Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Time to Say Goodbye

I'm not the sort who is afraid of too much. I can't bear those who shriek and cause a commotion at seeing a spider or any kind of bug. It's not as though we live in a country where any wee bug poses any real threat.

I have similar distain for those who fuss over a mouse or rat. I have disposed of many over the years. Humanely collecting the live ones carried into my house by feline companions, gathering them up gently to deposit in the nearby garden of a least liked neighbour. Extracting the dead from nooks and crannies - by necessity, one acquires a nose for decaying rodent - and, at my last address, disposing of the bodies with a practised flick of the spade to launch them well into the bush.

But what I do have a heightened fear of is identity theft. No scrap of paper ever enters my recycling bin bearing my name or address. I angst over the wisdom of putting sender details on envelopes or parcels I send, consumed with worry that my friends and associates will not take similar care with the disposal of my personal information at the other end. Soon after arriving at the beach four years ago - I know, where did the time go? - my beloved paper shredder gave its last determined whirr before it locked tight and sent up smoke signals to indicate that its days of productivity had come to an end. Such a loyal and true friend could not be disposed of completely and it continues to serve as the kindling repository.

Since it took on its new role I have tried vainly to keep up with manual ripping up of paper, but with bills and bank statements flowing in at an alarming rate - and no, I don't want electronic billing, thank you - drawers and desks are overflowing. Today is the day to say goodbye to 2014, and more importantly its paperwork and that of the three years before. A new model has arrived - Dick Smith's finest, $29.99 - and at last it is time to say goodbye to the accumulation.

Barely scratching the surface, but a start nonetheless!

And on it will go.

My New Year resolution will be 'pay, and throw away'. Other than that, a year as happy as this one has been will be just fine. Happy New Year everyone - may it be a great one for you, too!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Have Seen the Future

Way back in the 1970s and early 80s there was a television programme, possibly called 'Tomorrow, Today', that projected how the next century would unfold as all the wonderful new discoveries and inventions would change the way we lived. It all seemed more science fiction than science as we viewed it on our black and white television, on the one available channel. Much of it also seemed preposterous, unnecessary even- why would anyone want to see the person they were talking to on the telephone? How safe would those jet backpacks really be?

Of course it was all conjecture as to how these fancy new-fangled 'electronics' and the like would actually look in practice, but there was one thing was very clear. Workplaces would change radically as automation replaced workers in industry and farming. Luckily, we were well prepared for the coming fall in demands on us as a workforce, and what governments all over the world would do was introduce much shorter working weeks to ensure work for all. We would all have to learn how to fill our much longer leisure hours as we all enjoyed the prosperity of our bright, new future. 

This sounded just splendid to me, and I set about preparing to embrace that future. I honed my skills of lethargy and sloth. It was a least I could do as a socially responsible, forward thinking citizen. I have been badly let down. Not only do I not have a hover car, I have a four day weekend mindset stuck in a two day weekend reality. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What's That You Say?

I was a bright and precocious toddler, and apparently had a smattering of endearing french phrases to drop into conversation that my older brother had taught me. He was learning French at High School because it was an important world language and would be very useful in later life.

I have no recall of this, but at the age of nine was placed into some strange educational experiment of an extension class where the teacher taught us Spanish because it was an important world language and would be very useful in later life.

When I got to Intermediate there was lovely old lady (the mad sort with a bun, flowing clothes and level of eccentricity that I aspire to myself one day) who passionately advocated the learning of Esperanto. This was a made up language that would cross international and cultural boundaries and become a world language that would be very useful in later life.

I progressed on to High School where I too began to learn French. Sadly none of the promise I had shown as a toddler was any longer present and after two years, and a dismal 14% in the final exam, I thankfully dropped it. My father lamented that I had not had the opportunity to learn Latin as my siblings before me had, because this had been a very important world language and would have been very handy in later life.

Not all my friends joined me in those dismal French classes. They had taken the newly introduced option of Japanese, because this was a very important world language and would be very useful in later life.

In my early teaching days, one of the children's mothers was setting up the German classes at the local college. This was because it was a very important world language and would be very useful in later life. I actually am quite strong in many phrases in German, thanks to childhood spent with ongoing repeats of Hogan's Heroes.

Now, I sit with my class for our weekly Mandarin lesson, because it is a very important world language and will be very useful in later life. It is certainly a good mental exercise and lots of fun, but it is a weekly reminder of my total inability to learn languages. The children hear the subtleties that are quite lost on me, and no matter how hard I try I'm always the first one out in Simon Says, Mandarin style. I get so excited when I actually recognise the word that my hand is on my nose, ear or head before I have processed the fact the Simon didn't explicitly say to put it there.

Luckily, I'm still going strong in English, and I'm pretty sure it's an important world language and will be useful in later life.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Refugee

He came to live with us early this year, after living rough and homeless on the banks of the Hutt river. Despite the challenges of going it alone, he swore never to return to his past life, never to fulfill the destiny that others had thrust upon him. He's a lover not a fighter, or at least not a swimmer. He has no need to be the first or the best he can be in the sporting world. He's happy to watch the world go by from a stationary position. He's content with his lot, though the expectations of his past life lead him to have an awkward, almost embarrassed look - unable to quite meet your eye.

But now he must be particularly vigilant in keeping the lowest possible profile. Will they notice his absence when they call the start of the race? Will they come to find him?

Or will that person searching the leading ducks for their lucky number 182 be sadly out contention well before the race ever starts?

Sunday, September 7, 2014


He's been around for a few years now. I've always found him fairly irritating, with his smug comedy show presentations of parenting advice. More recently though, with his recent television series, he has branched out to being the go-to guru for just about everything. He has covered a range of topics - alcohol, prisons, poverty - and by all accounts the shows have been well-presented and interesting, and more about the topics and less about him. The final programme has aired, and Nigel has somewhat redeemed himself in my estimations.
It was all about sugar. He didn't cover anything that any paleo lifestyler hasn't known for years, but by the reactions to the programme it has been a revelation to many that this is basically a refined, addictive poison and cunningly added to basically every processed food. But the most important thing Nigel did was to expose yet another reason to turn away from the dark side that is the foul concoction, Marmite ...

... with its nasty added sugar, and come into the light that is Vegemite ...
... with its smooth, yeasty goodness. You know I'm right, but the masses seem to need a guru to turn to - so go Nigel!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Signs of Spring

It is very easy to mis-read the signs. I captured these delightful shots weeks and weeks ago on the walk to school.

But mother nature was only teasing. A fresh batch of rain and cold made an appearance just to confirm that winter was still in charge. Last week, however, the mornings suddenly seemed a lot lighter and we basked in glorious sunshine, with the light having a stronger, brighter quality. This morning though, the most compelling and reliable portent of the new season made its first visit. 

You can't fool a blow fly. It knows the exact day and it is the true herald of spring. And so, to the gentle buzzing of its activity, my eyes wandered out to the sunny deck and it was clear the time had come to set to work. When I bought this house the deck was brand new. As with the whole property, everything was beautifully staged and unrealistically clean and neat.

The standard rose are long gone, but the deck itself has served well for sunny breakfasts and general lethargy. But the four years have taken their toll on the planks. They have become mottled and grey. Nor have the years been kind to the outdoor furniture.

Do the makers of such items not suspect that there is a strong possibility that, given the word 'outdoor' in the description, they may be exposed to rain while performing their designated task? Apparently not, because they select a metal frame pretty much guaranteed to rust. So it has been a satisfying day. The table and chairs have been given the heave-ho. The trusty Nilfisk (I know - so cute!) has been dusted off ...

... and the transformation is underway, and coming along very nicely. 

I can't wait to get back into it next weekend to finish the job, and join the hoards at Mitre 10 selecting the perfect new outdoor setting - another sure sign of spring!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Mind

The mind is an intriguing thing, and must be treated with the utmost of care. I avoid the news and other sources of despairing stories, including those my friends try to relate, because once a thing is seen or heard it is hard to forget. Of course this also relates to quite innocuous bits and pieces of information, too. Which is why my mind often wanders to a friend's husband whenever I shower. I hasten to add  I have no designs on him in the least. I only occasionally see him but an image of him is locked in my brain. This is the result of a conversation about showering and toothbrushing that was had in his absence long ago. The subject came up, heavens knows why, as to whether it is correct to clean one's teeth before or after showering*. His wife shared the very oddest of facts that he in fact does neither, but actually cleans his teeth in the shower - yes, in the shower, with hot water! And so it is that when I think of him I don't recall a charming man, husband and father. No, I see this ...

... which any well read child can tell you is a picture of the Herk-Heimer Sisters, from Dr Suess' Sleep Book. But even the Herk-Heimer Sisters were presumably using cold water up at Herk-Heimer Falls, where the great river rushes and crashes down crags in great gurgling rushes. My mind has made the association - Hot water? For teeth? - and I fear it is locked in forever. 

*The correct answer is, of course, after one's shower; unless as happened to me yesterday, the shower takes a long time to run hot and you are in a hurry to leave the house. And never with hot water.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Sticking At It

I've never been much of one for joining things or doing any particular pastime too actively. It may stem back to my childhood. My parents had encouraged and supported my older siblings in worthy pursuits such as St John's, hockey, soccer, ballet and Brownies. Thankfully, by the time I came along their interest and energy for such things had waned. I never showed a glimmer of interest in sports or clubs and they never suggested I should join any, with one exception. An after school organisation called Busy Bees was held each Wednesday at our church. As my mother was active in the church and on the management board, my participation was required.
At Busy Bees we started each session completing crafts which would be sold to support the overseas missions of the church. I can only hope that my cross-stitched hessian oven cloths went some way towards improving the lives of those with leprosy in The New Hebrides. I always looked forward to Wednesday afternoons, but sadly not because of the opportunity to do good works in a cosy Christian environment. My mother gave me sixpence each week for the collection, and that allowed me to call at the dairy on the way for threepence worth of lollies and still have a coin to drop in the plate. Numbers were dwindling in our inner city church and soon Busy Bees was no more. I never sought a replacement. I have tried a few things over the years, but the reality is I really don't like committing to anything on a regular basis or being a member of an organisation. A walk, a book, a movie, a coffee - when and if I can be bothered - is quite enough to keep me content.

They made you choose a sport at High School - I chose this one because it involves standing in one place, once a year, on athletics day.

That whole getting sweaty thing just wasn't me, and far too much enthusiasm to be natural.

A bit of a personal best - I lasted half a season!

Like all sports much trickier than it looks, and really cold. Much more fun to be had just going up and down on the chairlifts and drinking hot chocolates.

Surprisingly unlike being a mermaid and very tiring, with an unnerving closeness to drowning. 

The clay can be really wobbly and they make you cut your fingernails.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


I was mentioned on another blog as being in a list of links that have been inactive for some time. It's not that I haven't been writing posts. I write them all the time in my head as I walk here and there and ponder life as it presents itself to me. Time has just overtaken me in recent months and the act of actually recording them for posterity has failed to occur. I have missed it - the process of shaping thoughts is deeply satisfying. So, dear readers, I hope to be back into this pleasant pursuit on a regular basis, and my thanks to Richard (of Richard's Bass Bag - the #1 Bass Bagging site) for his gentle prompt.

Richard works his magic.
My more long suffering acquaintances have had the inestimable pleasure of tracking my recent New York holiday through my Facebook postings, so I will spare them any more 'me in front of something' snaps. I do though have a couple of thoughts arising from my travels.

How can the USA, arguably the greatest nation on earth, have got the simple toilet so wrong? I'm sure Thomas Crapper never conceived his brilliant invention would end this way. I'm talking water level - it's just too high, way too high. And then there's the pause after you flush, the unsettling possibility that it will rise some more and overflow, and the inexorable time it takes to swirl and finally finish it's business and yours. And what is it with these horseshoe seats in the public ones? 

The doyen of home decorating - how does she come up with all those ideas?.
While exploring home wares in Macy's, I came upon this display of Martha Stewart's trendy new collection of storage containers. Gosh, I thought, that looks a lot like the cheap old Sistema stuff they flog off in New Zealand supermarkets.

And then I looked closer and it was the cheap old Sistema stuff they flog off in New Zealand supermarkets. It even said 'Made in New Zealand'. The only difference was the colour - which I have to admit was very pretty and the perfect duck egg blue for my own home. So basically, if you are already famous and rich, all you have to do is say "Yes, that looks great but change the colour" and you are a designer with a new collection and even more money.

I guess that's why they call it the land of opportunity!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Properties of Gases

Way, way back when I went to secondary school there was no such thing as NCEA. In the fifth form you sat School Certificate, and no amount of pandering to the egos of teachers and decorating your assignments with colourful borders made a jot of difference to your final examination outcome. It was all externally assessed by one exam for each subject. Modesty obviously precludes me from mentioning my five staggeringly brilliant pass rates for Maths, Geography, English, Biology and Chemistry, but I do have to admit that there was a sixth subject in which I did not score well or indeed pass at all - Physics. Despite this lopsided acquisition of scientific knowledge, I have stumbled on successfully through life and have always liked the science questions best in Trivial Pursuit and quiz competitions.

Going for a green slice of pie!
And so it is I know a little about states of matter and properties of gases. There are four main properties of gases, but today we will illuminate the one of which I often think about in relation to my occupation. The first of the gas laws states that a gas expands spontaneously to fill its container - the volume of gas is equal to that of the container in which it is held. This is equally true of time and teaching. Think of time as the container and teaching, and all its associated tasks, as the gas. Basically, teaching has the capacity to take up as much time as is available to it. And like gas it escapes easily into other containers, so time you think you are spending elsewhere, mentally or physically, often is infiltrated by school. You're lying in a bubble bath, but in your head you are reorganising class seating. You are on a pleasant walk, but you are mulling over your planning approach for writing rather than admiring the view. You're online, but checking out ideas for introducing place value concepts to five year olds and ordering special pencils from the USA to correct the crazy pencil grips children arrive at school with. You are browsing in a book shop but you are drawn to the children's books and cool dinosaur stickers. You meet friends for coffee, but as most friends have been acquired via various schools, the talk inevitably turns to something teaching related. 

Tangible token time - financed by you know who!
And this, all in all, is quite fine. But when the "What did you do in the holidays?" question arises, although I can say this ...

 ... and this ...
 ... and this ...

... and lots of this ...

... accompanied by lots of good friends and good food, there was also a lot of school. Quite apart from the days spent on site, a lot of time and headspace went into school related tasks - because school is like a sneaky gas, streaming into any space it can find the teeniest of nooks through which to enter. The only way to hold it completely at bay is to do something so totally absorbing, rewarding and distracting that it is defeated at every turn. And so it is that next holiday break I am making myself as unavailable, physically and mentally, as is possible within the contraints of my financial resources. And when I am asked about my holiday activities I will be able to say this ...

... though I can't help but think there could be some really cool stickers there, and those pencils are bound to be cheaper ...