Thursday, December 24, 2009

A blessed Christmas to you all

As we prepare to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, over 2000 years ago, I wish you all a very blessed time, and a happy and joyful gathering with people you care about.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Surrounding myself with experts

As I drove home in my newly warranted car this morning, I reflected on my gratitude to have around me trustworthy experts in almost every necessary field.

David Jones Motors keeps my 16 yr old Mitsubishi running well and they don't rip me off. They also explain technical matters simply for me.
Martin Geddes my dentist of the last couple of years is probably the best dentist I've ever had. Newly out from Scotland and speaking with a delightfully reassuring burr, he is proficient and efficient, careful and kind, and as I lay in his chair thingie this week while he refilled and reshaped a previously heavily filled tooth, I was mindful of how different going to the dentist is now from some of my experiences.
Peter Bannister has done stunning ophthalmic work on me, Greg Beacham continues to keep the main body engines working smoothly.
Ron Allen is a builder whose workmanship is beyond "trade" and almost into "art".

I've also had a good experience this year with a plumber, and am on the track of a good odd-job man.

All in all, I'm blessed by these people who are passionate about their work, and whose workmanship deserves loud and long applause.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Librarian - and proud of it!

I was offered a new job this week. Shoulder-tapped. It’s quite an uplifting experience. Sworn to secrecy, which isn’t, but I’m good at confidentiality.

It pays more than my current job, but not per hour, and the extra money goes absolutely nowhere to justify the hours for the type of job it is.

It’s a management position, and I told him I’d think about it, but the more he talked about what it involved, the more I knew I’d only be putting off the inevitable by not telling him then and there it wasn’t for me.

So I did, and told him I am a librarian to my very soul, which startled him not a little.

And it was his startlement that’s prompted this post.

It’s a reaction I get from time to time, and probably comes from being a professional working in a field in which all the others are experts in a different profession. Of being a librarian amongst teachers. My previous boss would, from time to time, ask me if I’d thought again about being a teacher – I had the ability, he’d say.

But ability isn’t the same as passion. I have the ability to do this job I was just offered too, but O Lord, why would I want to spend my days in that way!

And this gentleman had obviously thought I was just biding my time until I got a better offer, one from him I’d jump at.

On any survey, any form where there are list of occupational classes and you tick or click the one you fit in, there is never one for librarians, and often not even one that we fit. I usually write it down under “other – please specify” in the probably vain hope it may one day end up on a form!

So yes. I’m a librarian. Probably always was, long before I qualified. And it’s not about books on shelves, it’s about providing and facilitating access to entertainment and information, and the pleasure of browsing. For starters.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Where books come to life....

Just have to share this stunning advertisement, using the opening pages of Maurice Gee's "Going West".

Colenso BBDO produced this for the NZ Book Council, and it would have to be the ad of the decade for me. Watch it here.
Oh and they did it pro bono.
Pretty cool, Colenso.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanks Mate! Kia ora! Fa'afetai!

Here in New Zealand, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Not that we're not thankful (well maybe we're not) that we were discovered and that shiploads of new settlers arrived. Mind you, as a descendant of those settlers I'm using the "we" in rather a fourth-generational turangawaewae* way, rather than a We-Were-Here-First one.

Any google of Thanksgiving Day will fill the ether with recipes and hints on how to do everything from stuffing a turkey to making turkey handprints (what are they?) to surviving the day with your in-laws and decorating your house in Thanksgiving style (pilgrim hats? turkey feathers?)

So, Abraham Lincoln instituted the day for the United States, and they seem to be obliged now to bake pumpkin pie and - according to many of the blogs - hang out with people they'd rather not, and this close to Christmas it must all seem like they get to do it all again in a month. A practice run perhaps? A chance to do what you like at Christmas because you've already done the duty thing? Sounds exhausting anyway.

I'm sure there are families who love Thanksgiving and do it brilliantly. Which probably doesn't mean "with perfection" but "with love and good humour".

I was going to post a list of things I'm thankful for. But you wouldn't thank me for that.

It's a long list.

So, thank you God for the blessings of family and this land.

*turangawaewae - a place to stand - where one belongs - where one's family comes from

Friday, October 30, 2009

Laws and Tamaki

What's in the water I wonder? I haven't had so much amusement from the news for ages as I have in the last 24 hours. On one hand we have Brian Tamaki, the self-anointed bishop of Destiny Church, appointing 700 men of his congregation as "spiritual sons" who paid $300 each to swear a Covenant Oath which was "binding, enduring and unbreakable" to defend Tamaki against criticism and in token of which they now wear covenant rings. All of which smacks of Hitler's hold over his henchmen in the early days or of cult leaders whose followers followed to their own graves. Destiny's not quite "ruling the country in four years" as Mr Tamaki prophesied in 2004, so I guess he's getting a bit desperate that God isn't listening to him and he's being forced to take things into his own hands.

And on the other hand we have Michael Laws suggesting that certain couples that form "the underclass" be sterilised to stop child abuse. He obviously doesn't realise that abuse happens in all sorts of households all over the country. Naturally he's not the poster boy at the moment for the civil rights people.
But it's all a bit of amusement for now, so long as neither of these fellows gains too big a following and too much traction.
At the moment, it proves we live in a fairly liberally minded country, that a mayor can say what Laws has, and that a chap who fancies himself as - well as God really, can have their time on the TV news and polarise people for a while.

If I thought either of them was likely to do more damage than they're doing, I'd be the first one protesting. But for now, crikey, there's little enough to laugh at in the news!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How can I keep from singing?

As previously posted, the G&T form filling exercise gave me the direction I needed, and last night I turned up at the Civic Choir rehearsal. Here they were, must have been the best part of 100 people, three weeks out from a performance of Dvorak's Mass, and I was given the music, introduced to the other altos and invited to join in. Now that's inclusiveness! Two and a half hours later (solid work this, no chit chat!) I knew I'd found a group I would be happy working with, and graciously declined their invitation to join their performance, but will certainly be back in January. I have only a little experience of choral singing, and enjoy the result and the challenge. So much easier than playing the piano! And although fairly unacquainted with Dvorak's music, being Catholic I found the words and format of his Mass completely familiar and effortless.
January. It's in my diary.
Handel's Messiah is on their programme for next year, I SO want to be part of that!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

G & T

At work we've been asked to complete a questionnaire about the work we do with Gifted & Talented Students (capitals because it's a category), and about our own gifts and talents so that we may be used to best advantage (of the school and the G&Ts). I've swung from being inclined to leave the section of my own gs&ts blank, or to attach an extra page and give full rein to them.

I read poetry.
A talent? Maybe. A gift certainly.
To take pleasure in word-pictures, and in the words themselves. The juxtaposition of them. (What a delicious word that is!)
And I have a collection of several hundred poetry books. No talent there, but they are gift to me. These shelves of richness also mean I've got a good chance of finding that obscure poem you wanted. Mind you, I could do it more quickly on google, but without the luscious pleasure of choosing a volume - not to be rushed, this - and checking the index. I adore indices! Full, rich, accurate lists with subentries! So I look along the shelves. . . I'm sitting on the floor as my poetry fills low shelves in that ridiculous part of the wall under the windows, and I'm revisiting old friends, and some that seem like strangers cos I've forgotten that I own them. Mostly they're from second hand book sales and galas, but there are some opulent brand new volumes, worth every dollar of their brand new price, or gifts from people who love me. And an hour or so later I'm moving stiffly, surrounded by books I've taken from their place, and vaguely wondering what it was I was doing before I started this quest....
I doubt this is what They meant.

I write.
Again, not talent, but gift.
Although I HAVE been published, and paid for it. Twice! Probably doesn't qualify me as talented though.
But writing is as breathing to me - necessary, automatic, life-giving.
I've already been asked to run a writing group, and They don't actually know that I write. I might put that down. "writing".

I cook. Sometimes with amazing talent. Sometimes much less so.
Likewise I sew.
I have no intention of running a cooking or sewing group.
It's probably not what They envisage G&T students should be doing anyway.
Special Needs kids often cook at our school. Don't know whether they sew.

And for all that I sing, and sometimes in public, I doubt They'd want me for that either. There are better than me. But I sing as I write, with joy and because it's part of what makes me Me.

I have a talent for getting lost.
Ahh this could be useful. Not the getting lost, but I have had to teach myself coping strategies for the times I find myself somewhere alien with absolutely no idea of the relationship between where I am and where I was or where I want to be. I could share coping skills.
Somehow I can't see that appealing either.

Diabolical sudoku? I could teach logic skills, predictive deductions....

I did have fun with the Kids' Lit Quiz team earlier this year - those kids were such hungry readers, with prodigious memories of everything they'd ever read! That was fun. I'll do that again!

It's all been a rather interesting exercise. Not on account of the G&Ts, but because I really need to get out and do something with other people. For months I've pondered the possibilities. But now I see where I might start.
There's a Poetry at the Pub on a Monday night. That's a possibility. Going on my own could be a challenge, to something like that. Or am I making excuses again?
And apparently we have an "all-comers civic choir"! From the website, "choir" isn't as classical or as boring as it sounds. They seem to have a very eclectic repertoire. They'd need to - I mean, how much enthusiasm can one have for "I love to go a-wandering along the mountain track"?
That's on a Tuesday night.
I might just go along next week.

And as for the G&T form, oh I'll put something.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Agony and the Ecstasy

In the last month, two of my daughters have had babies. In fact in the last couple of years, I’ve amassed a wonderful five grandchildren! These precious little beings are such a joy to everyone who meets them, if at times a worry to their parents.

I can relate cute stories of what each of them did or said or how they reacted, and I frequently do, stopping only when the eyes of my listener glaze over and I realise they’ve heard enough to know I adore my babies!

I’ve earned the right to bore people. Because the hardest, most worrying time of all, is having your daughter in labour. I think I hold my breath for the entire duration, from the moment I realise they’re having early symptoms until I know both she and the babe are safe. It’s scary stuff. This daughter, this precious babe of my own, is roller-coasting into a new life of her own, one with yet another new life alongside hers. There is so much that can go wrong. And yet, marvellously, so often, it all goes so very right - the difficult hurdles are cleared, the dangerous traps are avoided, and the less than perfect outcomes are repaired.

And Nana has another new little baby to love.

The two new grandbabies

Friday, September 4, 2009

Muslim woman barred from Hastings Court... Part 2

I knew there would be fallout, but in my naivety, I didn't expect it to be as it has been.
Letters and texts to the Editor in the HB Today have easily fallen four-to-one in favour of "Good on you Judge" and more stupidly "Go back to where you came from" to Ms Ali.
Stupidly, because Ms Ali is a New Zealand Maori who is a Muslim.
Not all Muslims are refugees!! And Muslim is a religion not a country!
So sad to be living among such ignorant, bigoted people who operate in George Bush's climate of fear.
Judge Rea said he misinterpreted the reason for the wearing of the hijab - he thought it was a protest. Heaven preserve us all.
I am told by a senior official of the Courts that the Judge had had a particularly hard day, and one can have some sympathy with that, but I think it's at times of stress that one's personal prejudices leak out. And unfortunately someone of his standing taking such action has given the locals a figurehead to attach their prejudices to, and given them courage to race into print applauding his "stand" which he now declares a mistake.
Not a good week for racial conciliation.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Judge bars Muslim woman from Hastings Court because she wears headscarf

I am appalled, gobsmacked and outraged.
In Hastings today - Hastings, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand - a judge barred a local Hastings woman from entering the courtroom because she was wearing her Hijab or headscarf.
As you can see, this is not a burqa or a yashmak, this is a hijab, not covering her face, which is the problem with hoodies which are banned in courts.
This happened today, in Hastings. I am totally appalled.
As an aside, for once the local paper, Hawkes Bay Today, had an appropriate front page. Far too often it's silly local stories that are trite - even embarrassingly so. Today, the editor recognised the importance of this story and gave it the prominence it deserves.
I await the fallout. Judge Rea made a major error of judgement.
Ms Yasmeen Ali, picture aboved, was, by the way, supporting a family member and was not on trial.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Looking after myself

A couple of years ago, circumstances were such that people gathered around in support, and when leaving, most of them would hug me and say "look after yourself, won't you". I knew what they meant. It's what you say when you care and don't know what to say.

For the next year or so in dark times, "look after yourself" seemed a kind of useless black joke.
"Yeah right!" I'd think. "And how do I do that? And why should I bother? And...." well you get the picture. Worse than useless, those words seemed patronising and a way for others to go back to their own comfy lives mistakenly feeling they'd done something useful.

Ah but now I see. Now those words mean something quite different. Now "look after yourself" means "do first the thing that is about you". So the veges wait while I put on a jersey. The folding waits while I make a cup of tea. I can sit in the sun with a book until I feel like doing something else.
So many people telling me to look after myself has given me permission to do just that.

So if you were one of them, thank you.
I am looking after myself.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Paula Bennett - Playing the Man not the Ball...

I had such hopes for Paula Bennett.
I thought she’d bring a bit of left-wing balance to the National Government – but she’s displaying every sign of having used her solo Mum status to gain votes - “I understand you! I too was on the DPB! I owe my current circumstances to the benefit and the social policies of this country!” – only to stamp on the very people she wooed a few short months ago.

The basic story is that two women complained how hard it was to obtain training so that they were employable and no longer needed the benefit, now that the Training Incentive Allowance has been cut. Ms Bennett decided to show the world that life was actually not so tough for these women by publicising the amount they receive as their legal entitlement to State support. The points concerning the Privacy Act are very well made by Strong Light here.

My concern is that Ms Bennett didn’t seem to realise that in her position, she can’t whack someone with personal details of their own life just because they criticised a decision that she is responsible for. Or that it’s not a nice thing for anyone to do in any circumstances. It’s not how you make friends, it’s not how you get yourself up the ladder. Hasn’t she heard of subtlety?!

I would imagine she’ll be facing a complaint and investigation by the Privacy Commissioner. (Maybe when she finds herself once more out of a job she might consider taking some training in the art of debate.)
Based on her responses so far, her defence is likely to be that it was the fault of the women she has attacked, that they started it, they swung the handbag first.
Yep, she may well plead provocation.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Folic Acid - more questions than answers

Faster! Cheaper! Greater profits!
Mass production and the industrialisation of our food industry have meant that during processing, certain vitamins, minerals and other elements that occur naturally, are removed, damaged or diminished. Folate is such a one, in the production of flour. We all - not just women of child-bearing age - need more folate than most of us are currently getting.
So here we are at the point at which the question being asked is, do we fortify our bread with synthetic folate - (folic acid)?

I have a deep-seated distrust of synthetic additives, and similarly of the use of antibiotics in the food industry. Antibiotics have been used in meat, milk and egg production in New Zealand since government approval in the 1960s.

Coincidentally or not, the beginning of the explosion in our rates of cancer and hyperactivity bears an uncanny relationship to the decades in which synthetic colourings, flavourings, antibiotics and other additives started being widely used in our food.
For instance, the coal-tar derived dye tartrazine (E102) was diverted from the textile industry to the food industry (ever wondered why orange fizzy stains your carpet?) and almost immediately was indicated in a previously unrecognised condition, hyperactivity, along with increased urticarea and a raft of other health issues. (Oh while we’re at it, let’s add E102 to antibiotics! What about giving amoxicillin a banana flavour and colour!) This was in the late 1950s, but it's still being used in food!

We can't all grow our own food. We rely on the producers, processors and supervisory agencies to provide us with a healthy product. But we would be naive to think that all of them have only our best interests at heart.

So my as yet unanswered questions are:
  1. Is folic acid, in the doses in which it will be used in bread, guaranteed safe long term? The studies that showed there was some increase in the rates of colon and prostate cancer seem to be overshadowed by new studies showing there is no risk. Pardon my scepticism but for the manufacturers of the folic acid additive, that must have been such an economically well-timed announcement.
  2. Is there no way in which processing could be done to protect the naturally occurring folate in wheat and other staples?
  3. There is no mention of any benefits being derived to pregnant women who eat fewer than 11 slices a day. Are there any? Does eating three slices, for instance, confer some - though milder - protection against neural tube defects?
In the absence of answers, I'd prefer not to have the synthetic folic acid added to all bread.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Smacking Referendum

I smacked my children. When they were disobedient or naughty, as one of a raft of disciplinary techniques, they sometimes got a smack. Twenty, thirty years ago, when I was bringing up children, this was the acceptable way of training a child. It was more acceptable to have a child screaming in the supermarket because their tantrum had been dealt with by a smack, than it was to have the mother ignoring the tantrum and walking away, refusing to give the child the attention they demanded. I know this, because I walked away from any of my children who threw tantrums, public places or not. And my reaction to my child's tantrum drew me the opprobrious looks of others.

In 2007 the Crimes Act was amended so that "parental discipline" couldn't be used as a defence against assault. And now it's 2009 and we're asked again whether a smack should be a crime.

It seems that to those trying to reduce the amount of violence in this country, it has appeared an obvious place to start.
To one of my age and experience, it's confusing. And the confusion requires either a repudiation of the "anti-smacking brigade", an admission that what was normal 20 years ago was wrong, or it requires reflection to discover a new truth.

There are many facets to physical punishment of a child.
In the time and culture in which smacking was the main accepted means of showing who was the one in control, it was for the most part not about abuse. (Here I mean the abuse which has more in common with torture than with loving correction.) It was about discipline, about training, about control. And I make no apology for suggesting that a parent should actually act like the adult in the relationship, and be in control.

But what if that smack because a child constantly disobeyed, pocketed sweets in the supermarket and didn't show any form of understanding that this was wrong - what if that smack - despite taking the child back to apologise and give the sweets back - what if that smack was administered again and again out of desperation and a sense of failure to have taught this child the evils of stealing, and with a sense of a criminal future looming? What if that smack on a Tuesday made it easier to smack again on a Wednesday, and in a moment of anger or resentment or stress - maybe having nothing to do with this particular child at this particular moment - what if that smack turns into something more?

Maybe if the parent has never smacked the child, the possibility of the "something more" just doesn't happen?

But I don't think that outlawing smacking will do a huge amount to stem the real abuse of children in this country.

However I do think there are better ways to discipline a child.

For children who grew up in a culture in which discipline = smacking and who are now the parents of children themselves, a new way of helping a child become the person he or she was born to be, may not be obvious.

The discipline void left by outlawing smacking must be filled with education and showing a new way forward.
I haven't seen this. I haven't seen the info-mercials in our lounge every night showing a better way. Where are they?

I think the handling of the whole "let's not smack children any more" movement has been sadly lacking in common sense. This was a matter that should have started off, not in the halls of power and law, but in our homes. The country is polarised by the repeal of the old Section 59 of the Crimes Act and its replacement with a new Section 59 not because of the effect of it, but because of the way it was handled. In effect, the changing of the law, without the education of the people, is as heavy handed as the behaviour it was designed to stop.

And where has the education been since the amended law was passed?
I don't believe all the dissension over the "anti-smacking law" is because parents want to smack their children, but because they have been dumped on from a great height (Parliament) with a law that tells them they have been wrong - criminally wrong - all these years, and yet they have not been given a plan for how to safely and correctly discipline their children now.
If the people had been trusted with the information about the negative aspects of smacking, shown alternative ways, been part of a campaign to change behaviour which was THEN enshrined in law, this referendum wouldn't be happening.

There are indeed better ways of training a child than using force.
But I don't think a well timed and placed smack as part of parental correction should be a criminal offence.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


This entry is part of an on-line exquisite corpse – a short story told in 10 instalments by 10 different authors. My 250 word instalment is below; if you’re interested in writing the next part, scroll down to the bottom of this post for details on how this all works…


...her tingling hand, and resisting the urge to slap him again, Dianne forged ahead through the undergrowth. Peter watched her go, watched her put distance between them.

It wasn't over yet, as she would soon realise.
He didn't give up that easily.

The quad bikes were where they'd left them. Dianne jumped on one, gunning it into action, and took off.

Somewhere up ahead in the cabin were Bruce and his antiques. Doctoring his drink had been such a good idea. He didn't know what day it was most of the time, didn't notice things around him disappearing. But now she was ready for the big payoff. No more small stuff, she wanted the lot. And she was going to get it.

And Peter wasn't part of the equation.

Panting and tripping, he stumbled over the uneven ground, the handprint on his face livid and stinging. Thank God the bikes weren't far away.

Bloody Bruce, the drink made him so reliably unreliable. Anything could have gone wrong - heaven knows what they'd find when they got there. All he could think of was Bruce, reclusive old guy up there all by himself all these years ...

Suddenly he was deafened by an explosion as Dianne and the quad erupted into a fireball of burning metal.

He nodded, satisfied, as again he fingered the remote controls on his belt.

Another touch, and ahead in the cabin, the cold metallic finger of steel slowly retracted from Bruce's stomach as the . . .


This is part 9 of 10. You can find the other instalments here (but DON’T DO THIS YET if you want to join in):

1. (26 June 2009)
2. (27 June 2009)
3. (29 June 2009)
4. (1 July 2009)
5. (1 July 2009)
6. (2 July 2009)
7. (2 July 2009)
8. (7th July 2009)
9. (9 July 2009)

WANT TO READ IT? Jump back to the previous entries using the links above.

WANT TO JOIN IN? This exquisite corpse operates on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to write the next installment, FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS:

1.IMPORTANT – Don’t read any of the previous entries! Read only the one you see here.

2.ALSO IMPORTANT – Post a comment here, saying “I claim the next entry”, followed by the URL/web address of your blog. If you don’t do this, we’ll never know where to find you.

3.Copy the text of this blog entry into a new post on your blog, but DELETE THE CHAPTER and write your own as the next installment. Start with the chapter number as I’ve done here, and start exactly where the last chapter left off (in mid-sentence if necessary).

4.Your entry should be EXACTLY 250 words long, unless you are writing chapter 10, in which case you must bring the story to a conclusion in 250 words or less.

5.At the end of the chapter, where the text reads: “This is part X of 10″, change this to the number of your chapter.

6.Add the URL/web address of your blog and today’s date onto the list below that, so people reading later entries can jump back to your chapter.

7.Finish your chapter and post it within 24 hours of claiming your place. There – it’s freaking easy! You can go back and read the rest of the story now.

8.IF YOU’VE JUST FINISHED ENTRY #10 and finished the story, DELETE THESE INSTRUCTIONS from the bottom of your post – they’ll just confuse people. ALSO, let CG know by posting a comment on the first entry (on, or sending him an email on CG will assemble a full version and send it round to all of the contributors.