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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

This week is World Childless Week. You probably didn’t know that. You may not care. It’s World Childless Week because a childless woman called Stephanie Joy Phillips who possesses (it seems to me) endless energy and foresight, made it so! There is a week of activities – webinars, publicity, articles and blogs. If you are childless, or if you have relatives or friends or workmates or acquaintances who are childless, go and have a look at some of the topics they are covering this year – everything from men’s perspective, to the legacy we leave when we don’t have children, to the old perennial, guaranteed-to-raise-an-eyeroll “have you considered adoption?” You might not feel quite so alone. You might learn something. Or it might give you insight into the lives of those who don’t have children, but had once hoped to do so. Maybe you’ll change the way you see them, question your assumptions or unintentional judgements, and maybe you’ll change the questions you ask or the way you talk to or interact with them in the future.

I have two pieces featured on their website – the first is here, and the second is to come on in a day or so (which I’ll link here too), along with my I am me picture.

I’ve been very torn about how much to publicise this. I’m being more active than usual on my No Kidding blog, because I know how important this is to the no kidding community, how it helps so many newly no kidding people who think they’re alone and that no-one understands, and how it helps us decide what is important. But talking amongst ourselves isn’t enough. Educating the rest of society is important, and that’s why I’m posting here, today, and have written about this before, most recently in April here. The more we understand about all our differences, the kinder we can be to both groups, and the more we will ALL benefit.

The reason I am torn though, is because I am much more than my childlessness. I don’t want it to be the first thing people think about me, and I don’t want it to consume my life. But I do want it to be recognised. It’s finding the balance which is always tricky. So I write here, because the people who read are interested in more than just a meme. But I’m torn over posting on social media (except my nokiddinginnz instagram page), because a meme becomes a label. And labels are complicated. I don’t like childless, for example, but use it sometimes in the absence of anything else. It’s the LESS part I don’t like. Equally, childFREE is relevant at times, but definitely not always. I guess we’re all much more than one label – my friends who are mothers are not only mothers. They are smart, and creative, and motivated, and ambassadorial, and managerial, and dedicated, and interesting, and funny, and much much more.

So I’m still figuring out where I’ll share this. In the meantime, I’ve included a photo (meme? heaven forbid!) that is essentially a brief version of the 100 things about me that I wrote seven years ago. (I updated it on my other blog in 2019, but this reminds me to do it here too.) Not having kids, and the work I do in that community, features in these lists, but in no way dominates. That’s the way I like it.

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I can’t believe I haven’t done a Tree post since July. I know it’s long overdue, but I’m going to come back to an old favourite of mine, the Ti Kouka or cabbage tree. In fact, just this morning on my lockdown walk, I whipped out my phone and snapped a cabbage tree. I might keep that one for another day, because I wanted to show you these trees, nestled away in remote Milford Sound. Mitre Peak, the mountain in this shot, is an iconic sight in New Zealand, featuring in tourism brochures, and adorning many biscuit tins and chocolate boxes in my youth! Tourists to New Zealand will recognise it too, even if their visit to Milford didn’t really show the mountain due to the high rainfall the area gets (about 6.5 metres or 252 inches per year)! I didn’t get to see it on my previous visit to the fjord* either.

It was just starting to rain (of course) when we were there, but Mitre Peak was visible right to the top. I was thrilled to see the cabbage tree on the banks of the Sound, knowing I could capture this uniquely NZ view.

Mitre Peak in Milford Sound, and ti kouka or cabbage tree in the foreground.

*Even though it is called a Sound (a river valley filled with sea water), it is actually a fjord (a glacial valley filled with sea water).

Another in the Thursday Tree Love series – find all the other bloggers doing it here.

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Reading: I’m reading a wee bit more lately, and have been lucky to find several really excellent books, each one quite different from the other. I love reading a variety of books, and could never stick to just one genre.

Just this morning I finished the fabulous Elizabeth Knox’s Wake. I note that some of my book club friends read it about seven years ago, but it’s taken me a while to get to it. It was funny though – when I downloaded the book onto my e-reader, it asked me if I would like to go to the page last read. I said yes, curious to see how far I had read, because I had no memory of it! It was only a few pages in, so I reread those, then gobbled up the rest of the book in just a day or two, which is pretty remarkable given my lack of reading much of this year. I haven’t always loved the mystical nature of some of Elizabeth Knox’s books (The Black Oxen took a couple of attempts), but this one was pitched exactly right for me, and gets five stars on Goodreads.

I’ve also finished Kindred, by Octavia Butler, a time-travel history into the early 1800s in the US which was fascinating, as I always like anything historical. And listened to Kamala Harris’ memoir, The Truths We Hold. I like listening to memoirs as audiobooks, especially when they are read by the author themselves. It seems more authentic. This was fascinating for a few chapters when it delved into her childhood and family background, but much of it was a political manifesto, written before she ran for President. Still, I learned a lot about her, her history, her qualifications, and principles, even if it was – as I expected – somewhat sanitised.

Kazuo Ishiguro has long been a favourite of mine, so I was thrilled to find a new book from him. Klara and the Sun was very enjoyable, and an easy read. But it didn’t really deliver too much that was new for me, though I know others (including one of my former book club friends) who loved it.

The Quiet Girl by S F Kosa was a mystery that kept me gripped too, and although I thought I had figured out some of it in advance, I wasn’t 100% sure, which is the mark of a good mystery!

Finally, I read Grace Dent’s Hungry, a funny and honest memoir of The Guardian’s restaurant critic. (Thanks to Loribeth who reviewed it here). I read the memoir of Ruth Reichl (former NYT critic) years ago (Garlic and Sapphires) and loved it, so was delighted to find a UK story too. I could relate to the discovery of new food and flavours, after growing up with a very traditional NZ diet (though not nearly as “beige” as Dent’s childhood died) until I landed in Thailand as a 17-year-old.

I gave all of these books three stars and above on Goodreads, which means it was a great month or two of reading. I use their star standards – eg three stars means I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it, four stars means I thought it was really good, and five stars is a book I loved.

Watching: Wimbledon, of course, and the Olympics, of course (as I wrote here), and more recently I’ve been keeping a check on the Paralympics. I’ve been delighted and fascinated by the sports I didn’t know existed, the categories that have allowed so many different people to compete, and I have been beyond moved by the efforts of people who have faced such obstacles in life.

In between the two Olympics, I binge-rewatched some comfort series, namely Downton Abbey. The Husband and I have watched a few different series, the names of which now largely escape me (Money Heist over two days in the weekend), and we’ve just started The Departure, which looks promising.

Daily viewing for the last few weeks in lockdown has been the press conference by the DG of Health and the Prime Minister or Minister for COVID Response, when they announce case numbers and progress. We seem to have stopped the spread, with the R rate currently under 1, but new cases are still popping up in our biggest city, Auckland. We’ve just watched the announcement that the rest of the country will move to a lifting of many restrictions, going back to a more normal life on Wednesday, though with increased mask requirements. I know the rest of you are already very accustomed to this, but it is new for us.

Listening: Radio NZ, of course, which is on at the moment as I write this, and just a few things on Spotify. And when I walk, I have been listening to my audiobooks. I’ve just downloaded Shuggie Bain, so I need to go on a few walks to get through that one!

Following: The usual. Progress (or lack of progress) with COVID-19 and vaccinations across the globe. News. Photographers I envy. Yes, exactly the same as three months ago.

Drinking: Today for the first time in three weeks I had a flat white (coffee)! My husband came back from the supermarket with a coffee. We’re currently in a lighter lockdown than the first two weeks, which enables food and drink to be purchased to take away. I’m not a coffee addict, but I did enjoy that one this morning! Otherwise, alcohol-wise, we’ve been drinking a little more in lockdown than we would usually, though we still have several days a week when we don’t drink. Mondays would normally be a no-alcohol day, but I have a half-full bottle of chardonnay in the fridge that I opened for a Zoom chat with some friends on Saturday night. So in a few hours, it will be a case of “Cheers!”

Cooking: To keep supermarket visits to once or twice a week during lockdown, I’ve been trying to empty the freezer of meat and bagels, etc. A good excuse to spring clean the freezer and pantry! Not to mention that I quite enjoy planning out the week’s menu in advance. I experimented with burgers (not something my husband has ever particularly liked) including a brioche-like bun, because we missed out on the food festival Burger Wellington this year. I’ve made homemade pizza too, for a Saturday night meal. I have vegetable soup and pumpkin gnocchi in the freezer, and have generally been eating pretty healthy. Well, except for the sticky date pudding I made for the first time last week. Oops. Tonight on the menu we have pumpkin, feta and bacon pasta.

Eating: See above. I don’t mind eating home-cooked food. I sometimes complain that I’m in a recipe rut, but the truth is I really like eating my favourite dishes (curries, fried rice, lamb shanks, tagines etc), and they work so well as winter comfort food too, so not being able to go out, or buy takeaways, doesn’t bother me. Prior to lockdown we got out with some friends for a fun evening at the beginning of the August food festival, and we’re all grateful that we managed to do that.

Wearing: A more casual version of my winter uniform, which includes black thermal tops (I have several) and black yoga pants. The only time I dress up – or at least, put on a bit of makeup – is when I zoom. Even though I discovered the other day I can put on lipstick and eyebrows through the Advanced Video Settings, and so barely need to do that!

Appreciating: Our government. I look at the delta variant raging around the world, and am grateful that we have had so long living COVID-free thanks to their policies, and hopefully will be free again soon. Our vaccination programme has been slow, largely because the vaccinations needed to get to us after first going to countries that were much more needy. (I had my first dose in mid-August, and my second is scheduled for the end of this month.) It’s ramping up now, and I’m very appreciative too of my fellow citizens who have been rushing to get vaccinated the last few weeks. Of course, I don’t yet know what levels we’ll ultimately reach, so I really hope I’m not speaking prematurely!

Anticipating: Catching up with friends. I know we’ve only been in lockdown for a few weeks, but it will be lovely to see people face to face. It reminds me how tough it has been for so many of you for so long. And The Husband and I have a few travel plans for the next six months, figuring out where we can go in NZ and what we can do that would be fun, or new. NZ is pretty small, so we’re going to start running out of options!

Loving: My hair! (Well, almost!) Finally it has passed that really awkward stage I was at a few months ago, and I’m pleased that it’s looking closer to how I wanted it to look. I have very wavy hair, so as it gets a little longer, I’m keen to experiment with some “curly-girl” techniques. I’m not sure it will work, but it might be fun to try. And if it is a disaster, I still have my trusty straightener, because leaving it to wave naturally at the moment isn’t an option!

Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series every few months here on A Separate Life.

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