It’s been a quiet week. I have a new nickname-Crash. Thanks Patsy. Yes I was in a hurry and no there was no alcohol involved. I “bounded”, sylph-like off a low concrete wall in my car park and did a flying leap into the concrete. I was wearing my glasses and they have graduated lenses so I’m using that as an excuse. Unfortunately I broke them as well as my watch.
I looked a bit of a wreck but I am amazed at the properties of skin. I suppose that sounds really naive but horrible grazes and bruises have pretty much healed up over a week. Pride of course takes a little longer.
I have enjoyed painting a cabinet, hosting book club and have started knitting more frequently again. I have just finished The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. It was an easy, fun read and it got me all fired up about taking a canal trip in France. Anyone keen?
Friday is National Poetry Day so there are lots of events on around Auckland. I’m going to hear some readers at Point Chevalier Library on Saturday.
It got me browsing my poetry books and I came upon a book belonging to my late husband, Brett Gracie. He was an English teacher like me and loved poetry. The book was by Hone Tuwhare and in 1998, by chance Hone was coming to Christchurch to do a reading and I was responsible for hosting him at home. Sam was 6 years old at the time and Hone signed Brett’s book for Sam. Finding that tonight and seeing Brett’s familiar signature and then the little inscription to Sam was quite poignant.
As it seems to be raining so much I picked this short one to include in this post. His other poem Rain is probably his most read poem but I like this one, especially the line, “can bring a mountain weeping to its knees”
nor crawling thing
with saintliness and ease
a mountain weeping
to its knees
quicker than rain:
that demure leveller
maker of plains
I remember hearing Hone say how magical it was as a little boy discovering the library . He couldn’t believe that he could just go in and choose books for free. Recently, a young teen living with her family in a van in South Auckland was on national radio saying she really wanted to get out library books but didn’t have an address.
Every now and then the ugly head of charging for library books raises its head. May it never happen. As a child in a family of 8 there would have been no way that I would have been able to read as a child without a library. To this day I can tell you exactly what the covers of the books I loved looked like: My Friend Flicker, The Yellow Fairy Book, Cammie Rides Again, Quarrelsome Queenie and on it goes. There was nothing tame about these stories. I would weep and snivel and fear the dark forests and the evil just around the corner. there was nothing tame about the faraway tree. Apparently I cried when my mother was reading Noddy. It was probably those naughty goblins.
Mind you I was never keen on that monkey or the skittles. They might have been the precursors to my terror of clowns.
I remember walking down the hill to the library in a funny old Dunedin building with my pink library card and then lugging the books home again. I can only assume that some of my siblings were supervising but I don’t really remember that part. I loved that little machine that clicked and stamped the card with the date. There was always a slight anxiety that I might not get the book back on time and get fined. FG
I do remember being smacked for not listening to my father as I was completely lost in a book. I did it again recently on the ferry. The lovely young steward came up to me and quietly asked me if I was going back in to town. I looked up and everyone else had disembarked and I was still there reading my book. I felt a bit of a twit.
The joy of escaping into a book when all else is crumbling around you is fantastic. Long live libraries and poetry.
I feel as though today is the first kind of “normal” day I have had in a long while. I want to get back in to a routine of some exercise, some writing, some knitting, some reading and some meditating.
However, I have spent the first 20 minutes gazing out the window. I like to watch the building progress and I have a good view of some from my kitchen window. (All men wearing shirts in this weather…)
People often complain about the noise from the trucks but it really doesn’t bother me. I like to think people are out and about doing stuff even though I am totally blissed not doing that. I never get tired of waking on a Monday and knowing I don’t have to go to work. It’s not that work isn’t rewarding it’s just that I like to do my own stuff. Last night I knitted a little Alpaca hat for a friend at work who is pregnant.
I also got out the Moosewood Cookbook. There might be a few nostalgic sighs of recognition out there. I made my favourite Gypsy Soup, perfect for a cold and rainy day. I had bought some quinoa and sprout sourdough from the Hobsonville Point Market market to go with it.
I also went along to The Carer at the weekend. It was the perfect kind of film for a winter afternoon, satisfying, no violence or grimness and great acting on the whole. It is a fairly familiar story, think Me Before You or the The Untouchables but I liked it better than both of these. Maybe because I am a fan of King Lear. Brian Cox as Sir Michael Gifford is great and
Coco Konig as his carer is also compelling. It is all fairly predictable but well, I like a happy ending.
My latest read was a good one too. Different, funny and interesting. I can’t tell you about it without revealing a critical plot twist so I’ll just leave it at that. Suffice to say it is weird but ultimately believable.
How can it be August? I seemed to have skipped June and July. I’m at the stage where I find myself looking at options in the sun. However, they involve long flights, snakes and spiders, terrorists or tsunamis. I think I’m becoming a bit feeble.
I think I’ll just comfort myself with a nice cup of tea.
Unfortunately so far the Olympics have passed me by. I struggle with golf as an Olympic sport, bring back the synchronised swimmers I say. Is it odd to you as well that you only ever see synchronised swimming at the Olympics?
I’ll leave you with my favourite Leunig’s Olympic comment. (Well they did it in cycling) Happy Monday FG
It’s been a busy few weeks. I managed to shift and put all the paintings and everything up in four day before my visitor arrived for the film festival. I feel great being here as the size is more manageable. Things I’ve learnt:
I am never going to be a gardener– I love herbs for cooking though so the pots are perfect.
I love wooden floors and they are much easier to clean than tiles
I still have too much stuff even though I ditched a lot.
I dithered over my grandfather’s roll top desk as it was left to Sam in my father’s will. Sam showed nil interest in it and I just couldn’t store it so I ended up selling it to a local trader and giving the cash to Sam. I ditched some more stuff at the hospice including all my funny little books and teddy bears etc. I abandoned the lovely Beatrix Potter baby mugs and dishes as I never actually used them for fear of them being broken. Plastic rules with small children. I still couldn’t abandon the Beatrix Potters though.
That one open plan space is all I need. At my previous place I had two living rooms and one me. It wasn’t necessary and I love just heating this space and even better it has a void so the bedrooms upstairs are deliciously warm by bed time.
I understood the advice to buy something that suits what you do most of the time.
I have a guest bedroom but no separate bathroom. Horror of horrors! ( A spare loo though). My guest and I managed perfectly well for her 5 day visit and now I don’t have another bathroom sitting there 90% of the time empty and needing dusting.
I like technology – my new appliances that came with the house are quite cool. Although I did have to replace some of my pots for the induction cook top. A lot to learn but I am actually reading the manual. Despite watching the video and programming the heated tiles I have had no luck so far though. So much for living simply.
All in all, happily ensconced. It was a mission shifting again so soon and I feel a bit jaded but it is all done now.
I didn’t’ go to as many as films as I usually do as I was busy shifting but here are my one liners:
Obit. – – eccentric New York Times’ writers of the obituary column. Great doco.
So odd I couldn’t help watching. Truth really is stranger than fiction.
Film I went to sleep in –might have been good but I just couldn’t tell you. Neruda.
My latest Fluffy George poetry post was a bit of a mission as i decided the content warranted it being printed on cotton material. Here is the newsletter that went with it.
July 2016 Newsletter Fluffy George Postal Poems
I wrote this month’s poem when I was thinking about all the women who were made to give up work when they got married, all the voices silenced by drudgery, all the poems and artworks and ideas and inventiveness lost in the day to day work that women have always done. I think of the kitchen drawers with string and cotton and safety pins and snatches of stories and poems among them.
I love Lauris Edmonds’ work. She died at the age of 75 and was the mother of six children, five of them daughters. I am also a huge admirer of Patricia Grace’s writing. While teaching and raising her seven children, Grace joined a writing club and began to publish her stories. How did they do that??
My own mother had six children and made all our clothes and washed, ironed and cooked endlessly. I can recall, in a heartbeat, the smell of the wooden stick that sloshed the clothes around in the grey water of the old washing machine. Her creativity was expressed through sewing as in the three lovely spotted dresses above. I suspect I wore handed-down spotted dresses for some time. My mother had no ambitions, as far as I am aware, to write or paint. I wonder how any of the women who had these ambitions ever had any time to themselves, to write, to think, to read?
I think of Sylvia Plath, on a day described by her mother as one darker than the rest, when she left her two toddlers in the other room and gassed herself in the oven. I wonder how things might have been different if some kind neighbour had popped in and taken the children to the park on that dreary London day.
Mary Wesley is my shining light. She published her first novel at 70 in 1983. Her family did not approve of her books. Her brother called what she wrote “filth” and her sister, with whom she was no longer on speaking terms, strongly objected to The Camomile Lawn, claiming that some of the characters were based on their parents.
I have plenty of time but still manage to make excuses continually for just not getting on with writing; I have nothing but admiration for these women juggling all these things in their lives.
So this month’s poem is paying homage to all those women who wrote and dreamed and finally were published, or not. I think of all the work that may have simply gone up in smoke, or was trivialised or ignored, and never saw the light of day because of the time they lived and the society of men who decided what would or would not be allowed.
Poem on cotton
All looks easy but my first print run meant the poem was in mirror image when ironed on… thanks to a friend and her Apple Mac she finally got it sorted for me.
Many years ago my late husband gave me a book entitled, A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now, edited by Aliki Barnstone and Willis Barnstone.
In the section called Anonymous Songs from the 15th and 16th century there is a poem that has always made me smile, albeit still tinged with a little anguish. This young woman’s lyrics are surely the precursor to the modern song, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, by Cyndi Lauper.
Since I’m a girl
I want fun.
It won’t help God
For me to be a nun.
Since I’m a girl
With long hair
They want to dump me
In a convent.
It won’t help God
For me to be a nun.
Since I’m a girl
I want fun.
It won’t help God
For me to be a nun.
I don’t want to be a nun.
I am a girl waking to love.
Leave me happy and daring
With my love.
I am a girl in pain.
Possibly not as angelic and serenely content as it seems.
I really hope she didn’t have to become a nun and I hope she had a chance to be daring and happy.
As many of you know I have waited a year to move into my new house in Hobsonville Point. I have been here just on four months and … I’m moving around the corner. This home has 3 toilets, two bathrooms, two living areas and three double bedrooms as well as a large landing/study. In addition I have a lawn, a garage and a car space. And there is just me. I tried b and b just one night and quickly realised that sharing my house with strangers is not for me.
Furthermore I was approached by a family who were urgently looking for a home and couldn’t wait for one to be built. The upshot is I’m moving next week and two little girls filled with fun will be filling out those empty spare rooms.
My new place isn’t much smaller but it has a completely separate downstairs which has a separate entry and I have let that to two people looking for office space. I will occupy the top two floors and now just have a lovely large deck.
I didn’t know my current home would leave me feeling as though I was rattling around and so while it is an effort I just bit the bullet and am now packing again. It feels completely right to me.
I have given away or sold bits of furniture and I advise anyone to not store their children’s stuff once they leave home. Sam has had to collect his stuff as I just can’t accommodate it. (Thanks Bruce and Sam). I did have a massive clear out at my old place so it isn’t too bad but it is amazing how much extra stuff you can collect over a short period of time.
So today I am organising files. I am a bit hopeless when it comes to record-keeping so I am going to try and do better. I’ll let you know if it works.
Letting go of stuff at my age is difficult as it comes with memories. I find it hard to dispense with the things people have given me, or I have collected on my travels. For example I have a metal hand-painted set of Beatrix Potter figurines that I was given by a boy when I went to play at his house. I think we must have been about 8. I knew that his mother was cross that he had given them to me but she was too well-mannered to take them back. I actually found him recently on FB and asked him if he would like them back in case he had had children but he was happy for me to have them. At least I value them and have carried them through my life for a very long time.
Sam inherited my father’s roll top desk but has no place for it. I was going to simply trade it in but then thought to ask the rest of the family if they wanted it. My nephew and wife would love to have it so I will be packing it up for Dunedin this week. This is a great solution as it remains in the family with someone who will take care of it.
I am keeping the herbs and lime trees in pots for my new deck but am very happy not to mow lawn. So all in all I am very pleased with the move even though there is a lot to be done. I like having less stuff even though my minimalist neighbour would still think I had plenty. When I’m dead and buried I don’t mind what Sam does with it all as it is my stuff not his. The next major job is photos…. where do I start?
A friend collected every concert ticket, football match stub, train ticket he ever purchased which I thought was madness but he has recently scanned everything and then thrown them out. (Actually I don’t know if he has actually thrown then out but that was the plan). I have given up some of my late husband’s sculptures but the photos make me sadder so better not to look at them I think.
Some things stay the same. I had my favourite IKEA light in Sunnynook but the purchaser wanted to keep it and so I bought another for here. My new purchaser wants to keep this one so I have gone over the top and bought the really big one for my new place. I first saw them in Germany in an architect’s office that I passed most evenings on my way to my favourite cafe. He had two of the large ones and I assumed they were some expensive architecturally-designed light. They were somehow quite magical in the dusk of a cold winter in Munich and each evening the architect would look up and smile at me peering in his window. He was probably wondering who the creepy woman was. Turns out they are two a penny and from IKEA. I hope the big one doesn’t look too over the top. It is not just about the light but the memory that comes with it. For my birthday card, a friend gave me a postcard of the cafe. I’m just not ready to throw those kinds of things out.
This move will also give me a little more financial freedom and protect me from the vagaries of the Auckland market. So off I go Thursday next week. I need to get to grips with an induction stove top but I’m sure I can cope with the heated tiles in the bathroom.
Crazy but happy, both with the home I leave behind for the right number of people and also for the new pad which is more my size. Have a good weekend, FG
The other day while talking on the phone and carrying a bag downstairs my slippery slippers slipped me down the stairs.
The results is a painful shoulder and a broken bone in my hand.
Pink was my colour of choice of course and nails to match.
Wrinkly old hand but pretty pink colour-coordinated nails.
Being left-handed hasn’t helped and I have had a few challenges. I’ve resorted to doing up my bra the way my mother used to. That is, do the hooks up round the front and then swing it round into place. Awkward… I’ve also had to prevail upon my wing woman possibly more often than she likes.
Deb making all my Fluffy George Postal Poems envelopes and origami.Grouchy face on.
Oddly she is happier doing the ironing.
My neighbour saw my plight and offered to help with the book club supper. Usually we have a few biscuits and some chocolate with wine….. I felt like having a proper party instead. Fresh asparagus rolls, yum!
Book club supper extraordinaire. There were two layers of rolls but before people arrived it had mysteriously diminished to one.
It is good to me reminded to appreciate good health. Even pegging out the washing is tricky.
Wing woman at work again. She isn’t happy with the wine for work pay rate.
The moral of the story is hold the hand rail, don’t try to do other things while going down stairs and buy slippers with some tread on them!
I’ve mentioned before that I follow the Greater Good Science project done at Berkeley University. I subscribe to their newsletter and today I was reading through a few articles and came across the book below:
According to Strecher, the strength of one’s life purpose—which involves a combination of living according to your values and goals, and striving to make a positive difference in the world—can be measured, and it correlates highly with psychological wellness and even markers of physical health and longevity.
I’m not sure I have a life purpose except that when I gave up work full-time I felt much, much happier and healthier. I’m not making a difference in the world, and what Strecher makes clear is that it isn’t easy.
“Of course, giving lip service to having a purpose in life is not going to cut it. It has to be genuine and to truly reflect your goals and values. Also, there is a difference between finding your purpose and acting upon it, says Strecher.
“The dynamic process of aligning yourself with your life purpose requires energy and willpower: wind in your sails to move you forward, and a strong rudder to prevent being blown off course,” he writes.”
He goes further,
“If I were you, I wouldn’t wait around for more research. I’d just get a purpose,” writes Strecher. “The scientific evidence supporting the benefits of one is extremely promising, and, at the risk of sounding a bit alarmist, we need it.”
Not sure I have the willpower or a purpose but I am more grateful generally and living more keenly in the present. Mindfulness needs to be practised not just thought about so willpower is definitely important for me. I was tired this morning and not very focused so when the Greater Good Science email came through it helped me get back on track. I also read about the more detailed specifics about a gratitude diary. At the moment I just tear off the next page of my calendar and write it on the back and put it in the box the calendar came in.
Apparently, when you dig into the research, you find that gratitude journals don’t always work—some studies show incredible benefits, others not so much.
Emmons, a professor at the University of California, shared these research-based tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from your gratitude journal.
Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counter intuitive, but it is how the mind works.”
So all this year I have been doing it wrong…for me though it is having the time to just stop and think and I know I couldn’t persevere at all if I was working full-time. Now I can rethink the journal and adjust how I do it. Friends who are working full-time find it really hard to fit daily practices in of any kind when they are working so hard.
Last night I watch all four episodes of Why Am I?based on the longitudinal study of over one thousand babies born in Dunedin in 1972 (which is why I’m tired but I just couldn’t help ti, they were addictive). Forty years later 94% of participants are still in the study. In terms of scientific research this is very unusual. It is gripping viewing and the research out of it is incredible-something like one published paper every two weeks for forty years.
I can’t remotely summarise it here but some of it is what we intuitively know and it can be hugely mitigated if we put resources and weight behind the research. The most obvious is that a happy, secure childhood is absolutely critical to an adult’s well-being. Teaching children self-control is also highly possible and important. The outcomes for Moko if he had survived look grim.
Other results are really surprising and ground breaking and they seem to apply the world over. Our very high suicide rate is inexcusable and unacceptable. The really surprising outcome for me was that children raised in poverty cannot escape their past. Even if they go on as adults to live prosperous and healthy lives, the poverty legacy remains and the health outcomes don’t change. The inflammation in childhood stays in the body. So the millions it costs in combating crime, poor health, victim impacts, the economy, etc etc could be minimalised by focusing on and resourcing babies and the under fives. I can do without a damn tax break, I want my money put into children.
It is completely absorbing and compelling viewing. Let me know what you think if you watch it.
I went to Christchurch for a few days this week and getting to and from the Auckland Airport was a nightmare. Pouring rain, heinous congestion and 2.5 hours before I actually walked into the airport. However, once I reached Christchurch I loved the proper autumn weather and even the autumn chill. Having four clear seasons is rather lovely. The Riccarton market in Dean’s bush is still my favourite as it doesn’t just have the luxury extras like chutney, it has gorgeous greens and fresh vegetables of all kinds.
Looking out at the runway in Auckland prior to departure.
I did experience a little shake though…no-one else even noticed but it was there on Geonet.
I’ve just finished God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson’s follow-up novel to Life After Life. They are both fantastic if you need a good read. My father was a radio man flying Sunderlands in the war and this gave me a real insight into the whole horrendous bombing raids over Germany.
Any way, it’s stopped raining for a bit so on with a raincoat and off for a walk. Doris Lessing probably has it right. Have a good week, FG
3.5 stars from me. The Indian patriarchal society is very much alive and well and Selvi was married off at 14 to an abusive creep. She ran away and found her feet at what seems to be a very well-run home for young girls and women who are escaping violent homes. She becomes the first female taxi driver in the area and thrives on the freedom and responsibility. Selvi falls in love, much to her surprise and the husband accepts her without a dowry. When she has her daughter he won’t “allow” her to go back to work until their daughter is older. Selvi finally has the chance and trains to drive buses and large trucks and sets up her own business. She and her husband now share a trucking business. The most delightful part is that she is determined her little girl will get an education.
The Man Can Make a Difference
Ullabrit Horn’s movie chronicles the eventful life of Hungarian-born Jewish lawyer Benjamin Ferencz, who fled to the USA as a child and later became Chief War Crime Prosecutor in the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-1949. Fifty years later he was also one of the founding members of the International Criminal Court. Ullabrit Horn portrays a man, who was able to change world history through his actions – A man can make a difference. Originally the movie title was Law not War. It was amazing to see this very young man at aged 27 as the Chief War Crime Prosecutor. As an aside, Ferencz is totally opposed to war at any level but is estranged from his daughter. I wanted to know why. Definitely compelling viewing 5/5 for me.
The Infinite Happiness
This doco is about architect Bjarke Ingels’s ‘8’ building in Copenhagen.
The film is like a series of chapters about the residents and residences in the complex. We see the building from many perspectives- a frenetic child’s birthday party, the terribly disgruntled owner who is plagued by nosy tourists looking in his windows all day and the eccentric inventor who has a workshop in the basement among others. It was marred a little for me as it began extremely loudly and this was both annoying and uncomfortable. I wanted to know more about the architect too, but it was an interesting watch and got me thinking about the Hobsonville aims and objectives. The 8 is a much more exciting and innovative idea and it would be great to see some of this thinking put into Auckland. 3/5
Be Here Now- The Andy Whitfield Story.
“An inspiring love story between superstar, Andy Whitfield, of “Spartacus” fame and his charismatic wife, that reminds the audience that the journey is more important than the destination.” http://www.beherenowfilm.com/ In a way it wasn’t an extraordinary story because we all know someone who has gone through the anguish of cancer but maybe that’s why it was a good story. It reminds us to be here now, that cancer is not choosy, that it can happen to a gorgeous movie star who has the resources to travel to India and live in a beautiful house or it can happen to our neighbour, our children, ourselves. A friend of a friend mentioned in passing that her friend’s son died recently aged 23, of a brain tumour. My Sam is 23. It frightens me but all I can do is remind him to check on any suspicious-looking mole or lump or pain, not ignore it, even if it is nothing and then Be Here Now.
Dancing in Ohio
I loved this tender, funny, moving film about high functioning autistic teens preparing for their spring prom. Their teacher was a lovely man who questions himself in challenging them to get involved in a life that is always hard and messy and difficult for all of us but much more so for his students. I thought the parents were absolutely wonderful -loving,patient and truly accepting of their teens’ disabilities and who they are and who they could become. A humbling and very affecting film. 5/5
The adage truth is stranger than fiction holds true here. There was absolutely nothing likable about the poisonous, self-centered Marianne but her children and grandchildren were extremely likable, despite the damage she caused them. Fascinating. 5/5
I posted out the May edition of the Fluffygeorge post yesterday so look for it in your mail box, those of you who have subscribed and thanks again for supporting my little project. It nearly didn’t happen because the roads in Hobsonville Point are not yet on GPS and my parcel of printing from Australia all went to a house in Sandspit with the same street name. This meant my wing woman and I had to go north, find the house and then chase the courier van to retrieve them. Fortunately we managed to do it and squeeze in a coffee at the lovely Brick Bay Cafe http://brickbay.co.nz/
We didn’t have time for the sculpture trail and I have been before but it looked as though they had some new sculptures so it will have to wait until next time.
May FG poetry post
I am off to Christchurch for a few days but it is so lovely to be at home with the rain on the roof and the double glazing. It will good to go and good to come home again. Looking forward to a catch up with friends. Have a happy week. FG
We have all been enjoying a very balmy summer in NZ that has drifted into the end of May. But now for me I am ready for the change of season. I like the golds and reds of autumn, the soup on the stove and the lavender bath before bed. I enjoy lighting the scented candles, picking up my knitting again and cosying into bed with a good book now that it is darker earlier.
I’m in good company with my knitting. Here is Eleanor Roosevelt.
And Katherine Hepburn
I like the soft lighting that comes with autumn, it’s easy to see why English people find it hard to take Christmas seriously in the summer.
I even like rugging up for a walk in autumn, not having to worry about sun screen. I like boots, socks and merino singlets and the corny old cliché of rain on the roof. It makes me feel safe and grateful to have a roof over my head. It’s pretty nice too, to go to the movies in the middle of the afternoon when it is raining outside like today.A friend and I went to Carol and it was one of those rare American movies that had a lovely understated, languid pace filled with erotic tension and uncertain outcomes. Very satisfying, not to mention cheap. It was $5 cheap Wednesday at the Academy where the ice-creams are the same price as the ticket. I hope going to the movies doesn’t die out as a social activity as predicted as it is so delicious to sink down into a seat with an ice cream covered in chocolate and nuts that I would never buy at any other time or place. In fact, why do they have those particular ice creams only ever at the movies?
I think autumn must be my favourite season; spring is too sneezy, summer is too sweaty and winter is too gloomy.
My wing woman and I went exploring the local hospice shop the other day and came across a rather pretty coddler. I had never coddled an egg in my life and she kindly bought it for me. It is a bit time -consuming for what is essentially a poached egg and the thing is a pain to clean but I like the little ritual of it and the feel of the smooth porcelain. I have scarcely used my microwave since shifting here as most days I have time to take my time, set the table even if it is just for me, and eat without having to gobble and go.
And when I do have to go to work, I have yet to tire of the early morning light down at the landing. A ferry is very different from a bus or train somehow. It feels a little like being on holiday, and that there is possibility in the rhythmical pace of casting off and then arriving in the middle of the city.
And then autumn is the right season for baking bread, it’s a good excuse to warm up the kitchen and it is another slow-paced, unhurried activity.
And somehow it is easier to write for longer periods and read. I am having fun getting my next Fluffygeorge Postal Poems ready for sending. It is quite daunting attempting to write poems, (who do I think I am?) when Keats is so accomplished. However, Elizabeth Gilbert is my go to person for permission to write, especially as I’m never going to be a ballerina now. I’m not expecting that anyone will make room on their bookshelves anytime soon but maybe once a month they might stick something on the fridge with a fridge magnet.
Anyway, there is room on my bookshelf for Keats and while it isn’t helping anything out there in the world, it soothes me and allows escape from the dreadful death of Moko, the burnt body of the young woman in Canterbury, the mother and child dug up from under the bridge and that dangerous buffoon in America. I was shocked and chilled watching the audience at his rallies- the vicious hatred, the punching of people who were just there to protest, the utter crap coming out of his mouth. In my nightmares I see the red and orange army (don’t ask me why red and orange, maybe its the hair and the face) with the tacky gold emblem goose stepping its way across America inciting hatred, divisiveness and misogyny in all its ugly forms. I confess to seeing assassination as a viable pathway right now which I know is a contradiction in terms.
I think the Trump supporter below is meant to represent “Making America great again.” I’m hoping for a massive heart attack for him as soon as possible. Call me unkind.
If this isn’t terrifying??
This picture evokes the most awful feeling inside and it reminded me of the similar visceral reaction to this picture taken in South Africa and reproduced in the book Mandela- The Authorised Portrait .
I’m no politician or political analyst but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or even a person with a very low IQ to recognise a complete fuckwit when one sees one. How can I move from lovely women knitting, early morning mist and home made bread to the injustices of the 1950s towards gay women, to the everyday violence perpetrated in NZ, to that modern day Hitler. I started out with the sound of rain on the roof and even that just reminded me of the families with no roof over their heads or if it is a roof it is the inside of a car.
I have no answers, just a whole lot of questions. it’s too much. Keats, get me out of here.
Ode: To Autumn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or, by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
I’m just going to look for something beautiful each day to be grateful for and starting right now with the story of Old Blue, now there’s a story of hope of ever there was one. If you have children (or even if you don’t) I highly recommend it. The illustrations too, are gorgeous.
Anyway, to begin again…it’s a fantastic time to be in Auckland as there is just so much on. Firstly there is the comedy festival, I’ve been to two gala shows where you get a range of comedians. My favourite bloke so far is a Finnish comic, Ismo Leikola. Labelled as the funniest stand-up comedian in the world, he kind of reminds me of those little Scandinavian trolls and yet he doesn’t even wear a hat or have a beard.
I loved Felicity Ward’s show based on her irritable bowel and her depression. Definitely ha ha material but it was hilarious and also strangely moving. Secretly, I would love to do it myself, not the irritable bowel, the stand up comedy… They are so brave and scary.
Last night I went to the one-show only Mother’s Day Comedy Show organised by Michelle A’Court. It was a line up of a couple of full-time comics but also a group of women just wanting to tell their stories. There were some very funny bits but also some sad bits, moving bits and intriguing bits. The only rule was that it had to be the truth.
The most thought-provoking speaker for me was an articulate, gorgeous young woman who came out on stage in a fabulous frock. I settled back to hear a cosy story about her relationship with her mum. Her first words were, “I became a prostitute as a student and paid off my student loan and had enough left to travel overseas.” There was a kind of silence that was all about processing and trying not to look appalled, shocked, dismayed, horrified. I suppose I expected a road to redemption kind of story but in fact she enjoyed her job and learnt a great deal about compassion. She told the story of a client who was a frail elderly man in a pensioner’s cottage. He led her inside and removed a duffle bag from the back of the wardrobe containing a two dollar shop set of makeup and some fusty nylon dresses. They had a gentle afternoon of dress ups. Hopefully in this day and age, he might have been able to be true to himself.
I still feel that the intimacy of sex holds huge significance and that having sex without love takes away a little piece of yourself.
Please support the women in the festival as they are in the minority in comedy. They often don’t fare that well on programmes like 7 Days that are dominated by males, one liners and sexual innuendo. I think women are sometimes funnier when they have the time to set up a story. Or when they aren’t shouted down or talked over.
Also on this week is the Auckland Writer’s Festival.
I’ve only booked for Gloria Steinem and the Ockham Book Awards night. This is because I want to sycophantically (no such word) shine in the outer halo of Fiona’ Farrell’s glory when she wins. “She’s my friend, that clever woman there..” etc. I know, I know, it’s pathetic. The dosh is great though, 50k for the winner. It’s kind of like live Lotto, well kind of….
The finalists in the non-fiction are as follows:
Maurice Gee: Life and Work, by Rachel Barrowman (Victoria University Press)
The Villa at the Edge of the Empire: One Hundred Ways to Read a City, by Fiona Farrell (Penguin Random House)
Māori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood, by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House)
Lost and Gone Away, by Lynn Jenner (Auckland University Press)
Good luck FF.
The other cool thing on this week is the Italian film festival.
I don’t go to those real ones where you see the back streets of Naples.
I choose the ones that portray the rural idyll in Puglia.
I was especially excited to go because of this:
Yes! I am now the Silver Vixen with her Silver Bridge card. We are talking 10 dollar movies and ice-creams for $2.50. Yay.
So I went off to Quiet Bliss, attracted by the title. It is about three generations of women in a family that has to move back to their family olive grove when the factory goes bust. Tough.
It is in fact quite a complex story and the characters are flawed and fractious. Not a happy ever after completely. America could simply not make this film although the teenager looked a bit like Sophia Loren. Not sure how much pasta they all eat in real life.
The book club book this month was excellent. The thing I like about book club is that I am forced to read books I wouldn’t choose. Of course I judge books by their covers and I certainly wouldn’t have gone for this one. Gives me nightmares just looking at it.
Shortlisted for the Booker in the eighties, The Industry of Souls is the story of Alexander Bayliss, a British citizen arrested for spying in the Soviet Union in the early 1950s. Presumed dead by the British Government, he survives 20 years in a Soviet labour camp. Eventually freed from the gulag in the 1970s, he finds he has no reason to return to the West – he has become Russian in everything but birth. He finds his way to the home of his best friend at camp – Kirill. A real laugh a minute and yet…
While it is fiction, you know it is based on fact and so the horror of being sent to a gulag and 25 years hard labour in a coalmine for giving the local communist leader’s son a deserved D on his essay is hard to fathom. The rapists, thugs and thieves get 10 years for their misdemeanours. The main character is the only Englishman in his unit. The thing that permeates the book is the endless cold and the smell of cabbage. Sounds depressing but actually it isn’t as it is the force of the human spirit against the odds.
Which brings me to the scholarship applications I am helping with for a private trust at the moment. Those stories are heart-breaking and I need to do more. The amount families have to try to survive on is disgusting. These people are trying to get educated and change a whole cycle of poverty and failure but the obstacles are often insurmountable. Can’t afford a computer but can’t afford to get to uni or cover child care or the doctor’s bill which sets the whole budget out of kilter again. The word budget is laughable really as it is simply not possible to look after three children when you have 100 dollars left each week.
And yet, against the odds, the marks they have already achieved are astounding.
On a wider scale, if you really want depressing I listened to a great podcast this week from Professor Corey Bradshaw. Basically in thirty years the population will reach 9 billion and we will be unable to live on the planet. I’ll be ninety if I am still here so I’m not too bothered but for my grandchildren? Even Professor Bradshaw concluded the interview with, “I feel quite depressed now.” He has an eight year old daughter and says she will simply not be able to live the life he lives.
We would need to all immediately become vegetarian, have water recycling, energy-saving everything, reduce emissions etc, and of course that just isn’t happening. I am as guilty as anyone.
It’ enough to move to the country and bury my head in the compost. You know, the quiet bliss of an eco commune in Nelson, key words “orchard” and “eco”.
There is a slight hitch in that I hate gardening and love all that Auckland has top offer. There’s only a certain number of jars of home-made chutney you can eat and I have 54 square metres of grass that I struggle to mow and a tiny front garden that despite the bark chips is already full of weeds that I must get around to pulling out.
So the Quiet Bliss idyll may be beyond me. Still we have yet another day of glorious weather which is probably the result of climate change and I have a day off to do as I choose so quiet bliss is, at least for now within my reach.
I am also excitedly waiting to see my next Fluffygeorge Postal Poems arrive from the printers this week and Sam is coming for mother’s day dinner, cooked of course by the mother. So all is as well as it can be.
I also haven’t felt the remotest compulsion to take up the latest diet fad which is apparently to swallow a balloon full of water so you don’t feel hungry. How I wish I was making this up.