I just know I wouldn’t be that brave

For book club this month we are all choosing a book to read and then swap with someone else. I’ve chosen two, and the first one is the sequel to Jo Jo Moyes’ Me Before You”. Now I could get all literary snobby about this and call it a guilty pleasure or something but I’m not. I read it in one day and thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t love it and it won’t last long in the memory but it was a fun read. I could criticise a lot about it, for example she is given a lot of dosh by the previous chap and mooches about not doing anything much and only finds happiness via another bloke.  I like to think that if someone gave me a pile of money I would do something more interesting than buy a flat and waitress in a horrible bar. But I do like a happy ending.

I recently read an interesting article about the Jack Reacher series. I’ve read quite a few of the novels and always like to have one to read on a long haul flight. Again, I could pretend they are rubbish and badly written blah blah and I guess maybe they are but why are they so widely read?

The article above tells us, ” Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels are insanely popular. There are 21 in the series; he writes a new one every year, and in 21 years he’s sold an estimated 100 million books. Someone buys one every nine seconds. He has the highest return readership rate of any bestselling author: if you read one Reacher novel you’re likely to read more. This is my fourth, or fifth, or maybe sixth. They blur into each other.”

They sure do blur into each other, at quiz night recently The List was JR novels and I couldn’t remember a single title even though I’ve read half a dozen of them. But I don’t care, if I see one lying around I’ll be lost to it for quite a few hours.

Danyl McLauchlan, comments, It would be easy to say that Reacher is a male fantasy, but when Child is questioned about this he points out that two-thirds of his readers are women (you don’t sell 100 million books without a keen understanding of your product’s target market). 

However, I can’t quite accept that Child’s novels are “post feminist”!

I also love it that Lee Child was made redundant from the BBC and took up writing and made squillions.

Lee Child's Jack Reacher books have sold an estimated 100 million copies.

Anyway, back to today’s heading. The second book I chose for the book club is called The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. No particular reason for the choice except that I left the carefully circled 100 Best Reads from the Listener at home by accident and just ended up browsing in Whitcoulls.

It is an easy read and the thing I liked about it was that the some of the characters  were real women who spied for the British in World War 1. There they were wrapping code in their hat pins, crossing borders, helping British soldiers to safety, all under the nose of the Nazis in France. I just know I wouldn’t be brave enough. One look at a Nazi border crossing and a barking Alsatian and I would pee my pants. I feel guilty coming through customs in New Zealand even though I don’t have any contraband.

In the novel, “the queen of spies”,  Louise De Bettignies, plays a lead role and she is so brave!

Wikipedia tells me about her:

A citizen of Lille since 1903, she decided, from the German invasion of the city in October 1914, to engage in resistance and espionage. Multilingual (French – English – German – Italian), she ran from her home in a Lille vast intelligence network in the North of France on behalf of the British army and the MI6 intelligence service under the pseudonym Alice Dubois. This network provided important information to the British through occupied Belgium and the Netherlands.

The network is estimated to have saved the lives of more than a thousand British soldiers during the 9 months of full operation from January to September 1915.

The “Alice” network[12] of a hundred people, mostly in forty kilometers of the front to the west and east of Lille, was so effective that she was nicknamed by her English superiors “the queen of spies”. She smuggled men to England and provided valuable information to the Intelligence Service. Also, Louise prepared for her superiors in London a grid map of the region around Lille. Like the naval battle, lines were identified by numbers on one side and the letters of the alphabet on the other. When the German army installed a new battery of artillery, even camouflaged, this position was bombed by the Royal Flying Corps within eight days.

Another opportunity allowed her to report the date and time of passage of the imperial train carrying the Kaiser on a secret visit to the front at Lille. During the approach to Lille, two British aircraft bombed the train and emerged, but missed their target. The German command did not understand the unique situation of these forty kilometers of “cursed” front (held by the British) out of nearly seven hundred miles of front. One of her last messages announced the preparation of a massive German attack in early 1916 on Verdun . The information was relayed to the French commander who refused to believe it.

Arrested by the Germans on 20 October 1915 near Tournai, she was sentenced to death on 16 March 1916 in Brussels. Her sentence was forced labor for life. After being held for three years, she died on 27 September 1918 as a result of pleural abscesses poorly operated upon at St. Mary’s Hospital in Cologne.

Her body was repatriated on 21 February 1920. On 16 March 1920 a funeral was held in Lille in which she was posthumously awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor, the Croix de guerre 1914-1918 with palm, the British Military Medal and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Her body is buried in the cemetery of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux

What a bloody amazing woman. The events above are all in the novel albeit with a few minor date changes. I really enjoyed nearly all of it until the ending sadly. Major bits of that didn’t work for me so if you read it I’d like to know what you think. Still worth reading though, especially to find out more about women spies.

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Thanks for the feed back from the last post. Susan E’s comment struck a chord with me, “…put aside judgement and stop thinking of life as a glass half full or half empty-none of it matters if you don’t have a glass.”

She also asked for the Christmas cake recipe so I’ll post forthwith.

It is such a relief that many of my usual gift-giving friends have agreed not to do the present thing. I can’t think of anything I actually want or need, (except maybe a garlic crusher 🙂 ) and I’d much rather spend time with them than spend money for the sake of it.

I did muse on the plastic stuff we have accumulated for the kids in the refuges but in the  end I’m not sure it is about the present but more the symbolism of the present- just that someone chose something especially for them. I wish we were able to know each child’s name and be able to choose something I knew they really wanted. But for now, it has to be enough.

If you want a fun book to read at Christmas, have a go at Harvey Slumfenburger…

FG

“Charity”

I’ve been making a minor contribution to  a group called The Aunties. In Jackie’s words, this is what they do.

“Welcome to The Aunties – I’m Jackie. I’m the Aunty In Charge. If you’re curious about what I/we do, it is simply this. I am the interface between  a number of community organisations, and a group of people called The Aunties whose primary focus is to provide the material needs for the people who use the services of those organisations. The organisations/people we support are: Te Rōopu O Te Whānau Te Rangimariē O Tamaki Makaūrau; The NZ Prostitute’s Collective; the emergency housing team of social workers for the Salvation Army; a youth justice worker and her clients; and an expanding number of women in the community who are referred to me from these organisations, and also from women’s refuges, and the Family Harm programme.”

“Charity” is a funny old thing and it brought to mind this poem by Connie Bensley.

Charity

Trouble has done her good,
trouble has stopped her trivializing everything,
giggling too much,
glittering after other people’s husbands.

Trouble has made her think;
taken her down a peg,
knocked the stuffing out of her.
Trouble has toned down the vulgarity.

Under the bruises she looks more deserving:
someone you’d be glad to throw a rope to,
somewhere to send your old blouses
or those wormy little windfalls.

CONNIE BENSLEY (1984)

This is a complex poem and raises some interesting issues like, is it a charitable act to give away old blouses or wormy windfalls? Are people in need of “charity” some how less deserving and therefore have to be grateful for your old cast offs? Do people in difficult circumstances need “taking down a peg or two”?

Chief Aunty Jackie sniffs every garment and discards it, if it has so much as a whiff of mustiness. Anything stained? Chuck it.

I don’t want to speak on her behalf but my observation of Jackie’s view is that it must be given with love in your heart and therefore it will naturally be clean and in good condition. There’s some shit “donated” out there I have to say. If you just want to get rid of something put it in the rubbish. But also the crap is far, far, far, far outweighed by loads of clean, ironed, lovely things definitely given with love.

Judgement comes in too I guess. She’s got no money but she is smoking, takes drugs, has “too many” kids, stays with a violent man etc etc. in the end, her business is none of my business if I want to give someone a bit of support. I don’t know the back story, I don’t know what is happening for that person. I totally admit to having these sanctimonious thoughts from time to time but I’m trying not to.

Choosing gifts to donate? Makes us feel good to see all those presents wrapped up? For little kids that works well I think.  But…do we really know what that 14 year old teen wants? I think maybe at that age I would like a voucher to go out to the Boxing Day sales with my friends and choose something that is special to me. And yes that could be jeans with big rips in them because that happens to be cool right now.

Does anyone deserve less than the best we can do? And who decides what’s “best” for someone else?  Who knows when any of us might be “taken down a peg.”

There will inevitably be the stories where someone attended the Mission Christmas lunch and had “plenty of money” or “stole” two presents or…. do people say this to justify not giving anything?

Actually once it’s wrapped up, I don’t care what the receiver does with it. I hope they like it or find it useful, or are pampered a bit by it, or their children’s eyes light up but I don’t have any expectations that they need to be “grateful”.

Who knows what we do and why?

He Promised

He punched her in the face

At a party.

She fell,

The people grabbed him by the arms,

He was reeling

 

Later they returned together,

Arms around each other.

She was smiling happily.

She was pregnant, and he’d promised

To marry her.

 

by Anna Swir 

 

That all sounds a bit grim so here’s some Christmas cheer.

I baked a Christmas cake today and the whole house smells all cinnamon and brandy.

My favourite angel has the perfect grin. (I don’t tell the others she is my favorite though.) I bought her in The Netherlands from a  “disability ” workshop. They only used the creator’s first name and I’ve always wondered why. Because you are disabled you just get a first name? I don’t get that. A friend asked me how I attach them. i used the Commando clear mini hooks that theoretically pull off cleanly afterwards.

Have a good week. FG

I’ve got the power (not)

The Power Cut

So accustomed am I to having everything on tap that when the unscheduled power cut happened tonight I knew I couldn’t cook dinner so I thought I’d sit down and watch a bit of telly until it came back on…I know, call me stupid.

I’m now bathed in a wonderful soft candlelight and sadly there is no one to admire the soft glow I imagine my skin has in this light. It has also been a beautiful sunset, the sky bathed in reds and golds.

My phone battery is nearly dead as is this computer battery. Am I ready for an emergency? Heck no. Well I do have emergency chocolate. I hve also discovered I can’t touch typr  in the dark in quite the way I thoughy.

I am thinking of the people in Christchurch during and after the earthquakes and while it is a novelty for me for an hour or so, it was a major obstacle for them.

The power has just whooshed on again giving me quite a fright and I feel a bit out of sorts. While I was sitting here in the semi darkness, I was unable to use any distractions so there was just me and my thoughts and the candles really did look lovely.  Now FB is running hot and I can binge watch the TV again. But I don’t really want to…

Maybe Waldon et al were on to something.

There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature. Henry David Thoreau

Although I’m sure I read somewhere that he went to his mother’s for dinner quite a lot but that could just be an idle rumour. 

Although it is nice to make a cup of tea and put the Christmas lights on. I know, I know, it is still November but it was book club last night and I was feeling a bit yuletide yahooey.

On the topic of reposing in nature I wrote this poem while sitting with a view of the sea at New Plymouth recently.

View of the Sea 

There is so much interference with my view of the sea.

A book to be read

Powerlines and street lights.

A cup of tea.

There’s a white butterfly scavenging for cabbages and a car horn.

All interfering with my view of the sea.

A ship on the horizon, a flax bush, and seabirds,

The sun is shining now,  a pohutakawa is flowering, the first Christmas one,

and a woman in a blue walking  jacket.

Interference all.

Friends too.

Interfering with my view of the sea.

Hey ho, a rough draft but you get my drift. I’ll move to a rustic cabin in the woods and then realise there’s book club, the film festival, that nice cafe, a Christmas party, and I’ll find I can’t stand myself.

PS we neighbours got together for a film night recently. Here’s a question. When did Swiss women gain the right to vote???  1920? 1945? 1962? nope- it was 1971

“Die göttliche Ordnung”, written and directed by Petra Volpe follows fictional characters in the build-up to the national referendum in 1971, where a majority of Swiss men finally voted in favour of granting women the vote. Set in an unspecified and conservative corner of eastern Switzerland, the title (meaning “the divine order”) tilts ironically at ideas of men and women’s traditional roles.

When one of the main female leads wants to get a job, her husband tells her, quite rightly:

Now let’s not get carried away, but equal pay would be quite enlightened, wouldn’t it? We don’t want young women saying, “What do you mean that in 2017 women still didn’t receive equal pay??”

Just a thought. FG

You know you are getting old when…

you go to the museum in New Plymouth, Puke Ariki and see all the stuff you had at home as a child. At first I thought maybe they were just vacuuming the displays…

Who didn’t have one of these in their flat?

Then there were the trips to the dental nurse, what a complex range of emotions seeing the dental chair and the old treadle drill!  So many sights, feelings and smells. The terror, yes, the waiting room, muffled sounds of misery, the meths smell, the steriliser steaming and clanking away, but also the delight at the end when the nurse made me a little cotton tubular snowman made with dental floss and a black marking pen for the eyes. It was a badge of honour to take back to show you survived and were “good”. I still am averse to the dentist and still want a cotton snowman at the end…

The memories come flooding back just looking at the red leather seat and the spit bowl. My dental nurse looked quite a lot like Nana Mouskouri, although it may have just been the intimidating thick black glasses.

The treadle drill.

I feel as though I remember this too, especially that red rubber air squishing thing. Maybe they were standard issue.

If you need a laugh I think this Michael McIntyre skit about going to the dentist will do the trick.

In the next booth at the museum were the school uniforms. I guess this is New Plymouth Girls’ but Otago Girls High School was much the same. What a fuss there was about wearing the hat. I was caught downtown without my panama hat and was marched up the very steep street in Moray Place by Miss Upchurch and I had to return to assembly the next day to show that I had embroidered my name in it. (Thanks Mum)

Uniform rules were made to be broken and ranged from hoisting the gym frock up as short as possible by using the girdle to hold it up, to wearing “witches’ britches” underneath to reveal a fetching row of lace underneath. There were always endless discussions about hair length as  well. Nothing much has changed. Girls are still accused of “distracting ” boys just like the young woman in the orphanage in that wonderful but awful film, The Magdalene Sisters. Apparently she was too beautiful to be out in the world so was sent to the laundry in the local convent  so she couldn’t be a temptress.

Those are ribbons and tiny pigtails as my hair was deemed too long to wear out…

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I often imagine that uniforms were designed by twisted old bats to make young women look as hideous as possible. Where else in this modern age would girls be made to wear ghastly full-length tartan skirts?? And what was the hair length thing about? Envy of young lovely tresses perhaps?

Why do air hostesses have to wear a silly hat? Just asking….

Witches britches

The biggest gasp of shock, fear and definitely admiration was reserved for the model prefect who, in hushed whispers, “was pregnant”. After all, she had actually done “it”.

The good old days? Nah, not so much. I have always enjoyed teaching Fleur Adcock’s wonderful poem about uniforms and uniformity.

The latest Listener has an interesting article about the  surprising changes in attitude in the iGen teens.

Apparently, “iGen is distinct from every other previous generation in how they spend their time, how they behave and their attitudes towards religion, sexuality and politics.” 

One line made my heart lift, ” …they have no patience for inequality based on gender, race or sexual orientation”.  That certainly seems to be the case with my son’s circle of friends. They also seem more interested in politics and the world around them and are not particularly interested in material wealth. They keep in touch with the news though pod casts, TED talks etc. and therefore have access to a huge range of opinions and ideas.

What I’m Reading.

I have just finished Wichtel’s book and found it fascinating if grief stricken. I have had an obsession, I suppose, about the holocaust from an early age. I read Five Chimneys, The Silver Sword, Anne Frank’s Diary and others from an about 10 years of age and had recurring nightmares long after.

While Wichtel’ book is mainly about after the war and the miraculous “survival” of her father, it also drives home that the sufferings of the war linger long after and can run through the later generations.

One of the most chilling sentences in the book was when a Nazi soldier was interviewed after the war about the practice of bashing babies’ heads in against the side of the trucks. “It was just cargo,” he said, “just cargo”.

My nephews are both in the baby-making stage of their lives, precious, precious cargo. I can only knit soft, warm cashmere and hope their lives will be filled with love.

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Go the All Whites in about an hour. FG

The Country Idyll?

As many of you know, I’m a real estate junkie, constantly checking out every area of the country for a possible change in lifestyle. I never learn. My first house cost 45K and was in the tiny bend in the road 35 kms out of Christchurch called Irwell. I knew the area as I had started my teaching career at Southbridge District High School. However, I bought the Blacksmith’s Corner section while I was HOD English at Cashmere High School and doing my Masters part-time.

I fantasied endlessly about a potager garden, herbs flourishing, fruit trees heavy with bounty, and me wearing a fetching apron making home made bread.

Image result for perfect potager

NOT my garden

In reality, I was working all day and most evenings and then driving home on country roads and falling into bed and then getting up and driving back to town. I developed terrible hayfever and sometimes shut all my doors and lay on my bed with a pillow over my head as my neighbour across the road enjoyed Neil Diamond at full strength while working outside by putting enormous speakers on his veranda.

I did however, love my little, simple box house designed by Trevor Ibbetson, a dear friend who died far too early. I also loved the view of the Southern Alps.

It was in the Muldoon era and interest rates were frozen at 22%. After that foray into the countryside I went for houses right in town and built two sets of two townhouses over a few years.

Sam and I had another flirt with the countryside when I had a stint in Akaroa on a secondment. 18 months was enough of small town living and i was happy to go home to the city. It was after that that I was still restless and we went to France and then Auckland.

And now… I still hanker after the romantic countryside thing, even though I know it isn’t really real. I found myself thinking about this place near Geraldine as my next option… I know its crazy. I know if I was going to write  novel I would have done it by now but..

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https://www.ljhooker.co.nz/3ESGGX/fairlie

Even though it looks old it was built in 2016 and has the perfect BnB option in the garden. I’m not sure where the nearest film festival is though. Still it would allow me to have three months in France each year.

I was reading a blog that I really like called Brain Pickings by Maria Popova and this week she refers to Walt Whitman and the wisdom of trees. She quotes Hermann Hesse, “When we have learned how to listen to treesthen the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.”

I still consume, buy, worry, get caught up in traffic and work politics and yet I think I should have moved on from all this crap so I see a house in the middle of nowhere and think, maybe I could do that and be still. And then I think, nah, I’d be lonely and scared at night. And then I go looking for a sugar fix in the cupboard.

I’m pretty sure I could give up all work though and not be bored….

Illustration by Maurice Sendak from Open House for Butterflies by Ruth Krauss. Also form Brain Pickings. Well worth reading the whole article.

I also listened to a story the other day called The White Horse. It is a Chinese folk tale about not judging a situation. I, of course aspire to that but never manage it. But you might. 

My friend has been told of three friends this week who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Enjoy the moment if possible and let me know if you fancy accompanying me to Fairlie/Geraldine….FG

Len Lye in the sky.

Food and France-Petit Louis

When I was living in France over 14 years ago, Petit Louis’ was the place to go for a birthday or when visitors came. Not that it was expensive but it was a bit of a drive up to the Plateau de Sault. I lived in France only over the cold months from January to July so we always ate inside. When I arrived this year in late Spring I was keen to visit again but wasn’t sure that Petit Louis was even alive as he was talking about retiring many years earlier.

However, to my delight he was still very sprightly and his restaurant was as busy as ever. All the charcuterie is made on his farm and the produce is all sourced locally. We went on a lovely sunny day and sat outside in the busy garden for lunch.

Petit Louis always does his party trick of pouring the wine onto his forehead and letting it run neatly into his mouth without spilling a drop. He then offers this same trick to his guests. Woe-betide you if you close your mouth as you will be splattered with red wine.

When everyone is seated and the aperitif is over, a huge bowl of farmhouse pate in an earthenware bowl is unceremoniously put on the table. This is followed by an array of charcuterie all from the farm,  accompanied by unlabeled bottles of red wine and a bowl of wickedness – duck fat bits.

The mains tend to be duck, duck or duck in a variety of forms. Suffice to say the cheese is divine. Dessert is a crepe with homemade fig compote with cream.

A digestif is a definite requirement. For me this is bliss, a lovely homemade meal, sunshine, good friends and great wine. FG

 

Eating my way around Spain and France

We started our journey in Madrid. Day one, tired and jet-lagged I came upon churros for breakfast, perfect!

Spain is of course, famous for its tapas and we managed to sample quite a few.

Every place where you rest your weary legs for a drink, you always get free olives or other small tapas.

and there is often a tasty selection for “after”.

I imagined eating lots of oranges in Valencia but apparently they are not sweet and tasty but they still look and smell good.

I didn’t eat a standout meal in Spain but maybe it was because I was on the tourist beat. I did, however, meet a friendly foodie on the bus to San Sebastien.  He had flown to Bilbao from Barcelona and then was beside me on the bus to San Sebastien. He was very helpful and told me all about his blog. I now follow Daniel on Instagram and his photos are sumptuous and the food looks delicious.

You can see how well-known as a food writer he is on his blog site.

http://danielarbos.com

© Daniel Arbós

If you want to know where the five best places for coffee in Paris are, just consult his website. I wish I had taken the time to find one standout restaurant to go to, but still we had a pretty good time eating out every day in some unique and beautiful cafes.

We crossed the border into the Pyrenees and I immediately felt at home.  Part of the eating delight is the environment and we found the most exquisite setting for dinner right in the village square beside a very old church in the most glorious balmy temperatures.

When we reached my beloved France we returned to the little hamlet I lived in lived in with Sam 15 years ago. It was strange but lovely to visit Sam’s school and to visit dear friends who own a gite in Puivert in the Pyrenees. Each evening in the lovely late Spring weather we sat out with their guests in the garden and had dinner. Francoise is a wonderful cook as you can see below:

Just an everyday lunch….

It is called the Gite des Marionettes because they make beautiful handheld puppets.

These are the cheeses they eat every night, this is not a special occasion shot, so yummy.

Every night is special, starting with an aperitif and ending with a digestif.

Sharing a meal with a stranger immediately loosens the tongues even if those tongues are foreign and we always managed to make ourselves understood.

I am saving the trip to Petit Louis for another day as for me, it was a pilgrimage.

I don’t think  Michelle and Francoise would approve of my chocolate,liquorice log for dessert tonight.

FG

October 30- must be an auspicious day.

For absolutely no particular discernible reason, I thought I would start my blog again. Perhaps I have been hibernating the last couple of months and I have missed the discipline of writing regularly. I had a fantastic month in Spain and France and I think the Alhambra tour  was my favourite day in Spain.  We had a lovely view from our BnB. Maybe it was a nostalgia for my trip to Isfahan in the 1980’s but I have a thing for tiles and fretwork.

 

 

 

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France  was special for other reasons as I went back to the village Sam and I lived in and stayed with dear friends when he was ten years old. I went back to his little school and to our house that we had for 6 months.

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Sam’s school

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“Our” house in the sun.

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One of the things I loved the most was being in France in Spring as I had spent a lot of time there in the colder months. I found it hard to believe that I simply didn’t need sunblock even though it was 37 degrees and the flowers were sumptuous.

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Too much? Getting carried away? I always try to imagine living for another extended period in France. However, my French is as bad as ever.

I had not been to the Loire since I was in my twenties so it was a great pleasure to stumble upon a beautiful little town called Loche.

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Our BNB

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As always, I can resist looking at the real estate. However, it is not easy living in another country, especially if like me, you enjoy poetry and books. I am a bit of a hopeless linguist so it would be difficult to get beyond ordering yummy food. Loche was the perfect size though, like Goldilocks’ porridge it seemed just right.

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It seems an age ago that I was in sunny France but we still have flowers here to enjoy, even on my little deck of neglected blooms.

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and there are books to be read and knitting to be knitted. I have Grandma envy as my sister’s two boys are becoming dads. Sam isn’t impressed by my encouragement for him to procreate.

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Happy Monday. Fluffy George resurrected…

 

Children of the poor

I went to the movie Lion, last week and loved it. It is the true story of  five-year-old Saroo, an  Indian boy who gets lost and falls asleep on a train and ends up 1200 miles from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.

Sunny Pawar, as the five year old Saroo is utterly captivating. And of course the grown up Saroo is played by the gorgeous Dev Patel. Take your tissues.

I have been to India and the sight of this tiny chap alone in Calcutta is unbearable and unbelievable if you didn’t know it was true. I highly recommend the movie. As the credits roll you see that 80,000 children are “lost” in India each year. One short scene is really frightening as you see a group of little children huddled together in the underground and a group of men swoop on them with batons and carry them off, the children screaming in terror.

By coincidence and if that wasn’t enough to ruminate about, our book club book this month is called Little Princes and I was hooked pretty much from the first page. Again, this is a true story written by Connor Grennan, a young American who takes a year off to travel but goes to a Nepalese orphanage for three months first to “justify” going. One of the things I loved about Conor was his ability to be truthful about himself and his motives. Conor in many ways was an ordinary bloke, enjoyed dating, socialising, watching sport and drinking beer with his mates and he was off on his OE adventure that didn’t turn out quite the way he planned. I really admire his integrity and persistence.

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I so often become aware of things that were happening when I was an adult that I was so unaware of like the decade-long civil war in Nepal (1996-2006) that claimed more than 13,000 lives. I am ashamed to say I was aware vaguely about this but had o idea that thousands of children were taken from their parents, some by the Maoist rebels to fight for them and some by child trafficking rings. This book is testimony to the fact that one person can change lives. The children are incredibly resilient in the face of appalling treatment, starvation and separation from families.

This joyful, heart-wrenching and ultimately hopeful story just enthralled me and I highly recommend it. Conor has set up his own organisation against child trafficking called Next Generation Nepal. 

I went to India, Syria and Nepal on my OE at the ripe old age of 23 and like Conor was naïve about other cultures and still am of course, as I didn’t live in these places. I was just a tourist moving through but even that short experience helped me picture the streets of Kathmandu and the poverty evident there.

I have always been interested in stories from India, like God of Small Things, A Fine Balance and my favourite, Midnight’s Children. If you enjoyed these then I think you would enjoy this true story. I read it in one sitting as I really wanted to know what happened. Book club is great for challenging me to read books I may not otherwise have looked at.

Happy viewing and reading, FG

 

Pussies Galore

I am so glad that the women’s marches are being held all over the globe, including Antarctica. Since the orange troll was “elected” I’ve felt very threatened on all kinds of fronts- as a mother, a woman, a human being. I really don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that democracy is being threatened. All references to climate change and civil rights have been taken off the White-House website, women are again already experiencing the colonisation of their bodies, taking us all back another 50 years. Trump is refusing to adhere to the constitution regarding his businesses, he won’t release his tax return and of course we all know why that is.  And so so much more.

It was so heartening to walk alongside a couple of thousand people in Auckland yesterday (even better if it had been a couple of hundred thousand) but at least it is a start.  I hope to help make sure that it is the start and not the end of activism against this despicable person and what he represents. As there were more at the Washington march than the inauguration, this gives me hope.

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Auckland Women’s March 2017

 

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Antarctica division. Pussy hats certainly required down there.

Sometimes I think how little has changed- the media still wittering on about what the orange blob’s wife is wearing as opposed to what she is thinking (possibly not a lot to write about there in all fairness), the Washington social media pair in London go into the crowd to interview one of the thousands on the Women’s march and begin with a man… I feel despair when I see young women I know only ever posting pictures of themselves doing absolutely nothing and their friends sychophantically commenting “oh so cute babe” or “liking” plastic surgery for #$%^& sake. Their posts are all about brides and clothes and makeup, how I wish there was a balance on their pages that included some issues or politics occasionally. These are not teenagers but young women in their thirties; competent, clever women. I feel that I have failed these young women in not protecting them from the hogwash of women’s magazines, endless media portrayal of air brushed unreal women in child-bodies and the constant barrage of rubbish that says only the beautiful, young and usually white female is deserved of any attention. How can they help but feel they need to be “beautiful” when so little else is on offer. Maybe they reserve their politics and views for other forums though and I certainly hope so and I know what I see of young women on Facebook is very limited. I love the many feminist views of Sam’s friends and want to support these young ones in their resistance.

In 2017 women are still being paid 14 % less than men. Why are we all still sitting on our hands?

I don’t want to alienate these younger women because it is critical that they stand up for all women and the marches give me hope on that level too as they just may ignite the women’s movement to resist tyranny, bullying, violence against women and all that that entails. It just might encourage them to aim for CEO or go on a board or start their own businesses. It just might allow one beaten woman to seek support  before she is murdered. There is more than one woman per month being murdered by their partners each year in NZ.

Statistics from It’s Not OK-NZ

Partner abuse

50% of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) deaths occurred at the time of actual or intended separation. (9)

1 in 3 women experience physical and/or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime. (10)

76 per cent of recorded assaults against females are committed by an offender that is identified as family. (11)

In the four years from 2009 to 2012, 76% of intimate partner violence-related deaths were perpetrated by men, 24% were perpetrated by women. (12)

It is estimated that between 2-5% of the older population in New Zealand experience some form of elder abuse. (13)

And the US have elected a President who said this:

Donald J. Trump: You know and …

Unknown: She used to be great. She’s still very beautiful.

Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.

Unknown: Whoa.

Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

Trump: No, no, Nancy. No, this was [unintelligible] — and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping.

She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture —

I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.

Billy Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple.

Trump: Whoa! Whoa!

Bush: Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!

[Crosstalk]

Trump: Look at you, you are a pussy.

[Crosstalk]

Trump: All right, you and I will walk out.

[Silence]

Trump: Maybe it’s a different one.

Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s, it’s her, it’s —

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

Bush: Uh, yeah, those legs, all I can see is the legs.

Trump: Oh, it looks good.

Bush: Come on shorty.

Trump: Ooh, nice legs, huh?

Bush: Oof, get out of the way, honey. Oh, that’s good legs. Go ahead.

I know you know all this and while I feel sick reprinting it, I don’t want this fudged and forgotten. I hope that women globally will resist this and all the rest of the bigotry, brutality, misogyny  for all women- daughters, grandmothers, in the US, in India, in NZ, in the Antarctica!

The symbol of resistance on the marches has been the pussy hat. Brilliant! Have pattern, will knit. If you want one, send me the wool and I’ll do it. This post seems so badly written, haphazard, disorganised, unstructured. But I need to say something and do so much more. Hopefully we can do this together. FG

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