I was just talking to my husband. He was trying to read. When he is trying to read, he will say anything to get me to go away. He will tell me whatever he thinks – usually incorrectly – that I want to hear. I can see this from a mile away, knowing the difference between a real opinion and a this-will-keep-her-quiet opinion.
He hasn’t quite worked out that this annoys me, and that as a result, sometimes I will try to explain to him why this annoys me. Sometimes, I will deliberately explain this at great length, pointing out that it prolongs our discussion, keeping him away from his book even longer. Yet he still does it, still believing that a quick opinion is better than an honest opinion, despite evidence to the contrary.
I grew up reading Enid Blyton and The Chalet Girls and Anne of Green Gables and Nancy Drew. I saw the rest of the world on TV and on films, but few New Zealanders. I knew what the Australian flag looked like before the NZ flag. Our Christmas cards had pictures of snow and sleighs on them. Anything Kiwi was met with a cultural cringe. The biggest possible success in NZ was to be successful elsewhere. The World was somewhere other than NZ.
As a white NZer, I at least saw people who looked like me on TV and in books – until they opened their mouths/spoke dialogue. But I never heard anyone who sounded like me, barely anyone who knew where NZ was, let alone lived here and grew up here. I never saw NZ on screen or on the page, our birds did not chirp in the trees on TV or in books, our countryside or bush was not the countryside or forests shown or described.
We’re getting over the cultural cringe now. Gradually. Most of us. We celebrate our unique culture and place in the world. Maori culture and Te Reo is valued and respected. We can see and hear ourselves on screen, even on the big screen. We help take the wider Pacifica culture to the world.
Still, we fight against the tide. And I cannot imagine what it was like to grow up feeling part of the world. To see yourself reflected in the world.
I adore the kaka when they come to visit, but I live in fear that they’ll get a taste for the wood on our house. The cedar is soft – our cats knew it, and I don’t want the kaka to learn. Their beaks are huge, parrot beaks and are very strong. They’re clever birds.
I am very careful what I wish for.
I’ve already whined about economy class. It’s the ultimate in height discrimination. Having longer feet* when you’re tall means stepping out of the easily available sizes, or women’s shoe sizes (eg sports shoes) at all. Also, being tall and carrying a bit of weight is not the same as being small and carrying a bit of weight. It means manufacturers think we don’t want nice clothes, whereas short people my shape just go up a size. My head bumps the ceiling of small, economical cars. Furniture manufacturers make armchairs that give neck/head support only if you’re short. Kitchen benches are too low. Bad backs are inevitable.
And I’m actually not even very tall (176 cms/5’9″ or thereabouts – at least I was at 16 when I got my passport, and I haven’t changed it since).
* Yes, I know I’ve also whined about this before. But it is the bane of my life.
Somehow, almost all my friends – ever – have been short. I lived for four years in Asia, where my four-year-old Thai sister thought I was a giraffe, and a friend dubbed* me a “gentle giant.” Talking, sitting with short people, and trying to fit in with them as a kid, means I hunch, even now, when finally in my life I want to stand tall and proud. It hurts my neck. It’s the opposite of the empowering Superman pose. I’m tired of bending down to your level.
* Though this was probably in retaliation to me saying that he could be Superman except that I couldn’t picture him in Superman’s pyjamas.
This is the whine equivalent of a humble brag. In other words, I’m whining about a problem that isn’t really a problem. On 1 July, some of my Air NZ Air Dollars (air points/frequent flyer miles) will expire, so I need to buy some tickets with them in the next two weeks. There are enough to do something different (ie, not NZ), but I’ll have to top up with cash. But not enough to do something interesting (ie beyond Australia) because last time I used my Air Dollars I did something really extravagant with them. But I want to use them for something fun. All this creates pressure.
And time’s a wastin’ …
I lost my favourite scarf. A gorgeous bluey-greeny-blue with delicate dark blue patterns. I bought it on this day, when I bought one for my sister.
I lost it at the hospital last winter visiting my mother-in-law. I really miss it. Sob! My hastily bought red-blue Polish scarf is serviceable, but I don’t love it. My second-favourite mint green pashmina from Bahrain is lovely but doesn’t sit easily in first place. And every time I wear my soft black scarf I remember wrapping it around my Dad’s neck when we took him out in the wheelchair just before he died.
I first read the book last year, just before the first series of the TV production. Every episode fills me with rage. The rage of injustice. The rage of a feminist who sees the parallels in today’s world. The rage and frustration of all those tiny little slights women deal with constantly. The fury of a feminist over the judgements of a woman’s value on her ability to procreate.
But I cannot not watch it. Because every little irony, every subtlety tells me that the writers, directors, and actors “get it.” And I desperately need more people to “get it,” when life is filled with too many examples that they don’t.
I’m still feeling less than healthy, the weather is appropriate miserable (as it should be in June), cold and raining, and I’m slipping behind on my photography course. I have some deadlines I need to meet, but my head isn’t quite up to the tasks just yet. So in the meantime, I’ve gone and read everyone else’s whining, and whilst I had a few belly laughs, I’m left feeling quite depressed. To top it off, I watched Handmaid’s Tale* on my iPad whilst eating my lunch. Now I’m not only depressed. I’m angry.
* I’m going to write a separate whine or two on this.
One of the main reasons we bought our house was the complete privacy we have on our decks, as our land and our neighbours’ land slope up and down from our house, covered in trees. Someone said, standing on our deck, that we had our own private oasis.
Not for much longer. The neighbours are subdividing their section, building a new house behind their existing house. Unfortunately, this means they that will be building close to our boundary. They’ve tried to make concessions for us, to keep as many trees as possible between us. But I don’t trust their builders won’t chop the trees down, and still … there will be a house with windows and people with ears just above us.
It will change the feel of our house and garden and deck, a haven lost. It will significantly reduce the resale value, hitting us in our pockets when we try to retire from this house (which, with its four staircases, is unsuitable for retirement). Already, since they began clearing the land. I have stopped looking out the windows at my favourite views. It hurts too much.
And as I write this I feel the rage and despair start to rise, and once again, push it down because there is nothing we can do.
Despite hating the common cold, there have been times I have wished I was run-of-the-mill common-as-mud.
- With my second ectopic and interstitial pregnancy, I hit 1 in 3 million odds. All that, and no lottery win.
- A few years earlier, I had contracted dengue fever. It puts me at much greater risk if I ever get it a second time. Tropical locations are therefore more dangerous for me.
- And now, to complete the trifecta, I have trigeminal neuralgia. My liver reacted badly to the recommended medication, so I had to come off it. Surgery is often very effective for the pain but my TN quickly morphed into TN2, a rarer version that for some reason (according to Dr Google) doesn’t respond to surgery.
* Sorry, Helen.
Normal, nice people indulge in socially acceptable (but in my mind, unacceptable) bullying, racism/nationalism, homophobia, and sexism all the time, under the guise of jokes.
Jokes about wives, mothers-in-law, throwing/running like a girl, Australians (yes, I do it too, but they do it worse – or is that better?), red hair, wearing glasses, big feet, baldness/hair loss, being fat, infertility (the old “shooting blanks” or “you’d understand if you had children” comments), and so much more.
Words hurt. Stop it.
Oh alright, I’ll try too.
They think everything is better overseas. Kiwis are terrible drivers. NZ is so full of litter. Everything is expensive here. They suffer from cultural cringe too. Honestly, have they ever been overseas? Driven anywhere else? Lived anywhere else?
Yes, our country, like any, has problems. We are not perfect. Some countries do some things better than us, have more money than us, have a better* climate than us. But I’ve been to 57 countries, and seriously, every time I come home I realise anew how lucky we are to live here.
* Though this is, of course, subjective.
Contrary to what we might have been taught as children, life is not fair. The lucky aren’t being rewarded, and the unlucky aren’t being punished. You won’t “achieve anything if you put your mind* to it” – this is a self-congratulatory mantra used by the successful, and those who like to blame the less fortunate for being less fortunate. There’s no secret plan. Nothing is “meant to be.” Don’t ever tell me it is. You’ll make me angry.
* Though I will admit you’re less likely
to achieve what you want
if you don’t put your mind to it.
They haven’t seen.
They never listened.
So they think they’re original.
Yet they’re not present.
Are successful people the CEOs of companies, or those earning a lot of money, driving a fancy car? The ones who talk about others as “lightweights” or don’t listen to their friends enough to discover their hidden depths, who have friends only because they’re useful professionally, who laugh, but don’t smile?
Do they make people feel good, are they kind, do they volunteer their time to help others, think about life, the universe and everything? Are they curious, do they show genuine interest in others?
I have my opinion. What’s yours?
Most* shoe shops in NZ go up to a size 10 US/41. In my 20s, first needing nice shoes for work, I squeezed my feet into too-small shoes, spending my life with blisters and plasters on the back of my heels.
Likewise, major department stores in cosmopolitan London only stock up to a 10. A Rome store was the southernmost in Italy that stocked larger sizes. In Thailand, I had to get my shoes custom-made. More expensive, but oh, so comfortable.
Discrimination against women with longer feet is real. And physically painful.
* Thank goodness for Willow Shoes, supplying shoes for long feet.
My photography course has a webpage to ask questions and update progress. Most of the participants are in the northern hemisphere. I envied all their photographs of snow and ice, but at least had a few, if repetitive, summery flower options. Now all I see on the site are beautiful spring flowers and summer holiday photos in exotic locales. My flowers have disappeared. I won’t have snow. I have “the grass is always greener” syndrome.
My bare oak tree with its few remaining leaves is my sole inspiration. For the next few days at least.
Airlines are determined to make economy class more uncomfortable than ever, regularly making the seat widths and legroom smaller and smaller. 777s designed for nine seats across are fitted with ten; 787s with nine rather than eight. Cattle class fit only for calves.
It hits those of us who live far from the rest of the world hard – four-hour flights are manageable, 12/ 24-hour flights are not! It hits bigger** people hard, physically, and in our pockets.
I hate it – and the airlines – with a passion.
* Or, as Americans say, coach
** taller, wider, broader-shouldered, or any combination
Food was strictly controlled growing up:
- My mother was paranoid about weight, we ate only what we were given. No ice-cream in the freezer, or chocolate in the cupboard. Anything special was a treat.
- Money was tight. Waste was not permitted. So we finished the food on our plates.
Innocently developing habits hard to kick.
Ice cream – the earliest treat I remember. Bought from a dairy, always in a cone, and eaten in the car, or at home* after fish and chips. Hokey-pokey and boysenberry were kiwi favourites, and mine. Gelato’s fruit flavours, first tasted in Rome in 1998, blew my mind. Now, I make both myself. But only occasionally.
* Ice creams were placed in a brown paper bag, and put in the freezer to fully refreeze when we got home.**
** Yes, I know I cheated with the word limit, but I felt you needed to know that.
We discovered a favourite Cabernet Merlot at around $24.** Today, the same excellent wine is regularly discounted in the supermarket $13.99. World-class sauvignon blancs regularly cost the same or less. Wine prices have fallen over 20 years as production has soared. Though the best NZ chardonnays*** or pinot noirs and syrahs**** are pricey, delicious treats.
* I feel guilty writing this, because my friends who own a vineyard explained their cost structures to us once.
** NZD 1 = USD0.70, or CAD 0.88
*** Not the ones I drink on Pasta and Chardonnay Thursdays
**** Shiraz, for Australians
Tuesday nights are pizza nights. Order online for free delivery. Hell Pizza was born in Wellington, starting with the pizzas named after the seven deadly sins, and branching out. I order Damned, Brimstone, Mordor, et al. It’s NZ/Australian-style pizza, with innovative toppings, and lots of them. Definitely not traditional. We’re trying to cut down. Slowly.
I like to try new dishes, new flavours, new combinations. Yes, I adore the classics – pizza margherita, boeuf bourguignon, Pad Thai, phở, etc. But there’s nothing wrong with innovation either, a new twist on a classic. Don’t get so upset! Just call it something different. Isn’t eating the same things all the time unbearably dull?
Recently, I discovered beer bread – two minutes to mix, an hour in the oven, saving last-minute supermarket runs. Next, a flatbread – mixed in a jiffy, rested, then cooked in minutes – is becoming a regular appearance at lunch. Soda bread and roti are next on the list. Do I have the patience for yeast?
My first summer job was picking raspberries. With a delicate touch, raspberries are easy to pick, but ouch! My favourite fruit, raspberries are insanely expensive, with a too-short growing season. They’re an important Christmas food.
Frozen raspberries if necessary in baking, but jam delivers my regular raspberry fix. The perfect flavour combination? Raspberry and chocolate.
I discovered Evansdale Farmhouse Brie, and fell in love. A piece or two with a glass of wine after work became a habit. A blood test showed my cholesterol levels had risen, so I stopped. Levels fell accordingly. Sadly, it’s strictly a special occasion cheese now. Kikorangi Blue, gorgonzola, and parmesan – they’re all limited now.
At all-inclusive Bedarra, we reserved a motorised dinghy, and were handed a menu checklist for our picnic. We couldn’t choose.
“Just tick everything,” advised the staff member.
So we did. The chef didn’t adjust quantities for two.
The next day we took the dinghy to a private beach, settled in, opened the bubbles, and ate.
* See best picnic ever here.