Friday, 26 September 2008

I = Intelligence

Sometimes there is need to reassess the meaning of intelligence. I think I did a little of that in my previous post.

I like it when sterotypes are questioned. It keeps us alert, aware, on our toes.

This news item was my favourite of the week. I suspect bird nerds will like it too. It’s worth listening to, or follow this link and watch the videos.

Don’t stone the crows!

Hitchcock would have loved it.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

H = Heroes

When I was young there were certain accomplishments I aspired to, that I thought would make me happy. Generally, I admired the people who had achieved what I wanted, and wanted to emulate them. The successful, powerful people who seemed so full of the confidence and financial security I never had.

Now though I know what it can take to make these achievements. The type of person you might have to be to get there. What you might have to do. I’ve come to know executives who will walk over their friends to get what they want, diplomats you can’t trust, gossips who will make up anything, politicians who neglect their families, and business people working such long hours they’re never there to say goodnight to their kids or be with their partner, hoping the big house or fancy car will be recompense. And I’ve been through a few things that have lead me to look at life differently. I finally realised that reaching that next big goal is not going to make me happy long term. There’s always another goal coming along. Relishing the process of living, of striving for something worthwhile, sometimes just being, is where I now feel joy and pride.

So, today the people who are my heroes would probably not have made the list twenty years ago.
  • Those who care for vulnerable friends, an ill parent, or a lonely child
  • Those who dedicate their lives to working with young people, despite not being able to have children themselves
  • Those who nurture their relationships
  • Those who take the road less travelled, whatever that might be
  • Those who volunteer for their community
  • Those who make me laugh without bringing someone else down
  • Those who deliver warmth and encouragement to fellow bloggers
  • Those who understand “for better or worse”

These are my heroes, life’s true success stories. I’m so proud to know you all.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

G = Gales

It’s blowing a gale outside today. It is the equinox, and the temperature difference between the tropics and polar regions is at its peak at this time of year. This difference drives the Roaring Forties winds in our latitude. The gales arrived right on schedule last night.

There is a parade today celebrating Wellington’s win over Auckland to take the coveted Ranfurly Shield for the first time in 27 years. Gale force winds won’t stop that from going ahead. Gale force winds don’t stop a lot in this windy city, except for long hair styles and wrap-around skirts.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

F = Facts (6 unspectacular ones about me)

I’ve been tagged by Indigo Bunting. As luck would have it, I was up to F for Facts, and so can respond to her request to write six unspectacular things about me:

  1. When I concentrate (particularly when playing the piano) I stick my tongue out … just a bit.
  2. I’m addicted to Sudoku – one a day keeps the Alzheimers away.
  3. I'm a secret Dr Who fan.
  4. I’m the classic middle child. I'd like to rebel against that, as long as it didn't upset anyone.
  5. I operate the VPMS (Volcano Paper Management System). Pile things high. Whatever is important will rise to the top, what is not will slide off the side.
  6. Mali is not my real name. (But you knew that already didn't you?)

I don't think I can tag anyone - I think all my favourite bloggers have already been tagged.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

E = Entertaining

  1. Love it
  2. Don’t do it enough
  3. Had friends over to dinner last night
  4. Menu included lamb tagine, and later, an almond and raspberry tart
  5. There was music, wine, warmth, love, and laughter
  6. Love it
  7. Don’t do it enough
  8. Must entertain again soon

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

D = Distance

On Sunday, Father’s Day, we had a cheerful discussion over lunch with the in-laws who have decided it is time to plan their funerals. D is the only one of four sons who still lives in New Zealand. It seems his parents are planning their funerals based on the fact that they don’t expect their other sons to come home “all that way” just for the funeral, despite the fact that they all live just one direct flight from NZ! (Don’t get me started!) But try to explain to people in their 70s and 80s that there is really no place on this earth that could be considered too far away these days.

It got me to thinking.

When I got the letter telling me I would be living in Thailand for a year, for the first time in my life I would be leaving behind everything and everyone I knew, going to a country that was a mystery to me. I would be alone. It was frightening.

I was however excited at the opportunity – going into the unknown was a wonderful opportunity. I had dreamed of travelling overseas since I was a little girl, standing on the stony beach at the edge of our property, looking across the Pacific Ocean, and imagining the lands beyond. Waiting until I was 17 had felt like forever, but finally I would be able to see the world. The unknown was exciting. The fears and dangers to come were as unknown as the joys. This was in retrospect a good thing.

The separation was not going to be simply physical, but there would also be a very real emotional distance too, without the support of family and friends.

Now when I travel, I take my cellphone with me, I text my 75-year-old mother from Santiago de Compostela or Vienna or Manila, and we talk about the weather! I email regularly and keep in touch with friends and family through cheap phone cards.

But in 1980, none of these were available. Growing up in New Zealand’s countryside, it hadn’t been that long since we had stopped using a party line shared with our neighbours (our ring was short long short). The telephone was for necessary transfer of information, not for chit-chatting. Toll calls were expensive. International calls were … inconceivable. There was no prospect that I would be ringing home regularly. (In the end I rang home just twice). Unlike exchange students these days, I would not be emailing or texting or skyping my family and friends the night I arrived. I went armed with a pile of aerogrammes. Remember those? They would be considered antiques today.

This is of course part of the point of a student exchange. It is necessary for a student to adjust and fully commit to their new environment. If they’re connected daily with home and their old life, they might find it harder to make that adjustment. Still, support and encouragement from across the miles would have been welcome. Having to wait 6 weeks for my first letter from home (my parents had been given an incorrect address for my host family) was hard.

At least though I knew it was only for a year. I thought of my ancestors, saying goodbye to their families in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France, setting out on an arduous sea journey to a strange land on the other side of the world, knowing that they would probably never see their families and home again. Now, that was distance.

Monday, 8 September 2008

C = Cowboy Dan

I was a bit of a tomboy when I was very little. Our neighbours called me my dad’s “little shadow” as I could be found following him all over the farm. Then I discovered books. Sometimes my two worlds met.

One of my favourite early books was a small, picture book about Cowboy Dan.

“I’m a rootin’ tootin’ cowboy

and my name is Cowboy Dan

I can ride a horse

and rope a steer

As fast as any man.”

40 years later I can quote that so easily. It must have been read to me many many times. Google tells me it was written by Andy Cobb, and that I am not the only girl who was entranced by this story.

My fifth birthday is memorable, not because it was the day I started school, but because I got a little (fake) leather bolero jacket with a badge that said “Deputy Sheriff” and a holster and toy cap gun. (It was the 1960s after all!) Murray, the boy across the bull paddock, had a similar outfit but he had chaps, and I was so jealous! A broomstick was my horse of choice, but I was always frustrated I couldn’t rope a steer.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

B = Bookclub

The cats knew something was up. They'd been fed early and without complaint. The house was clean and quiet, still tidy after my mother's visit on the weekend. The gorgonzola and Evansdale brie were out of the fridge, soft and luscious, the virgin olive oil was dark green and pungent, the dukkah spicy, the Highfield chardonnay and Saint Clair pinot gris chilled just right, and the Kawarau Reserve pinot noir was coming nicely to room temperature. Our new couch looked great, the cushions neatly arranged, the CD player was loaded, and the husband had been dispatched to see a movie.

The box of books was downstairs, waiting. As host of the bookclub this time, it was my responsibility to add some new books to our pool. My choices were largely based on books I'd read recently, some bought on impulse at bargain warehouse stores, others specially sought out.

  • Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones
  • My Name Was Judas by CK Stead
  • The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Note: I couldn’t find Walking to the Moon last night to add it to the pool, but will do so.

Each book is very different, but I wanted to know what the others would think of them. New books are eyed eagerly, fallen upon greedily, clutched possessively. Negotiations are sometimes necessary, schedules and commitments over the next month or two are weighed and compared, reading capacity determined, and books eventually selected.

We manage to do some serious reviewing of the books, their language, the characters, what we liked and what we didn’t. Recommendations are made carefully. A less than enthusiastic review can sentence a book to the bottom of the box for months if not years, neglected, unchosen. Other books become lifetime favourites, candidates for our annual Bookclub Supreme Award. Books are sometimes hotly debated, loved by some, detested by others. Despite knowing each other so well, we’re never quite sure who will love and who will hate a particular book, and why. That’s what keeps it interesting. Why we keep coming back. It’s not just for the friendship, wine and cheese.

A = Aging

My mother visited on the weekend. It is of course always nice to see her, but often quite distressing. She is almost 76, and has not had an easy life. She is aging. I have to repeat things. Frequently. Always a worrier, she worries more now, because she forgets to tell herself to stop worrying. Did I mention I have to repeat things?

She is coping wonderfully since my Dad died, but does find it lonely at time, as self-sufficient as she is. Whilst my sister lives nearby, I worry about her on her own. (Worrying runs in the family!) Then my emotions become confused. I am glad that her daughters are around to care for her, whatever she might need. But as I do more and more for her, and as she needs me to do more and more for her, selfishly my mind turns to my own old age.

Who will look after me?