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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

In the last week or so, our Prime Minister was embroiled in an argument in Australia, when a shock-jock Radio DJ commented that the Australian Prime Minister should “shove a sock down her throat.” Rightly, the violence and innate misogyny of the comment was widely deplored, including by Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, who said, “I find that very disappointing, and of course, that’s way out of line.”

He could have left it at that, but he added, “I have two daughters, so you can expect that’s how I would feel personally about it.”

Why did he feel the need to say that? Didn’t he understand that women deserved respect before he had daughters? Didn’t he speak out against obvious misogyny before he had daughters? Didn’t he object to obvious violent threats against women before he had daughters? How does his wife feel about this? She was around before his daughters. Was he so unaware of gender issues and sexism that it never occurred to him before having daughters? Or did he just not care?

Not to mention that by equating the leader of his neighbouring country with his daughters, he is infantilising her, suggesting she is in need of his protection, that he’s a father figure.

Why are men so proud of defending women’s rights because they have daughters?  I don’t get it. And clearly, they don’t either, because if they thought about what they’re saying, they might actually understand.

C’mon, blokes. You either support and defend women’s rights or you don’t. By stressing that you support women and object to offensive language and behaviour about them because you have daughters, you’re not endearing yourself to women. Or not this one, at least. You’re saying that if you didn’t have daughters, you would be less appalled. That you’ve never seen women as your peers, that you accepted misogyny and discrimination in the past, that you never saw us as people. You’re boasting that you felt free to ignore our issues until you had daughters.

In fact, it is almost as if you are justifying your position to your fellow men, using your daughters as an excuse for your defence of women. As if that is something that needs to be explained away.

No surprise that I am, quite frankly, sick to death of a man’s defence of women’s rights coming with the qualifier, “I have daughters.”

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Right Now (#7)

Reading: I seemed to rediscover my reading mojo in Japan. In the last two and a half months, I’ve read a total of thirteen books, which is a huge number for me in the last ten or so years. One was even an actual, hold-in-your-hand paper book that my sister loaned me last week! I read it yesterday, all day. I’m reading books that just appeal, or hold my attention, rather than trying for “worthy” books, and I’ve been really enjoying the process of reading.

There’s been a real variety, set in Italy, England, Australia and the US, and ranging from Tudor times to the 1920s to the present day. They were largely three and four-star reads. These were probably my favourites:

Kill the Father by Sandrone Dazieri
Different Class by Joanne Harris
Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Watching: I’ve been through a crime phase. My husband and I binge-watched Line of Duty from Netflix, and when that was finished, I finally succumbed to his exhortations, and watched Shetland. I raced through it, and loved it. Netflix NZ only has three series, but there have been more made, so I’m looking forward to that. The first series (only six-eight episodes per series) was more like a classic crime series, essentially introducing all the characters. The second series though follows through one main case, and was gripping. I loved the scenery, and the accents.

Listening: I’m currently listening to Radio NZ National as I usually do. I went walking today, and listened again to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie which is brilliantly told. It’s his autobiography, and I am thoroughly enjoying it, but as it is a library book, I can see it’s going to expire before I can finish it.

Following: I’m trying not to follow global politics because it is frustrating. There are a few very interesting issues going through our Parliament at the moment, both of which will be conscience votes (rather than along party lines). I’m interested in the progress of both. The first updates to our abortion laws since the 1970s are being addressed, which is about time, if you ask me! A Bill looking at voluntary euthanasia is also being addressed. Having watched my parents and my in-laws, and thinking about my own circumstances, I have some strong opinions on this.

Drinking: I’ve been enjoying wine again, after seven weeks in Asia when we didn’t drink any at all. It was strictly beer and cocktails. I found myself surveying our hotels’ Mai Tais in Vietnam. The Hanoi hotel won, because the drinks were delicious, the air-conditioning was strong (it was 39C outside), and the lobby bar was elegant. But happy hour at the beach pool was good too.

Eating: Healthily, in bursts. It’s the middle of winter, so I’m enjoying hearty Thai curries once a week, and noodle soup occasionally for lunch. Now that I write this, I’m feeling the urge for a roast lamb dinner sometime soon.

Anticipating: Getting together with some friends tomorrow night. We haven’t seen them since we went to Asia, so it will be fun to catch up. Wellington restaurants are in the middle of August’s Wellington on a Plate, so we’re going to try one of the “Festival Dishes.” Then in the last half of August, the Burger Wellington competition will be in full swing. I love burgers, but hardly ever eat them, so I’m determined to get out and try a few of the offerings. There are lots of interesting versions with Asian flavours that sound fun.

Contemplating: The next few years, as the relative freedom I had expected to return to – and which I was looking forward to enjoying – after our trip has disappeared, and so I’ll need to refocus my plans.

Loving: The winter! Believe it or not, I’m relishing the cooler weather after the hot weather on our trip. Last week I was down in the cold south and loved the zero degree temperatures they get at night, and continually exclaimed over the snowy mountains I saw on the seven-hour road trip I took with my sister and niece.  Winter is great if I’m warm and cosy inside.

 

Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series every few months.

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Life is short

From the fun of remembering our trip last week, I’ve been brought down to earth with a thud. I was given a harsh reminder that life is short, losing one of the cousins who was closest to my age. She was, reportedly, cheerful to the end, truly herself. Although sadly, the end came months sooner than expected, and years before it should have. For all the wonders of medical science, for all the other efforts that people think helps, nothing could be done for her.

So I’m flying south tomorrow for her funeral. It will be cold and wintry – they’ve just had a southerly blast come through, with snowfall down to sea level (unusual in NZ). But it will be a chance to remember J, and to reconnect with her brothers and their families, and with another favourite cousin who lives in the region, as well as with my sister and her family on the drive into the deep south. Human connection is important, and this has reminded me of that in the unkindest way.

So I’m hoping too to catch up with some other friends soon. There’s a food festival on this month to brighten up the winter, and what better time to break bread with good friends, enjoy good food and wine and laughter. Appreciate what we have. We never know when it /they/us will be gone.

 

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I’ve never been one for taking lots of photos of myself, and so I’ve never quite understood the whole “selfie” obsession. But I recently realised that up until my trip this year, I’ve never been truly exposed to the “selfie” generation either.

I love to take photographs. As I’ve said before, it means I actually notice more around me, and appreciate where I am, and what I’m doing, even more than if I didn’t have a camera/phone in my hand. But I’m lucky to be in New Zealand, were there are few tourists. And my last trips were to Australia and Iceland/Norway, all of which also have low populations and were not filled with tourists when I was there. So I was blissfully unaffected by selfie-takers.

Tokyo, Kyoto, and Seoul, on the other hand, were filled with both local and international tourists. A majority of the tourists were taking selfies, frequently ignoring the beautiful flowers or the architectural details or the historic places, just hoping (or ensuring) they look good on camera. It happened everywhere in Japan, where renting a kimono for a few hours is popular for visits to temples or gardens. It was maybe worse in Korea.

Our first day in Seoul took that theme to the extreme. It was a Korean public holiday – Memorial Day. We decided to go to the Palace, and found that not only were there international tourists, but it seemed a lot of locals on their day off, or families out for the day or travelling within Korea for the long weekend. In other words, it was quite busy. As in Japan, both locals and tourists love to dress up in national costume (with the added bonus that wearing national dress gives free entry), and take photos. As inveterate people-watchers, we found it fascinating. There were families all dressed up, a group of Korean-American guys, having a great time, the occasional ethnic-Europeans looking a bit awkward, tourists from Asia (we heard Chinese, Thai, Singaporeans) There were a lot of groups of girlfriends, all taking endless photos of each other. And couples.

The vanity. Oh, the vanity.

I imagined the conversations:

Boyfriend: “What do you want to do on Memorial Day?”
Girlfriend: “I could dress up and we could go to the Palace and take pictures.”
Boyfriend: “ Sure … that sounds … um … great.”

Sometimes the boyfriends/husbands were dressed up too. But frequently they were the ones behind the cameras/phones. I felt sorry for a woman on her own, carefully posing for her selfie, scrutinising her face after the shots, no friends or partner to share the experience with. I hope she got a good photo to put on social media.

In the museums, or the off-the-beaten track locations we visited in Japan and Korea, there were fewer bus tours, tourists who tended to be older, and independent travellers from NZ (yep, that was us), Australia and France. Selfies were not the focus for anyone. Sanity reigned once again.

Then in Vietnam, we spent six days at a beach resort. I put my camera away for the whole visit (though my phone came out to snap the occasional photo of a cocktail at happy hour), but every day we saw young women getting into the pool in elaborate, carefully chosen swimsuits, purely to get their photos taken. They all did exactly the same poses. There was no originality – except perhaps in their choice of swimsuit. The pressure to conform, to display their bodies, and to do so in a sexual manner, to be as perfect as their photo/camera apps can airbrush them, to objectify themselves. It made me sad for them, and for women in general. We haven’t come so far after all. And that’s not how I thought this post would end.

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  • [The uploader has not made this content available in your country/region.]
  • [This provider does not ship to New Zealand.]
  • Netflix in NZ is not the same as Netflix in the US. We pay more for less.
  • Website promotions are almost always restricted to the US, Canada, and UK/Europe.
  • Spell-checkers or grammar-checkers rarely offer a New Zealand English option.
  • There are different global Amazon sites. They do not allow you to gift between sites. For example, at Christmas we discovered that you cannot buy an e-book on Amazon dot com and gift it to a member of Amazon dot com dot au (Au=Australia, which is what NZers are forced* to use), even if you are sitting on the same couch!
  • Postage/shipping (frequently) costs more than the price of the object.

*   unless, like me, you’ve somehow managed to evade detection and stick to the dot com site

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I’ve been watching Wimbledon the last week. An 11-hour time difference means that I suffer severe “jet-lag” for about a week. It didn’t help that there have been the semis and final of the World Cup Cricket, also being played in the UK. (I only watch cricket when NZ is playing, and against the odds, we got into the final). So I’m hoping that I’ll be able to reset my body clock again this week.

Apart from our first few days back, winter hasn’t been very wintry, and I have to say I’m a little disappointed. I like to wrap up in coats and scarves. It has been several years since I’ve needed to wear a hat and gloves during our winter, and I don’t even know if I could find them now. Maybe I need to move further south?

I found my reading mojo again somewhere in Japan, after losing it some years ago. That has continued since I came home. After being well behind my Goodreads target this year (which was dramatically reduced to only 20 books after failing badly last year), I’m now several books ahead of schedule. I’m loving it; I have no idea why it has been so difficult these last few years.

Our oak tree that is just outside our dining room window is, of course, now bare of leaves for the next few months. So we have been able to see the tui flitting around in its branches or settling in for a long and loud choral session. It feels like they’re singing “welcome home.”

 

 

 

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Sightseeing in some cities (Tokyo) involves taking subways, which are usually convenient, cheap and easy to take. In other cities, it involves the adventure of local bus services, especially adventurous in places with different languages and scripts, though locals are generally friendly and helpful, telling us when to get off (Busan, Korea) because they can guess where we want to go! In many cities though, it involves walking, a lot of walking, and we certainly got our step counts up in many of the cities we visited in the last couple of months. In some countries, we can supplement the walking with taxis and cyclos/rickshaws etc if we wish. Walking in the heat and humidity is another issue. Coming home, though, we realised how easy it would be to lapse into a habit of only occasional exercise. So, on days when it hasn’t been raining, we have ventured out to pound the streets.

This morning, it was an absolute joy to put on my walking shoes, my cap, sunglasses and a lightweight walking jacket and head out. It was a perfect winter’s day – still, clear, cold but not too cold (about 11C probably). The greens of all our evergreen native trees were very green, the blue of the sky was blue, and the tui were going mad in the macrocarpa tree just down the street. The harbour was calm and blue, with container ships and ferries gliding across it. A few trees and shrubs were in flower – I don’t know if that’s by design, or because this winter has been unusually (or perhaps the new norm) warm.

School holidays started this week, so the park at the bottom of our street was full of boys at a football camp, whilst their parents were at work. A new home-owner was out digging up her garden, doing some serious restructuring with a pick-axe at this time of year. Another woman further on was pruning some trees, taking off major chunks. New parents ventured out of their driveway with their twins all wrapped up against the cold in the double pram.

I love walking in new places, to see new things. But it’s nice walking here at home too.

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