Monday Miscellaneous

After my post last week, I heard today that this week it is Niue Language Week. If anyone knows where Niue is (who isn’t a Kiwi, and without googling) I will be seriously impressed.

I was pleased to demonstrate today that original thinking and clever use of technology beat men who think they can read and draw maps. The fact that the men are often-pedantic engineers, and my in-laws as well, made the victory so much sweeter. My husband admitted I’ll never let him forget it, just like I haven’t forgotten that back in 1991, he wanted to drive to Vienna, but was turning towards Italy until I pointed it out!

My Gmail on my android phone will not sync, and it is driving me crazy. I’ve tried all the fixes I can find online, and my calendar and contacts are syncing, and my mail is fine and syncing on my iPad, but it’s been like this for four or five days now. Help!



The Maori Language

I am ashamed to say that of our country’s three official languages, I only speak English (or New Zild, as we jokingly call our version of it); I don’t speak sign language, and I don’t speak Maori. However, it’s pretty impossible to live in New Zealand and not understand certain Maori words, and every year, I had a few more, particularly around Maori Language Week, which finished recently.

Many Maori words have been used in New Zealand English for decades, but increasingly we use more and more Maori words for concepts, place names and flora and fauna.

Older New Zealanders, or those Kiwis who have spent years out of the country, find themselves sounding as if they still live in the 1970s, with incorrect (almost disrespectful) pronunciation, and are unable to understand concepts and terms that are firmly established in our vernacular. As a really simple example, they can’t understand our now correct pronunciation of many place names, or our national anthem which is now routinely sung in both languages.  (To keep up with the times, I learnt the Maori words some years ago during another Maori Language Week).

My favourite word out of this year’s Maori Language week was hōhā (to annoy or frustrate), after I heard someone on the radio casually mention that he had been “hoha-ing” his boss.

As I was writing this, I heard a radio announcer speak in Fijian, noting that it was Fijian Language Week – help, I can’t keep up!

I promised spring photos last week, but I made you wait, so I apologise. Our oak tree exploded from a bare tree one weekend with only one or two new leaves, to full coverage by the end of the week. Of course, now it’s even further on than the photo below, but I’m too lazy to go downstairs and take a new one!

P1090983 oak tree spring leaves

I managed to catch some of the tulips and other flowers in the city gardens with my camera, along with families, tourists, and lots of elderly visitors enjoying the colours.

The spring flowers in my in-laws garden are blooming too, so I took some quick photos there too.

The young tui* have been torturing me in the oak tree, sitting there chirping and chatting away, but as soon as I get close with my camera, they fly away.

Finally, warmer temperatures are alternately battling with some last-ditch efforts by winter. It’s that awkward time of year when we don’t know what to wear, and whatever I choose is bound to be wrong.

* As I can’t tell Grammarly, I’ll remind you. Tui is a Maori word, and so doesn’t have an “s” to pluralise it.




Empowering women

This last week, New Zealand has been celebrating 125 years of women’s suffrage, as we gained the vote back in 1893. I wrote a poem on my daily blog about it back in August – it was Poetry month – and thought I’d reproduce it below, not because it merits it, but because the subject matter does.

It is significant when we realise that the US will have to wait until 2045 to celebrate 125 years of suffrage, the UK until  2053, Australia will have to wait until 2087* and Saudi Arabia, until 2140.  When I joke that we are ahead of the rest of the world (due to our position next to the International Date Line), I’m not entirely joking.

125 years later, our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is this week at the UN. She said at a public session the other day,

“We’ve had three female Prime Ministers. It’s really no big deal, guys.”

Unfortunately, for so many countries, it still is a big deal.


A Suffragette’s Abecedarian

“As children, with no
Brothers, living in the
Country, we
Everything a boy would, and more, because – mere
Females still – we were taller, stronger, faster.
Glimmers of hope for the future, were
Helped by remembrance of the past.
In our nearby town, there stood only one statue, which
Justified my hope that with
Knowledge and determination, my
Lot wasn’t predestined.
Margaret Cruickshank, my statuesque inspiration, was
NZ’s first woman GP, and alive in 1893, when
Our country led the world. Time has
Passed, 125 years now.
Quality is what matters, not
Restricted views on
She or he, no
Thoughts that might
Unfairly restrict our
We celebrate our suffrage this year, though Pope St.
Xystus 1st would no doubt not approve of our leader, a
Youthful, unmarried, new mum. But fear not, men, this is no
Zugzwang. There’s no battle, and no loss.”


* Australian indigenous people, men or women, did not receive the vote until 1962.


Changing Seasons

We’re in the last phase of winter, or is it the first phase of spring? Over the weekend, the only deciduous tree on our property sprang into life. On Sunday morning, I saw the first leaves emerge, and by the afternoon there were a few more. Its branches are bursting with buds ready to burst. Spring is, if not sprung, then about to spring.

The neighbours, after huge renovations last year, planted a tree that has blossomed most gorgeously right beside our driveway, so I was thrilled to pop out there and play around with my camera. It was nice to snap away, after the winter when I was tortured by photos of beautiful flowers from my photography course classmates from the northern hemisphere.

I’m reminded too by Fbk that previously I have checked out the tulips in the gardens around this time of year. Maybe next week you’ll get some tulip photos.

I’ve spent a week in the land of strange vowels and high-pitched voices, the land of our cousins, friendly and yet rivals, where so much is the same but different. We drove through farmland and vineyards over rolling hills, so green it could have been New Zealand. But the stark, sometimes beautiful, ubiquitous eucalyptus trees reminded me that this wasn’t home. The farms and houses look so similar, but they’re not either, because although the shape and style are familiar, here they are made out of stone, not wood. We are reminded why this is, when we see burnt out patches of forest, or we drive through towns surrounded in trees where there are signs directing us to a “last resort bush fire refuge,” and we hear that the old stone hotel we stayed in, one of the oldest in the state, was destroyed in a fire in 1993, only the original stone left standing. Yet when I sleep in an old stone cottage, and look up at all the cracks in the ceiling, I am not afraid an earthquake will bring it down on top of me – not here.

When I open my mouth, I can almost get away as a local, unless I say a vowel with an “i” or maybe an “e,” so I am very careful not to order a coffee with “skinny” milk. And when it is 24 degrees, the weather man on TV is at pains to say it doesn’t yet feel like summer.

Teachers who change your life

People often wax lyrical about teachers who change your life, but I never had one.

A primary school teacher who, due to the size of our school was my teacher from age 8 – 13, taught me that science and maths didn’t matter, and that being bright meant I didn’t deserve any time, help, or to be challenged. He, and another, also taught me that their assumptions were more important than searching for the truth. Another, a university lecturer, reaffirmed me that my arguments weren’t important and that to advance in the world, I should adapt to whatever the more powerful person wanted or believed, regardless of the evidence in support of my position. Oddly, that adaptability was helpful – to an extent – in a later workplace full of egos who thought that their way was the only way.

Teachers who didn’t treat me as an individual, because I was polite, capable and never caused trouble, taught me that I was invisible and that asking for help was pointless.

One or two teachers did actually see me – albeit briefly and only in the context of their own interests – and I wish it had been different. Fortunately, eventually, I learnt the lessons I needed to learn – self-taught, largely – but later than I needed.