How I know it is Spring

(a variation on a theme)

kowhai spring

  1. For weeks, throughout the city, I’ve been enjoying seeing splashes of yellow from the blooming kowhai, and even though they’re ending now, the yellow is there on the footpaths and roads and in the gutters – just a reminder of the passing seasons.
  2. I need sunglasses again to drive, though I fight against it, squinting my way along the road.
  3. There is asparagus in my fridge, and I’m starting to think about salads, and less about lamb shanks.
  4. It’s birthday season for family, and friends – so many of us have October birthdays, and it is lovely to be able to share it with them all, celebrating surviving another year on this planet.
  5. After months of living in a uniform of jeans (blue or black) with black woollen tops, dressed up or down with jackets or jerseys, it is hard to make decisions about what to wear, never knowing if it will be a last icy blast from the Antarctic, or if summer temperatures will tease.
  6. Pasta and chardonnay nights have resumed every Thursday.
  7. The cruise ships have returned to the city, though I haven’t seen any yet, and I always wonder at the hardy souls who risk coming to New Zealand in spring.
  8. Wellington’s spring winds have returned.

Inbox personalities

Some time ago, I heard a discussion on a radio podcast (and subsequently found this article that prompted it) about what our email inboxes say about our personalities.

  1. If your Inbox has many unread emails in it, then you are an Ignorer, and are amongst the most productive, recognising that emails are representative of other people’s priorities not your own.
  2. If your Inbox is empty, then you might be a bit of a control freak.
  3. If your Inbox is full, but almost all the emails are read, then you might be deluding yourself into thinking you will get around to addressing them all.

I’m a combination of an Ignorer – I leave many of the Promotional emails unread – and a Saver, as I manage to convince myself that I will get around to reading them later, especially if they sound like they might link to interesting content. The Husband is definitely a control freak with an empty Inbox, and occasionally he freaks out when he picks up my iPad and can see how many unread emails I have. But it’s like my pantry – I never know when I might need one of those spices … um … emails.

So, which category do you fit into?

A disappointed woman

I regularly feel as if my head will explode as I observe how women are still being treated and judged, and today – after watching the latest Bridgett Jones’ movie with a friend this morning, seeing the predictable and “happy” ending where she has no job, but has the man and the baby so obviously, what more could/should a woman want? – feel motivated to write something that I’ve written before, and no doubt will write again.

I am fed up that leaders of nations and those who aspire to be leaders of nations can only see women as sexual beings, or in the context of their relationships with men (as wives, daughters or mothers), rather than as real, conscious, responsible, intelligent, contributing and equal human beings

I am furious that so many men only feel personally feel offended by poor treatment or attitudes towards women if they think that their “wives and daughters” might be treated badly, but didn’t feel any concerns or were not motivated to do anything about it previously when their wives and daughters or all the other women around the world were and are still denied the right to make decisions about education, or family building, or their own bodies.

I am overwhelmed with frustration at the fact that women are still criticised for sounding strident or aggressive when a man will be called strong, that their ideas, thoughts, and voices are dismissed until a man comes up with the same idea, that their diplomacy or tact is seen as a weakness, and that these are all injustices that I have endured, and that I have seen my female family and friends endure.

I want all girls and young women (including but not only my nieces and daughters of my friends) to grow up and inhabit a world in which they are seen as individuals, not as extensions of men as wives and daughters and sisters and mothers, and not as women whose value is determined by their size and shape, their looks, or their behaviour that has to conform to a different standard than that of the men around them.

I want all girls and young women (including but not only my nieces and daughters of my friends), to have outstanding role models of both genders who are respected and fairly treated and free of judgement and harassment and stereotypes, and to grow up knowing that they are free to choose their own paths in the world, in their everyday lives, and private lives.

And I want all boys and young men (including but not only my nephews and sons of my friends) to see women as individuals in their own right, to respect and treat them fairly, never to judge and harass and impose their will or ignore their voices, to be confident enough in their own skin to never put a woman or girl down because of their gender, to see their friends and colleagues and family and community members who are women as equal as their friends and colleagues and family and community members who happen to be men.

Thirty years ago, I was a new graduate, a young feminist who was full of hope that all this would and must become a thing of the past, and now I am a jaded, tired and disappointed woman, but still, and always, a feminist.


Good food, good friends

I tortured or bored – depending on their perspective – my Fb friends on the weekend, documenting for them the six-course degustation (tasting) menu my friend and I prepared for Saturday evening.

We had made the drive out of the city and up the coast to the beach house of friends we’ve known for years. In fact, one of them remembers me from my job interview before I even moved to Wellington in 1985, and we then worked together for the next ten years, albeit sometimes in different countries. It was nice to get out of town, to enjoy their garden with flower buds and asparagus spears and spring freesias, and flowering herbs and bees and eels and one stray goose, and to walk along the beach (though we did get soaked as the squall we watched come across Kapiti Island caught us before we got home).

Preparing and eating the meal together was fun, and I definitely recommend trying it with friends. Divide up the courses, make things you can cook in advance (my lemon tart for dessert, or the beef tagine that was pre-marinated and just bubbled away in the evening till we needed it), or need little preparation (whitebait fritters, salad, or cheese board). Match the menu with wine, drink LOTS of water and make sure you don’t have to drive anywhere afterwards (we were overnight guests), size the portions accordingly, and take lots of photos.

We’re going to try it again, but might up our game next time, with a more adventurous menu – or not.


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.