Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

When I was little, my aunt, the youngest of my mother’s siblings, was the height of sophistication. She lived and worked in Wellington, and had lived overseas, in the exotic if small Solomon Islands. To a little girl (and then a not-so-little teenager) she was proof that there was a life outside my small rural district.

More than that, she was proof that you could grow up there, with no money, and the world could still be your oyster. Because of her, I never questioned that I could have a role in whatever field I chose. She showed that maybe I could belong there too, amongst politicians and journalists and businesspeople. She also proved that women could rise in a man’s world, becoming the editor of Rural Report, the daily radio news programme about developments in rural life and business, so important to NZ’s economy then and now.

At one time, I would have said her role as a successful woman  influenced me the most. But these days, I’m not so sure. As I see the advantages that the children of my friends and relatives have because of the experience and careers of their parents, the confidence and even entitlement they have that they deserve to be in these worlds, I see how much harder it was for us. Without Irene as an example, I might have questioned my worthiness more. And believe me, imposter syndrome has me doing that quite often enough!

She also told me, and taught by example, that you didn’t have to be a loud, aggressive journalist to succeed, to get the answers you wanted. That gave me confidence to know that I could achieve the same or better results as a male diplomat or business person by approaching things differently. And experiences proved that.

I still remember the beginning of a line of a feature written about her in “The Listener,” the first time I’d ever read anything about a woman from Waimate in a national magazine.

“You’d think that Irene S had never placed her elegantly-shod feet in anything but an executive shag-pile carpet, but …”

That line just showed me the possibilities of life.

Irene wasn’t a constant presence in our lives. She lived far away, and she wasn’t a great correspondent, and phone calls were rare. But when we saw her, and her gregarious, funny husband, and cool, creative daughter, we had her attention. She never looked down on us. She was calm and kind and, as her sister-in-law said this week, full of grace. A Strong, tranquil, Rose.

We lost Irene this last week. In reality, we lost her some years ago, a particularly difficult situation for my cousin D to deal with. As D said once, “words had been her life, then very quickly words were taken from her.” Her dementia was much more unkind – no, cruel – than that my mother suffered. Her end was peaceful, and for that I am grateful.

My heart this week has been with D and B. Memories of Irene have comforted me, and I hope will continue to comfort them through the next days, weeks, months and years. We were lucky to have her in our lives.

Read Full Post »

For 18 years we had at least one cat. We got them as kittens in 1993, shortly after we returned from Thailand, and almost immediately after we had moved into our new house. This house. One of the things that made me feel that the house was right for me was a cat lying in the sun in the window when we first visited. Cleo and Gershwin were good cats. They tolerated being fed at different hours in the evening, we had a fake Christmas tree every year and the worst they did to it was redistribute one or two ornaments on the floor overnight, and they never destroyed our curtains or furniture. Gershwin had a drooling problem, and Cleo liked to tap the bedroom door to be let in starting at about 6 am, but these were minor issues, and we loved them.

Gershwin gave up the ghost when we were in Malaysia on holiday in 2010, and we had Cleo alone for almost another year. The house seemed empty without them. They were part of so much of our lives. They saw us through good times, and comforted us during bad. When they died, we took some time. We had been travelling at least once a year, and wanted to continue to do that without worrying too much about putting cats into a cattery every time. With two, it got expensive, even though all the different catteries cheated and put them both together (which was never ideal), and they always took time to adapt when they got home. Anyway, we took a break from cats.

After our six month Middle Eastern/European trip in 2013, it might have been a good time to get cats again, as it led into quite a long period of no big trips. We didn’t know this would happen at the time, of course, but I had some health issues, we had a lot of eldercare issues both in this city and elsewhere, I broke my ankle, and then there was a pandemic! So it could have been a decent time to still have cats.

Post-pandemic, and now with no responsibilities keeping us here, we hope to have a few years of intensive travelling, but we don’t know yet if that will even be possible. After that though we might be able to get a cat or two – but the fact that they can live till they’re close to 20 means that they are a big commitment. And their care issues become much more complicated in their later years. Would I cope? Would I be able to have cats if we (or one of us) had to move? After all, in 20 years time, we will (if we’re lucky) be in our later years too. What if new cats weren’t as easy as Cleo and Gershwin?

We’ve always said we’d like to have cats again. (Funnily, two days after I’d written the first draft of this post, we passed a pet store and my husband suggested we go in and look at the kittens.) I miss having cats around the house. There’s nothing like having a cat in my lap, or snuggled up next to me on the bed or the couch, or purring loudly curled up in a box behind my desk when I am here blogging. There are real mental health benefits to having pets too, especially as we age. Sigh. I am definitely a cat person. But I’m a bit worried. Have I missed my cat window? I hope not.

Read Full Post »

  • It’s the end of Easter Weekend here in New Zealand. We get Monday as a public holiday, and schools get an additional day tomorrow, so many people travel over this period. We had been expecting my sister and niece to drop in on their way elsewhere (to meet up with their husband/father), but the thought of travelling on a ferry in gale force winds on Friday was not very appealing, so they came for the weekend, joined by my brother-in-law on Saturday afternoon who took the ferry back to us on a lovely calm day. It’s been lovely, but I will admit that today has been a lazy day (they left on their seven-hour drive home this morning) and I’m refusing to cook tonight!
  • I will say that I outdid myself in terms of feeding the troops. Charlie is now 12 (almost 13), at high school, and interested in all sorts of different food. Which is fine with me, and my sister loves it! So I cooked them my favourite Thai picnic for dinner on Friday, homemade pies and pizza for Saturday night, and last night a veritable feast of Malaysian beef rendang (though would be divine with eggplant and/or root veges and/or any other vegetables) with roti canai bread, and a korma vegetable dish. There was homemade passionfruit ice-cream for afters, and last night, a homemade marshmallow Easter egg, which impressed the socks off them. I like cooking for appreciative guests! And on Saturday we went out for yum cha (dim sum) at a bustling Chinese restaurant.
  • In turn, they delivered capsicums from their garden and avocados from their trees, and I enjoyed avocado and marmite on toast for breakfast this morning. Yum. Their avocados are always delicious and blemish-free.
  • Needless to say, I have a lot of exercise planned for this week to make up. Because going shopping with my niece, and to the museum with my sister, did not produce nearly enough steps to work all that off!
  • Even though the temperatures are now mild, everything feels like autumn, almost wintry. And on Saturday night, our clocks went back, and the sun sets around six now. That means that there will be no more pasta chardonnay nights (when my husband plays summer golf), so I’ll have to fit these into my week some other way. Winter, therefore, is not that far away. I think I’m ready for that now. I was not ready a few weeks ago.
  • For us, lockdown last year feels a long time away. I hope that isn’t a case of “famous last words.” Every few days I rejoice with friends and family overseas who report they have had their first or second dose of a COVID vaccination. Ours won’t come till later in the year, we know. We hope that this lack of urgency won’t make us vulnerable to new strains arriving.
  • We’re hopeful in NZ for the announcement of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand this week. Both countries have required two-week hotel quarantine for visitors, though some states in Australia lifted it for travel from New Zealand late last year. The bubble will mean that quarantine-free travel between our two countries will be possible, though state-by-state restrictions may be imposed as circumstances change. We have no plans to travel to Australia in the short term, though we might consider it later this year. But it will be great for family reunifications. My sister, for example, is hoping to meet her eight-month-old grandson for the first time.
  • I have a self-imposed moratorium on going to any wool shops until I knit a few more tea cosies. I’m currently working on a different rooster pattern, and have several more exotic patterns planned as gifts. So far, they’re being well received. Either that or my friends and family are very polite!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »