Saturday, December 29, 2007

Social Interactions

Over the past few days, I've had a couple of slightly random moments of social interaction.

First up, the owners of our house have been back in NZ over Christmas for the first time in a good few years and wanted to look round and do a bit of work on the house. They are very pleasant (especially when compared to our mental previous landlady) and having them about was no problem. On Thursday they came and did lots of work in the garden but didn't quite finish and so they came back on Friday. By which point the chap had done his back in and couldn't help. Which led to him coming in to sit down and us talking about all manner of things (my future career, churches, NZ/UK cultural differences, what we miss most about home, how much you can (can't) trust the media, the NHS vs NZ medical system...). It was very pleasant. We talked for a good few hours while "she" finished off the gardening. A great use of an afternoon when I was getting not very much at all done.

Then on Saturday morning I telephoned a gentleman who has kind of adopted one of my cousins and is a surrogate grandfather to him (the common grandparent we have left is Grannie and thus there is a grandfather shaped hole). This gentlemen splits his time between the UK and NZ and knows the bit of the country we are thinking of travelling on our three week camping extravaganza reasonably well. My dad spoke to my cousin, my cousin spoke to the gentleman and there I found myself ringing someone I don't know at all to chat about holidays... I don't like ringing people, I especially don't like ringing people I don't know or only know a little bit and don't know how to introduce myself (you know, that person that you know who they are but you've not really spoken but someone suggested you ring them cos they have this thing you need to borrow or whatever and how much detail do you need to put in? Is your first and last name enough? Do you need to give them a context? Or a so-and-so said to call?). In that respect, this was a relatively easy call to make because he wouldn't know who I was and there was obvious context to give. Anyway, point being, I was a little nervous about the call but ended up having a nice wee chin wag with the gentleman (definitely a gentleman) and agreeing that if we ended up in his neck of the woods, we'd pop by for a coffee. All good.

Last night, we had a very social evening though without any of the randomness of the first two! We went into Wellington for a gig by our friend's brother's band. We do know the brother too but he has been away down south at uni for the past year so we've not really seen him since we spent Christmas with the family last year. Anyway. His band were up for a few days for this gig and so on and a lot of our best friends here were at the gig. It was a fantastic evening of hanging out with people, chatting, dancing and really, really enjoying the band. I was very impressed. They are a crazy mix of country and alternative rock but it works very well. Their cowboy hats were ace. Here is their myspace page - check them out. :) A very fun evening. But highlighted how old we are...it was a long way past my bedtime when we got home at 1am...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A jolly holiday

Despite never quite managing to achieve that "Christmas feeling", we've had a very jolly few days.

On the 23rd, I sang in a choir at church in the morning. It had been quite traumatic in the run up as it really felt like everything wasn't going to be ready on time. It was, just. And now I've stopped humming the tunes relentlessly, it almost seems that it was enjoyable.

In the afternoon, Husbink woke up early from his mid-work-nights sleep and we walked up the firebreak in the hills behind our house. It was pretty hard work at points and my legs were shaking by the top but the sense of achievement and the views made it extremely worthwhile. Coming down was a little hair raising in places - I "chose" to sit down a few times!


Christmas Eve was hectic - Husbink sleeping off nights, sorting out chips in the car windscreen (turned out replacement was the best option so we have a shiny new windscreen now, doubt that will last long on NZ roads!), baking, having the owners of our house come round for a look (as they are back from the UK for a week for the first time in about three years...), doing various house jobs and trying to stay awake for a midnight service...

Christmas Day was lovely. Mostly very chilled out (a little unchilled initially as there were just soooo many people at our friends house and all trying to get to different places to see other parts of families and so on...). We ate, we went for a walk, we got very frustrated with various little puzzles, we ate more, we drank a little, we came home and watched my Christmas present from Husbink's sis (the BBC version of Wind in the Willows from last Christmas, it was good). And then we had a Very Big Sleep. Mmmm.

Boxing Day took us by surprise by starting off very sunny - which frankly was not what we wanted. We were really looking for a good excuse to spend the entire day lying on the sofa watching DVDs, munching goodies and so on. Fortunately, after we had forced ourselves out for a little bike ride, the weather turned and we had a miserable afternoon that totally justified watching Harry Potter and eating cake. It was the first Harry Potter which I haven't seen in quite a while and it was fun. Though a lot of the fun was both of us sitting there going "gosh, wasn't book 7 brilliant!" and other such things. It would have been extremely irritating for anyone else to watch with us.

And now, Husbink is back to work and with just two weeks left in the house, I'm full steam ahead sorting and packing and so on. Crazy days.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Downloading my brain

My brain is just a teensy weensy bit full at the moment with all the moving things and the Husbink job things (I haven't really mentioned this yet...but he will have to apply for the Big Next August jobs before we leave NZ rather than being home in time for applications as we had hoped. Also the jobs have changed. He'll only be applying to 2-3 years rather than 7. Which in some ways seems more manageable but means that life will continue to be precarious.) and so I needed to clear out various thoughts today. Thus quite a few posts. I hope that makes it more manageable than one Mahooooosive one.
Urgh, my brain hurts. And the day isn't over yet...

The Difference Between Me And Kiwis. No, not the birds. Or the fruit.

I came to realise today one of the big differences between me and your average Kiwi.
Mostly, in what I'm going to describe I'd rather be like them than me but I accept (to a large extent) that I am a product of my country and my upbringing and although, with awareness I may change a little, I do not think I will change drastically in this area. Of course, what follows is also gross generalisation.
Kiwis are blunt. They may appear rude in various circumstances. They do not wave to say thank you when you let them pass you on the road. They do not make many attempts at "the customer is always right" if they believe you to be entirely wrong.
Kiwis are also exceedingly friendly. They will not gush at you or bounce at you or bubble at you. But they will invite you into their home and expect you to understand that that invitation really is an open one. You will, if you wish it, find yourself with several surrogate families. And not just one layer of those families. We have two surrogate families here. Both are wonderful and we will miss both very much. Even outside our surrogate families, we have good, good friends who will help us out at a moments notice, even if they are lost in the midst of Christmas shopping with three small, not wonderfully happy children. Even if they are people that perhaps we would say we didn't know so well, we know they will help, always.
And I am the opposite of this. I will be very excited to meet you. I will bounce. I will chatter. I will want you to feel at home. But my home will not, much as I might wish otherwise, be one that you feel you can just drop in on. I hope when you do come round that you will feel very welcome but I know that you will have waited for an invitation rather than just appearing on the doorstep. When you ask me for help, I will have to swallow all the thoughts that bubble up first (what about this plan or that plan, I'm not sure I have time, I need to do this, I can't do that, urgh) before I can help you. I will still help you most of the time but I don't think I'll be as helpful as I would if I didn't have to push aside those thoughts first. The flip side is that most of the time, I won't ask you for help because I won't want to put you out either.
I've had to learn this over the past year and a half. First, that Kiwis aren't rude or even abrupt, they just aren't spending their energy where I do. Second, that actually, I should ask for help, it is always there and keen to be given. If I ask for more help then perhaps I will learn to give more help too. Third, being polite and friendly at first meeting is ok too. :)

Getting in the spirit of things...

I've struggled a little (but not as much as last year) to get into the Christmas spirit while "upside down". Instead of dark nights, woolly hats, the possibility of snow and twinkly lights to herald the Christmas season, down here it is strawberry picking, blossoming pohutukawa, end of year school exams and the approach of the longest day that indicate to those in the know that Christmas is just around the corner.
I've been waiting and waiting for the pohutukawa ever since last May when we moved to this house on a pohutukawa lined street. Sadly it is a bad year for them this year (having been the best year in a long, long time last year) and only one on the street is showing any signs of blossom. I had trained myself that pohutukawas meant Christmas. They have let me down.
We are not helped, of course, by the super early posting thing. It cost well close to $200 to send all our parcels and cards this year despite getting in before the "economy" deadline. Had we left it until a little closer to Christmas so that we were more "in the mood", I dread to think what that cost would have been.
It is hard to trigger that Christmas feeling, excitement (materialistic, spiritual or emotional), because we don't have any of the usual clues.
And so I have spent this afternoon wrapping up the few small presents I got for Husbink and baking for the church community Christmas lunch (apparently over 200 people from the community who would not have anyone else to spend Christmas with are going this year, awesome!), with a sound track of my two Christmas CDs - Songs of Praise carols and, umm, I don't remember the name of the other one but something like The Best Christmas Album in the World Ever Part 27...
I'm not sure I'm any more in the mood as would be normal back home but I'm certainly a little more giddy. And mainly it is down to one song. Ahem. Possibly one of the cheesiest songs in existance but with that manages to marry together the different strands of Christmas excitement. The cheesy, twinkly-lighted, shopping, shopping, shopping excitement. The emotional, family aspect (at least in part cos my mum and gran both like it too). The spiritual part as, of modern Christmas songs (i.e. not including carols), it has to have some of the words that best reflect Christianity, and how it now squeezes into an increasingly secular celebration of one of its most important events. Yes, that would be Saviour's Day by Cliff Richard. The only song in my Christmas collection that made me dance round the living room and kitchen while baking my ginger & almond biscotti (an experiment - need work, too sweet...). Having said that, The Spinners version of The Twelve Days of Christmas has just come on...if anything can make me giggle and fall into childhood reminiscence, it is The Spinners. Oh, and maybe Flanders & Swan but that isn't relevant to this now is it?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I love it when a plan comes together...

This week has been a little hectic so far but has seen HUGE amounts completed off the ENORMOUS to do before moving countries list. And off the reasonably small to do before Christmas list. And off the isn't it nice to have fun sometimes list.
Which is all rather exciting. I was gaining a rather comfortable sense of achievement from all the list ticking which was hugely added to last night when we went climbing and I made it up The Chimney. The first time we climbed (this being our third time) I belayed a friend while she went up The Chimney and I thought "no way". Yesterday Husbink decided to go up it so I belayed him and still thought "no way". But he persuaded me and I Did It. You could not wipe the grin off my face for the next few hours, I was very chuffed with myself. The absolute agony that I'm expecting through all my muscles at some point today hasn't arrived yet... Typing is quite hard work though as my fingers are pretty knackered! I'm hoping we can find as nice a climbing wall in England as this one. It has character, rather than just being part of a leisure complex or the like. Though I do feel a little bit like I don't really need to acquire any more hobbies, perhaps just some useful skills for life or some career options or something like that would be handy... Ah well, I'll stick with the hobbies until then I guess...
Time for today's to do list. :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

You know you have to laugh at yourself...

I was just sent a quiz on facebook by a friend who is about 16...
It was a "how old are you?" quiz and she had come out at 22.
So I thought well, why not...
And I came out as...6! Which makes me quite happy. I may spend today being a 6 year old. Only, one that can drive a car...(actually, saying that the batmobile was my favourite car probably has a lot to do with the outcome...but the choices were really bad...)
It is only slightly alarming that they decided I was 6 after I'd said my favourite drink was wine...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Emotionally Hungover

Yesterday evening went pearshaped.
A number of things contributed. We can't deny the old hormones. Or the general emotional upheaval of the moment. Or the earwig. Crawling on my black & white chocolate muffin.
On the whole, the emotion was that silly uncontrolable grump that only hormones can cause. I wrote a blog last night. I had just enough sense left to delete it. I also had just enough sense left in the hour or so spent trawling the internet (cos I was too upset to go to bed) to not throw my computer against the wall when I read various things that upset, infuriated or belittled me. I'm sure if I read those things today there would be no problem.
I ended up deciding it was safest not to stray into too many unknown territories at this point and started reading various "old things". Old emails, old blog entries. Eventually this did help me calm down enough to go and sit on Husbink's knee for a while (still incapable of saying anything nice to him. He's an awfully good Husbink to have) and finally make my way to bed. I woke up this morning still in a reasonable tiz so we played a game that we both have a very strong love/hate relationship with. It eventually made me so upset and angry that I started crying and then could tell Husbink all the things that were bothering me from the "I know this only bothers me because of the hormones" to the "This is actually a serious problem and I don't think we can fix it but you should know" issues.
Then we went to the library and rented the 5th season of 24 and I bought lots of new wool (not from the library) for more squares for my multicoloured blanket. And had beans on toast for lunch. (Only, they were weird beans...morrocan stylee which meant they weren't really like baked beans at all and more like a morrocan tagine thing with chickpeas that I sometimes make. All well and good but not really what I was after on a comfort eating day. Which means it is definitely fish fingers and chips for tea. I digress. Which is frankly what I'm going to do all post. You may want to stop reading now...). I feel ok now. I don't feel amazing. I certainly don't feel positive enough to go out and deal with Christmas shopping for Husbink's presents when I don't have any idea what I'm going to get. That would definitely still fall into the dangerous category. I'm emotionally hungover. I'm drained from fighting through the undergrowth. I know I'm going to feel better from here and that a number of the feelings will disappear (the irrational jealousies, the silly moments of choosing to take offense...) however, I also know that the larger problems are no closer to being resolved. And they won't be because, quite simply, life has to play itself out. There are various knowns...we have flights to catch, we have weddings to attend, family reunions to enjoy or tolerate (depending on which of several events...). It is a pretty short list of knowns though when compared to the unknowns (job? house? where? what? kids?) and each unknown rests precariously against the others making each decision vital and impossible. I simply have to take a back seat for a while and watch what happens. I've come to a few conclusions on various of the unknowns and I've learnt a lot about myself over the past year and a bit. I won't make some of the mistakes I made before but I'm sure I'll find new ones.
(Heh. I've got my (almost) entire CD collection on random on the laptop at the moment. And it has chosen now to play The Happy Song (sadly the slightly more lacklustre Matt Redman version as opposed to either Deliriou5? or Why?) (oh and I couldn't find a decent YouTube version...and to be honest, if you don't know the song I'm talking about, you probably wouldn't want to be introduced to it!))
I've reached one decision that, well, it isn't quite a decision because I suspect there may be some cases of "needs must" over the next year or so...perhaps I have made a concrete realisation instead. Here it is...
I never wanted to work in an office. It was my single greatest dread when I was a child. I'd been fooling myself that because the various office jobs (not counting temping, which is just weird...and just doesn't quite count) I've done have not been typical - have not involved banks or having to wear suits and so on - that I hadn't really been working in offices. Obviously, I have been working in offices. It is precisely what I have been doing. And even when working in offices for good causes and so on, it is still working in an office. It is still administration. It is still paperwork. Which is all well and good but I've just woken up and realised it is not well and good for me. There is a dream not-office-job that I have now but I think it is a long way off, if ever. Other than the dream job though, there are plenty of things out there that don't involve an office and I have to start thinking about possibilities there. Which could be quite fun. Certainly better to view as fun than not...
(Oooh, and now You Stole the Sun has come on...which has put me in mind of a new top ten...)

So Much Fun

Today, Husbink and I took Child Number 1 (of the feeding lambs excitement a few months back) to a children's adventure playground. Her mum has a really nasty flu so we thought we'd give her a bit of time just with Child Number 2 to contend with.
The adventure playground believes in encouraging the adults to play with the kids. We did not need encouraging. I haven't been in a ball pool since I was...I don't know...6? 7? And I haven't been down a huge bouncy castle slide since...ever!
So we crawled through gaps, climbed up platforms, sat in the cockpit of the helicopter at the top of the "climbing frame" (really quite high...ok so not as high as the walls we climbed at the rock climbing place yesterday but for small children...) and had lots and lots of goes on the curly slide. It was great.
It was also very painful! Husbink bashed his thumb so that it started bleeding lots, I have a definite bruise on my right knee and a generally red left knee, we both have very scraped up elbows. Which, when compared to the rock climbing yesterday, is a pretty high injury rate!

Other fun things of late have included watching Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang yesterday. Very silly. It was the second time Husbink had seen it in as many days and the first time I had seen it. I get the impression it gets sillier with time. Anyway, I'd recommend it for a bit of fun mixed with action.
I have also watched two other films in the last few days. (Blockbuster has a crazy Mondays & Thursdays thing where you can hire up to seven catalogue DVDs for seven days for $1 each. Works really well when Husbink is on lates so I have something to watch during the evening and then he has something to unwind with when he gets in around 1am.) The first film was March of the Penguins which was pretty disappointing but perhaps I just wasn't in the right space...
The second film was As it is in Heaven which was beautiful. For anyone who doesn't know it, it is a Norwegian film about a famous conductor/composer/violinist who has a heartattack and needs to take time out. He returns to the village he left when he was 7 after being bullied for his music. No one knows he used to live there (his manager changed his name) and he ends up coaching the church choir. It is not outrageously cheesy as it could be. It is not entirely feel good. The music is gorgeous (especially the song he writes for an abused wife). I'd entirely recommend it.

I'm scratching around my brain (feeling like a chicken in a dusty barnyard...) trying to think of something else suitably lighthearted from the last few days but sadly failing. Which I think has more to do with just how tiring it is to playing an adventure playground all morning than a lack of enjoyment from the last wee while. It's time for my afternoon nap...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I know it is stupid but...

So I've been trying to get ahead of myself with all the things that leaving a house, a town and a country require.
Flights, end of tenancy notice, shipping companies, cancelling this, cancelling that, arranging to get rid of various items, sell others, have a good holiday on the way...
Last week I completed several of these tasks and was at the point where basically only the holiday bit (and the actual packing) still remained to be done.
Then today, I find that one of the bits that I had thought sorted several weeks ago (cancelling gym membership) wasn't. I found this out because they took more money off us. But only my money. They have managed to cancel Husbink's membership, just not mine.
It is not a big deal. At worst it means I get to use the gym for another two weeks. At best it means that when I get to talk to the right person tomorrow, they realise their mistake, give me my money back and on we trot.
But it has really wound me up. One of those silly, silly moments when you feel "if this has gone wrong, what other bogey men are waiting round the corner to stuff up my plans!?" Rational, I know.
I'm utterly capable of this feeling in reverse too. If something that I expect to be difficult goes well then suddenly it feels like everything will run smoothly, there will be no glitches, all will, indeed, be well.
It appears I am not capable of taking each event on its own and simply dealing with it. This caused me endless problems in probability classes at school and uni as I refused to accept that the next outcome was not influenced by the former (I'm not talking about just rolling a die here - though I can put forward a good argument for that not being a series of independent events too).
Husbink and I were playing cribbage earlier and he had won each round and was very close to winning the game. Very close. I said I thought it pointless to continue as there was no way I was going to win. Of course, it was possible for me to win still but based on the previous rounds, unlikely. My mood, the shuffling of the cards, etc, etc, all combine at this point, in my mind to make it far more likely that Husbink will continue to win. He views the events as distinct.
So just because I lost at cribbage and the gym have briefly been useless, does not mean that we are going to get booted out of our house a week too early, arrive at the airport to discover ALL FLIGHTS EVER have been cancelled or that our shipping will end up at the bottom of the sea somewhere but just now it sure as anything feels like it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It was the best of weekends...it was the worst of weekends...

(Actually, that isn't fair. But it was a very contrasting weekend.)

Laaaaaaate on Thursday night (so much so that it was already an hour plus into Friday) my brother arrived from Sydney. Husbink was working nights at the time and so Friday morning was taken up with much needed sleep (and much creeping about on behalf while the men slept on...we really don't have enough rooms for guests!).
Anyhoo, after the brother woke up, we left Husbink sleeping a little longer while we went out in search of a marvellous kiwi brunch. We found it, we were happy. :)
Finally, Husbink was up-and-at-'em (actually I must say, Husbink managed to get up without all the prodding/shouting/bacon wafting that it usually takes to get him out of bed when he's just finished nights. I was extremely grateful and it was one of the things that really helped my weekend get off to a good start) and we could head away to Martinborough for three nights of relaxation, wine tasting, good meals at restaurants, wineries and the place we were staying (courtesy of us - my bro's bbq skills, my salad skills and Husbink's holding-it-all-together skills all came to the fore).
We cycled hither and thither - Saturday afternoon from winery to winery (we fitted in six); Sunday we cycled out of town and along a gravel road called "River End"...we thought we'd try to find the end of the river...it turned out to be a stagnant pool...rather disappointing but the cycle was still fun! Of course, the ride ended at a couple more wineries... This exercise *almost* justified a third of what we consumed over the weekend!

We found some spectacular wines and wineries - for anyone interested in experimenting with new wines, I'd advise some of the following (possible to track down in places in Australia, limited availability in the UK...so really, you should just come here and see for yourself...)

Alana Estate - has to be one of my favourite places in the world. Staff are welcoming, friendly, knowledgable (in a want to share their enthusiasm with you way rather than a hoity toity snooty way). Restaurant is also fantastic and the food and wine matches are done superbly. We are more than a little gutted to have left NZ before their summer concert series really kicks off.

Stonecutter - a new experience from this weekend, Stonecutter give the impression of making wine by accident, but it turns out rather superbly, especially their Syren Pinot Gris and regular Pinot Gris. I suspect rather more thought goes into it than they let on!

Tirohana - all round good stuff. Again, another winery that we had failed to visit on our previous excursions. Friendly staff, good wine and of course, with an ice wine on the books, I'm never going to be sad.

Haythornthwaite Wines - Possibly the most fun of the weekend, run by Susan (who was busy wrapping up wine for Christmas presents) and Mark (who was a lot of fun and very informative), Haythornthwaites produces some fantastic wines with a lot less pretention than they could justify considering the quality of the wine. I had been sent there by Alana on our first visit to Martinborough as Haythornthwaites is one of the few Martinborough wineries to produce a gewurtztraminer however they had always been closed until this time... Sadly, they had no gewurtz left...until I mentioned it for the sixth time, at which point Mark admitted he had three bottles out the back and could we twist his arm a little more? I haven't tasted it yet but I was rather chuffed to have acquired it! The rest of their wines were very pleasant and Mark made us taste their two pinot noirs alongside each other (young vines in the left hand glass, old vines in the right hand glass) which was very interesting.

Vynfields - Their wines don't amaze me, all fine but nothing wow. However, should you ever be in the area, it is a wonderful place to lose an afternoon. And they make very tasty platters to soak up a little of the alcohol. (They also don't seem to have a website of their own.)

Benfield & Delamare - a bizarre little place. The wines were fine, the staff eccentric!

Margrain - you aren't going to go wrong with a Margrain wine. Sadly, it seems they know that and their cellar door staff were worse than lacklustre. While other staff would have persuaded us to part with a lot of cash and lose an afternoon there (beautiful setting, pretty good food), they effectively shooed us away. Buy the wines, don't bother with a visit.

Martinborough Vineyard - probably Husbink's favourite in terms of the wines. Certainly the Te Tera Pinot Noir is something very special. Staff took a bit of thawing but we were quite late by that stage and I think they were getting bored of the tipsy Sunday avo hoards. We even went back on Monday morning to buy more. Definitely a label to look out for.

And finally, Ata Rangi - we didn't visit these guys this time, but their superb value rose still hits all the right spots!

So what could possibly have been the downside of this weekend? Horrific (yes, I'm aware I'm over using this word at the moment!) hayfever. In some respects, not the worst hayfever I've ever had, its persistent, red-eyed (no, I promise it wasn't just from the wine), tight-chested, blocked-nose, itchy-mouthed present put a certain dampener on the weekend. Not least because by this morning I was feeling so sleep deprived and cranky (add the "monthlies" and a bit of a hangover into the mix too) that all I wanted to do was kick my brother onto that plane, Husbink out the door to work and get some sleep. ON. MY. OWN.

I knew I'd regret it if I didn't make the most of absolutely every minute with my brother so tried my hardest to push on through. An apologetic text is still called for though!

I am now home alone and within the next few hours I intend/hope/pray I'll be sleeping like a baby.
(Confession: The picture is actually from our first trip to Martinborough, last January. We took a weekend off taking snaps, my bro doing a good line in finding comedy places to put his tiny-weeny-smaller-than-a-phone camera to take pics of all three of us. Once he's sent them through, I will enlighten you further...perhaps! The reason I felt a need to confess was because the weather wasn't quite so picture-perfect this weekend, but that actually worked quite well for all the cycling and boozing, at least we didn't add heat stroke to the reasons for dehydration!)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Entertainment?

A couple of years ago, in the months leading up to our departure from the UK, Husbink and I watched "The Constant Gardener". The effect of this film upon us was to cling onto each other at the end and promise to never, ever let go.
Last night, we watched Hotel Rwanda. The effect of this film? Well, besides that fact that I was so involved in and so overcome by the film that I felt like throwing up for a good few hours after, the ultimate effect was realising just how rubbish we humans can be. More specifically, how rubbish I can be.
I sat watching it thinking "if I had known, if I had been able to do anything at the age of 14, if anything like this was happening now and I knew about it, nothing, NOTHING, would stop me trying to fix it". Hello? Brain? Have you not been watching the news these past few years, have you not realised how much you have forgotten about areas of the world where this and similar "problems" still occur?
Which brings us back to the point of several months ago and the "what can I do about Burma?" question. I have less answers - and more sadly less questions - now than I did when I last posted about this.

Last week in our home group, we invited two older members of the church to come and help us establish our spiritual gifts and what they might mean for our lives (Husbink is the oldest member of our group and the youngest is, I think, 19 so it was new to some members of the group to think about this stuff).
My gifts? Teaching and exhorting.
My lowest gifts? All those practical things that tell you that someone needs practical help, that this practical thing needs doing, that this is how you do this practical thing...
Exhorting is all about helping people in their personal life - overcome problems (not in an emotional way, that comes under mercy - which apparently I'm not very good at at all), encouraging people to do the best they can, be the best they can etc etc. (Teaching is all about feeding their brains. No kidding.)
So based on that, I'm never going to be the person who sees a need and knows how to fix it, who knows how to get food parcels to orphans or medicine to disaster victims. I'm only too happy to help, but someone is going to have to tell me to help and tell me how to help. I'm very good at buying food for the food bank and putting it in the food bank box - but not until someone told me to do it and told me what kinds of foods were actually useful.
In many ways, it is comforting to be able to think "I'm not made like that" because I do spend a lot of time beating myself up about why I'm not like that. However, in many ways, it is frustrating to realise that this question may well keep coming back to me - what can I do and why can't I answer "what can I do"?
I guess I just have to find ways of making my far more airy-fairy personality useful. While I work that out, if those practical friends out there could tel me what to do and how to do it when it comes to being useful, I'd be very grateful.

December!

I can't believe I have managed to post twice in December and not celebrate with you the end of Movember!
I've thought about it while writing but then forgotten...
Husbink got home around 10pm on "Movember" 30th from youth group and the like. He went straight to the bathroom and within minutes, the mo was gone! (There was a brief period of "how do you think I look with a Hitler mo?" as the shaving was done but my looks of disgust meant this was a very shortlived moment!)
It was wonderful to have Husbink back again.
When I was three, my dad had to shave his beard off. It was a trial run (to find out if any of us could tolerate it - my dad being at that point 33 and having had a beard since about the age of 22) before moving to America where, with my dad's line of work, he would not be allowed a beard for health and safety reasons (despite the fact that his beard was then and remains now a very neat, tidy, little beard).
There are pictures of me sitting in the corner of the room with one of my dolls (called Kitty) staring, confused, scared, horrified...who was this man?!
I had the absolute reverse of this when Husbink's mo went. Suddenly, my husband walked back into the room instead of the stranger I'd lived with for the past three weeks (seeing as he isn't always clean shaven, the first week of Movember is normally pretty tolerable). I was amazed by how familiar he looked - in that it highlighted that he had looked so unfamiliar for the past few weeks. I didn't think the small slug across his upper lip had such a huge affect on his entire appearance. But it did. And now it is gone. I am happy.

Monday, December 03, 2007

One of the Strangest Things...

I was reading the BBC website today in a procrastinaty sort of way and ended up reading an article about Thriller's 25th birthday.
In said article (musing on the importance of Thriller the album, single, video...), it mentioned that if you went onto YouTube you could find tributes to the video from a wide range of sources - including a Bollywood version and one from 1500 inmates of a Philippines prison. What?!
Clearly, I had to go and see.
So the clip itself didn't excite me that much. They were indeed prison inmates, complete in orange uniforms, doing, as close as they could, the video for Thiller. Not the full 14 minutes version I noted but still a 4min 25sec effort.
What really grabbed my attention though was what came up in the "Related Videos" panel.
Blacked Eyed Peas by the prisoners. Numerous Sister Act songs by the prisoners. Radio GaGa by the prisoners. The Algorithm March by the prisoners (I didn't know what this was, turned out to be a record breaking attempt at it, whatever it was).
So it seems that this prison spends quite a lot of time teaching its inmates dance routines, BIG dance routines, using lots of the prisoners. Which is really quite an interesting thing. I wonder what success rates they have in terms of successful sentences (minimal violence, blackmarket etcetc) and in terms of reoffenders.
When I was working (albeit very briefly) in a prison, there was much debate between punishment and rehabilitation. One officer said to me that whichever way you veered, it made little difference: the light had to go on in the prisoners head. Until that happened (and she suggested it usually happened around the age of forty though when she started as an officer 14 years ago, it happened more around the age of thirty), there was very little difference to be seen between a rehabiliatation approach and a punishment approach in terms of the success options above - particularly reoffending.
I would expect something like the dance routine option adopted in the Philippines to assist reasonably well on the violence etc while in prison option but you aren't exactly equipping them with skills they can use on the outside to help prevent reoffending.
Perhaps they just do it for the record breaking attempts. Still, it seems to have been on CNN in the US from some of the comments and there are a lot of posts for it...perhaps it will help with the not-reoffending element when they are all offered film contracts on release.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's The Weekend

For the first time in a long, long time, this weekend is a weekend. I have worked during the week. Husbink has worked during the week. We are both free this weekend with only a minimal amount of responsibilities at church on Sunday (or perhaps a better way of putting that would be that our responsibilities are at the evening service and the way things work, that takes up a lot less of our weekend than morning responsibilities do).

We went to the gym this morning (I made Husbink come to a thai fit class...he's now mowing the lawn with our push-along mower...I don't think he's going to be able to move in the morning...) and then to the fruit & veg market. We did a few other bits of shopping. We had a nice lunch with fresh sultana, rye and caraway bread from the market (so yes, it sells some things that are vegetables). Husbink is now mowing the lawn while I wait for the washing to finish.
Later, I'll cut his hair (I can't remember if I blogged about the first time I did this about a month ago, it was very scary! But he hasn't been mocked for the past month and it means I can cut it the length I like and not have to go through the hideously short phase that the barbers tend to enforce so I'm giving it another whirl. There were some "errors" last time, hopefully I'll do better...)
This evening we are going to see some friends for a BBQ.
Tomorrow, sandwiched among the church trips, we are having other friends over for lunch. As it turns out, they've just gotten engaged. I am SO excited and happy for them! (And also amused because I guessed this morning from an email that didn't say they were engaged but the phrasing tipped me off.)
The weather is glorious. All the big jobs of moving and blah blah blah are sorted to an extent that they can be ignored. Very much a weekend.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blithering Idiot

There is one lesson that it seems I am too stubborn to learn.


On the whole (and this is a bit of an air-brushing kind of comment that glosses over various rough edges and so on and so on but if those edges weren't smoothed off, this would very quickly become an awfully long post before I even got to the point I was really intending to make...) I am quite content to be me.


The mistake I keep making though is imagining I will become someone entirely not like myself in some magical turn of events...


When I was a wee lass (up to about the age of 24 and one month), I thought I was going to turn into this different person when I got married. I had this image of this incredibly serene and poised lady who wafted down the aisle, took everything in her stride, had time to say something kind/witty/lovely to every guest, did not fluster, did not get over-excited by life...


Needless to say, that didn't happen. In actual fact, I continued to be me, much to Husbink's relief (I think!). But this is the mistake I keep making, recently in terms of giving talks and writing blogs. I keep attempting to do these things as another, fictional, person (with varying qualities). And of course, it doesn't work, does it?

When it comes to the giving talks side of things, I normally work it out before doing the talk and sort it out, but when it comes to the blogs... Because I can just make up another blog and another blog and do what I want, I don't tend to pause and think and thus it has taken me a while to realise that I have (at times) been trying to write someone else's blog.

Now that I've worked this out...I very much doubt you'll notice any difference in what you read here! But I might.

(In other news...THE headline story on the 6 o'clock news this evening? David Beckham has arrived in Wellington...)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

We have a Date. Again.

On Monday we went to the travel agent. I cried on the way there and then had to keep walking out of the office to not embarrass myself too hugely with my blubbing while there. We fortunately had a very understanding travel agent.

We leave here on Feb 5th (sorry Ruthing) and, after a few days in Sydney and Singapore, arrive home in the very wee small hours of Feb 10th. And then? Who knows!

Now that we actually have the flights, I'm a lot less emotional. For a little while anyway. I suspect the next few months are going to be rather punctuated with teary moments!

What is very good is that before we had managed to book our flights, some friends here had booked their flights for a three month jaunt round Europe next Aug-Oct, so at least it isn't saying goodbye to everyone all at once...

I guess what is harder about leaving here is that we don't know that we will come back. Most likely, we will come back for visits at least but we don't know. Leaving England, although it was sad to say goodbye to people, we knew (horrific accidents and so on aside) that we would go back and we would see them again. This time, I guess that is a little more unknown.

But I'm chatting with my parents and despite the horribly early start they will have to make, they will be meeting us at the airport. That will be good. :)

(In other news...only a few days of Movember left! Hurrah! I managed to declare a few days ago that Husbink's mo was ok...as long as it wasn't beneath his nose...)

Friday, November 23, 2007

New Experiences

This last not-yet-quite-eighteen-months has contained many new experiences for me. Some entirely new some "variations on a theme" kind of new.
This week has contained a few new experiences all its own.
On Tuesday night, Husbink and I went to HangDog, our local indoor climbing wall place with some friends. Husbink decided a while back that, since we are both of a competitive nature and don't tend to take kindly to the other one offering advice on how best to do things, it would be good to do something together that we were both really bad at and could thus be all chilled out about. He decided that climbing was that thing. A number of our friends go climbing quite often and had been asking us for a while to go. I had been resisting, which is odd as I always wanted to climb when I was a child, but finally decided I should stop being a big girl's blouse and get on with it. The first time up the "easy" wall I completely froze about half way up. I looked down to find out if it was the height which was bothering me. It wasn't. I don't actually know what was so freaky but I couldn't go any further and came down defeated. The next time I made it a little higher but still not to the top. Finally on my third attempt, I beat that wall! I then went on to climb another (actually easier) wall and back to the first one to finish. After the initial terror, I loved it and will be going again soon.
My second new experience was an entirely unpleasant one. I am supervising exams again this year and have done six sessions this week. This afternoon, for the first time, someone cheated in one of my exams. I strongly suspect it wasn't intentional (having prohibited items at the desk) but I still had to file a report and get the person in question to sign it at the end. I don't think it would be overly professional to go into more detail than that (I'm not sure why, probably from having a doctor for a husband and having worked in various confidential roles in the past, I think I'm very sensitive to that sort of thing now) but it was just all a bit weird and yuck and hmm and things.
What new thing have you done this week?
I also desparately wanted to correct another candidate's spelling but clearly had to resist.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Top Ten Songs I Like But Feel I Shouldn't...

("Shouldn't" for any number of reasons - bad song, not what I like, revile the band etc...)
1) Deeply Dippy by Right Said Fred - so I didn't say this was a modern list! It has some great lyrics...in a few places!
2) Teenagers by My Chemical Romance - I'm too old. Really. But that doesn't stop me wailing along whenever it comes on the radio
3) Back For Good by Take That - I hated Take That. I couldn't stand them. And yet...both the original and Robbie William's "special" version...(you have to go about three minutes through before you get to it...)
4) Thunderstruck by ACDC - It pretty much has to be the live version that Husbink owns, the album version is just a little disappointing. Thunder! (Although this is a live version it isn't as good as the one I know and love.)
5) Walkie Talkie Man by Steriogram - Well, they are Kiwis so I guess that makes it less surprising, but otherwise, I wouldn't expect to like this at all.
6) Jump Around by House of Pain - So yes, it holds many memories of teenage life but really...!
7) They by Jem - So part of the reason I like this is because I call it the "Bob Ballard song"...Bob Ballard being a sports news person on Radio 2...either this means something to you, or it doesn't...anywho, that's just an excuse for liking it really...
8) Anything by Bryan Adams - I just feel I really shouldn't like Bryan Adams. I don't like entirely everything by him but more than I feel I should. And worst of all, it is entirely "Everything I Do"'s fault...so that is the link
9) You Can't Touch This by MC Hammer - So I think most people (around my age anyway) like this because it is just so silly and so memory-filled but we shouldn't, should we?
10) I Just Called to Say I Love You by Stevie Wonder - Ok, so Stevie Wonder is a genius and has many fantastic songs. When you consider that this was probably pretty innovative at the time it makes it a little better to like it. What makes it worse is that I first came across this song on The Cosby Show, Mr Wonder was a guest star...
(And just to make this post a little more embarrassing...While I was finding all the YouTube clips, the ONE track that I couldn't bring myself to click away from before it was finished? Everything I Do. I know no shame...)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mo-flamin'-vember

So I think I've done amazingly well to get over half way through Movember without ranting about it...but that show of amazing restraint and will power is now over.
Yes, it is for a good cause. Yes, it is a bonding experience for men all over the country (and I'm sure they could bond with the men in Australia too). But it is an awful, awful thing for a marriage!
The problem is, as I suspect I said around this time last year, is that a mo makes Husbink look like a dirty old man or a sleezy European car sales man or...many other not so flattering things...
And it is also rather painful. Little unsuspecting me who has momentarily forgotten that the monstrosity is there accepts a little peck from Husbink only to recoil in horror: "Ow! Ow! Ow! How did you manage to stab my nose with it?!"
As well as those issues that only relate to Husbink for me, it is just a little nauseating walking round town, the gym, the supermarket, anywhere at the moment. There are VERY few people in the world that suit a moustache and yet here are all these men with squirrels/rats/slugs/whatever attached to their faces. Many of the younger men can't actually grow much of a mo anyway and so you are left with this confusion as you talk to them. "Something isn't right, this person doesn't look like they normally do...oh, I see it, that little line of fuzz on their lip, affecting their entire look..."
Still, I'm sure they all enjoy it...!?!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

World Famous in New Zealand Since Ages Ago

One of the things I'm finding most odd about preparing to go home is knowing that Husbink and I now have 18 months of shared culture that no one at home is going to understand or know about.
No one (or basically no one) will know who Dave Dobbyn or Supergroove are
No one will have seen the Trumpet togs/undies ad
No one will know all the words to Why Does Love Do This To Me by The Exponents (compulsory listening for granting of a visa into NZ...)
No one will call their flip-flops jandals or their swimming costumes togs...
And so on...

Of course the flip side to this is that people will understand when I mention Terry, Eurovision, Radio 2, Strictly Come Dancing... People will (hopefully...) understand when I start to sing the Challenge Anneka theme tune whenever required to do something in a limited time frame (though I suspect there might just be one or two people who understand that! And bizarrely it is the thing that comes up most often here that I want to make a reference to and know no one will understand).

Of course, there is also much shared culture. Most films, a lot of music, TV and so on is shared between New Zealand and England (and Australia and the US and...) but even then there is a different take on it all.

What is most strange about this is that it was also one of the hardest things about arriving here. Not knowing who any of the famous people were, not understanding in jokes and cultural comments and all that sort of thing. I'd say we still don't know all that much and there are plenty of times when we are left clueless. But there are times when we are not and it will be just the same when we get home. We've lost 18 months of British culture but we've gained 18 months of NZ culture - when we get confused, we'll just confuse everyone right back!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Camping


Husbink and I went camping for the first time together (not including our stay in the garden) this weekend. I was (and I think he was too) a little apprehensive as we have very different experiences of camping.

My first experiences of camping were in America at lovely campsites with great facilities. (The one I really remember also had a trout farm so you could go along, pay your few dollars, catch a trout, they did all the icky bits and then you could cook it on your bbq (that was part of your site) that night. That was the first time I actually like the taste of fish. Anyway, I digress.) I went camping with my family once in England but lots of our nice flash American stuff got nicked and we were rather put off. My only experience since then has been at festivals (or rather that should be "festival", being Greenbelt, a Christian festival and thus although still lacking in things like flushing toilets (even those it has now having moved site), it was still all rather nice.)

Husbink has done much more of the "proper" camping thing having grown up in the Lake District and done Duke of Edinburgh awards and that sort of thing. For him, campsites are fields that may have a tap if you are lucky. Husbink has also done the festival camping thing but his have been more of the sort where toilets get set on fire and so on...

We arrived at our site on Thursday evening and I got all confused because I'd just read too many almost-the-same descriptions of campsites during the previous few days and had forgotten what this one was actually supposed to be like. Once, I got over that though, all was well.

The weather was glorious all weekend (which didn't stop us getting ridiculously cold at night) and we chilled out very well. My only intention for the weekend was that we "went camping" and got everything in working order before our intended 2.5 week trip in January. Normally when we go away I have a stack of things I want to see or do and it was really nice to be able to chill a little more. We went to Taranaki again (we spent a weekend there back in June when it was cold and snowy) but instead of staying in a posh hotel halfway up the mountain, our campsite was right on the beach (protected by sand dunes, a hedge and the owners house). Not quite from our tent but within a minutes walk from it, we could watch the sunset over the beach and the mountain simultaneously.






We climbed a crazy rock/hill thing in New Plymouth on Friday. It started out as just a steep walk but became full on scrambling before the end - and going down was done pretty much on my bottom. As we were coming down, we met two people going up who do it every day as part of their training regime. One had a prosthetic leg. I was impressed. Near the bottom we also met some vaguely insane people on their way up...one with no shoes on, the others with sandals...I don't think they made it far.






The rest of the time involved lying in parks, reading books, strolling, eating cake, lots of fish and chips, games of cards, Surfer's Highway with the black sands of Taranaki, the adventures of camping cooking and a good time all round.


We've discovered we can camp together though I think Husbink is still not entirely convinced that I enjoyed myself. I'm all set for our big holiday now - just one or two tasks to achieve before then...(more on the rising panic of moving countries again soon)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Right now, it's no fun

Actually, that isn't true, a lot of things are a lot of fun at the moment but there are some big loomers that are less fun.
I don't really want to leave New Zealand. I'm well up for going back to the UK for a holiday, seeing all the people I miss, having a proper pint, going to Tesco and Boots, seeing more people...
But I'm so much not ready to live there again. Or rather, to not live here. And this is even the time of year that I most find it odd here (both the Christmas without family and friends and the light warm Christmas too).
But, I know that we have to go and that we are going and thus I can't be so involved or interested in things here any more. There is quite a lot going on at our church at the moment and I don't feel I can express an opinion - and perhaps don't even feel an opinion because very soon it is going to be so irrelevant to us. And what about friends here? Should I cram in as much time as possible with them or should I start cutting ties so that leaving is less painful?
Generally, I just feel highly in limbo, not one place nor the other, not wanting one place or the other. And it isn't so much fun.
So, one thing led to another and I found myself hunting on YouTube for this...and now I feel a lot better.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Holiday Home

For the past week, Husbink and I have been on holiday at home. It has been fabulous.


On Monday, we went to Lindale Farm. A petting farm, walk, shops (like a candy shop, a honey shop, an olive shop...and antique-type shops and a cafe or two). We went with our very good friends and their two small children. Child Number One is two and a bit and the perfect age for such activities. Child Number Two is only just over a month old but did admirably considering! Husbink fed lots of the animals (Child Number One was a little scared, particularly of letting the animals eat from her hands, who can blame her?). We got a little too excited by the guinea pigs that they had in one section. I do miss my Loci(McChoki) and Sugar(ly-Boogaly). After we had lunch, I went back round the walking/feeding section with Child Number One. Mostly we fed the chickens and ducks. And a pig. But I was very over excited when a chap from the farm appeared and gave me a bottle so I could feed one of the lambs. So excited. Didn't stop talking about it for the rest of the week...Sadly there was no photographic evidence for this so here's Husbink with a goat...



Tuesday was a bit of a down day, for me anyway. (Mental hormones. More of that another time I expect but for now you are safe.) We had lunch with some of Husbink's colleagues which was ok, but I was not very sociable. We then went to one of my favourite shops to cheer me up (more on this later in the week...) before heading up the valley to the Rimutaka Rail Trail (that of the 63k bike ride some months back) for a gentle stroll (when not biking the whole thing, it is very gentle and pleasant). Sadly, we didn't have the camera with us as it was beautiful and we saw some rainbow lorikeets, not so common here as across the ditch (and by virtue of not being native, are considered pests) but still fun to see. We spent the evening with the same friends as Monday. I had therapy in the form of running around the garden for half an hour with Child Number One before bedtime followed by assisting with Child Number Two's bath. Child Number Two was very unimpressed with my cold hands... The day ended much better than it started.


Wednesday was *probably* the highlight of the week. We went to Rimutaka Forest Park (actually quite a long way from where we went on Tuesday) and did a fantastic walk. We went through so many different areas of habitat: bush bordering on rainforest in density and feel, high meadow, beech forest... The only downside was that it took about an hour longer than expected and we were very ready for our picnic by the time we got back to the car (we'd not taken it with us cos we thought the timing was in our favour). The other less good thing about the walk was that I had discovered a strange downside to living here: not having stairs. The last few times we have done a reasonably uphill kind of walk, I've developed a strange pain in my legs that I've never had before. Husbink suggested that I was getting old...but also said the pain could be caused by having to lift my legs higher than usual. I realised that evening that what has changed is the lack of stairs in my everyday life...crazy!

Wednesday evening was also one of the highlights of the week. We went into Wellington and saw Pluto (ho hum, music fine but no stage presence), Supergroove (oh goodness me, possibly the best live act I've ever seen, so much stage presence, so much fun, so good, so good, so good) and Crowded House (very good but I had two problems with it: first I had meant to get round to getting their new album and educating myself before the gig but I didn't, my bad. second, they did that "wall of sound" thing a little too much - where everyone seems to just be making as much noise as they can and all musicality has gone out of the window, their bad. However, it was still very good, despite the odd moment at the end when they let about eight greyhounds run across the stage. Strange.)


Thursday was rather more low key but did include the return to one of my favourite shops... You see, we went there on Tuesday because I knew there was nothing there that I would be able to justify buying, we didn't need anything from that kind of shop (outdoors) so it was just a cheery-uppy mooch. However. They had a massive sale on tents. And it seems we managed to justify buying a tent after all (our original plan of campervanning round the North Island in January was getting too expensive). Mmm, tent. The rest of Thursday was generally a chill out prior to feeding our home group in the evening.


Friday, we ventured out again and went over the hills (yes, that would be the third mention of the Rimutakas in one post) to the Wairarapa. Where the sun always shines and the wind drops (at least a little.) We stopped off in Carterton at Paua World and enjoyed some kitsch Christmas shopping before driving on to Castlepoint. Which was lovely. Beautiful. We had lunch in the solitary cafe before walking up to the lighthouse. We then walked around the various bits of beach, watching the hundreds and hundreds of birds, paddled, ate cake... It was a grand day out. And finished with a Burger Fuel when we got back to the Hutt before Husbink went to youth group and I watched ANTM...


Saturday was mostly a jobs kind of day until the evening...when we decided to try out our tent so camped in the back garden last night! I was exhausted so we went to bed about 9pm and didn't wake up until nearly 9am (except turning over when the birds started singing and that sort of thing...) So we are pretty chuffed with our tent, sleeping bags and carry mats :) especially since it was raining most of the night and not particularly warm. Hurrah!

Sunday has been absolute down time...as my Grannie would say, it's so tiring enjoying yourself!

Friday, October 26, 2007

I hab a cobe

And it isn't very fun. Not at all. Especially as I was actually really enjoying the place I was working this week and was miffed at having to come home sick today.
Tis the worst cold I've had in a long time with associated wooziness, achiness and nausea (from too much snot. sorry.) The point at which I really knew I was sick today was when, channelling hopping, I came across Emmerdale. And didn't flick away from it.
Day time TV here isn't so good as in the UK. And yes, you might question how I'm using the word "good" there. But in the UK there would always be something that I could at least gormlessly watch for a while. Frasier. Tricia. Diagnosis Murder. Neighbours. Quincy. And so on... Today I really struggled. I watched Ellen. Which was alarming and less entertaining than often (there was a Steve Iwin-esque (well maybe Steve Irwin crossed with David Attenborough and meeting at an alarming point in the middle)American man with a bear, a lion cub, a vulture and a boar... The lion cub tried to bite Ellen, the whole audience including the man were terrifed of the vulture.
Fortunately, Mad Medea had sent me a DVD of Northern Exposure some time ago and for whatever reason I'd not watched it until today. I'm really glad I hadn't as it was sooooo much what I needed. Thank you MM! Though it has made me want to watch Men in Trees again...
Hey ho, only 45 minutes to America's Next Top Model. (Husbink has been out all day and is and youth group tonight. Ho hum...)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Busy

At the moment, that is what I am. With work, church, life...
Last night I slept for 8 hours solid. For me, this is a minor miracle. What made it even more miraculous was that I then turned over and went back to sleep for another three hours. Fortunately, today was a day off for me and only a half day for Husbink. I was very confused when I woke up. Where had the day gone?
I am now getting an icky sore throat so I'm wondering if it was less of a miracle and more of a lurgy. And I'm hoping it won't stop me from going to my friend's gig tonight. Or going to work tomorrow (I'm working at a vehicle auctioneer this week which is actually much, much fun. Mostly because the people are lovely but the work is ok too.)
I'm sure there was something I wanted to write about but it seems my brain has given up for the afternoon. Which is unfortunate when my tutee is going to arrive in half an hour or so and expect me to teach her something clever and mathsy. Hey ho.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Association

To tie memories together, there is nothing stronger for me than music.
There are a few smells that bring up powerful associations (there is a smell in my grandparents house, I don't know what it is, must be the soap they use or the washing powder or something but their house always smells of it and very few other places do) but nothing comes close to music for the strength of association.

I cannot watch 20th Century Fox films from the beginning unless I want to spend the whole film wishing I was watching Star Wars instead. Not that I don't enjoy other 20th Century Fox films, not that Star Wars is my favourite film (but must be in the top ten - possibly even 3 out of 6 would be in the top ten, anyway, I digress), but the link from the Fox music to the Star Wars theme is so strong that I cannot stop myself singing the Star Wars theme at the end of the Fox music. It was a very clever piece of marketing/music making/whatever you'd like to call it that put the initial blast of the theme music so close to the end of the Fox theme and, in some respects, so similar in style - both their own kind of pomp and circumstance. Husbink certainly has the same experience (and had it independent of me); I wonder how many Star Wars fans are inflicted with this problem?

There is a tape that my brother gave me for my 15th or 16th birthday. It is an EP and only has 5-6 songs on it. I listened to that tape over and over and over again (in the way that only a 15/16 year old can) - while reading Lord of the Rings for about the 4th time. I can neither read Lord of the Rings without thinking of that music nor listen to that music without thinking of Lord of the Rings. Sadly it conjures some of the darker parts of Lord of the Rings and leaves me feeling a little floobly. I just tracked down one of the songs on YouTube to see if it still had the same effect, to be sure I wasn't lying to you. It does, I wasn't, I feel floobly. (Oh, goodness me, by tracking that song down on YouTube, I've also seen this song, my bro listened to this NON STOP when I was about 14. His bedroom was above the kitchen so we all listened to it non stop as it reverberated through the ceiling. My mum made up her own random words for the song because she couldn't make out any of the real ones. Now I'm sitting at the computer, headbanging.)

This morning I cycled to church at about 7.10am (as the sun was breaking over the hills, it was beautiful) to watch the rugby world cup final (once and for all, yes, I'd have liked England to win but I'm not gutted - i think it far better for the sport for a different team to win each year). Cycling along, singing to myself, the song that came to mind was Vindaloo. Because there was a world cup (admittedly the wrong sport) in France. And what can you sing at such a time but Vindaloo? (Perhaps cycling down a quiet street in a nation fundamentally supporting the opposition singing "we're Eng-a-land! We're gonna score one more than you! England!" wasn't the best thing to do...) And of course, singing Vindaloo sends me back to 1998, to that world cup but more to the point, to the end of A levels, the end of my school career, my leavers ball when there was an England game...and we won...and the rest of the evening all the DJ played was Vindaloo and this (not as good as the original, though to be fair you might be pushed to notice the difference). And that was fine with all of us. We had set moves by the end of the night. Teachers included.

I could carry on and on, song after song, as each one takes me to a different memory. But I'll finish with just one last one. One that actually set me off thinking about this.

On Friday nights, I used to go to drama group at church (hello ruth) and, as often as not, my Dad would pick me up afterwards. And we would listen to songs that we liked too loud, singing along and being silly. One such song was this. I think it was this song that led to me sticking my feet out of the sun roof (to see if I could, and then because I could) on more than one occasion. However, the song I was thinking of was this one. I still love this song, now for so many reasons (Terry Wogan singing along being one of them). But what I remember most and is still the thing that makes me happiest when I hear this song; trying to come back in at the right time after the second break. There are two breaks in this song, one near the beginning which is an easy count and you can all come back in right on time but the second break is random, you can't count it, you just have to know. And we would sing this song over and over, me and my dad, trying to get the break right and collapsing in giggles when we didn't. Yesterday, driving to the fruit market, I got it right. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Never, ever, ever again

Spin classes. Who came up with that bright idea for torture?!
I thought I was going to die after about five minutes. It took me most of the rest of the day (the class finished at 10am) to be able to breathe deeply again without wheezing and coughing.
I'm not even sure I got much benefit from the class as most of it was damage control: how am I going to get out of here without puking my guts up or dying? Eventually, my knee started to hurt, what a blessed relief! I could rub my knee and pretend that was why I was so awful at the class.
Husbink went to. He has almost persuaded me that it was really good for me and that I should go again. But I think that *almost* will stay an *almost* forever...

In other news...I scare people. I was aware of this when I was a teenager, but I'd forgotten. Hey ho.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Action stations

I love knitting. So therapeutic and yet still "achieving"!
The other day, Husbink was tidying the kitchen and I wanted to keep chatting to him but couldn't really help (due to the shape of our kitchen) so figured I might as well get a bit of knitting done while chatting. So I tucked the ball of wool into my pocket and stood in the kitchen, knitting and chatting. Husbink laughed at me. Which I expected and probably deserved.
A little while later, I did need to do something but didn't want to put my knitting down so tucked the needles into my other pocket, wool stretched across my front. I was wearing cargo(ish) trousers...and Husbink dubbed me All Action Knitting Barbie.
He's called me many things over the last few years but that one is pretty special...

Frightening Times

The other week I went to the supermarket, as I do most weeks.

On my shopping list was loo roll. I wasn't feeling desperately well and so was trying to get the shopping done as quickly as possible, thus grabbing and running as quickly as I could. When I got to the loo roll aisle, I saw that a brand we sometimes use had a 3 4-packs for $5 deal so hurredly grabbed the three packs and left. The only factor taken into consideration was whether they were scented - and to ensure that I picked the unscented variety (really, what purpose does scented loo roll serve in the world? other than to make me feel slightly nauseated when I catch a wiff of it?). So my three unscented four packs went into the trolley and off I went. No problem. Until I opened one of the packets this week and found that the loo roll was decorated.

Like this:

They are possibly the freakiest sheep I've ever seen. And the cows aren't great either. I had to assure Husbink that I did not intentionally choose this loo roll in case he thought less of me because of it.

Really, there are enough alarming, scary, upsetting things in the world without being faced with these guys every time I go to the toilet. Only three more rolls to go... I haven't dared check what the other packs contain!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Is it me?

For the last week or so I've been amazed and vaguely horrified by the news coverage of the Diana/Dodi inquest.
Is it normal for jurors to be taken to the scene of a crash? To be shown the route taken? To be shown marks on a pillar? To be shown round a hotel? I accept this is not a normal case but equally it is not the first time this case has been delved into.
Is it really front page news compared to other stories that could be there? Is it really something that needs to make the headlines half way round the world? I guess if there were some really monumental findings from all this, they could be of significance... What irritates me the most is the longer it goes on, the more I see links to pages about it or hear the headlines on the news about it, the more I find myself thinking that I want to know what they have to say.
Also on the front page of the BBC website today is this article about the UN and Burma that has some really hopeful bits in it. The fact that China have turned around and stopped objecting to a statement by the UN Security Council "deploring Burma's military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters" is, I hope very, very much, a sign of a turn in the tide. The article is not all good news but a start is a start.

Good things about wet days

I love it when the clouds come down low, so low that they seem to be where they should not be. So low that they hug the hills, hiding parts of them. So low that it feels like I could run up into the hills and be in the clouds. Cuddled up in a great big ball of cotton wool, hiding and hidden. I know if I did run into the hills, I wouldn't be able to tell when I reached the middle of the clouds, that it would be cotton woolly, just as I know that if I jumped out of a 747 at altitude, the clouds that look so wonderful, as if they would be the perfect ski fields, the perfect place to play and rest, would not be. This knowledge stops me doing these things but doesn't stop me looking and imagining.

I love that all this rain makes it so easy for mummy and daddy blackbird to bring food to their new chicks. I love that I could look out of the window at almost any point yesterday and see one of them flying into or out of our hedge bringing food or going to collect more. I love that when there was no sign of the blackbirds I could instead watch the thrush (also building a nest in our hedge) hopping over the water logged lawn, tipping his head to listen for the insects.

I love the wonderfulness of coming inside again. Of finding that it is warm and is dry. Knowing that I can stay warm and dry as long as I like. I like the excuse wet days give for cups of tea and bisuits. I love being inside watching outside.

I love the sound of the rain. Sometimes, it is so loud that it wakes me in the night but lying there listening to it is wonderful.

I love that even the smallest excursion into the outdoors feels like a wonderful and noble thing, something to be rewarded for.

I love what it means, that I know it will stop and when it does, the ground will be refreshed, the grass a little longer, the flowers a little more fed.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Where next?

In the past few weeks, through one thing and another - and about one thing and another, not just Burma - I've realised that something that I thought had died in me is still there and struggling to get out - my passion.

When I was younger I was always deeply passionate about something (though that thing changed with alarming regularity) but over the past few years (maybe as many as seven), I've struggled to raise my passion's weary head and get caught up in a moment, a cause, a plan. I've exerted more energy on worrying than on caring, more on anxiety than on action.

But now that seems to be starting to turn around. It perhaps started with some rather insignificant, silly things, that got me excited again. Now those silly little passions seem to be building towards something bigger, a more useful outlet for all that enthusiasm and excitement. So the problem that now arises is how to channel it, how to not be like my teenage self, so enthusiastic but for so many things that I failed to achieve much at all. Right now, I want to do everything, save the world, in one giant leap. I know I'm not a very practical person, much more of an ideas person. (I used to think that because I'm quite organised, I'm quite practical but I've realised that just isn't the case.) So how do I choose something, get off my backside and actually start acting?!

(In other news, I did turn down the job with the changed description, and feel a whole heap better for it!)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Saturday

On Saturday we did go and participate in the International Day of Action for Burma.
The Wellington Burmese community had played a large part in the organisation of the event and as a newbee to such things, I was impressed.
I wanted to go for the sake of going but it was a bonus to have about six speakers talking from a range of angles (NZ MPs, Amnesty, Trade Unions, local Burmese...) giving me heaps more information (much of which I fear went in one ear and out the other). I think their turnout was about double what they were expecting. I'm dreadful at estimating sizes of places, numbers of people etc etc, but I think there were about 200 there.

I'm still undecided on the whole sanctions issue (though I suppose it isn't really a thing for me to decide - though I would need to decide before writing letters requesting it I suppose). Today my brain is not really with me (having service led and preached at last night's service - plus all the crazy getting up in the middle of the night over the weekend to watch rugby) so I can't quite be applying my mind to such things right now. (Even thinking about thinking is giving me a headache!)

Flurble

I have heaps of half-blogs floating round my head but I'm currently being distracted by silly fretting so I thought if I got this out of my head then I might manage more coherent thoughts...

A little while back I temped in a school for a few days. I really liked it and said I'd be happy to work there again. They then asked for me to be there officer manager type for 4-6 weeks while they found a replacement. Although I tend not to go for full time work, it fitted quite nicely so I thought I'd take it.

Today, having agreed and got it all sorted I got a revised job description... No longer is it office manager but reception/admin assistant... The wage remains the same, the hours remain the same (which are not the hours of the receptionist) but I am concerned that I'm going to get there and discover that really all I'm going to be doing for 4-6 weeks is reception work.

I've not done a vast amount of reception work but it's been enough to know that it really isn't my cup of tea. I can tolerate it for a few days...but 4-6 weeks? When I thought I was going to be doing an interesting job? I don't know...

Friday, October 05, 2007

More on Burma

I have had various people point me towards various sources of information in the last few days and have continued to read the BBC website and any other info I can on Burma. I still feel deeply uninformed and helpless but...
I'm hoping to go to a protest tomorrow in the centre of Wellington. If you haven't seen anywhere else, Saturday, October 6th is a day of international action for Burma. The link in the previous post (also here), tells you about protests all over the world.
This blog that I have just come across thanks to Rosanna, has lots of information on it, heaps and heaps of links. (Oh, and there is heaps on Facebook too.)
The question I feel unable to resolve myself with all that I've read so far is whether or not sanctions and boycotts are a good thing. It is a question that I often ponder whether they are good things or bad things (e.g. in the case of slave labour for clothes, the principal is not to stop buying the products as then you take away the only wage they have - instead you should shop noisily). The only boycott I have ever stuck to is that of Nestle (on the whole baby milk front, not as a globalisation issue) - it had just become habit until recently when Husbink did some research and I think he is probably more actively pro the boycott than I am. I have generally thought of boycotts as something that protects my own sense of morality rather than impacting the big multinational company (for example, when I heard of a particular designers racial "issues", I decided I would never buy anything of their's again not because it would impact them but because I would not need to worry about where my money was going - seeing as I'm not particularly into labels, this wasn't really a hardship for me!).
Does anyone have any thoughts on sanctions and boycotts?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Feeling Helpless

Yesterday, I received an email with this link to sign a petition regarding the horrific events of the past few days and weeks in Burma as the ruling military junta have attacked, killed or imprisoned many, many peaceful monks and protesters. The aim of the petition is really focussed on China, as a major force in Burma and one that perhaps does not want things to change there. (I don't claim to know very much at all, please look at the link and other sources rather than taking what I say as fact.)
Burma has been a "situation" that has blipped on and off my radar a number of times over the past 5-10 years. I think I first became aware of the situation through a talk at some women's event or other about the example set by Aung San Suu Kyi and every once in a while, something comes up that reminds me of the situation and that, for them nothing has changed.
After signing the petition yesterday, I sat here feeling useless. What on earth can I do for these people other than sign some petition that yes, is going to be delivered to some UN bod, and yes, has now almost 480,000 signatures (that is around 150000 signatures since I signed sometime less than 24 hours ago). I can join marches, I can protest (I have not protested for anything before but I have found that there is a local protest on Saturday), I can pray, but can I really do anything?
In the case of natural disasters and the like, although I mostly don't do anything, I always feel I can, or rather could. I could send money, food, clothes, whatever the need was...it feels like something can be done. Against something like this, it just feels such a world away in terms of knowledge, experience, abilities...
I went onto the BBC website this morning to read more, see if there was anymore news, see if I could understand anymore. There was nothing on the front page. I did track down heaps on information eventually (after a couple of wrong guesses at where Burma would be bracketed in the BBC's global chunks - falling on the border between their South Asia pages and their Asia-Pacific pages (the second one having the more information)).
When it comes down to it, petitions (there is lots more information out there about other petitions, ways of making your voice heard etc etc), rallies and prayers are probably all I can offer in this instance so I shall have to do my best with all of them.

Spring is Sprung

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz
Look at where the birdies is
The birdies on the wing.
On the wing? But that's absurd!
The wing is on the bird.
(Having hunted for this poem that my dad used to say when I was little, it seems there is a wide range of versions and almost as wide a range of possible authors, so no credits here!)
Spring have sprung means the winds, the winds have returned! Today is the worst day yet this spring and, having not spent spring in this house before, it is kinda scary. Everything is rattling, the chimney is howling, as Husbink put it, we don't have a draft in the bathroom, we have a breeze!
Very, very glad Husbink took the car to work this morning instead of cycling...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Things I Don't Do Enough

1. Breathe

Not normal breathing, but slow, deep breathing.

I went to yoga this week for the first time in quite a while and after that first five minutes I was ready to leave - not because it was bad but because I'd done what I really needed to do. I'd sat still, comfortably but with good posture, and I'd focussed on my breathing. Slow, deep breaths. I felt instantly amazing and healthy.

2. Go to this cinema

Husbink and I went for a date on Tuesday afternoon. The cinema is small and lovely and has a cafe. We went in to watch the film, sat down on our two seater sofa, cushions and all, me with a pot of earl grey (I'm still liking coffee but I'm back on tea too!), Husbink with his moccachino and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

3. Watch

As you are by now all well aware, I "do" a lot. I have lists, I must achieve! But watching, like deep breathing, is so good. Today, I'm watching the rain (and being grateful for my long socks and little heater). But watching the sea, watching people, watching birds, watching flowers in the breeze, watching sun and shadows...

4. Stop procrastinating

This week, I've been writing two talks and a reflection for our church's women's retreat this weekend. It is my top priority at the moment, I really want to do it - and to do it well so that the women get something out of the weekend...and yet, here I am. So much of this week has disappeared in a fog of procrastination!

5. Smile

It's not that I don't smile a lot anyway, but I think that is an area where there is always room for improvement.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Falling Over




Husbink starts nights tonight so got up at 5am this morning (so that he could be tired by lunch time and go back to sleep). When I got up he made me pancakes (yum) and we still had a few hours to kill before he needed to sleep and it is yet another beautiful day (yay) so we decided we had to go somewhere. And after a bit of umming and ahhing we thought we'd go to Mt Victoria in Wellington - for the views from the top and also it allegedly has many Lord of the Rings filming sites (according to our book). We know now that we will never actually find the sites listed in said book but it usually provides a decent enough trip out.

We got to the lookout and I had much fun snap happying the views and the planes landing and taking off. Then we went to climb an extra little bit to get more views (particularly decent views back to the Hutt) and that is when the falling started happening. I suppose that makes it sound like there was heaps and heaps of falling but really, I'm an adult, falling over twice in the space of five minutes probably counts as "heaps of falling". My old and battered trainers (I had them last time we were out this way so they are over four years old) just could not cope. The first fall I had the camera in my hands and so all I was thinking about was not breaking it - so my elbow got a little broken instead. The second fall was a rather more classic feet-from-under-me-on-my-bum...
So we gave up on Mt Vic and the paths around it and took a little detour on the way home to the Botantic Gardens. Where they really believe it is spring. It was beautiful.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What a weekend

We have just come back from three nights up in Napier. It was beautiful. Gorgeous weather. We went to Napier in October last year and it was beautiful then too. We'd prepared ourselves that it might not be so beautiful this time but it really, really was.


On Thursday we mooched up through the Wairarapa but still arrived in Napier too early so had to play frisbee on the beach (shucks) before heading to our B&B. Which was lovely - above is the view from our balcony where we sat to drink tea and eat home made biscuits (more left in our room each day - yum!)

The purpose of the trip was to go on a wine tour that my brother and sister in law gave us for Christmas last year so that was Friday. It was great fun. Five wineries (we reckon about 35 wines in the day, I'm very glad I limited myself to a sip for most of them!), heaps of info, beautiful settings, a fantastic lunch. The photo is at the fourth winery. Considering that, I don't think we look too bad!
One winery in particular was amazing - very small, very enthusiastic, very interesting wine and let us taste from the barrel which was cool - a chardonnay before all the oak and a red (we can't quite remember, a merlot we think) when it was very new and young and fresh.
We tried to be restrained...we only came home with five bottles of wine...but we are waiting on an email about a port from the very good winery (which is called Moana Park by the way, should you ever come across them.)
We also drove up to the top of Te Mata Peak and got amazing views of the area.








The rest of the trip saw us cycling, playing mini golf, visiting a farmers market, playing with the camera and tripod, going to the aquarium (bit disappointing, compared to Sydney), eating far too much, going to a chocolate factory to balance all the wine...
We stopped on the way home at a DOC bird sanctuary. It was a slightly random unplanned stop and we didn't know quite what was there but as it turned out, we were just in time for the kaka (North Island parrots) feeding. The kaka are wild, free flying and not dependent on the feeding to survive. The feeding is mainly used by the staff to keep a track of the population - if they don't see a bird there for a while they go out in the forest to track them down and make sure that all is well. The project started with around 20 birds about 10-15 years ago and now has over a hundred. And a heck of a lot of predators gone from the forest. Their wild kiwi population has gone from 7 to 19 in four years. Very good!


All round, a fantastic trip - that has hopefully led to Husbink being fully healthy again and me being fully chilled again. :)