Archive for the ‘Blogging with Friends’ Category

#22 of Blogging with Friends

One of my happy places is the south of Thailand. I’ve long had this picture of myself (and The Husband) in an airy house on the side of a hill, high enough to get beautiful views of the Andaman Sea or perhaps Phang Nga Bay, with lots of little islands off in the distance, and facing west for sunsets. Being on a hill, we’ll get to see raging electrical storms too, which would thrill The Husband, and weather of all sorts, which I love to observe. But we’ll be close enough to clamber down some steps to the beach when we want some sea swimming or to feel sand between our toes. The house will be open and airy with lots of windows and covered decks for outdoor life, but well air-conditioned, because hey, this is in the tropics and the humidity can be crazy. There’s a swimming pool, obviously, and lush gardens full of bougainvillea and frangipane flowers, and the scent of jasmine (mali), of course too, wafted on gentle breezes.

There’s room for guests – maybe a separate guesthouse? – for friends and family. The perfect place for bloggers to come and write. It’s Thailand, so I’ll have someone to help cook, and they will make the most amazing Thai food, which I could live on forever. (Though given its location near a major tourist area, I know there’ll be plenty of international restaurants if I feel like a change, occasionally).

There’s an international airport nearby, to whisk me away (post-pandemic) to other exotic locales too, as the thought of staying anywhere forever without moving brings on severe claustrophobia. Maybe I could just keep it as a holiday home? Because I need to travel other places too, and there are many places in New Zealand where I could happily live. I have become accustomed to having a view, as since 1986 I’ve only lived for a few months in houses or apartments/hotels with no real view, so would find that hard to give up. There are so many choices. This question may come up in real life, thinking ahead to our retirement, and there are so many choices that I can’t face it right now. So I’ll just go back to my imaginary happy place, high on a hill with tropical sea breezes and gorgeous sunsets and a cocktail or two. Join me there?

Read Full Post »

#21 of Blogging with Friends

I’ve received lots of good advice over the years, from friends, colleagues, family. We don’t always recognise good advice when we’re given it, but it usually sinks in. Eventually. The first piece of advice I was given in my first full-time job was from a colleague, who never really took his own advice. But I heard it, and at critical times, I was able to take it. “No-one is indispensable.”

I think that the context at the time was about being sick and taking time off work, or going home at a reasonable time. He pointed out that I should look around at all the people who worked with me, and that if something was important, it could always get done. I took that advice later on in my career – it helped me to learn to delegate, for example. Of course, it wasn’t always true. But when it was, it helped.

That was similar to very important advice I was given about 15 years later, when I was told* that it is okay to ask for help. It’s very similar to the idea of being indispensable, but a lot broader too. And it allows for an admission of weakness or vulnerability, something that was perhaps easier to do in my personal life than in my first full-time job as a young woman surrounded by high achievers. Or maybe it’s easier to admit weakness or vulnerability or frailty as we grow as human beings, because we have a more confident sense of who we are? Asking for help doesn’t mean we are inadequate or can’t cope. It means we recognise what we can and can’t do, it means we love and trust others enough to show our vulnerability, and admit we need help. Being too proud to ask for help is often held up as a virtue. I think that it is born out of fear – fear to show vulnerability, to put our faith in others, to admit we need others, and to risk rejection. So remember, ask for help. The idea of it is hard to do. But it’s really not that difficult. Try it. You might be surprised by the rewards.

* I can’t remember who told me this. It was a friend online – possibly Izzie or Sarahg or Mary or any of dozens of others. To whoever it was, thank you.

Read Full Post »

#20 of Blogging with Friends

When I moved to Thailand to work in the NZ Embassy for three years, I discovered a nation where the women were impeccably dressed. When I’d been there as a student, I’d lived in my school uniform (it helped to identify me as “local,” someone who was not a rich tourist, someone who could not be ripped off when bargaining for goods!) or jeans and t-shirts. So when I returned as an adult, it was a little shock to the system to see the high standards the Thai women kept. They’d even dress up going out on the weekends, whether meeting for lunch, shopping in a nice mall, having afternoon tea in a 5-star hotel, or going to the beauty salon for a massage. So I felt I needed to maintain similar standards, to represent the Embassy and my country well.

Despite the fact that, ten years on from my student exchange, Bangkok had become quite cosmopolitan, it still catered to the tiny (compared to me) Thai women. So I couldn’t go to stores and buy clothes, and there was zero chance I could buy shoes. I found a tailor, and a shoe-maker. Oh, happy day! For the first time in my life, I had shoes that fit and were comfortable. It was bliss! (I actually got my sister’s wedding shoes made there – she sent an outline of her longer-and-narrower-than-mine foot, and we agreed on the design, et voila!) And I went to the tailor (which the Thai women did quite often too) to get blouses, suits, etc all made to order in my three year term. They were all simple, elegant, but practical, using good quality fabrics. I stayed away from a lot of the synthetics the Thai women wore (contrary to the common fallacy that people in hot countries live in cotton and linen), but took advantage of some of the lovely silks. A purple Thai silk suit was a favourite.

Coming home after three years, I found a different, more interesting, clothing market in New Zealand. My style hadn’t really changed – I still didn’t like fussy clothes, clean lines flattered my body, and with my height, I could carry off length. My return home to NZ saw me gradually put on weight, but my style stayed much the same. Then in the mid-90s, I started working at a new company, and met sometime-commenter Peony. And she introduced me to Penny. Danger, danger, Will Robinson! Let me explain.

Penny was a business woman who had run clothing stores in the past. She brought in clothes from selected NZ and Australian designers (and I remember a French brand too), and helped her clients put together a seasonal wardrobe. Appointments were free – she got a commission from the clothes we bought. So they were more expensive than I would usually buy. I thought I knew how to mix and match – frugality teaches you that – but Penny took it to another level. She didn’t have any boring clothes, and she didn’t mix and match them in boring ways. If I cringed at the price, she’d help me put together a group of clothes that could work together in multiple ways. “Throw on a cheap white t-shirt from a chain store,” she would suggest to complement a fabulous jacket, or outrageous skirt. She’d throw my favourite item on the floor, and then show how others would work together with it or with each other. Anything that was insufficiently versatile would be discarded. Unless I adored it. Penny taught me to have fun with clothes.

It helped that business attire at the time was just starting to change. And perhaps more that all my clients lived and worked overseas. So I had a couple of more boring suits that were great for travel and business; they were my “meeting clients” clothes. Most of my fun clothes were kept for NZ. I loved the surprise of asymmetric clothes. (I remember my father looking at an otherwise very simple, asymmetric black coat, saying, “but why?”) I discovered that I loved clothes with a bit of embellishment, a sense of fun or daring, but that weren’t too fussy.

I had a favourite beige cotton jacket that I would wear with black pants or jeans – it had very simple lines, but had pirate (it’s the only way I can describe it) white lace frills at one cuff and under the front panel of one side, and the other side was just plain. My girlfriends loved it. I loved it. My husband and male colleagues all shook their heads in puzzlement. I remember going to the supermarket once after work with my husband. He saw someone he knew, then looked at me, and moaned, “oh no, you’re wearing that jacket!” I could only laugh! That jacket pretty much represented my style in those years. Clean, elegant, but with a fun surprise. I had some great, fun, skirts and shirts, and over the years bought two winter coats that were just not available in most of the shops. Oh, I felt so good in those luscious coats! For about six years, I had fabulous fun with clothes, albeit tinged with guilt at the amount I spent at a single visit. But then I didn’t shop much elsewhere, so it probably all evened out. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! I had never before enjoyed clothes so much. Never before felt that I had clothes for every occasion. Never before felt that my clothes presented how I wanted to be in the world. Calm. Sophisticated. Professional. And a little bit daring and fun.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »