The Theory

It all starts and ends with Dogs. 

By my reckoning it was some time in the 25th or 24th Century BC when the plan first hatched. Formualtive as it was back in those days, the pathway was clear.
You see, Ra, the Egyptian Sun God, had well and truly established himself by this stage. His influence was wide spread, powerful and undeniable. As with any great leader, Amun-Ra was only as good as his team.

In time, Cats would prove a disappointment to Ra. Their failure to hold sway over the human populace of Earth meant he too lost his footing. A late digital resurgence by Cats on Youtube has equated to little more than a comical distraction. However, their God had already given up, conducting a world tour before briefly taking up residence in Central and Southern America, then buggering off back to where ever he came from. The Sun presumably.
Dogs were unsatisfied with this result and resolved to be a great deal more proactive.

Dogs have shown themselves to be very patient among all things. Their resilience has also been impressive, allowing a number of mutations to be forced upon them as time has ellapsed. But, from Chihuahua to Alsation, Dogs have been working towards a shared goal.
After electing not to leave the Egyptians behind, Dogs and Cats stayed among man. Observing. Cats were able to get closer in many cases, while Dogs found there was cause to offer Human Beings aide and assistance, all the while being careful not to interfere too greatly, or to give away too much of their true selves.
For a good many years there was collusion, the sharing of information and strategising between Dogs and Cats. However, the relationship between Cats and Dogs was always strained and mutual levels of cooperation failed to last.

While Cats had been blind to the influence of the Roman Empire, Dogs saw their opportunity to go global. Guard Dogs? Hunting Dogs? Working Dogs?
Who was being guarded? Watching, closely, more like. Monitored. Working? Observing. And what Dog doesn’t like a hunt?
Before long, we were pets. Yes, that’s right. Us. Pets. Even the Cats weren’t stupid enough to miss out on this move.

The Human Being is full of faults and foibles. When Dogs went from pet to menu item, the development was noted. When dogs were used as forms of entertainment, asked to do gladatorial battle for the amusment and appreciation of their supposed Human masters, it was noted. When people started to live one on top of the other, this development was also noted. Hives the Dogs thought? What are they becoming, these humans? Bees?
Thing was, they seemed to breeding more like rabbits and while Dogs seriously enjoyed chasing the odd rabbit, they were disappointed that, just as they were starting to get the Humans trained to the point where they may actually prove useful, it was all starting to fall apart.

Step one was a cataclystic failure. Dogs showed the possibilites of space, heroic canines like Laika, teaching the Russians the foley of relying on Monkeys. Belka and Strelka,  unlike Laika, elected to return to Earth to try and continue their work. Laika expressed her dissatifaction and gave up, instead hoping a comet and heading off to see out her days with her original pet Ra.
The mission to get Humans to leave the planet failed.

Of course there were other mistakes along the way.
Blondi accepted the appealing treat he had trained his rather fanatical owner to provide him regularly, still keen on scoffing goodies despite being aware the confines of an underground bunker out back of the Reich Chancellery was probably going to ruin his figure. Sheba stayed in the car when she should have stayed alongside her pet, Jack Ruby.
Successes too. It has taken a whole team of Corgis to keep Great Britain’s royal family right where Dogs need them to be. Pavlov was convinced by the teachings of Dogs and then of course there were those canines who chose to cash in. Lassie anyone?

More recently Dogs have opted to stay in the back ground. This reclusive option seemed to fit seamlessly with the way Humans had been developed. Dogs had worked hard to make the world as convenient for them as possible, realising early they would not always be able to rely on Humans.
Ra had given mankind the ‘Ancient Knowledge’, the knowledge Dogs are privvy to. It frustrated them the knowledge did not seem to be making it out to every corner, every ear and their failure to fully breach the language barrier (humans are dumber than they might at first appear) was another and possibly ultimatley telling factor. But hey, who picks up who’s poo?

_111412024_mediaitem111412017(if I leave the BBC tag it makes all this ever so much more plausible)

Dogs colluded with Ra way back when.
‘The rarefied gaseous envelope of the sun and other stars. The sun’s corona is normally visible only during a total solar eclipse, when it is seen as an irregularly shaped pearly glow surrounding the darkened disc of the moon’…the definition of corona. Just saying.

Ra gave up on Man but Dogs didn’t.
Now they have their way.

Have you ever seen so many Dogs being walked?

Say safe, stay home, save lives.

 

 

Bliss

Summer sun. Family. Friends. Booze. 

The silly season may have slipped by but it ain’t all over just yet.
Certainly. most of us have returned to whatever it was we did, what many let define them, before the summer break. Work, school, university. Unless you are in that late teen, early twenties ‘I have yet to define who or what I am as a person so I am on a journey of self-discovery’ phase, then life for you will be pretty back to where it was just before 209 ended.

All that sitting around eating, catching rellies and friends up on all the events, happenings, gossip and drama that had been 2019.
Too much to eat.
Still, room for desert.
Too much to drink.
Just one more.

It says something, quite a lot really, about New Zealand culture that almost everything we do outside of our everyday routine, has to be accompanied by a beer or a wine.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a beer or two and there isn’t much tastier than a Central Otago pinot.
A yak over beer catching up on the latest and greatest with an old mate is, as far as I am concerned, one the better ways to spend an eve or a lazy summer afternoon. There is something contentedly correct about matching tales of the glory days with the appropriate mix of hops and grains.

Anticipation. There is the problem. We await the opportunity. The afternoon so and so pulls into the drive for a couple of nights stay. That evening you go over to such and such’s house for the dinner you have always been saying you should have together.
Every move you make in preparation for those types of occasions is accompanied by the clink of class on glass, the rattle of ice in a chilly bin.

Image result for cold beer

I don’t drink to get drunk. Getting pissed is not the intention but is often the consequence. That creep of intoxication you are aware is happening and do nothing to halt.
For me, I don’t accelerate or diminish the pace. Instead, I will just keep merrily drinking. Others slam back their can or bottle or glass in rapid succession, avoiding the creep and going straight to pissed. Still more will sip, watching in a slightly amused/bemused fashion as those around them go from quiet, restrained, to chatty and demonstrative then loud and silly.
“Who invited shouty Mike?!”

It seems, apparently regardless of the situation, there is a need to have the moment memorialised with the serving of large quantities of alcohol.
All walks of life do it, from the middles classes who can afford it, to the lower socio-economic groups who can’t. There is no discrimination when it comes to the consumption of booze.
And it isn’t like we aren’t all educated in the evils of excessive drinking. Alcohol has it’s impact on our road toll, in our hospital beds, our family violence stats, in courtrooms and prisons, even at our favourite watering holes.
There are advertising campaigns everywhere extolling the virtues of moderation. Police, the Coastguard, health, community and education groups, all having a say and all imparting essentially the same message.

The impact of those campaigns I can’t gauge but I would suggest the message doesn’t make it as far as the outdoor furniture, or is at least forgotten as soon as people start to congregate there and around the barbie.
Drink in hand we begin the subtle art of peer pressure.
“Another one mate?”
“How’s ya beer?”
“Get me one while your up”
We don’t actually say it. We don’t have to. You are expected to keep up and are aware of that expectation. While we don’t have the shaming culture we used to if someone is to turn down that next drink, let alone abstain, our subtext is still very clear.

I’m not preaching. I have no desire to be a hypocrite.
My Grandmother used to tell me ‘everything in moderation’. A wise little saying but one wide open to interpretation.
A moderate amount of beer, followed by a slightly less moderate amount of wine, completed with something more than moderately stronger.

 

Image result for scotch in a glass outside"

An excess of natter, over do the laughs, too much to nibble on before the main course is even served.
Get stuck in to the chat, digging deep into the life and times of family and friends. Tell jokes, tell lies. You know, those fishing stories. Embellish the heck out of the year you’ve just had and blow out of all proportion the year set to come.
Make the night all about the reveller, the good old days and the best to come.
Remember and reminisce, dwell and plan and hope and dream and do it all with the people you love or will come to love, at your side.

Do it all with a cold beer in hand. Even if that isn’t what you are there for. Because we as New Zealanders are not so short of history, of stories and yarns and tales, so shy of news and events, so boring, that we have to get pissed in order to have a good night.
Sing, dance, knock over the kids lemonade, flirt and grin inanely and be lame and be cool and trip over the sprinkler you forgot was sitting in the middle of the lawn.
Don’t lament the wine you spilled, the beer you tipped. Let the grass and the earth soak it up. You don’t need to.
Soak up the atmosphere.

 

BPM

Imagine, if you can, what its like when you get so excited your heart rate lifts to match those levels. Now, imagine if that heart rate won’t reset.

Picture a homely scene. A mother, cup of tea in hand, maybe a pack of biscuits within reach, settling on a sofa.
In her arms, a baby. The most gorgeous little girl you have ever seen or will ever see. Just three months old, fussy. Hungry.
Baby is offered the breast. She takes it and Mum leans back, looking forward to a chocolate biscuit treat, a sip of warming tea, a chance to relax. A time to chill, catch up on the sort of rest the mother of a baby misses out on.

Something is wrong. The only one chilled, the only one relaxed, is Mum.
Not for long.
Baby won’t settle, not the way a wee one does when tucked against mother, suckling. Surely the most comforting, restful place on the planet.
Not today. Mum has a brow beginning to crease with worry, a feeling of concern starting to take hold.
Mum is a medical professional. She is equipped. Knowledge, tools.
She reaches for one of those tools, a stethoscope, warms it with her breath before placing it gently against the fluttering rib cage or her baby daughter.

A normal three month old’s heart will bang away at about 100-140 beats per minute (bpm). Not this child. Ears plugged to the life giving pump of her daughter, Mum couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t possible to count fast enough.
Professional assessment was clearly required.

Dad was driving around in circles. It’s what I did, for a living. An independent contractor, I was a courier. When the phone call came, I was in the thick of it, just another day taking one corner after another.
Except today I got a phone call from my dearly beloved, the type of call you pay attention to the instant you hear the voice on the other end of the line. This was no request to pick something innocuous on the way home (has she forgotten what I do for a living?), no idle catch up, no informative chat about why she might not be home when I finished my working day. This call was a request for me to get myself to the hospital as quickly as I could make it happen.

To get to Dunedin Hospital, as quickly as I could possibly make it happen, I needed to make some calls of my own. I rung management, I rung colleagues. Not a soul let me down, people proving they will be there for you when you put your hand up.
I could name names, I probably should. I can’t even remember if I expressed my appreciation at the time, some eleven or so years ago now.
Not adequately I’m sure. There was just too much going on, too much to do, too much to organise. To learn. Everyone I worked with rallied around, did this for me, organised that for me. Were there for me and my whanau.

At the hospital, it’s different. You don’t have control. You can’t organise this, take care of that. You are beholden to the uniformed people more comfortable and capable in that setting. Under fluorescent lights, in cubbies and alcoves off long, wide corridors, this is their world. Despite the soft smiles, the warming words, it can feel a cold a desolate place.
I don’t know how, but I managed to stay cool, calm and collected. Externally at least. Wifey was, understandably, in tears. Our beautiful second born, taken from her clutches and poked, prodded, monitored, frantic conversations held over her baking hot body.
Rapid cooling they decided, shock that squirming little body back in to something close to normality.
Not a thing about this day, this little life, our lives, felt normal.

I can’t tell if you if it was strangely comforting or a worrisome thing, to see the professionals as worried, as freaked and as uncertain as Mum and Dad were.  In the end, after some confusion, it was me who found ice, the petrified Father who plunged his own child into an ice bath.
It worked.

Diving into a frigid tub of ice was not a long term solution. Since that hideous day there have been multiple hospital trips. None as dramatic. On occasion, not far off, even the threat of helicopters called in to whisk our child away from all she knows.
Her ticker has thrown multiple curve balls over the intervening eleven or so years, some a mere blip, others a blot.
Each occasion has impressed on me that sometimes elusive thing we know as community spirit. People really do care, from professionals such as teachers and nurses, doctors and specialists, to neighbours and friends and of course, family. At no stage have we as a whanau ever felt unsupported or unloved.

Recently, somewhat out of the blue, a letter arrived from Starship Hospital in Auckland. They were going to have a crack at that dodgy ticker. A final solution. Hopefully.
The threat, or is that promise, of the procedure has been on the cards for a while. Number Two just had to grow big enough for it to be a possibility.
She has grown. A strong, intelligent, fun, quirky person packed with laughter and merriment and bright future.
Still our little girl. Still a squirming, slippery baby in my calloused hands, cruelly dipped into frozen waters.

My own heart thumps away when I think of what is to come. A simple procedure, day surgery, a night of observation.
To hear it told, all in a days work, not even that. Nothing to worry about.
Are you kidding me?!
Yet I have faith. Isn’t that all I can do, place my trust in those who are learned, qualified, experienced?
The same way I trust my car will come back from the mechanic better than the day it went in.
So while they attempt to jump start my little angels heart (slightly dramatic) I am going to give a thought to the folk who put themselves out, over a decade ago, because they could.
Because they wanted to.

Because I needed them.

Image result for little girl in hospital bed cartoon

Slip, Slop and Slap

I’m a hypocrite. Time spent extolling the virtues of being sun smart to my children has fallen on my own deaf ears.

A day in the garden, planting and weeding and watering and harvesting. Lovely, a cathartic experience for me, almost a form of meditation as I commune with nature.

Sort of. We are not into exotic gardens, have not populated our yard with a revival of native planting. We have kids, four of them. They need room to roam and move and kick and run and dance and roll about.
They need space for wheels, for fetch with the dogs, for the pool we have erected.
Our garden is a fluid place. Spaces to follow the sun as the day warms, areas to dodge heated rays as the mercury rises.

Any real care and attention we put into gardening is focused mostly on what we can get out of it. What we, in conjunction with that same said sun, a drop of water and some TLC, can produce.
Lettuce and peppers and beetroot and kale and broccoli and rocket and an array of herbs. Spuds and pumpkin and garlic and radish and all the companion plants adding flower, colour and variety. Peas and beans and cauliflower and more to come when timing dictates.

Time is a thing. We don’t have a lot of it, we don’t have green thumbs and we don’t have a family effort. I do the grunt work, Wifey buys the plants, more grunt work for me, the interim grunting is done by me, then I do the harvesting, Wifey or Number One prep and cook. Everyone eats and we all agree whatever fare we are sampling is delicious.
Wifey takes the credit.

Serving up what you have grown is a good feeling. It’s cheaper for a start, that feels good. Generally, the produce tastes better, another good feeling. A bit of dirt under the finger nails and the sting of some sun on the back is, mostly, a good feeling too.
Knowing where your food has come from is a real bonus.

Today kids splashed in the pool, read books in the cool of the shade. I toiled, while Mother went to work, doing her own hard yards.
The sun beat down as I lifted a spade, thudding it down time and time again, planting olive trees, a handful of natives and transferring a bunch of ornamental this and thats.
Looks good. The fruits of my labours will hopefully come. I like an olive, will try a martini. Dirty? I my even shake it.

I ended up a little crispy. Redder than my Southern born red neck might otherwise suggest. Sunnies to shield my eyes but I was lacking a hat, had displayed my dad bod to the golden rays of a hot New Zealand sun.
I’m burned. Not badly. There is no blistering, no feverish sun stroke.

I am a hypocrite.
I failed to practise what I preach and at least two of my offspring have reminded me of that fact.
Repeatedly.

I can only hope, when I am leaning back, wrapped and guarded against the effects of a long evening mid summers sun, sipping a dirty martini, shaken or stirred or as it comes, that my tortured skin proves worth the while.

Summer Musing

Hot enough for ya?!

Who doesn’t love it? Summer. And a bloody good one at that.
The 2018/19 summer is the first one I have worked in a couple of years and it feels like the holiday I was needing, without realising I was in need of one.
It is too easy to think the stay at home parent doesn’t need a break because, hey, it isn’t like they are working. My time in the crib, hanging with my crew, was the hardest work I have ever done.
Yep, you’re so right. I am too old and too Caucasian for that language.

There was nothing physically demanding about being at home, with a couple of little ones. Okay, a few of the physical attributes females are blessed with might have been handy. A hip or two might have taken some of the pressure off back and shoulders, a mammary gland here and there to placate wayward behavior or appease demands.
I might not necessarily have been fully equipped to deal full time parenting, though I coped. So did the kids!
I managed, in the same way I am not necessarily fully prepared to be as productive as I could be in my new role, but as I had to do being a stay at home Dad, I will learn and adapt and change and ultimately, succeed.

Being at work full-time does not mean I am any less a full time parent. Having a job does not exclude me from being a Father, nor does it mean I am suddenly ignorant of the trials of looking after a brood of kids during the summer holiday period.
The long summer break, for kids and parents alike, is all about prickles on the lawn, falling asleep in the car on the drive home from the beach.
It is trying snorkeling for the first time, testing out the new boogie boards, in waves you might not previously have been adventurous enough to venture into.
It is ice-creams, dripping down your hand faster than you can lick, one ice-block after another failing to quench your sea salt, sandy thirst, it is sweat and chaffing and barbeques and fresh green salads and dozing in the shade, as the birds chirp above and a hot Tasman breeze shifts clouds as lazy as your eyelids, from one bright blue horizon to the next.

The day done, summer is impossible nights, tossing and turning from fear of a settling mosquito, window wide to let in a drift of air no cooler than the heavy, sunscreen tainted wafts you want to escape.
Shut the window, ban the bug, toss and turn regardless, the heat rising from your sun-kissed skin.

For Wifey, summer is popping the cork free of the a chilled bottle of Pinot Gris, darling, a little earlier than might be otherwise appropriate.
For me, summer is a sleepy afternoon beer, warming the grill and waiting for the salads to be near ready, before standing dangerously close to the sizzle and pop of barbequed meat.
Summer is backed by a soundtrack of reggae and roots, the voices of Brian Waddle and Jeremy Coney.
Wifey cruises back to the vibes of Scott Bradlee and his hodgepodge of assorted vocalists and clustered instrumentalists.

Walks beneath a bush canopy, because it is cooler. Dining on the deck, in the shade and a cooler breeze. Indications it is summer.

Romantic stuff. All holidays and white sand beaches and fishing and the clink of bottles rattling together in a chilly-bin.
Of course, summer is stretching the budget, worries over childcare and the threat of behavioural hiccups among the wee ones, as routines are broken down and then suddenly reinstated.
You could worry over the effects of melanoma or the efficacy of your sunscreen. You could fret about what state work is going to be in when you finally get back there, or just how the kids are going to cope with a new year, maybe a new school.
Or…

Take ten minutes laying on the grass in the dappled shade of a plum tree and when you stand up, pick a few fruits for the bowl.
Twist the cap off a cheap Pinot, no one does corks anymore and don’t let that worry you.
Crack the cap on that first afternoon beer and down half the contents in a couple of mighty gulps.
Let the rhythmic squeak of the trampoline lull you, the cry of gulls, Tui, the screech of argumentative, sun frazzled children. Whatever.
Before long, routine takes hold, regathers it’s strength and starts to dominate. I can feel it doing that thing it does right now…

Until then, just because…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limping Along

Look out, I feel a rant coming on…

Lately, I embarked on a mission. The plan was to get myself into the best physical shape I could.
Not mission impossible, but not far from it. At least, that is how it has felt, for a man rapidly approaching forty-five and essentially starting from scratch.

This was not some random decision. There is, or at least was, a particular goal in mind, with targets needing to be ticked off, within time frames. Suitable motivation and I think greater driving forces than just seeking to look good on the beach this summer. Obviously, there will be accumulated health benefits from getting physical, adopting a regular, intensive fitness routine. Greater fitness and improved health for starters. Good motivational factors too.
Nothing, though, has proven more motivational than Wifey, deciding she too wants to take part in early morning, living room, sweaty madness. We push each other to start, let alone to keep going when the going is tough. (Yes, I have plenty more cliches available)

Coupled with developing changes in what and how I am eating, I hope, with a bit of diligence and dedication, I can start reaping the rewards of sustained effort soon enough. Already the energy levels are up and the weight is starting to come down. Heck of a long way to go, but the ‘journey’ has begun. (I warned ya)
The main thing which provided motivation, which gave the impetus, has gone. Not to worry, with any luck it was nothing more than a catalyst and the rest will prove to be self-sustaining. That is the intent and at this stage, no qualms, no worries.
Although, I wish it was so easy.

I have already whined about my neck,  in a previous blog. I will not go on about the state of my knees, the quiveringly (no more cliches, I am now making words up) weak state of the tendons in my right shoulder, the pinched pain in my left elbow, the parlous state of my lower back. I could moan on and on, and at times I do. Deaf ears of course, such is the lot of an ever longer suffering Husband and father.
Ailments, aches and pains, I’m full of them. The worst of which, as far as I am concerned, is my toe. As innocuous as that sounds, it is the osteoarthritis inflicting the joints in that appendage ,causing me the most difficulty. Pain is just one part. An annoying and troublesome part admittedly, but also there is the lack of a full range of movement to contend with.
Never mind the cause. Never mind the apparent unfairness to have such an affliction at my tender age. What does pray on my mind is the apathy of the medical profession.

ouch

So, I hear you ask, where is the promised rant? Don’t panic, I would never let you down.

Thing is, I feel a little let down. By…wait for it…’the system’. To be exact, the health system.
Why do I feel that way?
Because I can be fixed. Because there are options for setting my toe right. No one can get rid of the arthritis, but they can rip the joint apart and put it back together again. They can fuse the bones, which will do nothing for the lack of mobility in the joint, but will take care of the pain.
I get the health system has to prioritise. Underfunded, understaffed and all the rest. No need to go into that right now, as my perspective is a little different. I am in pain. Reducing, relieving, getting rid of that pain, is a priority for me. Not an emergency. Leave me hanging if the ambulance pulls in, the helicopter lands on the roof. I think anyone would understand a priority call in situations like that.

Thing is, I can’t help thinking pain, great enough to be debilitating, is quite the matter of urgency. So why the reticence? Why would a case of hemorrhoids be considered for surgery ahead of me?
Wait, for all you butt grape sufferers out there, I get it. I too have bled for many a porcelain god in my time.  And yes, the affliction can be, well, a pain in the arse.

The argument from the specialist is there is no proof an injury led to the ongoing problem.  You see a couple of years back I got grumpy with an uncooperative tractor and gave it a good old fashioned kicking. It is easy enough to imagine who won that argument and here I am down the track, limping around the house and swallowing panadol like the stuff is going out of fashion.
Apparently, that run in with a stubborn tractor could have proven to be the catalyst for the underlying osteoarthritis. Or, it could be it was the injury, because believe me the tractor got the better of me, which has since caused the arthritis.

Most likely I broke my toe. Being the stupid hero I am, I didn’t do anything about it until a couple of weeks later, when I was seeing the doc on an unrelated matter. She agreed I had probably broken the hairy, stubby Hobbit impersonator but after that length of time, she recommended getting back to her if it didn’t settle.
It did.
Then it didn’t, now it hasn’t.

I could have my hip replaced. My knee. I think they are even doing shoulders these days. God forbid I will ever actually need to have any of my major joints replaced but the scale of such an action pales in comparison to bolting the bones in my toe together.
It can’t be denied my gait has changed due to the pain, lack of movement and deformation in my toe. Long term, the effects of that change could prove to be troublesome and could very well lead to the sort of remedial action mentioned above.

Which begs the question, why not something preventative now? Why the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach? Surely a little foresight, a little swift, less invasive and far less costly job done now, will reap rewards in the future? Short term loss for long term gain and all that.

My apologies. Think this has become yet another whinge, not the promised rant.

 

 

 

 

Be Careful

The two words above are something I do must best to avoid. That is to say, there are plenty of times I take care over my activities and actions. Thing is, I try to care less when my kids are involved.

Pop down to any playground and you will hear those words ringing out, in a variety of intonations and accents. The sentiment is well meaning and invariably accidental. They just come out: When your adventurous little one elects to go up the slide and down the ladder. When your brave warrior engages in a stick battle with little James from around the corner. When your darling he or she is adamant they are a big boy/girl now and ready for the big swing. Invariably, they’re not. Your mouth opens and without thinking, out those two words come. Be careful. Fair enough, you have the health and safety of your little ones at heart. What of the confidence of those precious angels you are so desperate to protect.

Kids don’t realise the consequences of their actions. Only experience teaches that and sadly, there are many who will never learn every action has a reaction, even as they reach adulthood. Fine, those people are responsible for their own problems but we, as parents, have responsibility for and over our little ones. We need to guide them, we need to set limits and boundaries and we need to be there when they fall.

Sometimes that means nothing more than scooping them up after they have crashed over the handlebars. Chances are you saw them teetering, saw the eminent danger and were in the process of rushing over even before they hit the ground. A stumble, a trip, a tumble is all part of growing up, meaning bumps and scrapes and bruises and grazes and all the rest. By the rest, I mean screams and cries and yells and tears and sobbing and definitely, hugs.

We can accept our kids are going to get hurt now and then, through no fault of ours or theirs. All we can do at the point is encourage them to get up, dust themselves off, wipe away the tears and carry on, hoping all the while they have learnt a valuable lesson. Places like playgrounds or even in the great outdoors, it is inevitable. There is going to be a touch of pain and hurt that comes with all the fun and excitement. But what about in the home?

Is your place childproof? Does it have to be?

We are all aware of things like fire alarms and smoke detectors. Life savers and this country, compulsory in all rental properties and mandatory in commercial buildings etc. So, you would think, a bit of a basic step when it comes to ensuring the safety of your family in the home. But, especially when there are little ones in the frame, there are so many other things to consider. You have to prevent access to steps and stairs. You have to prevent contact with heat sources and block off power points and take care to affix tall furniture to the wall to prevent it toppling should your dear little one attempt to climb it. Or, you could do none of that.

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We haven’t. Not in one single house we have lived has myself or Wifey gone around as part of a concerted effort to identify and eliminate any and all hazards potential or real. We do have safety plugs in the wall sockets but it has to be said, not all of them. We did have one of those kiddie proof gates for the base of a particularly steep, winding and frankly quite cool spiral staircase at one property but generally, the other door which lead to the same area was left open. It was a house rule not to leave that door open. As with all rules and regulation, it was broken now and then, mostly by forgetful older kids in a hurry to do anything other than worry about the welfare of their younger siblings.

Having a boy in the mix now has made a huge difference. I don’t know if it has been just our girls, or girls in general, but the Wee-Man is far more inquisitive, far more assertive and far more adventurous than his sister siblings ever were. I am damned sure I can’t decide if this is a good or bad thing, but one thing it is, is different.

He climbs. Everything if he can. He will at least make the attempt. Once at the top, or as close as he can get, he is always keen to fling himself off, whether or not a soft landing can be guaranteed. Is it a male thing, for young ones at least, but he just has to know how things work? If that means putting his face too close to it or sticking his finger in it, whatever it is, then so be it. He runs, jumps, kicks and punches and throws and rolls a whole lot more than his sisters ever did. So far, I say with fingers firmly crossed, it hasn’t done him any harm.

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You often hear it said, ‘it can happen so quickly’. Believe it, because it is true. In the blink of an eye disaster can strike. It wasn’t that long ago I narrowly averted a family tragedy of our own. A simple stroll on the beach, kids paddling and playing, spread across the sand. Just a few paces from me the E-Bomb is in the water, no deeper than her thighs. I look up to see how the Wee-Man is travelling, further up the beach with his sisters. When I turn back to the water, only a handful of seconds later at the most, I can’t immediately see my youngest daughter. My heart leaped, my mind raced but before genuine panic came on, I spotted her.

I will never forget the serenity on her beautiful, uncomprehending face, arms outstretched, as she drifted with the tide, maybe a foot below the clear water.

Two paces and I had her in my arms, safe and splutteringly sound. If the water hadn’t been so clear that day…?

Sometimes, as a parent, you just don’t have control and while you can exert as many checks and balances as possible, shit is still going to happen. I try to look for the balance, make it ‘Be Aware’ as much, if not more, than ‘Be Careful’. Because when a kid is coming down the steps of the slide front on, smiling and concentrating hard on balance, it is done with a sense of adventure, with an experimental curiosity and a challenge. Care hasn’t been factored into it.

I want my kids to be adventurous and experimental and I want them to challenge themselves and I want them to understand that sometimes, it’s gonna hurt. I don’t want a little one to put his hand on the fire place because the flames are mesmerising. Do we have a fire-guard? No. Because we use that word…no. We say Hot, we say Ouchie, we say all sorts of silly little things to discourage and attempt to educate. We also supervise, stay aware and alert and I do my best to dispel any mystique around things.

If a two year old boy is curious about the toaster, show him how it works, tell him it is hot and will hurt, demonstrate if you have to. (Fake it as best you can, just like all those awful health and safety videos we have all seen). Such is the attention span of little ones he will have moved on long before you finish talking.

 

 

 

 

 

Appreciated?

At the start of the week my wife barely got settled in bed before she was up and out of the house. 

She didn’t return until virtually dawn. It was the same thing last night. Well not quite. It was just after midnight when the phone went and she disappeared out of the house in a fuzzy eyed blur. Once again, she didn’t grace us with her presence before any of us had risen, let alone the sun.

My wife is a Midwife. She does it because she is passionate about the welfare of the unborn child, the mother, healthy happy birth and care of newborns and their whanau.  She sure isn’t in it for the hours and she doesn’t do it for the money.

That isn’t to say my wife is not well paid. Hers is a decent salary, if not brilliant. She gets an okay recompense for what she does but sadly, however, it is far from a true reflection of her value. Even a glance at her role reveals just what sort of demand is placed on her and those who operate in a similar or same capacity. As a Case-loading Midwife, she will do ten days on, four off…hopefully. Many a time she has to cover for illness or staffing shortfalls or is needed to attend if there are multiple births taking place and it is a case of all hands on deck.

During those ten days, my wife is on call. 24/7. She must have her work phone on her at all times, needs to have reception at all times and cannot be more than twenty or so minutes from the hospital who employ her. This includes her living arrangements for those hours. In her day she can cover well above 100km in order to attend ante and post natal visits, all the while being available for a birth should one occur.

Every baby, every mother and every whanau she deals with is and are different as is every birth she attends. There are separate requirements and necessities and a multitude of this and that’s she has to deal with on a case by case basis. My wife does it all with a proficiency which is only matched by her smile and her purposeful stride. And as you can imagine, quite apart from the pressures and stresses of her role, she always has in the back of her mind the impact of what she does on her family.

So why do it you ask? If the money isn’t fantastic, the job seems to be overly demanding and the scope is often beyond the remit?

Because my wife loves what she does. Because she recognises the value of her efforts, her experience and her care. Because, as liberal wishy washy as it sounds, she can make a difference.

She does. My wife has been in her role long enough to bring a great deal of qualification and experience, particularly as a primary Midwife, in a region which badly needs the type of integrity, skill and ethic she is blessed with. But, I am not here to blow smoke up a part of her anatomy the sun is yet to see. Becasue as great as she is, and she is, there are many out there just like her. Not just Midwives. Nurses, so topical right now, Doctors and Radiologists and all the rest. Kind, caring, hard working, highly qualified and skilled, passionate people.

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We have all heard and read the stories of over worked junior Doctors. Now, after some thirty years of silence, we are having our eyes opened to what our nurses are up to, the stresses and pressures they face and the help they need. So much more than simply a question of money. Here it is a small though widespread catchment for the health services to attend to and here also, is a system which offers so much more than the average. Hokianga Health and the Rawene Hospital have something quite special going on and while, like any institute and system, there are faults, there is no doubting good things are being done. The community benefits from the steps taken and the systems put in place and, I can only assume, there are maybe not the same pressures for many of the staff as might be faced in denser population bases.

None of that really helps my wife or other Midwives around the country. Yes, a Midwife can make the choice to operate independently, pick and choose her clientele and weigh up her work/life balance as she sees fit. All well and good, if there is a population which will sustain such practice. In rural environments and small towns, that is not feasible. There are simply not the numbers, therefore the money to be able to stay in business. Which is where people like my wife come into the equation. Alternatively, a Midwife can be employed by a District Health Board and do her shifts, like a nurse, and go home when the day is done with work supposedly out of sight, out of mind.

Can that happen when you work in such a role? Can someone just switch off? To an extent, yes. Experience in any job anyone is passionate about will teach that. But there are elements which can never be walked away from, indelible moments that will stick forever. Shocking, sad moments. Beautiful, harmonious moments.

People like my wife make sacrifices. Many of them. She chooses too and the reward she gets from doing so might not be a financial one, but it carries a worth much greater. Her family must make sacrifices too. We do so because we appreciate what the woman in our lives is doing and why she does it.

Recognition needs to come from elsewhere though. It needs to come from the top. From DHB management and at governmental level. Many of the best and brightest of our nurses and Midwives stay and ply their trades here in NZ, because of circumstance, because the dollar does not rule everyone. But many choose to move on, to earn the bigger pay cheques. Because it gives them a much vaunted leg up. Because a pay cheque, to an extent, can reflect appreciation.

Our nurses and Midwives need our support. Because when we reach for support, it is them who offer it. Gladly, willingly, tirelessly and passionately, and I for one, appreciate it.

 

 

Fizzy Rolls

Heard the expression “Clean up your own backyard before knocking on your neighbours door’?

It is far too beautiful a day to be sitting here feeling like a grumpy, cantankerous, holier than thou old man. But here I am regardless…

In the midst of one of those gem mornings only the Hokianga can produce, all sparkling water, glistening green leaves and bright skies, not to mention the much vaunted winter-less aspect of the North, I set about a chore or two. We are in a new place, closer to town, so there is a great deal to do still, even if the move was last weekend and we are well on top things, thanks to the contributions of all members of the immediate whanau. ‘What’s gonna work? Team work.’ Dead right Dora.

So there I am, in the yard, struggling to get the shroud right on the trampoline. Right at the point of thinking bugger it, let them bounce into oblivion, I look up to release an exasperated sigh. Coming down the street, catching my eye, is a young lady. Let’s say she is about twenty. What was so eye catching about this young wahine was the freshly washed, long flowing black hair, the light touch of makeup, sunnies and other accessories like hand bag and I like to think some subtle jewelry, but I could be over doing things at this point.

She was dressed to the nines as the saying goes, unusual enough in this town let alone before midday. And when I say nines, I mean she had a nice top on, smart casual, her jeans were clean and ironed and her jandals looked new. (I have no way of confirming the newness of her footwear but I am going to assume so for the sake of this yarn). There can be no doubt this was a good looking young lady who, for whatever reason, had made an effort. I wish her luck.

There was only one problem. Actually, about three of them I could see from the brief look I got. Fizzy rolls.

Pop. Soda. Call it what you will. I grew up knowing it as fizzy and thankfully, never really developed a taste for the stuff. If I want a frothy, bubbly liquid it had better contain alcohol and be called lager. That is how I got my belly…a beer one. I am not virtuous. Far from it. I have some shocking dietary habits. Some good ones too and in an ideal world, they would balance out. My problem, the only exercise I get on a regular basis happens at the pace of under fives. They are charging five paces to my one and try as might, that rate doesn’t get the heart beating too rapidly.

So, at least this girl was walking, getting in some exercise. Don’t get me started on the folk who fire up their car and hon off the couple of hundred metres to the shop and back again. But, walking or not, sadly, this pretty young wahine was fat. Gorgeous, Fat. Young, unhealthy. Somewhere up the road she probably passed the fella I see semi regularly, pie and coke in hand. Breakfast. He is young too and has a body, a metabolism or whatever it is, which allows him to get away with. But not for long bro!! trust me, I know.

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The message is out there, has been for a long time. We all know it, even in a part of the globe the rest of the world might have forgotten. Diabetes and heart disease and livers packing up, kidneys giving in. Cancers and many other ailments from things as seemingly innocuous as gut and bowel disorders,  to mental health and the list goes on. And sure, the counter argument around GST on fruit and produce, the comparatively low cost of fizzy drinks versus milk, the rhetoric around that debate has it’s place.

But, and a reasonably big butt at that (see what I did there?), what about about the element of self-responsibility? If the media outlets and the health agencies and the DHB’s and government and all the rest are getting the message out there, they are possibly failing to get it across. I know how easy it can be to form habits. there are still plenty of smokers out there, plenty of heavy drinkers…meth, pot and all the classes of drugs. But eating yourself to death? To an early grave? At what point does someone look up and go wow, I am struggling to get out of my chair and puffing by the time I make it o the fridge…

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Only one person can look after you and you know exactly who that person is. As I have said, I can’t speak from a place of superiority, but I can and do have the motivation to make sure nothing gets too out of hand. I have a wife and kids whom I love and who love me. I don’t want them struggling to remember my tangi because it happens when they are young.

Look down…see if there is any sign of your toes.

Or are the fizzy rolls getting in the way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challenge

It is a bit of an old adage. Too many people with their hands out, not enough with their hands up.

That saying is, unfortunately, typically true of far too many communities in this country, let alone the region I live in. So many people and groups asking for help, not helping themselves. What is worse, those who can’t even muster the gumption to ask.

Is that worse? I think, in many cases, there are groups, and by groups I mean pockets of Maori, Pacific Islanders and refugee communities, lower socio-econimc enclaves, who are either ignorant of, non-plussed by, or adverse to, the assistance of a government they do not believe in, have no faith in, or are blase about. Put that up against a system which is inherently uninformative, having so much to offer yet constantly finding ways to block and obfuscate, making access not only difficult but sometimes damn near impossible.

I hate using the term ‘system’. They are all broken and bent, systems, only as good/ bad or effective as the people operating them. The governments fault? The failing of their agencies and the staff and personnel, representing the offices charged with actioning policy and legislature? Sometimes, clearly, yes. Can we blame the departments and those who are cloistered within their Wellington-centric confines? Can fingers be pointed at policy, the interpretation and implementation thereof? Is the blame, the fault, if that is what we are seeking, one of funding? Is it a lack of understanding, a failing in qualification?

These are fundamental debates, base questions. While they are being asked, the people who need the result, those who require the outcome of a measured, thoughtful, complete and secure option, are missing out. Some choose to. They wish to have no part and are so entrenched in being ignored and ignoring, something like a Census, online or not, is irrelevant. Others will keep asking, keep pushing, keep agitating. All the while the masses will accept, ready to receive whatever meager offering is dropped, wafting like the light-weight measure it is, into their out-stretched hand.

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So many of our social watchdogs and commentators are guilty of it. I have respect for the Duncan Garner’s and Kanoa Lloyd’s of this world, all the others, whether I agree with them or not. Engaging, intelligent and apparently well informed television presenters. Trained, qualified and experienced people, a new breed in the wake of the Mike Hoskings and Paul Henry’s. They are charged with giving the masses something to think about. They attempted to do just that, to highlight and to question and to interpret and add feeling and provide understanding and in doing so, for me at least, offer an insight into the big failing in New Zealand and New Zealanders.

A while ago Lloyd sought to comment on the claim, snatched upon by the media, that the newly appointed National Party leader, is not Maori enough. Whatever that means. (I am not in a position to ask, let alone answer, what it means to be Maori, so will not even attempt to go there). She took her allotted minutes and tried to convince us we were, are, better off asking why so many Maori are reflected in our court systems, our prison populations and as our homeless, our drug dependents and our mentally unwell and all the rest.

At face value, good questions you might think. Picture any area in our society where it is not good for people to be and Maori are disproportionately represented. Kanoa Lloyd was simply asking why. Well Kanoa, I say save your breath.

We know the questions. They have been asked again and frustratingly again. They will always be asked. OK, fair enough, until the issues are fixed, let the Kanoa’s of this world have their space and time to ask, to agitate, to seek discourse and create debate. Good things, undoubtedly.  It is just I, for one am sick of hearing it.

The questions raised around the plight of Maori, particularly urban Maori, are not new. Should we go ahead and throw in all the rhetoric around Meth abuse too, while we sip our non label reds as the Chilean Chardonnay chills. Grab another craft beer and sit down for a chat. Grab a box of Lion red and kill the hours it takes for a day to pass when you don’t have a job, because there is no job. I can only hope, somewhere around the fifth or sixth stubby, someone says something, through a toothless grin, of import. I’ve heard all the questions before, heard why they are raised.

Now, I am privileged, which is not the right word, to be seeing it first hand, and still I am waiting to hear anyone come up with a solution. Because at the coal face there is so much more than just queries over an over inflated proportion of the prison population or registration on the dole. It is all the little grass roots stuff and at risk of sounding like I am firm believer in a ‘nanny state’, perhaps a few of the values of our grandparents era wouldn’t go astray.

Why are people buying pies and a bottle of coke for breakfast?

A sugar addiction maybe? It has been touted in the press, expanded upon by the experts. The answer being touted? Tax. Levies and fees and all the rest. Doesn’t work with smokes, so why is it going to work with sugar. Taxing sugar is tackling the problem backwards. Drop the taxes, the G.S.T on water and milk and veggies and fruit and if needed, subsidize the hell out of market gardens and orchards and all the rest, so their product reaches the shelves cheaper, making them more accessible.

I don’t really know. Maybe ban the operation of a pie warmer before the hour of 11am, so the crusty deliciousness that is one of New Zealand’s staple treats, isn’t available before lunch. Fizzy drinks cannot be cooled. You want a cold coke, you have to take it home and put it in the fridge. Not such a big effort but maybe on a hot day, you’ll reach for the bottled water instead. Take the enticing labels and packaging away from the ice-cream and the lollies and the fizzy, the same way it has been done for cigarettes.

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Subsidize gym membership for the obese, offer subscriptions to sports clubs and recreational facilities. Organised community activity days; nothing more complicated than a healthy food truck or two, selling CHEAP quality food and drink to a bunch of people kicking a ball around, throwing a frisbee, swinging a bat, building kites, fishing, surfing, dancing, riding bikes, yoga…whatever, just being active and doing so in an encouraging and nurturing environment. Even have instructors and coaches involved, paid professionals, offering experience and expertise.

Maybe these are expensive options and maybe there will be difficulties in certain communities. But where there is a problem, there is always a solution and it is the very same people in those communities who will identify those issues and solve them.

I have heard it said too often it starts with our kids, the idea if we can get them on-board, what they learn, the right things and the good things, then they take it home and the learning is passed on to their parents and wider whanau.

Bollocks. It is up to us, as parents and as adults, as councils and governments and all the agencies thereof, to make the change, shift the thinking. It is up to us to lead, show the next generation where we have gotten it so wrong and then help them be part of the fix.

I am a chubby, unfit guy. I like a beer and a pie as much as the next person. More than many. I don’t exercise and while my diet isn’t atrocious, it isn’t great either. I am lazy, look for the easy way out and can get too comfortable on the couch for long periods of time. There are four kids in this house who are fit and slim and energetic, blessed with youthful metabolisms which keep them firing on all cylinders. I could take a lot of lessons from them for sure. And I could sure as hell lead by example a lot more too.

Before I can do any of that, I need to stop asking the same questions over and over again and start providing answers. Because, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we have just as many of them, the answers, as we have questions.

A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. A good catchphrase. Healthy, happy, content and engaged people don’t end up in prison. They don’t join a dole queue. Fully functioning, supported members of society contribute and participate. Something we all need to do.