. Lucy wasn't at all surprised. Rabbits popping out of a gothic revival style building seemed quite within the realms of possibility in her world.
So we went on our way.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Trinny & Susannah

I quite like Trinny & Susannah's approach to dressing. I did go through my clothes and try to get rid of everything they said would not suit my figure style. I am not sure if they came over they would notice.
But there is something inside that wants to yell at the end of their books - "It is just clothes! Who cares which bracelet you wear!"
They also seem to completely ignore the emotional attachment to clothes. "If it is not right for you get rid of it" - seems to be their catch cry. But if that ring was given to you by your now dead grandma, does it really matter if it makes your fingers look fat instead of skinny?
After reading a few of their books you do start to look at women in the street and if they are dressing "right" for their figure. Today I saw a lady in a rainbow coloured hoody, with a funky, knitted hat. I did think to myself T & S would cringe at the sight of it. True it probably wasn't doing much for her hips but when I looked at her, I thought anyone who wears such a cool hoody looks like someone I would love to know. If she had been wearing clothes the T & S way, I would have thought... nothing.
Sometimes those very things you are trying to hide can be a point of jealousy. Four year old Lucy said - with some envy in her voice - "Mum your bottom wobbles. You are just like jelly." Who wouldn't want to be like jelly? It is sweet, delicious and always a hit at parties.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When Google is no use

It is hard to imagine life before internet search engines. Even Lucy who is only just four, if she asks me something and I don't know says; "look it up on the internet Mummy".
I start to believe in the wonders of the internet so much, if Google brings up no answer, I am amazed and cross and wonder why is this not online? Where is this information? What is going on?
But I've been thinking about things that aren't searchable, some because they aren't there and others because if you do search for them you get things you really don't want and aren't what you were trying to look up. I was going to make a list but I realised there are two main things for which Google is no use:
The first one is stuff that you have forgotten one of the first three correct letters of the word. It brings up a whole of lot of suggestions for what you've typed that wasn't what you wanted. Even the online dictionary refuses to help; "could not be found" . I end up finding an old fashioned printed dictionary, with the cover falling off, in the bookcase and flicking through the yellowing pages until I find it.
The second one is that really cool site, with really useful information that you found a few weeks ago but forgot to bookmark. Try searching again - even with the exact phrases/words you used last time - and it is gone, lost forever in a mountain of information.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu

I know everyone's talking about it but I just had to because in December 2006 I was messing about writing a science fiction story and it has the following line:
"They came in after the last flu epidemic, the one from pigs. It made sense at the time of the flu epidemic, the quicker people were diagnosed, the faster they could be treated."

In 2007 I was still messing around on and off with this story and rewrote it a different way. But it still has the line:
"They were set up to catch anyone who might be suffering from the last pig to human influenza epidemic ..."

Freaky eh!
So here I am trying to break away from my factual writing - which earns me money - and try writing fiction and it seems my fiction is becoming factual. *Sigh*

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Kiwi way

Kiwis seem to take great pride in their 'number 8 wire', 'do it yourself' mentality, even though these days I don't know how many of us know what number 8 wire is.
I was driving into town the other day and past one of those ride on scooter thingys, waiting to cross the road. This model had been a bit customised.
Since it is nearing winter, they had installed a roof. I am sure this is an accessory you can buy, but this guy had found a cheaper alternative. He had a small paddling pool strapped on the top. It was the perfect size (though not a matching colour) to cover his vehicle.
There he was happily sitting under his paddling pool - designed to be completely waterproof, though probably not designed to be a roof.
I admit it looked slightly odd and didn't exactly blend in, but I still for some reason admired his efforts.
Perhaps it was the ingenuity or the not buying the expensive accessories from the supplier or maybe the complete disregard for image over performance.
It also reminded me of my Grandma. My late Grandma had one of these ride one scooters and seeing the paddling pool, I think she would have been disappointed not to have thought of it herself.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Clothing and its lack of improvement

How come with all the leaps in technology, clothing still is designed to embarrass us?
We can make television turn on from a distance with the gentle press of just one button but one button can be our undoing in the clothing department when it decides to fall off.
I have had the sewing on the side of a fly zip come undone while out on a day trip so the fly was done up but there was a hole right beside it.
I have been giving training to a customer on an instrument when I have felt my bra undo it self.
I have walked to work only to arrive and realise there is a sock stuck up the bottom of my trousers from the bedroom floor.
Stockings are the most ridiculous piece of women’s clothing that have let me down so many times by getting holes and ladders, I now refuse to wear them and have so far found no time when they are compulsory.
I have sat in a meeting and suddenly realised my top is on the wrong way round and quietly turned it around under my jacket, while appearing engrossed in the current talk.
I worked with a girl - where we wore white smocks with snaps down the front - who in an enthusiastic greeting to a male colleague, found her dress unpopped itself down the front.
In a work place where white tops were required I have had to buy a new top at lunch time due to lunch jumping onto mine and refusing to let go. I had to ask the shop assistant to cut off the tags so I could wear the top immediately and she could scan the barcode without me having to lie on the counter.
I still have blocked out from my memory my first year in high school when the most disgusting of all shorts were THE thing to have. They were Adidas and made of towelling material and were basically just towelling knickers. The worst kind of shorts for anyone without pencil thin thighs.
I had a bra that was fitted to be the right size but the style of its cut meant if I got a bit too active a breast would pop out.
I have sticky taped and stapled a hem that suddenly unravelled itself while at work. Sticky tape through the washing machine is not a good idea.
There is so much media generated on technology and the increasing pace of changing technology. Yet there is an enormous hole in the technology research market. The boundaries of clothing needs to pushed, not just in the area of beautiful design, which the fashion designers are doing wonderfully, but in the area of lowering the embarrassment risk to wearers.
We are well on the way to clothing being more than just keeping us warm or protection from naked flames. In the building industry there are masters who are designing intelligient buildings with lights that automatically come on, heating that turns on when you enter a room and off when you leave. This same attention to detail and intelligience needs to be woven into our clothing. Jeans with flies that can never be left undone. Tops that automatically tighten impercepably when you bend over a table.Hipsters that stretch and shrink depending on if you are standing or sitting.
I think we would all be happy to pay extra for these sorts of conveniences in our clothing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The fragility of life

We are doing the Monarch butterfly thing here but it is tough being a Monarch caterpillar at our place.
One was already to go into it's chrysalis and had found a suitable spot on the stand that was holding up the peas. It had attached itself with some silk stuff and was getting into the right hanging position.
Unfortunately it poured with rain and Lucy decided this little caterpillar needed a drink. She carefully stuck the stand out in the rain and gusty wind. Yes the inevitable happened, the stand blew down and cut the poor caterpillar in two.
The second caterpillar possibly heard of what happened as we found him lying dead on the concrete under the swan plant. We will never know if he jumped or if he was pushed. No witnesses are willing to speak up.
After replenishing the caterpillars with some new ones. We have finally made it to the chrysalis stage! One we even managed to see do this - which was actually pretty amazing.
I don't know if we are going to make through to the butterfly - the pretty little chrysalises (that is the plural to chrysalis) are quite tempting to little fingers.
I wonder if caterpillars are aware of what they become? Or does the odd caterpillar suggest it and get ridiculed by it's caterpillar mates.
I wonder when they become butterflies, do they just love it? It must be awesome to lift off, that first time, after being a fat caterpillar having to walk everywhere.
I wonder if some hate it and reminisce about the good ol' days when they lived longer and just hung around on the plant.
It is quite a trade off between the life styles; the caterpillar lives longer but can't fly, the butterfly has a very short life - but can fly where it wants - can see the world.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What have I learned?

When you watch little kids and you see how much they learn in such a short time, it is amazing. Then I think how I am in my 36th year of existence and what are the big things I have learned in all that time?
In no particular order I think these are some of them:
* Even if you make it to the top of your chosen field you have to acknowledge luck had a part to play and there is more than likely to be someone, who may even be better, but has just not had the same opportunities as you, or in short - life is unfair.
* Success does not lead to happiness and contentment, it just makes you hungry for more, so at least remember to stop and enjoy success when it happens.
* Be thankful for what you have and who you are.
* Sometimes going through the worst things teaches you the most.
* It is impossible to live like there may be no tomorrow - it is just too tiring and stressful.
* The future is not always better than the past, sometimes it is just different - so enjoy it now.
* The more you know, the more you realise you don't know.
* People you look up to, are just people too and make mistakes.
* People everywhere are generally nice.
* You do just remember the good bits.
* The assumptions I carry around in my head can often be wrong.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A large monkey

There are some giant soft toys around. The other day a girl biked past with a monkey, the size of a three-year-old child, leaning on the handlebars.
It is not everyday you see such a large, soft, toy being transported by bike. It seemed to suggest something fun or funny or exciting had just happened. But according to the girl's face, this was not the case. If I was to describe the expression I would say, bored.
Maybe she has to transport this monkey every day and I just happened to catch her this day.
Maybe it was not her monkey, maybe her friend left it behind by mistake and she had to return it - though how you would forget bringing over a large monkey, I'm not sure.
Maybe her boyfriend always gives her oversized, soft toys and she has dozens of them crowding her bedroom and she was biking home trying to imagine where she was going to put it.
It was good to see a bike being used to transport larger goods. I was impressed from my short visit to Shanghai, just what it was possible to fit on a bicycle - a whole pig carcass, a stack of carefully arranged shoeboxes. As soon as I have something to transport, I always think, I need to take a car.
Maybe I should think again - the monkey looked happy enough.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wibbly Pig's state of mind

Wibbly Pig is lovely. After reading his exploits you always feel more happy than when you started. The pictures and the words are simple but captured in his face is contentedness even when stuff is going wrong for him.
There is something just right about books being written by Mick Inkpen. If there is anyone destined to be an author surely having such a surname helps. A brief surf through the internet does seem to confirm it is his real name, 'cause you do wonder.
I only discovered Wibbly Pig three years ago as before that I didn't really check out the children's section of the library.
So these days, on a fairly regular basis, we have Wibbly Pig visit our house in book form. The last one we had was entitled, "Wibbly Pig is Happy". In the story he mostly is happy - he suffers an unhappy incident but sees it through to happiness again.
However while it appears this is what is going on, it would seem a sadder story lurks underneath. The book maybe entitled "Wibbly Pig is Happy" but the scanner at the library printed it out on the receipt as, "Wibbly Pig is Upset."
This book has spent more time at the library than at our house so what has Wibbly Pig let slip to the librarians? Is he not as happy as he shows? Is he just wearing a happy face because that is what people expect? Is he internalising his issues of being anthropomorphized?
I guess we will just have to get the book out again in a few months and see what the library scanner lets slip.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Shopping pre and post kids

Shopping pre kids - pick up wallet and phone, walk out of house, lock door and get in car. Drive to shops, wander around looking for what I want, find it, buy it, go to next thing on list, if it is not there, drive to another shop, find what I want and buy it.

Shopping post kids - today for example. Make sure children are wearing acceptable clothes. See thru dress up skirt is not acceptable and request a skirt change. Find shoes and put them on Mr One. Tell Miss Three once she has found a new skirt to find some shoes. Remind Miss Three to go to the toilet. Convince Miss Three she should go to the toilet even if she doesn't feel like it. Praise Miss Three for going to the toilet even when she didn't feel like it and doesn't she feel better now. Correct Miss Three's shoes that are on the wrong feet.
Pick up wallet and phone. Get everyone out of the house. Put back in the house the rideon that came out being ridden by Mr One.
Untwist the straps on the aggravating carseat for Mr One. Mr One gets cross at being put in his carseat when he would like to climb around the car. Strap in Miss Three, fortunately in a better designed carseat.
Drive to shops.
Get out buggy for Mr One. Get out Mr One and Miss Three. Miss Three decides she wants to walk. Then Miss Three is disappointed there isn't a seat for her in the buggy. Unlock the car again and before you go to get out the second seat. Ask again, "Do you want to ride in the buggy or walk?" Miss Three decides she wants to walk. Miss Three has a better idea and decides she wants to push Mr One. Insist she cannot do this alone and continue to correct her poor steering as she doesn't bother to look where she is going because other more interesting stuff is going on.
Wander around shop and find what we want, pay and then go shop two. Just as we arrive at shop two, Mr One is getting restless and asks to be let out. You decide it looks safe enough. Miss Three decides she needs a toilet and she needs it now. Toilet is in shop one.
Go back to shop one, Mr One crying all the way because he had been promised freedom and it was taken away just as he was about to get it. Find toilet, complete ablutions. Mr One is still cross, feel sorry for him as this delay was not his fault. Decide for the benefit of everyone to stop at playground in shop one for a run around.
After a wee play, go back to shop two to see if they do actually have what you want. We wander around, it doesn't seem they do so leave, decide the kids won't handle driving to a different shop when it is nearly lunchtime so give up on shopping trip and visit the pet shop beside shop two to look at all the cute animals. Go home for lunch and a lie down.
Perhaps shopping with children should be made into a board game.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Growing the best tasting tomato ever

We are attempting to grow Heirloom Brandywine tomatoes because the little packet of seeds said "The best tasting tomato ever!" How could one leave the packet on the shelf after reading that claim? Then it has a quote of it's own from an unknown source that describes the flavour as "very rich, loud and distinctively spicy". Wow all in a tomato! We bought the packet. We also bought some wee tomato plants that said they had good flavour and grew well - for comparison purposes.
We are only a few rungs up the gardener hierarchy and our fingers are only tinged with the faintest of emerald and it is not going well for the Brandywines. I think we talked up our anticipation of their taste too much. They were looking fine when we left on holiday. They had germinated and were growing beautifully - they even had some flowers. While we were away, the other tomatoes took their revenge and fell all over them with their green fruit. The normal tomatoes broke off (no doubt to their delight) the only Brandywine branch with flowers on it.
We stepped into the fray and reorganised the garden; tying up the normal tomatoes so there was no way they could squash the Brandywines and put in a bigger stake for the Brandywines so they could grow straight and true without fear. Things were going well until I noticed that the stem on the best plant was partly broken and while the tops are still green and growing well - how long will the nutrients get through? I think this partial break was a last ditch effort by the normal tomatoes as we were separating them from on top of the Brandywines.
The normal tomatoes have produced their first ripe tomato. The flavour was fabulous; not too sweet, almost peppery. A fine tomato that we just ate straight off the plant not even waiting for a meal time. I thought this might put the normal tomatoes at ease - less worried about the Brandywines, who still don't have any wee tomatoes at all.
But it appears the normal tomatoes want complete victory and they have been collaborating with the tomatillos. I was excited a few days ago to see some lovely, yellow flowers on the Brandywine tomato plants. Hooray finally we may get to taste the best tomato ever. But on closer inspection they were tomatillo flowers and the tomatillos are now trying to grow over the Brandywine tomatoes.
So while I hope that we may yet get some flowers and a chance to taste the best tomato ever, it is not looking good. Brandywine heirloom tomatoes maybe the best tasting tomato ever but they are bit crap at standing up for themselves against more garden variety relatives and one of its leaves is going yellow too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free Lollies... well a singular lolly

This "free lolly" sign has appeared outside a shop in my area. It amuses me greatly. Only four words but the last two ruin all hope the first two have, of creating any excitement.
This sign also raises a lot of questions for me. Who was this business targeting with this marketing campaign? If it was those that tend to be drawn to lollies - usually who have a one digit age - will they understand the concept of "conditions apply"?
If it is the parents of this possible target market - they all too well will understand the last two words.
If it is not these people - would you stop for a free lolly?
Especially when the conditions that apply are unclear. Do you need to sing a song? Do you need to purchase more than one lolly (other than the free one)?
So far it hasn't made me stop, though I am kind of tempted just to find out the "conditions". Of course I wouldn't buy anything I would just go and ask for the conditions of getting a free lolly and then decide if it was really worth it. But there is a cafe not so far away that I can get free jet plane lolly on the condition I give them 10c - those aren't bad conditions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

19. The end

She wondered if she could sneak through the gym room and up the back stairs, avoiding Jack altogether. She tried the door to the gym but it was locked. She turned as she heard the shudder of aluminium, someone was coming into the pool area.
She recognised that shape - it was Jack.
He came over and put his arms around her. She let him and rested her face on his chest. Her mind was racing. Even an hour ago she was single and now she had two men - dangling. Maybe that was too many. She couldn't even keep one going with Nathan before. But it felt like all her genes were sticking her to Jack and crying "oh yes!"
She didn't want to let go. Her mind was slipping away and looking down, bemused at the instincts kicking in. She grabbed her mind back and decided to swim against the tide.
She pulled herself free. "I'm sorry, there is someone back home. I can't do this."
Not knowing quite what to do next she just decided to go. At the door back into the brightly lit foyer, she paused. "Thanks for all your help, especially today." Then she let the door swing shut and made for the lifts hoping there was one waiting. As she arrived some guests walked out and she slipped in and relaxed as the doors slid shut.
The next day she was gone.
Sitting on the 747 all around her people were setting up their wee mini homes for the twelve hour flight, by the time they reached Auckland, they would all know their seats intimately; all the hard bits, the soft bits and the unexpected broken bits.
She still had to write up her experiences of bringing people together for Jacob Macy. She thought back over the week. It was strange, that despite everything, the highlight was still the visit to the Reservation. It had really felt like entering another country, nature was not so constrained but encroaching on everything. The values and attitudes you could feel were so different from the city just up the road. How could neighbours living so close to the place have never visited and from her trip be so uninterested?
She thought about her neighbours in the apartment block. She only knew one of them, she had been too busy to bother, what with work and now she thought about it - her own selfishness really. Maybe Millie had a point. Maybe Jacob was wrong with his grandiose plans of people going on trips. Then she realised the whole trip had come about because Jack had sat beside her on a plane and bothered to chat. People coming together was happening all the time in small ways just mostly unnoticed and, at least by her, unvalued. She had wanted big success, big baskets of gratitude for her efforts bringing people together, but maybe it was one on one where it counted. One was as valuable as thousands. Could she write that up for Jacob and would she be able to resist the temptation to check how many times it was viewed on his website? She resolved to stop treating life as a competition - though she still didn't want to be a loser...

Friday, January 16, 2009

18. Dinner

Cath decided to put the Skype chat out of her mind while she had dinner. Jack had done well and found a local restaurant, not too pretentious, but served quality food going by the smells wafting from surrounding tables.
They decided to have the local specialty; shrimp and grits. "Would you like 'erb bread ma'am?"
Cath tried not to smile and nodded she would. She felt a bit hypocritical finding his accent amusing when hers was so strongly Kiwi with her dark 'L's and 'u's for 'i's.
Jack could see her struggling and smiled too. "So you are feeling better about this morning?"
"Not really and in fact it has got worse, I just had a bizarre skype with my best friend back home which I don't really want to talk about and I am not sure I can change by the way. I want to be a success. I want to achieve things in my life. What is wrong with that?"
Jack shrugged. "Nothing I guess. But how do you define success? What is a successful life? I think anyone can change. It is your life, you can do what you like if you want to. Anyway there is nothing wrong with achieving things but maybe you don't need to succeed all the time. You can learn a lot from failing you know."
"Yeah, apparently I can." Cath muttered thinking of Millie's comments.
The shrimp and grits arrived. The grits were nothing like the ones put out in the little bain maries back in the hotel at breakfast. They were creamy. The shrimps were piled on top of the grits in a sauce that was buttery with a little tingle of chilli, and it poured down the sides of the grits. It wasn't the most elegant dish to look at but it was delicious and very filling.
They shared the 'erb bread and after finishing her plate and drinking a few glasses of some very nice wine, Cath was feeling less worried about success and failure and what her life was all about.
As they walked across carpark after ashfelted carpark back to the hotel, Jack took her hand. She let him and was beginning to think failure did have its good points.
At the hotel she pushed the buttons for the lift and while they waited for the lift to arrive he kissed her. She felt tingles rise from her toes and this time it wasn't chilli. She wanted to relax into the sensation and let it envelope her.
She pulled herself free. "Hang on a minute."
Jack looked confused.
"Sorry, just give me a minute."
She slipped from his grasp and went out the door by the pool, pulling her phone from her pocket. The lights flickered on the water as it gently rippled. It looked so calm compared to her heart. She had no idea what time it was in New Zealand but she bounced through her address list until she found Nathan's number. She pushed it, not even knowing what she would say.
When he answered he sounded surprised.
"Hi, sorry haven't called for so long and sorry for calling you now. But..." She dashed on before he could say anything. "I'm in the US having a bit of rethink of my life really and well I think I messed things up with you and if you were keen, I'd like to try again only do less work this time, I mean more work on the relationship, less work on my career. I think, well I want to try anyway and if we fail then perhaps that is ok too but maybe we won't this time..." She was losing her way.
"Stop, wait." the voice said "I'm Nat's brother, Rob."
"Oh" Cath felt herself going red. What a fool she'd made of herself. Her life really was going all wrong.
"Well umm maybe pass that onto Nathan then, bye." She hung up. She couldn't bear to think of all the laughing that was going on where ever Rob and Nathan were.
Her phone sang a message had arrived. It was from Nathan. Her heart started to race. She opened it and all it said was, "Yes." She smiled. Did it matter if she made a fool of herself? Did matter if she failed again? Was just trying what it was all about?
Then she remembered Jack waiting inside what was she going to do about him now?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

17. A revealing chat

Back in her room Cath was still mulling over her conversation with Jack. She still felt like she had big rocks in her stomach from the disappointment of the outing. The old woman's words had meant a lot and each of the people who had come had said to her they had enjoyed it and were glad they had come - was that enough after all her effort?
She pulled up Skype to see if Millie was online and she was, which instantly made Cath feel better - her oldest friend would understand. She gave her a call.
Millie's face popped up. 'Hey there have you done your thing?"
"Yeah," Cath nodded. "It didn't go well. Hardly anyone turned up. I feel a complete failure. Changing the world is not my thing."
"Aah well never mind - did you have fun?" Millie smiled.
Cath wondered whether to plunge ahead or not but decided she did need some guidance so she dove in the deep end.
"The thing is.." She paused. "It has really got me down on top of leaving my job, not getting the one at your work and some weird stuff has been happening here."
"Hey, don't get so upset about it eh. You will bounce back. You always do."
"Will I?" Cath really wanted to believe that but everything seemed so far away here. "It has just made me think about my whole life and I don't know what I am doing anymore."
Millie looked away, then she looked directly at Cath.
"Look, I have a confession to make. It was me that stopped you getting the job at my work and.."
Cath was stunned.
Millie continued. "Well I suggested the Carolinas for a reason. I know someone there and I kind of asked them to mess things up a bit for you."
"You did what? Why?" Cath could not believe what she was hearing.
"I'm sorry. It's just you have always been successful. I wanted you to see what it was like for other people, like, well me."
Cath could barely stand to look at the screen but couldn't pull herself away from the picture of Millie. At least she had the decency to look uncomfortable.
"You are suppose to be my friend. I worked damn hard for all my successes."
"And I didn't? And you are suppose to be my friend - which didn't seem to count for much with Nathan." Millie shot back.
"What?" Cath could hardly keep up with this conversation.
"Do you remember where you met him?"
"Of course I do, at a party at your house."
"Do you know why he was there?"
"Because I invited him. Because I liked him and was kind of hoping to take things further that night except he met you."
"But we have broken up - you could be with him now if you wanted."
"No. He still loves you apparently."
Cath was still trying to get her head around the earlier part of their chat and now this?
"It was a mutual break up. I was working long hours and we had grown apart - we agreed on that."
"You never really listen do you Cath. You only listen to what you want to hear. He agreed you had been working long hours and had grown apart. He wanted you to cut the hours, not him but that would be thinking of something other than your own success wouldn't it?"
Cath didn't know what to say. Deep inside a little voice was saying "Nathan still loves me?". Did he mean more to her than she thought?
"Did you mess up my whole trip here and the job at your work just to get back at me about Nathan?"
Millie was crying now. "No, I just thought you needed a wake up call. It went a bit out of control and I didn't think it would affect you so much, you are such a confident person."
"Millie we have been friends for years, I thought you knew I wasn't that confident inside. I can't believe what you have told me. I don't know what to think. " Her hand hovered over the red hang up button.
"Did you get your friend to chase me at the mall?"
"Umm yeah. It sounds pretty childish now you say it."
Cath whacked the hang up button. Now to add to her list of depressing things, she could add rubbish best friend. What made Millie do that? Did she make Millie do that? Had she been that selfish, that self absorbed?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

16. Sorting out life

Jack didn't say anything. Cath sniffled into her hanky and tried to get herself under control.
"But what is success?" Jack asked.
Cath didn't say anything.
"What if loads of people came and were rude and thought it was stupid. Would that have been a success?"
"At least the bus would have been full." Cath muttered. "Look I think I am just not this sort of person. I am not like you. I can't just go from thing to thing and not care whether it is good or not. I want to make something worthwhile of my life."
Jack cut her off. "That's a bit harsh isn't it? How can you say my life is not worthwhile? Is yours, with always striving to further yourself or is the world all about you?"
Cath said nothing.
"My life surely is all about me. Isn't it?" She stared into her cup.
It was Jack's turn to be silent and take a slurp of coffee.
"But is reaching for success, ticking off milestones and goals - is that what life is about? What about enjoying the moment, enjoying the people you are with - you know, living?"
Cath didn't have an answer for that. She did think life was about doing all she could before it was over. Surely that was the idea? She wanted to look back with pride at what she had achieved, but maybe she was wrong.
"I'm not enjoying this coffee." She said.
"No. It does suck." agreed Jack.
"How about if I ever do this again we go somewhere with nice food?"
"Oh there is good food here. You just have to know where to look and maybe not right here but let me find somewhere for tonight eh. See you back here at seven."
Then he was gone. Cath sat back on the squishy sofa, watching new guests wander in, trundling their suitcases behind them like little pets. What did she want out of life? She might have to ring Millie for a chat and did he mean something by enjoying the people you are with? Was it more than dinner tonight?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

15. Was it good?

Bill nodded, so Cath got on the bus and sat down. She had planned to do an announcement but was it worth it for such a small turn out? Bill started up a commentary.
Cath hardly heard as all she could think about was how few people came, what a waste of time and money the trip had been. She knew now she wasn't a spontaneous person, why did she let Millie talk her into this?
Why did she think it would be a success? Why did she think she could change things in someone else's country?
She wondered if Jack thought she was a failure too. She looked across at him but he was leaning over asking Bill something. She looked out the window. They had turned off the highway and it felt like the tall, dark green, trees were closing in on the road. The forest was definitely getting denser. As they kept driving she was entering a new place, completely different from where she had been only a few minutes before. There was no rushing traffic and the trees dominated with their towering heads. Houses were scattered amongst them as they approached the small cluster of white buildings that was the visitors' centre.
Cath let Bill lead the small group across the gravel into the centre. She missed most of the historical explanation as the small number of the group was accentuated by the large room.
The others seemed to be enjoying it at least. She started to pay attention as a short, lithe, elderly woman in a salmon coloured traditional Indian dress, sat down with some clay in the middle of the room at a small table. She didn't speak and her face was contoured with lines that seem say she had seen a lot and nothing would surprise her now. She worked fast and soon a small pot was formed. She deftly made beautiful, detailed, patterns in the sides. The man describing it was saying how well known the Catawba were for their pottery. They used the clay from the nearby river. As he finished speaking, she finished the pot and they all admired her fast, skilled handiwork. Then as the man went on to introduce the dancers, there was a collective gasp from the small group as the woman pushed her palm into the pot and squashed it flat, back into a lump of river clay.
She shrugged her shoulders and picked it up to carry it back to the corner of the room. She was not bothered by their naivety - she could whip up another pot in ten minutes.
Cath loved the dancers and momentarily forgot about the unhappy knot in her stomach. They had dances for all the repetitive chores. Her favourite was the dance to flatten the grass before setting up the camp. She thought of herself putting the stereo on loud and singing along when she did the washing up of the pots or cleaned the bathroom. "We are all quite similar really." She thought to herself.
Then the performance was over. Cath, pulled out all her professional skills and hoped she did a good job of hiding her disappointment at the low numbers while thanking everyone for their time. The rest of the group went to look in the small, gift shop. Cath stayed behind to thank the hosts for all their efforts and apologise for the small turnout.
The elderly woman came up to her.
"I loved your pottery..."
The woman put a hand on her arm, before she went any further. "Thank you for taking the time. I could see you were disappointed about the turn out but you bothered. I thought you wouldn't see it through when I first heard of your plan."
Cath didn't know what to say. "Thanks" She mumbled. Somehow her efforts to thank others had ended in her being thanked.
Bill got them all back on the bus and dropped them across the road from the hotel.
Cath and Jack sat down for a coffee in the foyer.
"Well what did you think."
Cath stroked the handle of her cup. She was about to speak and then the tears welled up before she could stop them.
"I don't know why I did this." She managed to squeak out. Before Jack could reply, it all poured out. All her doubts about leaving her job, not getting the job at Millie's work, the bad reference, the lost luggage, the weird things that kept happening once she got here and now the dismal turn out. Her life was a mess and the coffee was bad.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

14. The big day

She waited in the foyer to tell Jack her bad news. She hoped he had a solution.
He did, in fact he didn't even know why she was concerned. "You have organised a bus." He said. "Just park it on the street. He may manage the hotel but he sure doesn't control the street."
It wasn't quite the slick operation Cath had in mind. It was starting to sound all a bit amatuerish but what could she do?
Saturday arrived and there was a quiet knock on the door, when she was still in bed. Cath peered through the peephole wondering who it was coming so early to her room. She saw something that made her heart leap. It looked so familiar. It finally it was her suitcase! She thanked the porter profusely. She lifted the case onto the luggage spot in her room, that had been forlornly empty for her entire stay so far. Even the burr of the zip opening felt familiar and reassuring. Flipping the case open, it was so nice to see all her stuff and to have a choice of what to wear!
By the time she went to breakfast, Cath was feeling confident about today's trip. She had visions of people thanking her for the insight into another's culture, barriers broken down, articles in the local paper. She was doing such a good thing, it was almost hard to stay modest in her head. This little town would be different because of her visit. Her shoes clicked on the tile dining room floor. No more comfy travel shoes. She had make up and everything. Her hair was back to normal, using her own shampoo. When Jack arrived and joined her for a coffee she was buzzing. He caught her mood and they were laughing and joking about all the weird things that had happened over the week. They went out on the street to wait for Bill with the bus. He arrived and parked up opposite the hotel. It didn't look so bad she decided. Cath had made a sign to show this was the bus for trip to the Reservation.
The first person to turn up was the the first person Cath had talked to about the trip at the mall. She repeated again how she had never been to the Reservation despite having lived in the area for the past 25 years. Cath was elated she had decided to come. This was turning out exactly as she had planned. The next to arrive was a woman and her two children, Jack had talked to one day when eating lunch. Next a man in his 50s from one of the churches Cath had stood outside arrived. They waited for further arrivals.
The minutes started to drag on. Was this all from a week of pushing fliers on strangers? Cath had at the very least expected a full bus. It was a free trip for goodness sake! What about all those people who had been keen when she handed them a flier?
She waited, hoping for more. Jack was getting restless.
"We should get going."
Cath tried to hide her disappointment, tried to keep her voice upbeat. She wondered if she should just cancel the trip here and now. It seemed a waste of Bill's time and the others waiting back the Reservation. She stared at her shoes and then looked up at Bill sitting in the driver's seat.
"Shall we go?" She asked tentatively.

5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.