Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't Go Breakin' My Heart

When my excellent six-year-old niece was born, I wasn't ready for her. I was hurt - we all were - but I was also self-absorbed, and here she was, not at all whom I had expected, and I didn't know what to do with her. I was afraid of her; she was so small and defenseless but I knew what she could do to me and I didn't want that; I couldn't handle it. I had so much love stored up for someone else, and I couldn't just transfer it to her. So I kept my distance. In my memory, she's like Ruth imploring Idgie to spend time with her; I can see her on the couch, a little buddha propped up against the side, spilling down her chin, trying to talk with her little eyes, and I'm doing up my shoes getting ready to go out, or waiting for her Mother to come back in the room. I liked changing her nappies and feeding her but I didn't like holding her for too long... I didn't think I was good at it, and I didn't want to feel bad for not wanting to do it more, or being more natural, or feeling what I thought I should be feeling when I had my own niece and the baby of my best friend and surrogate parents in my arms. I watched her splosh out of her mother into the midwife's hands, but even then I was too scared to hold her.

When she could walk, she used to come into my bedroom and put on my shoes and bags and walk around in them. I would come home and find them put back, mismatching, or in front of each other as if she'd walked straight out of them. When I was there, she would pretend to talk on my phone while pacing around the room in my hot pink stilettos, in her soft little voice. Her most-used phrases were "What doing?" and "Just having a look" (when playing with something she wasn't supposed to touch). She still didn't have a lot of hair, and there was still something so vulnerable about her, although I wonder now if I project that onto her because I wasn't being what I should have been. Watching her do things like stand for the first time, or say "butterfly", I felt like a spectator rather than an insider. When my one-year-old niece was born last year, I was ready to be her aunty and love her and teach her things, right away. I realised I hadn't felt that way before, and it made me feel so much guilt, and so, so much sadness. My six-year-old niece won't remember her infancy, when I was there, living in the same house but a completely separate life, but I will, and even if I can forgive myself, I will always be sorry. She was just a baby, who didn't know what she was born into, and I was too young and sad and selfish to do anything about it. I think of her, posting my cds in the gaps under the skirting, and eating wine biscuits in the back of my car, and I want to cry. I feel like she earned my love, instead of just inheriting it as her birthright, as she should have; not that I didn't love her the minute she was born because I did, but it wasn't the same. It wasn't what it should have been.

Tomorrow, my six-year-old niece will be seven. She could be turning fourteen; she's always asking questions and pushing boundaries to find out what she can do, and what's going on, and how things fit with each other. She is a constant source of amusement, honesty, love, welcome, and inspiration; not only because she is truly good, but because she deserves an open-ended life, and gives me enough hope for the future that I want to fight for it. She won't hurt my feelings but she won't lie to me. She lights up a room like a little lightning-bolt. One day I know she won't think I'm so interesting anymore; she will be growing and discovering things, and I'll still be the same. Vincent thinks she'll grow to be a person with whom I'll have even more in common, but I know she'll overtake me, and as sad as that thought is, it makes me hopeful as well; she's the future, and it couldn't be brighter. I used to actively dislike children; I didn't think they had any special value... and then she came along and changed everything. I still yell Dummy at kids on Sticky TV who get simple questions wrong, but I know how important children are, and how much better they are than we.

My niece is six years old, and one of the best people I know. She's one of the greatest joys of my life, and while it hurts very much to remember how she and I began, the prospect of growing old in her company - she dropping in to see her old uncle and aunty, driving us to the doctor, letting us tell her stories about when she was young - and always having her in my life, gives me such happiness and comfort that those memories are just thorns on a rose.

Happy, happy birthday, to the most wonderful six-year-old to ever live. Seven to infinity, and beyond.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Mourning After

There are, supposedly, five stages of mourning. They are:
1. Denial and Isolation.
2. Anger.
3. Bargaining.
4. Depression.
5. Acceptance.

I've cried this morning, and I don't think it'll be the last time I cry today. I just feel like we've let down the people who couldn't be let down again; this is it. I'm telling people I love who are hurt as well that we'll rise... but what we lose in the meantime is irretrievable; for many adults and children, this is life and death - this is having absolutely nothing in the cupboard as opposed to almost nothing. I'll walk out onto the street in a few minutes and see thousands of people gathered outside for the Santa Parade, and I'll know that, in spite of mostly being middle to lower-income families, most of those parents voted against a fair future. I'll feel a lot of isolation, a bit of depression, and lots and lots of anger. And I'll look at them and think how can you be here, smiling? Don't you know what has happened?

From me, this next song is more self-indulgent, but it's very much the case for lots of people who are already living on the edge. This kind of luck can so easily make a good man turn bad. It's not really even a case of getting what people want, but what they need.

I don't really feel very optimistic right now, but I'm no good to anyone if I don't at least try. When I woke up, the song Heartbroke Again was still in my head, but I tried to douse it with Maya Angelou. Her battle is different, but she makes me feel like even when the chips are way down, I can still have the upper hand.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You can trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful eyes.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Up from the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that the ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou

I was so sorry, but also thankful, for Phil Goff last night. I felt so hopeless, and isolated, and just wanted to get away, and then he said that he won't stop fighting for the poor and to make NZ a fair place. And nor will I; everyone with a conscience and a desire for social justice has to keep fighting, we have to. This was a significant battle, but the people we fight for will need us even more now, and what are we worth if we don't do it? For me, personally, I have to fight because I have everything. On Friday, after they had signed the register, my newlywed friends played this song, and I played it over and over yesterday (along with other songs they played, replaying in my head the two of them arriving, and looking at each other, and then coming out to be kissed and congratulated by all of us), and thought about how, no matter what happens in my life, the day ends with me going to sleep curled up with Vincent, and that even the world isn't entirely alright with me, that moment is. We both believe wholeheartedly that everyone deserves the chance to have a happy and fulfilled life, and to have the same opportunities regardless of parentage and money. We think that people should be allowed to love whomever they want to love, and marry that person if they want to. We think that all children should have access to a great education, and healthcare, and not be cold and hungry at night, and that no child should be discriminated against because of their parents' employment status or political beliefs or anything else. We believe in public ownership. We think people should be taxed in relation to what they earn, and that taxes are a good thing, not something to be shirked. I could probably go on forever and then we'd never end up watching our dvd, and I'm probably preaching to the choir anyway, but it's good to write it so I can see it, and know that whatever happened last night, these things don't change, and if anything they are even more important. I expect to be fluctuating between the first four of the five stages of mourning, but I will never, ever accept what has happened. And when I'm old and having to use an ear-trumpet and have my grand-daughter drive my friends and me to housie, I am going to tell her I was there in 2011 when humanity lost to greed, and it only made me stronger...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ivan E Lection

This probably won't be the post it was supposed to be, on account of I have a hangover roughly the size of the Middle East. (The wedding was wonderful.) I smell funny (unless those are cooking smells from another apartment - is it my hangover or is that hilarious? I'm being literal but I have actually been farting while Vincent's away.)

Anyway, I (unsurprisingly) digress. We have now been to the High Court and voted (actually not as momentous as I expected - the court bit, not the voting - and without the community feel of suburban booths), and in spite of my pessimism about the results and disillusionment with NZ, I'm a bit excited. Elections, the start of them at least, are exciting. The lead up to this one has been completely disillusioning, and I feel like maybe NZ isn't the place we want to be; maybe that place is Sweden, or Denmark, or Cuba. It's one thing to work towards a goal; I'd love to do that. But when the results make it clear that most people in NZ have a very different goal for the country than I do, it might be time to cut our losses and have our babies somewhere where the majority of people care about each other. But right now, I'm focussing on the people here who care about each other. It's not as difficult as it might be because we're watching John Campbell, who I know cares about people, especially poor people and ethnic minorities. And there's always that excitement of seeing something unfold in front of you, even if it's a car crash; if there was a volcanic eruption in Auckland and there was no escaping it, I think I would watch.

Three years ago, I watched the election results at my lovely also-lefty friends' house, and when it was over my cousin and I sat on the couch and cried. I felt so sad, and disappointed, and incredibly embarrassed. I felt like I had no control over the future, and that we had all betrayed the people who need us the most. And I felt like we had all betrayed Helen. This year, I've felt these things already. I'm ashamed of everybody who has so much but won't give; people I know and love who think that we deserve everything we have, or don't have. So I'm sitting on the couch in my undies, watching the results unfold, and getting ready to take what I can get. Harawira looks safe. Arden might just pull it off and become my electorate MP. The Greens are looking good. The young Nats just shown made me want to simutaneously vomit and break things.

It's going to be a long night.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Tomorrow afternoon, two of my good friends are tying the knot, and I'm excited. I love weddings; I love the cheesy speeches, and the funny bridesmaid dresses, and of course I love the open bar. I love watching the bride walk up the aisle; it's my favourite part and I cry every time, regardless of how well or little I know the woman, or if I stayed up late the night before plotting ways to kill her (in this case I actually felt like Anne when Diana is married; kissing her goodbye before going ahead I felt half in love with her myself, and was shaking with sobs as she made her ascent). But what I really love is the romance of it; two people choosing to enter into a patriarchal contract, just because they can't keep going without everyone and the law knowing that they're half people without each other. Not being good with change, stability has always been important to me, and while I know a piece of paper with your signatures on it doesn't make a guarantee, it does make me feel like it has weight.

It's no secret that I love Love. Few things make me happier than to learn someone is in love with someone who is in love with them, and then to see them get happier and happier. I vaguely remember the Greek belief that we were all originally two-headed, eight-limbed beings, half-male/half-female, who cartwheeled around contentedly until one of the gods got mad and sawed us in half, condemning us to walk the earth alone. Like marriage (Vote Labour goddamit!), the story excludes LGBT people and people who prefer to be alone, but it does kind of explain the feeling you get when you find your other half; excitement and over-whelming relief. When I found Vincent, I felt like I finally made sense; like there was someone, who had no obligation to love me or even like me, who understood what I was about, and did love me because of, and not in spite of, my... idiosyncracies.

My Favourite Weddings:
1. Obviously, my own, although strictly speaking it was more a marriage ceremony than a wedding. It certainly had the best music of any wedding, ever, and I don't recall ever seeing a more excited pair (although I did have an inside perspective on these two).
2. Steve van Zandt's. He married Maureen on New Year's Eve, 1982, had Springsteen as his best man and Little Richard(!!!) presiding over the ceremony. And Percey Sledge sang this at their reception (in the flesh, not like how Springsteen sang at our wedding):

I didn't really go for this song when I was in my Kool FM days, but lord I love it now. I don't think I really believed men loved women like this, unless they were suckers, until I met Vincent.
3. Julia's and Robbie's. Really only because of Steve Buscemi, but he is enough. I think I've posted this before but it's so good I don't care:

4. Buttercup's (nightmare) wedding in The Princess Bride. If I had a dollar for every time my sisters or I said "Twue Wove" I would have enough for the horse she gets to ride at the end. I used to do the suicide scene when I was drying the cutlery when I was little with my Dad's 10" chef's knife, pushing it right into my chest (no Westley ever stopped me; but not only were my breasts not perfect, they were non-existent - concave, even).
5. Elaine's to The Make-Out King. Of course I don't love the wedding itself, but it is the greatest, greatest ending to the greatest, greatest movie. Don't watch the clip if you haven't seen the movie (and don't do anything else either; just get to a video shop and right that wrong).

It's a nice coincidence that tomorrow night, while my friends are dancing and celebrating, Elton John will be playing a concert down in Dunedin. The night of my graduation party, the groom-to-be and I did an interpretive dance to end all interpretive dances to Tiny Dancer; we'd done many interpretive dancers before to various songs, but that night Elton took over and it was flawless - almost sad, because the movements flowed through me in a way I knew they never could again. I used to be so bothered by things passing forever that I lived in a constant state of reminiscing; I would start to feel nostalgic about things while they were still happening. Not so anymore. I feel sad when things end, but there's so much to look forward to. Like weddings - they're magical, but it's after the wedding that the adventure really begins.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bloody Sick Kids

Vincent and I just watched a documentary/expose about child poverty in NZ, and I'm stunned. I like to think I'm aware of how people in NZ live; that even if I don't personally know people in different situations, I know they exist, and have some idea of the numbers. I know - although I realise now that it's one thing to know and another to really know - that there are entire families living in garages in the same city where Vincent and I have a spare room to keep our clothes and for Vincent to write in. We donate monthly to KidsCan, and I think I know it's important... But maybe I don't. I'm so sheltered, and the kids I know are so lucky that I think, subconsciously, I've thought maybe the problem isn't as bad as it is; stupid when I have a pretty good grip on how hard families are doing it right now. According to the doco, 1 in 5 children in NZ live in poverty. While I was out for brunch with my friend this morning, complaining about how long the insurance will take to sort out our car, thousands of kids in my little country of 4.5 million were sitting at school, trying to concentrate in spite of having empty stomachs. In the documentary, I saw kids with scabies, and school sores, and kids in hospital with rheumatic fever - something that will affect lots of them for life. In most developed countries, these things are almost non-existent, and if they do occur they are caught early.

Watching the documentary, in shock, I realised how much of a lie we are selling ourselves, and our kids. We say how lucky we are to live here, and how good we have it - all of us, and yet thousands and thousands of our most vulnerable are sick and hungry and going to sleep in rooms with their entire families because their houses are so cold. We pretend we know what is important because we happen to live in a country that is naturally beautiful, when all the while we let children - the future - suffer. We put people with lots of money on tv, and in the paper, and we start to think these people represent us. They don't. 1 in 5. That means, for every four of the kids I know who go to the doctor when they're sick, one stays home and gets sicker and sicker, probably ending up in hospital.

We have to do something about this; how can we live with ourselves if we don't? If you missed it, you can watch the doco here. You can join KidsCan here; it's only $15 per month for one child, who will receive shoes, socks, a raincoat, and food at school. And on Saturday, we get to vote. We can choose a government who cuts welfare, sells state houses, and wants to sell assets that will drive up prices for things we can't live without, like power. Or we can choose a government who will invest in our future, meaning not just our environment but the most important asset we have - our little monsters.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

To Be Real

Last night we watched Strummer: The Future is Unwritten. I was in an unusual frame of mind - in shock, really - after some sad and awful news, and watched it in a strange, kind-of detached way; I love and admire Joe Strummer but I wasn't blind to things about him that I don't admire (as I probably have been in the past), and saw things in a less personal way than usual. One of the things that really struck me was when The Clash cracked the US and were playing huge stadium shows. In the film, Joe talks about how ridiculous it was to be playing these songs about things that weren't relevant to the audience; to an audience that wasn't them. Watching them, it occurred to me that they had become almost a parody, but definitely a simulation of themselves. They were doing the same things, and people might take the same meaning from what they did, but from their perspective it was inauthentic - simply a performance.

I wasn't sure what to make of this. I wondered if it's alright to Fake It Till You Make It in all situations, or if you have a responsibility to know or be in the process of finding out who you are at all times. I wondered if your message can still be real if you're not; if the medium is really the message, it can't be can it? Can someone hearing them sing Career Opportunities on that US tour really know what they meant when they were so far removed from it at the time? Is it like Springsteen said about the song not being theirs anymore, so that if it had meaning for the audience then that was more important than where the band were? I don't know. I thought about situations when I'm hyper-aware of myself - when I'm pre-menstrual and meeting new people, maybe - and how I feel like I'm playing myself, and I can't tell what is real and what is trying. I can't imagine other people could see a difference, so maybe the harm would be to myself. I look at people I know who are on what I presume (I know it's a presumption) to be on an invisible conveyer-belt, playing a part they think they have to play, and expect them to end up completely confused; if they've only ever had to perform and never worried about being authentic (or known how to be), what will happen when they are confronted by something that demands to know what they are, and they don't know? I think Baudrillard says that the simulations eventually replace what they were simulating; will we be a society of people, and shadow-people?

Later on, Joe talks about deconstructing himself. I wish I was this brave. I make discoveries about myself, but they're usually linked to my mistakes. To take yourself apart, and then put yourself together, is so admirable. I feel as if I would be too afraid of what I might find; prejudices and selfishness I hope not to have but occasionally show. If I show them, are they who I am? They have to be.

I have never read Hamlet, but my Mum used to tell me To Thine Own Self Be True. I She probably regrets that now that I'm not quite the self she hoped I was going to be, but I used to think about it all the time. The first few big decisions I made as a teenager gave me confidence to do this; they were hard, but I had no regrets. When I think about life having a Point, I usually think about making the world better than we found it, and helping people as much as we can. But I think it's also to find out who you are, and be that person. Lots of Continental philosophers talk about authenticity, but I got so excited about the Death Of God that I didn't pay as much attention as I might have, even though I was furiously trying to figure out who I was. I think I know who I am now, but I can't imagine how I might be in all situations, and I think that would be really knowing myself. But that's not really authenticity. I think you can not know everything but just try; try to be true to who you think you are, or want to be.

I tried to find a clip of Jackie Chan shouting "Who am I?!!!!" but all I came up with were fight scenes. That's about the weekend it's been. Sometimes I wish the world would just go fuck itself.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sometimes We Are All Bad Feminists - This May Be One Of Those Times

This is probably going to be mean but I have had enough. Office girls, we have to have a talk. I stuck up for you when Subway made that ad and called you generic; I said they would never say that about office boys, and that there is an expectation for women to look attractive when men can just wear a shirt and that's sufficient. Except, I don't care about office boys. I care about You. You, who walk down High Street in your lunch break, never smiling, just doing your little errands; buying presents for your friends' housewarmings and engagements and your boyfriends' mothers' birthdays, picking up your sensible sandwich or your sushi. You never say thank you properly when we wrap your things, and you ask too much sometimes, without even bothering to look us in the eye. We feel sorry for you, but when you leave, we want to scream. Because you look So Bad, and it's because you're not Being Yourself. If you were, you wouldn't wear that office uniform that isn't even a uniform. Let's establish some guidelines. They aren't rules; you clearly think that rules are gospel, and thus far Jesus hasn't been much of a friend to you. They are just some friendly advice from someone who cares; someone who hates billboards because they are ugly and intrusive and one-sided. You don't have to be a billboard, but you are; a billboard for boredom, and offices, and Glassons' cardies. You can be a person - yourself! - and then people will treat you like a person, and you won't be so lethargic when you come into the shop, and then we can have an actual conversation! We could even be kind-of friends, like me and that office girl who wears the cool eye-liner, and smiles and makes jokes. You could be her! Let's talk about how.

1. The black (usually ballet) flats with the black opaque stockings and the black (not-quite) pencil skirt Have To Go. They make you look like Benjamin in the pool, minus the rod and the mask; like a frog-person. They make you look exactly like your friend with whom you came in. You Are Better Than This. They must be comfortable. But do you know what's even more comfortable? Pants! And you might not believe it, but you can wear trousers with your beloved white shirt and Not Be Mistaken For A Man (although if you were, you would probably get a pay-rise). Pants are great, but you never wear them. You can! I believe in you.
2. Black is not your friend. With your mousey hair and that complexion, you should be wearing colour! I know you were the kind of girl who wore her school uniform so correctly that you were frequently held up as an example, and this has stayed with you - no blue nail polish or red hair-bobbles for you. But it's not school anymore! And you know what would suit you? Red. Orange. Blue. Pink. Peach. I see it all, and it looks so beautiful. Share my vision!
3. Shoes. I mostly wear flat shoes too. But sometimes, you have to wear heels, especially if you are little or wearing a mid-length skirt. I am on my feet for six hours, and I can hack it - you, who have more tenacity than I, and who are sitting for most of the day - you have no excuse. The black flats are only going to come out when your legs aren't stockinged. Haven't shaved? Me neither! It's a pain and I'll just have to do it again anyway. No-one cares! Actually that's a lie, but I Found A Man with my hairy legs and underarms, in spite of everything Cleo told me.
4. Trends are bollocks. Whatever you saw on the Shortland Street actor in About Town last Sunday, or whatever Marie Claire told you, or what's on the mannequins in the front window of Cue or the front table at Glassons - they don't mean a thing. They are not you, and they don't care about you; if they did, they never would have let you buy three of those fawn cardigans. You can buy whatever you like. Whatever You like! If your friends don't like it, even better. To be honest, it's probably a compliment. And if the shop person at Karen Walker gives you the funny eye - it's okay. They are them. You are you.
5. Make up. You don't have to wear it. Except you do - you wear concealer and foundation. It covers your natural flush, and really matches that dead look you have going. Except, maybe you're not dead. From the little you say to us when you come into the shop, I'm not sure. But I think you might have a pulse. In which case, look alive! If you have to wear foundation, which you probably don't, how bout some blush! How about switching your mascara from brown to black, and putting on more than one coat? Be daring! No-one will think you don't care about your work. You could even put on some Lipstick. Feel the power that comes with leaving your mark on everything. No more drinking the communal milk straight from the bottle - everyone will know it was you, and you will claim it. So what if you did? So what if you have Hep C? We all have to die from something.
6. Cardigans are good but they've become your hipflask. As have the shirts. There are hundreds of tops to choose from; we're lucky, we don't have to choose from just tshirts, shirts and polos. You have a lovely neck. Let's see it! You have a not lovely neck. Let's wear something high-necked! If you're cold, a jumper actually makes you warmer - unless you do up the buttons on your cardigan, which you never do. And if you wear a shirt, how about undoing the next button, or doing them all up?

Our inspirations:

Taylor. She demonstrates the beauty of form-fitting clothes. They cover her completely but she doesn't look like a nun or a ghost. And she has Poise. She knows who she is and what she expects. I'm in awe of her.

Bacall. She demonstrates the power of attitude. She always has her chin up like she's saying And What. She is an expert in the raised eyebrow. She wears all kinds of amazing things but you barely notice them - it's her general vibe you feel. She also has immaculate hair. Here she might be saying I Am Owning This, except she would never need to.

Monroe. Commitment might not be the first word that springs to mind when you think of her, but think again. She has a look, and whatever fashion might have said, she's stuck with it because it works. She also demonstrates Life. In this picture, I half-expect her to wink of flick her hair, and not because I like Harry Potter. She just exudes life. I can imagine her laughing, and crying, and singing, and watching. If she wore black flats with black opaques and a black skirt (heaven forbid) she would have a bounce that would set her apart as Monroe.

The point of this isn't to be an ornament to society. Your job is not to look pretty. You can look hideous if you want to - it's just as enjoyable. But you do have to be you. I see you, and I despair, not only because you bore me to death but because I don't believe you like what you wear. I don't even think you see it. Do you want to be invisible? I don't think you do. Do you want to be part of a herd? Maybe, but why? You can't be just like everyone else; it's not possible. You might be as boring as you look. But I'm not sure. Let's think about this, and reconvene soon.

Images from, &

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why I'm Thinking Seriously About Voting Mana

Because Mana is for poor people, and isn't afraid of alienating voters to say so. Because I respect Matt McCarten (and have finally forgiven him for taking my vote in the local election and then saying he hadn't wanted to be mayor in the first place), John Minto and Sue Bradford. I'm a little afraid of Annette Sykes, and that's good. And I enjoy Hone Harawira. Together, they sound to me like a Super-Party. Today, in response to a poll predicting four seats for Mana, Harawira said

"The poor need a voice. The poor need a team who will fight for them.
And if you were poor, which team would you want - Goff, Beaumont, Burns and Huo,
or Harawira, Sykes, Minto and Bradford?"

It really worries me when I see how much things cost at the supermarket. Vincent and I don't earn much compared with most people we know, but we don't have children, and we can afford concert tickets and beer and trips to Paeroa. We balk at paying what we do at our local supermarket for vegetables and cheese, but when they're expensive, we can still buy them. I hate knowing that for lots of people, going to the supermarket isn't like that. They don't buy any biscuits; they don't buy any snacks. They buy cereal. They buy cheap, fatty meat. I see them, the old people on their pensions, looking for the smallest packets of the cheap mince and packets of noodles that have more sodium than a young person should have. Vincent and I often eat vegetarian - by choice - and I know our vegetarian meals aren't necessarily less expensive than our meat meals.

I've started watching the leaders' debate and lost my train of thought now; now I'm thinking about Maori, and what NZ might be like if the dominant values were Maori and not Pakeha. I think it would be a country much closer to what I idealise; one where money isn't the most important thing. Anyway, debate's back on, so more tomorrow.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Musings

I've never been very good with food. Not that I don't eat; I do, frequently and with little care for what I'm eating - which is really what I mean. I used to get really grumpy and my sister would ask and find out I hadn't had anything to eat or drink yet, or it would all be McDonalds. Then when I learned about fat from every magazine/tv programme ever made to feed off young women, I thought eating heaps of lollies was okay because it was all sugar and not fat (nb if you still think this is the case, sit down. It is not. Sugar turns into fat! It's one of those horrible facts of life, like wine turning into wee). I write this because I am trying to convince myself to eat the pile of lettuce that is left on my plate because I ate all of the tomato and avocado from around it, claiming to Vincent I am now full of good fat and lycopene. He informs me that lettuce is full of fibre and can help prevent cancer. This is news to me. All I knew was that lettuce is like an unfood because eating it uses up more calories than it contains itself. I don't know what fibre does for me but it seems like everything might give me cancer, so here I go.

I especially want to be well because there is an unmistakable air of summer about, and Vincent and I have Big Plans. On Friday I found out that Bon Iver, source of comfort and so much enjoyment, is coming to the Wellington Arts Festival. My good husband immediately got on the internet and discovered tickets were available to non-members today, and so today bought two tickets. I have wanted to see Bon Iver live since I bought For Emma, Forever Ago, and now not only do I get to go, I get to go with Vincent, on a special trip, and we are going to take the train. Just to get there, but it's going to be so exciting, and absolutely nothing like stupid North By Northwest, except maybe for the kissing. I want the rest of this month to just go on and on; Christmas is near enough for me to bask in the warmth of its glow (and to put on the odd Christmas carol without being unreasonable), and to plan things and get excited about them, and still, after that, there will be our holiday with our friends to the beach, and then our holiday to another beach with all our little nieces, and another holiday to an island with the Jenga Queen and her family, and, in between, three concerts (Fleet Foxes, Beirut and Bon Iver) and a show to look forward to in March (Jersey Boys!!!). I've always loved Christmas Eve because everything was ahead of me. This year, Christmas Eve starts today. I have so much to look forward to, I'm going to enjoy it for as long as I can; anticipation is the icing on the cake, and I really dig icing.

This might be a funny song to choose after writing that... or maybe it's a good reminder to grab life by the ping pongs. I was talking today about Meet Me In St Louis and it made me think of this song. Judy puts so much of herself into the song; you know her character hasn't really lived yet but that she still knows what it would be like - that she has enough passion for something that she knows what it would be like to really lose something. It's a funny contrast to all of The Smiths I've been listening to today, but in their different ways, they both affirm what it is to be human and alive. Anyway, Happy Monday, my friends.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

Yesterday was my friend's hen's party, to which I gave so much of my liver that I really shouldn't be writing anything; I'm barely coherent, and looking in the mirror today has not been an enjoyable activity. On the other hand, waking up to hear about actually funny things I did on the way home and that I had given myself two showers and not only brushed my teeth but also used mouthwash gave me great hope for a drunken future. Admittedly the second shower and attention to my mouth were by-products of a big spew, but I am, nevertheless, heartened.

The song above is in honour of a birthday - that of my cousin and first-ever best friend. I have a million memories and stories of all the things we did together when we were little; calling each other up on a Sunday to co-ordinate matching outfits to wear to church, playing Samoan Nurseries (an original creation which involved the two of us taking care of abandoned children, usually left on the doorstep of her bedroom), and eating lunch together on the little table in her bedroom, drinking refresh out of brightly coloured tupperware cups. It hasn't always been easy; I don't know why, but I always seemed to underestimate what I am to her, and took for granted what she is to me. I think I know it now; it took me a long time to realise, and I wish I'd known sooner - we've lost time, and gone through things that weren't necessary. But the main thing is that things are the way they should be, and distance is no match for these bonds. Happy Birthday, to the only person I've ever shared a toilet seat with.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


This song's been in and out of my head since I heard it in a cafe, for the first time in ages, the other day. They were playing the soundtrack from The Virgin Suicides, and I found it hard to concentrate on the conversation with the vaguely familiar music in the background. Sometimes I just wish I was by myself.

Our laptop cord finally broke and the new one took a couple of days to arrive, so we were without our portal for a little while. It was actually kind of a relief. I'm so excited about Christmas, but, perhaps in preparation, a big part of me wants to go into hibernation for a while. If the election goes the way everyone thinks it will, maybe I will.

Anyway, some things that have been amusing me:
1. How To Bitchface, by Tavi. There was an absolute imbecile sitting near me at the movies the other night, and I really wanted to lean across her cheap-perfumed friend and punch her in the face, but I didn't. Now I wish I had fixed her with one of these stares when the lights came up.
2. Season Four of Mad Men.
3. Eighties everything except clothes (not that I don't like them, but I'm committed to the sixties at present). Bowie, The Pretenders and The Cure on high rotation, trying to ignore rampant greed, and eighties tribute movies.
4. Yakult smoothies. One yakult, one banana, strawberry yoghurt, protein powder, and milk. I don't get hungry for a couple of hours, I don't have to chew (one side's still out of action), and they're yum.
5. Not Dostoevsky. The Double has been such hard going I'm giving up, or I won't get through my other books before they're due back. Should I keep struggling? Is it the Russians who separate the real readers from the would-be (if they could tolerate the repetition) readers?

Mostly, I've been amusing myself with hate and disdain. I'm premenstrual, besides which there seem to be a disproportionate number of idiots about. And these morons get to vote. For Pete's sake. We need somebody to save us. We need another Nietzsche. (That's actually a Hot Chocolate reference - from their Christmas album.) I'm hoping to make a film adaptation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which will star Steve Buscemi, Mia Wasikowska, Christina Hendricks and Paul Giamatti, as long as the producer who approached me was serious. If not, it will star myself and Vincent, and possibly the Jenga Queen, so long as we can keep the point of the book from her. I'll keep you updated.


I'm a bit selfish when it comes to some things. One of these things is my sources; I would honestly rather be slapped in the face than tell a person the location of the best shop in NZ according to me - it's a secret I guard very jealously. However, our trip to Paeroa on Saturday yielded such delight and beauty (I used the word beautiful so often it became redundant, and yet I meant it every time) that I have to tell you about the places and urge you to go there. According to a couple of the websites we found when researching places to hit, Paeroa is the antiques capital of NZ, a fact we can now confirm. But why doesn't everyone know this? Why hadn't someone, who knows my penchant for old ceramics and vintage clothing, told me I had to go there? I'm choosing to believe it was because they assumed I knew, or don't know themself, so may I tell you in no uncertain terms, if you like beautiful things that are old, you have to go to Paeroa. We are already planning our next trip, and I'm already petitioning people who love me to go in together for Christmas to buy me a set of vintage bronze owls and, the lovely of lovelies, one of the two fur capes I with which I fell in desperate, coveting love. One (presumably fox) has a clasp with fox faces on it (how morbid is that?!) and the other so deliciously full and dark I would have to become a spy if it was mine. Anyway, I hardly came home empty-handed; I had some great luck at St Vincent's, and then, in the last shop we went to, I found The Blouse and The Dress. Both are vintage fifties and sixties respectively, imported from America, and make me feel like a Woman. I realised when clasping the parcel to myself (the lovely proprietress wraps the clothes in tissue) that I do love clothes. I hoped I didn't, but I do.

Here is a simple guide to Paeroa.
1. Shops open at 10am and close at 4pm, but if the day is quiet they may shut earlier so it's best to go early. We arrived bang on ten, and it was more than worth being out of the house at 8am.
2. Best Stops:
i) St Vincent de Paul. The lady there (who became my friend) calls Auckland visitors 'The Boho Girls', and we are allowed to use the storeroom as a changing room (it's huge) and pick out stuff from there if we like. She was also involved in Springbok Tour protests, and had her picture in the paper; massively brave for a woman in a small town, where she was already branded a hippy for having a flowerbox on her bathroom window. After the protests, someone went as her to a halloween party.
ii) Arkwright's Antiques. I was hooked when I saw the dead doll in one of the freaky prams out the front, and then I discovered the furs. This antique shop is beautifully curated by two women who know their stuff; it's loaded to the gunnels but there is no crap, and things are fairly priced. Apart from the furs, the ceramics were my favourite things; shelves and shelves of jugs and teapots and vases. Most of what I saw I didn't want to buy, but looking at it all had me in raptures.
iii) The Vintage And Retro Shop. This was the last place we went to, and almost missed. That would have been Tragic. This is my dream shop; pink and small, with one changing room that had pictures of Marilyn down the side of the mirror, making me feel not pathetic but lucky as I shimmied my hips into The Dress (in which I admittedly cannot bend over). The first thing you notice when you walk in is the row of vintage hats on the wall, mostly from the fifties and sixties. I wanted several, but apparently I have a very not fifties and sixties sized head. Then you notice the racks. At first they don't seem so impressive, and then you notice the fabrics. Then one piece catches your eye, and that's it.

Tips: Take cash; no-one had eftpos except the tearooms. Besides, it's much more fun handing over cash; the town already has a seventies feel, and cash is far more authentic. And drive back through Te Aroha; there's a dingy little op shop where all clothes were $1 for one day only, and the town itself is lovely.

I can't wait to wear my dress. It's not bragging when I'm describing the dress and not myself in it - it's bangin'.

Image from

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy Weekends

It's only just gone seven a.m. on a Saturday morning, and I've been awake for an hour. This means CHRISTMAS is on the horizon. Today we are starting our shopping on a little road-trip to Paeroa, coming back through Morrinsville and Hamilton and then detouring through Pukekohe and out to Waiuku. No time for breakfast at home; we're stopping at McDonalds, and I have known what I'll be ordering all week.

I hope your weekend is as good as mine; I'm even looking forward to getting my root canal started tomorrow. However you're feeling, this song has to help - if you put it on and don't start dancing, check your pulse; you're possibly dead.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday Stuff

One of the best things about where we live is its proximity to Food Alley. Vincent called me the Queen of Food Alley today (I had a delicious sukiyaki from there last night and a not bad yellow curry tonight) and in spite of the yellow lighting and grubby tables, I could do a lot worse for a queendom. Auckland before mass immigration must have sucked.

I've just been reading an interview in September's UK Elle with Dolly Parton, and thinking about how likeable she is, and why. Part of it is her way with words, evidenced by some quotes included in the article :

' I buy clothes that are two sizes too small and take them in.'

'If I have one more facelift I'll have a beard.'

'I'm not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb,
and I know I'm not blonde.'

I know Dolly is genuine, and that is part of her charm. But it makes me sad to think how necessary the self-deprecation is to her charm. Everyone likes someone who can laugh and make fun of themself. But it shouldn't be a requirement for a person whose appearance attracts attention, and it is; I know if Dolly didn't say funny and slightly mean things about her appearance, other people would say them and go on to make judgements about the kind of person she is, based on her face and her hair and her boobs. Dolly Parton is known by her big, blonde hair and her enormous breasts, her tiny clothes and her multiple surgeries. But she's famous for her talent; her voice, her song-writing skills, her tenacity, and her skill in business. Why aren't these enough? Why does being expressive through one's appearance have to be balanced by verbal reinforcement of one's humour or virtue? I'm as bad as anyone when it comes to this expectation, but I don't want to be. Always with the likeability... Give me a break. Richy was an arrogant dick, and we all love him.

This, friends, is my dream bathroom. Actually that's not true, my dream bathroom is nothing like this. This is like my dream holiday bathroom. Actually, I don't even know if that's true; I like outdoor baths, or indoor baths in scary seventies colours with lightshades that leave the bulbs exposed and make every hair on your leg, armpit or groin seem as big and stark as a blade of grass. But I do love this bathroom; I like imagining a house with lots of people in it, and sneaking off to this bathroom (which would be tucked away somewhere) and sitting on the toilet and reading until my bum's numb, and then giving myself a bad haircut. It's from Old Chum, a cool blog that has great photos like the one below:

That reminds me, my friend told me a really good joke last week about Catholics... but it's not appropriate for here.

Today I read in peppermint magazine that more than 200 000 children under 18 are trafficked each year for cocoa farming in West Africa alone; up to 800 000, actually. I resolved never to buy chocolate that isn't fair trade ever again, and then came home and finished last night's m&m's. 200 000 children, just because we like chocolate. If you now have chocolate on the brain and feel too bad to go to the dairy for a flake, good. Cadbury is the devil anyway. So is exercise; save yourself the walk and just click here.

Before I go, I want to make a Public Service Recommendation. Go and see a dentist. I had another filling done today, am booked in for my third (in as many weeks) next Wednesday, and begin my second root canal for the year on Sunday. My mouth is the most expensive thing we own. I know my words are priceless (aha!) but it's not meant to be like this. Dental care is way too expensive, but if you don't go to the dentist you just end up paying them more later. Remind me to write to Metiria Turei and (Go!) Russell Norman (Go!) about it; I know they'll do something. If nothing is done soon, there is going to be a generation of kids with no teeth; the only semi-affordable option is extraction. What the fuck is that about?

I'll leave you with this gem, which I've been meaning to post for ages. It's my favourite BeeGees song (I used to think they were my guilty pleasure but that was just for show; there is no guilt here, just pure, pure pleasure), and the best dance ever; they're so fucking cool. I always wanted to be like the woman in the song (ie more) but felt more like the woman in She's Always A Woman, hiding like a child, asking for the truth but never believing it, bringing out the best and the worst. I'm so happy not to be like that anymore but I'm so sorry I was that way; I've been able to apologise for it, and I've forgiven myself for it, but I'll always be sorry. Anyway, you don't need to worry about that; I'm sure you weren't like that to anyone. So enjoy this beauty, with the comfort of a clear conscience.

They're just so gloriously uncool. Long live the Beegees. (The living ones, anyway.)