Monthly Archives: May 2016

Th Meaning of Life and all that…

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:

<a href=“http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062409603?ie=UTF8&tag=gregooscicen-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0062409603”>HarperOne, 2016, 288 pages</a>

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.

Research from the "Dunedin Study" has provided an insight into the lives of all of us, believes Mark McNeill.

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.

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Looking out at the runway in Auckland prior to departure.

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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

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Documentary Edge

It has been a fantastic week of documentaries. Q is doing a great job of running this festival and it finishes on Sunday. I also really appreciate the over 60 prices :)

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http://docedge.nz/festival/

I have been to the following:

Driving With Selvi 

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

http://www.howtodanceinohio.com/

Finally, my favourite film despite its weirdness. This review sums it up better than I ever could.

http://www.screendaily.com/reviews/a-family-affair-review/5097326.article

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.

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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

 

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and madness

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.

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I’m in good company with my knitting. Here is Eleanor Roosevelt.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 .

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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.

Happier days, FG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just accidentally deleted a long blog post….called Things To do, Stuff to see bugger…

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:

General Non-Fiction
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.
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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:
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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”.
Charming, Innovative Pohara Hilltop Home
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.
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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.
It puts a whole new spin on vegetarianism.
Just off to make  lunch and eat the mother’s day cookie given to me by another mother.
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Hope your life is heading towards quiet bliss too. FG