What Charlie Taught Me

(The 14th in a continuing series)

  • It doesn’t matter if you do something that’s unusual or a bit weird, because that’s you and that’s good.
  • Quirky clothing (eg. hoodies with cats ears) is fun.
  • I should trust her judgement. “It’s going to be awesome,” she whispered, as Pete’s Dragon started, and she was right.
  • Practising your hand-eye coordination will give you skills.
  • Strawberry ice-cream and a very very good chocolate cake is a good combination.
  • Best friends are to be cherished.
  • So are aunts.

Lessons in compassion

I used to think that someone had “just” broken their ankle, perhaps because it seemed reasonably common and I’d never had cause to think about it seriously. Now, unfortunately, I know that broken ankles involve complicated joints, that internal swelling might last for up to a year and prevent a full range of movement, and that as a result, healing can take a long time – and that is completely normal. This is a good lesson to show compassion to anyone who suffers an injury I have never experienced.

Why do people tell someone who has suffered an accident that they will never heal fully, and/or that their injured part will “never be the same again?” Three people have unhelpfully said this to me about my broken ankle, either unthinkingly or deliberately ruining my day.

First, it is the expectation of my medical advisors that I will rehabilitate and get back to normal again, as long as I do all my physiotherapy, so unless you are a surgeon, sports doctor or physiotherapist, how would you actually know? Secondly, what does this statement achieve, other than ruining my day, and reminding me never to seek empathy from them in the future?

I guess that’s why I haven’t told quite so many people about my ruined knee … well, until now.

Just “being” with friends

Our bus trip to Roi Et in August 1980 took eight hours but cost us only 76 baht (about US$3). There was, needless to say, no air-conditioning, and the seats were crammed in, suitable for Thai sized persons, but not for me; my diary notes simply that it was “very uncomfortable.” Perhaps these things are easier to deal with when you are 17.

We arrived at 5.30 am, and went straight to Sharon’s house, bathing off the bus sweat and then collapsing, all four of us, for a few hours. We – two American girls and two Kiwi girls – spent the rest of the day just hanging out in this small town in the northeast of Thailand. Later, after school finished, another American AFS student joined us, and we went out to eat ice-cream together, finding a real joy in simply being together, talking, laughing, being kids, without the ever-present pressure to be the polite, interested or engaged exchange student, to make an effort to speak Thai, to always be happy, to represent our countries.

A few afternoons later, after we had returned from our overnight trip to the neighbouring town of Kalasin to celebrate another AFSer’s birthday, Sharon put on her James Taylor tape and we collapsed again on her bed. Now, whenever I hear “You’ve got a friend” or “Fire and Rain,” I think of that trip, and remember Sharon B, Sharon M, Nicki (no longer with us), Peter and Rusty, and I smile.


I loved Anne Frank’s diary, and I was thrilled to be able to visit her house. But from the first time I read her book, I have wondered uncomfortably if she would have approved of her innermost thoughts becoming so very public.

Today, Mother Teresa has been much in the news. I heard a discussion of her thoughts about her dark times, written in private letters she had, apparently, never wanted to be made public. What a disgusting violation, that her express wishes were ignored. Was it by the recipient of the letters, or the Church in their quest to fund a modern and popular Saint, or members of the media, or someone else she trusted? It seems to me to be the ultimate betrayal, yet one that, in the circumstances of a public or historic figure, is universally ignored and excused, as we – like vultures – pick over their most private thoughts shared with a trusted confidante. Does our privacy end with our death?

Right Now … (#2)

I last did this in January, before all hell broke loose in 2016. Here’s my Spring version, on this first day of September:

Reading: Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier is next on my list. I just finished (this morning) Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga, which has left me feeling a little wrung out, so I might see if I can find something else light to read first. I still haven’t got back to Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings, that I wrote about in my January version of “Right Now.” I had to return it to the library (no option to renew this one digitally), and haven’t picked it up again!

Watching: Nothing specific. I’m carefully rationing the latest series of Suits, and late at night when I can’t get the energy to go to bed and there’s nothing else to watch, I’m ashamed to admit I turn to Say Yes to the Dress. I am amazed at the appalling wedding dresses some people will buy for thousands and thousands of dollars. The higher their budget, often the more hideous the dresses! As a feminist, I’m also more than a little disgusted at the immaturity of many of the brides, their overwhelming desire to be “a princess,” and the shamefully selfish and indulged “daddy’s little girls” even though they are supposedly mature adults, not to mention the appalling behaviour of sisters/friends and mothers trying to make it all about them. It’s frequently ghastly, but I think that’s exactly why I’ve been watching it!

Listening: Still listening to RNZ National, though not all the time now. One of the key interviewers has become far too fond of her own voice and has forgotten the art of asking a simple question and letting the interviewee answer it, so instead tells them what she thinks they should say! This started around the time she won a big international radio award as a great interviewer last year. Sigh. It is infuriating, especially as she interviews some really interesting people. Still, I learn a lot listening to the radio, but I’m learning more from reading these days.

Following: The US elections, which are so appalling that I can’t tear myself away. Also the burkini debate – I’m thinking of writing a post, even though I don’t necessarily have anything new to say, simply because I have such strong feelings about it.

Drinking: Lingering over coffee at cafes with a digital book on my iPad or phone, various teas (green tea with lunch, and chamomile at night), and the occasional glass of wine at night. Winter colds have meant we have cut down wine consumption quite a lot the last few months. Though I’m looking forward to pasta and chardonnay Thursdays starting again in a few weeks.

Eating: A lot of pumpkin, because my father-in-law has had some huge ones out of his garden. I made a large batch of pumpkin gnocchi and froze seven or so bags, and I’ve also just frozen a lot of roast pumpkin puree. So if I want, I can make some more pumpkin gnocchi, or pumpkin soup, or curried pumpkin on pasta.

Anticipating: I’m a bit scared to anticipate anything right at the moment. My husband’s contract is about to end, so that’s both good (we’ll have more time together, and can take some road trips) and bad, as the money will stop coming in. Hoping for a trip further afield next year, so looking forward to that, but we have to be able to afford it, so that will dictate the destination. But I’ve also just been referred to a surgeon, too, so I’m anticipating possible knee surgery, hoping that it will make me a little more mobile, but aware too that it may require a complete change in my workouts, including location, and I’m not thrilled about that. On a positive note, spring and summer are coming up, but I’m not really thinking about them yet.

Contemplating: Contemplating the future has been a bit harder this year, what with a number of things that have occurred. So maybe I’m contemplating the need to enjoy life when it is restricted, and what I need to change to be able to take more pleasure in that. Also, as always, contemplating how to make some money somewhere somehow that isn’t going to drive me insane.

Loving: My new phone – a Huawei P9 lite. It is so much faster than my old Samsung, the photos are so much better, and it just seems easier to use.


Written word vs Videos

I heard the other day that a media commentator was predicting the obsolescence of the written word on social media in just a few years, replaced instead by small videos.

I shuddered.

Okay, I might want to see some, because I would love to see (and hear) my international friends and family in a small video, to feel more connected to them, but they need to be interspersed with words, written words, too. I wouldn’t be recording small videos to make my posts either – I don’t do selfies, so I’m hardly like to do selfie-videos.

I check social media and other online sites when I’m doing other things, or when I’m already listening to spoken words or watching people or images, or in public places where playing video isn’t appropriate. I want to be able to scan something quickly (an article, a post, a recipe), and decide if I want to return to it later, or give it my full attention now, but I can’t preview a video, instead I’m reliant on the pace, the content, and the volume that are all set by someone else. Videos take the control away from me, and I already dislike their growing prevalence.

Do you prefer words or video?

Olympics: Rio Thoughts

I pretty much said it all four years ago, here and here, but there are a few things to add.

  • Google’s coverage of the Olympics was brilliant, from the detailed schedules letting me know when I could sleep and when I needed to wake up, to the minute by minute updates of the field events, with distances or heights, making it easy to keep track of the competitors and where they stood.
  • I love watching the long jump and the high jump, but I find it takes a bit out of me. I physically tense up as the athletes reach the take-off, and mentally leap with them, straining to propel them over the bar or further in the pit. I don’t quite throw with the athletes in the shot put or javelin, but almost.
  • Watching the triple jump reminded me of doing the triple jump at primary school, back when we called it the Hop, Step, and Jump, but in secondary school, the triple jump was only for boys, as it was considered to be too onerous or damaging for women’s hips or officials were worried that we would swoon between the Hop and Step or something. It has only been an Olympic event for women since 1996.
  • It was nice to see that the dignity my cousin’s daughter showed four years ago (when she was ousted from her place in the team by a legal technicality that had nothing to do with her) paid off this time, when for several days she became New Zealand’s media darling.
  • I applauded the advent of women athletes wearing the “boy short” style running pants, which looked so much more comfortable because they’re there to compete, not show off their bodies, and of course, I am still appalled at the variation in the uniform requirements for the beach volleyball players.
  • I now want to go to Rio, as I loved seeing the city – the rowing course was stunning, and the bonus was that the medal winners could watch their flags rise with the backdrop of the famous Corcovado peak and statue.