The Times They Are a’Changin

Maybe not so much the times, but my days are sure about to get different.

Life has turned a corner, or crested a hill. Whatever, life is about to change.
It wouldn’t be fair to say life is changing for the better. That would imply the way we were living prior to this change wasn’t up to scratch.
The hope is, a move to a more metropolitan area will bring more opportunity. And, it has.

Some time in the next week or so, I will start work. Yes that’s right, full-time, gainful employment. Something different too, something which may, I hope, be a little challenging and a job I can not only learn and grow from as a profession, but as a person too. I like to think it is a last step in my working life. A big one, if not all that bold, but a role I can get my teeth into, make my own. A job which should prove to be fun and rewarding.

It is time.
I have been at home with the kids, in this last stint as a home hubby, for nearly two years. A couple of fun years, in an environment suited to the role of stay at home parent. Admittedly there was little choice, as there wasn’t a lot of employment options available.
The point was though, while E-Bomb and the Wee-Man were under the age of five, they would have a full-time influence at home, namely one of their parent’s.
So this change is not solely for me. This is a change for the whole family.

We left the Hokianga mostly for the benefit of our kids, particularly Number’s One and Two. But it is true to say the opportunities for Wifey and I are greatly improved too, just by packing up and rolling a couple of hours down the road.
We will be a working family again, both Wifey and myself toiling away during our days. We can do so because there is the type of support here we didn’t have available to us up north.
Not family support. Paid for, professional support. People who will look after our children in return for money. Thank goodness for people like them, prepared to do waht at times can feel very much like a thankless task.

My stint as a full-time parent will never cease of course. How could it? You are always a parent, always a Mother or Father, no matter how directly or indirectly you are involved in the raising of your kids.
Being that go to parent is something I am really going to miss. Something I was ready to give up on, even while being aware it was not going to be the easiest transition to make.
When I get in the car on that first day, off to work, I will have the smiling faces of my children in my minds eye.
I will see them wave, see them smile, while not quite being able to work out where their Dad is off to and why they aren’t going with him. They will call out their cheering goodbyes and I will turn and drive away.
Those first few days will be as different and strange for me as they will for the kids. For them, the timing couldn’t be a great deal better and let’s be honest, they are most likely adapt to the change far quicker than I will.
Wee-Man and E-Bomb are going to have their Mother around for the summer. Numbers One and Two will get that pleasure also. Hopefully a welcome change for all, though there can be no doubting both sides of that equation are going to have to adapt. Wifey and I have very different and not always complimentary, parenting styles and there are a lot of things the young-uns are going to have to teach their Mother about the way things work.

I am left wondering how my influence, or lack of it, is going to be felt.
Will the two little ones miss me in their lives?
Will the older girls feel the difference in the house, without me around?
There will be a whole new vibe and again, the scene will shift when Wifey starts her new role in earnest. New schools, childcare facilities for the little ones. Perhaps the biggest change, from the last couple of years, will be the return to two incomes. Maybe we can afford to give the kids the type of summer memories which don’t require too much rose coloured tinting.

Personally, there will be a back to routine lifestyle again, one I am looking forward to. Alarms to rouse me from my slumber, time a factor again in my world.
I will come home tired and I will sleep soundly, eight or so hours, waking refreshed and rearing to go.
I will ruffle my sons hair, after swinging my daughters in a quick hug, peck my wife on the cheek as I make my way into the kitchen, heading for the fridge, cracking the top off a beer, before landing heavily in an armchair, turning on the tele in time for the news. Something like that.

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Big Bad Man

I’m not the man I like to think I am.

For a start I wake up and the first thing I do is check the weather. Fair enough you say, a lot of people do the same thing. Outdoor conditions can be particularly important to all sorts of people. Think gardeners and landscapers, greenkeepers, civil engineering crews, road marker, aborists, fitness buffs who like to jog, fishermen and all those who prefer to walk or ride to work. Even just making the call on what to wear or whether or not to swing an umbrella.

I open the curtains and look to the sky in order to gauge the suitability for putting on a load of washing or not. A family of six means pretty much a load a day. It sure piles up if you don’t get around to it or the weather holds you back. We don’t own a dryer, preferring to let nature do the job for us. Most of the time it works out fine, a lot of the time, it doesn’t. We live on the edge of a harbour and not far from the coast. Rain is an ever present threat. Worrying over a load of two of washing, however, is not how I picture myself, as a man, in this world. At least not how I used to. Reality came crashing home this week.

Our car has issues. Nothing major and certainly not anything I felt was beyond me to rectify. So, I dutifully dig out some tools, half of which I find have started to rust from lack of use. No drama, everything seemed to be working fine and I was sure I had everything I needed. Everything,  that is, apart from know how and skill.

I haven’t ever professed to being a mechanic. Not even a backyard one. You know, the guy who pulls everything apart, only to find he has no concept of how to put it all back together. I don’t want to be that guy. In the same breath I don’t want to be the guy who hands over the keys to another man, clad in overalls, grease and oil and other manly stains and all. My reticence has nothing to do with pride. I know my limitations and am big enough to admit them. The decision to have a go at the repairs myself was more one of budget.

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We ain’t broke. But we sure would be if we ran off to the mechanic every time there was an issue. Problem is, I haven’t had my hood under the bonnet of a car in many years and the problems we had with our car, didn’t even come from there. If you had asked me a few days ago what exactly was wrong, I would have fumbled my way through a garbled response designed to make you think I knew what I was on about but really, would be a series of terms vaguely related to cars, maybe even automotive engineering, just not necessarily anything to do with the problem at hand.

So before I delved into the world of nuts and bolts and circlips and calipers and hubs and stuff, I had to admit my failings. All I can say, is thank goodness for the modern internet age. YouTube was invaluable, a few geeky car forums and boom, at least was I soon able to sound like I knew what the hell was going on. But, as I quickly discovered, knowing and being able to do a thing about it, are two very different things.

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At least I was able to get a suitable amount of grime, dirt, oil and grease on my hands. And half way up my arms. I might have been clueless but with the car jacked up, the wheels off, bits and pieces I didn’t recognise and had no idea the purpose of strewn about, I certainly looked the part. I undid this, loosened that and in all honesty, made some progress. Somewhat surprisingly.

Problem was, I could get only get so far. Skills, ability, knowledge, put all of that aside. I didn’t have the right tools and even if I did, probably wouldn’t have known how to use them. Specialty equipment. The stuff of the trade, tools your average bloke doesn’t own and below average ones like me don’t even any use for. If I did, rush out and get this tool and that, I would be lucky to get one use of them, before I learnt them to a neighbour. You know the one, the guy who never returns it, then months later denies all knowledge, leaving you second guessing yourself that you didn’t just lose it in the first place.

What disappointed me as much as it elated me was the nature and scope of what I did achieve. Okay, whatever I did manage took much longer than it should have, without a result. I was able to do a couple of things I set out believing were well beyond me. Intricate, technical things the YouTube boffins told me anyone can do in their garage. Our car doesn’t even fit in the garage. Frustratingly it was some of the easier, simpler things which managed to foil me. This was the stuff any self respecting bloke should be able to do, and good keen man can turn his meaty hands to without a thought. Luckily I hadn’t gone so far as to not be able to put everything back where it belonged. Maybe time for a real man to sort it all out?

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In the end I threw my soft, delicate, dishpan hands up to the sky and admitted defeat. The skies above mocked me, letting me know it had been a good day to get the washing dry.

 

 

 

 

C’Mon

Embrace your inner hooligan. Just keep him inside and quiet. 

I love a bit of sport. Some of it I am deeply engaged in. Certain teams and the men and women who represent them, seem to be able to grab whatever it is which makes me passionate. Otago’s 2013 Ranfurly Shield win was enough for me to shed a tear, and the Highlanders 2015 securing of the Super Rugby crowd had me hollering my delight into the cool air of uncaring rural Waikato. Brendan McCullum scoring a triple century, Usain Bolt smashing sprint records, Beckham bending it…the list goes on.

If on either of those occasions my team had lost, I wouldn’t have assaulted my wife. For a start, have you seen her? It is always the small ones you have to watch!!

Sadly, domestic violence statistics leap when the All Blacks lose. I don’t think the same can be said of a Black Ferns loss. So, a sad inditement on some men and their inability to cope with their emotions. Watching the aftermath, and some of the vitriolic reaction at the current FIFA World Cup has left me wondering how the ‘Beautiful Game’ can be followed so fervently by some of the world’s ugliest people.

Shedding a quite tear is one thing. Scenes of grown men blubbing as if their lives are over is a different matter. Maybe fair enough if you are one of the players involved. All the blood, sweat and yes, tears, has come from them after all. Years of effort all pushing for the one thing, just to have it gone in a few heart wrenching moments is surely justification to let go a little. I am all for males showing a little more passion and I am certainly keen to see sports fans in this country displaying a lot more verve at venues around the country when the big game is on, whatever sport they follow.

I have had the privilege of being at a couple of stadiums in Europe. I have watched football in England and Spain, Rugby at Cardiff and the Stade de France in Paris, cricket at Lords. Even Wimbledon, that bastion of non neon undies, had a vitality about it, a buzz in the crowd and when the ball wasn’t it play there were chants, shouts, barracking and singalongs. 80,000 Welshmen who all know the words and can all hold a note is stirring stuff.

Fine displays of passion. Examples of how to support a a team or a player or how to just get into the moment, or even create the moment, without having to succumb to excess. We, as a sporting nation, could learn a lot from continental sports fans, yet we get so much of it right. I have never walked into the middle of a riot, caused by so called fans, in this country, as I have done in England. Hooliganism is an extreme for sure, but it exists as an example of all that is wrong with sports support.

I think it is likely the man who bashes his Mrs after the referees final toot on the whistle, was likely to at some stage anyway. The result was just the catalyst, all the excuse a weak mind and man needed. Put that against images of a drunk German, snot running freely from his nose, tears streaking his reddened cheeks, leaning on a rail for support as his mates wonder around disconsolately behind him, fodder for the media, and maybe the excessiveness of his release is a good thing. My only wonder though, particularly when it comes to Kiwi men…where is that passion when it is needed the most?

What you reckon might be achievable as a society if all the men in this country, in any nation, poured their hearts and souls and energies and intellect and care into the things which make the world go around? I do not mean to belittle sport in any way and the following various codes receive. Many a time I have heard rugby described as a religion in NZ, which must make football the Catholic church. Think of the reach and influence the people who have put their efforts into institutes like religion, agree with it or not.

There is nothing worse, for mind, than referring to sports stars as role-models. While I accept once someone has made it into the public eye, for whatever reason, there is a level of responsibility which must be accepted with that, I don’t believe the ability to catch and pass, kick or your level of athleticism and natural born physique is any reason to put people on too high a pedestal. Sure, admire the determination, the dedication, the commitment. Surely it is the same when Dad, uncle, big brother and their mates get together and put on a display. Right there is an example, a series of actions and behaviours which is going to be perpetuated by the next generation of budding sports fans. If we are wanting to show following generations how it is done, then we need to keep it cool, keep it clean and dear I say it, keep it real.

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Because really, it is just a game. It is a bit of fun, a glorified past-time and it really is possible to take it all too seriously. By all means get into. Scream and sing and shout and chant. Wave banners and flags and paint your face and wear your team colours and blow your vuvuzela or ring your cow bell. Just don’t going throwing beer over a reporter, as happened to LLoyd Burr before the conclusion of the World Cup semi final between England and Croatia. He was then threatened, and all before the game had actually finished. Don’t beat the wife, don’t throw coins or bottles or cans, don’t burn and riot and loot and cause mayhem, all in the name of sport.

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Sport participation is a healthy thing and an important part in any culture. It promotes comradery and endeavour and fitness and teamwork and competitiveness and how to be gracious in both defeat and victory. Yes, sport is about participation and yes it is about winning. Sport is about identifying with something aspiring, something admirable, in the athletic pursuit of the bigger and the better, the higher and the longer and the stronger and the greater. For some it might be a vicarious thing, for others just a damn good time, an excuse for a get together, a few beers and some fun. Isn’t that what it should be for all of us? And more importantly, isn’t that what we should be extolling to our children?

Tell them to get into it, tell them to love each and every moment of it.

Tell them, it’s just a game

 

 

 

Place

Is there a ‘place’ for you? Do you ‘fit’ there. Are you there now, or is that place waiting, for you to fit?

I have never felt like I ‘fit’.

I have never felt myself part of a group, one of the ‘set’. As I have grown older I have stopped thinking about it, my lacking a sense of place. When I was younger I was probably guilty of not giving it enough thought. Never being able to identify where you once belonged, where you might end up belonging, makes it difficult to acknowledge the past or have an eye on the future.

It would be cool to say I live in ‘the now’, have my focus firmly on the current. Put simply though, my mind, my brain, wander and wonder, too far and wide at times, not open enough at others. This inconsistency lends no attraction to planning, no foresight, no acknowledgment of previous right and wrong turns.

There is no sense of involvement. Not in the every day nor in the so called wider picture. Perhaps my lens is too narrow and as a consequence I position myself as an observer, looking in from an outside I don’t feel a part of either. This lack of inclusion, in the things and groups and series of events which intersect your everyday, can make it difficult to be inclusive. To be open and giving and caring and understanding. Any of it.

Being removed and remote is not a bad thing. It doesn’t feel it anyway. There is no lack of connection, I am not immune to what is going on around me nor do I fail attempting to understand why. So no disconnect, no reclusive desire to run and hide. Maybe a touch of disinterest, disenfranchisement. The same forlorn sense of lacking a place, identity, many a white, urban, middle class male speaks of and yearns for. If I only I could yearn too, maybe then it wouldn’t be so dull.

No doubting some of it is laziness, a streak which runs strongly through my make-up. Not to say I can’t and don’t work hard. I just don’t work hard on myself. Not because I am too busy, too distracted or too caught up in the activities of others but more because I have failed, for many a year now, to focus on what it is I might want, distinguish that from what I might need, work out how to marry the two and achieve them. It is only recently I have even acknowledged or recognised that failing and I am still undecided if it is even such, a failing. I do not believe for one millisecond I am alone in feeling a little misplaced, a touch out of place. I am no meninist, any more than I am a feminist but I think it would be fair to say a middle-class white male putting his hand up and saying ‘what about me?’ is no where near as popular as one lowering his gaze apologetically and saying yes, I was wrong.

I wasn’t. I’m not. I am and I will be. Wrong. I will make many mistakes as a person, as a man and all I can do is hope my positives out-way those pitfalls, the traps society will lead me into and the ones I open up for myself. I am a good person. I am not responsible for the woes and the worries of women, of minorities, of LBGT or whatever other bunch of letters you want to tack on there. I do not and will not carry the blame for social degradation or racial inequality or post colonial hang ups. Maybe I sympathise, maybe I don’t, because I fail to understand or fail to connect or don’t have the empathetic ability to be on your page. Your plight is not mine and I don’t have to accept it and nor do I have to try and get with it.

At face value I am a minority. I am a house husband. I stay home and look after the kids and do the chores and cook the meals and all of that. Not a heap of me out there. I can see why, better now than I ever could, because until I started living it, I didn’t give the idea of being a stay at home Dad any thought whatsoever. My world can be quite insular and for that I make no apology. I live in a small town in an out of the way spot, just the way I like and if that means I have little or nothing to offer on the public discourse of the day then so be it. I am a firm believer in cleaning up your own backyard before you go knocking on your neighbours door anyway.

Our backyard is pretty damn tidy thank you very much. Our eldest is a big fish in a little pond. Hopefully that transfers to the big bad world soon enough. The key will be to boost her confidence, encourage her self awareness, big up her achievements. No doubting she will be the bumpkin come good when she finds herself under the bright lights of the big city and she will have to lead the way as far as this family is concerned. Her siblings will learn and be encouraged, or disillusioned, by the footsteps of Number One and it has to be said, their Dad will provide little comfort there.

Mother will carry on. She will get stuck into her next thing. As said, Number One will be out there learning to play her own tune,  the rest of the crew will follow in time and I will have to re-establish myself. But don’t think I will do that your way, his way her way or any way you might consider normal, usual, the same or ordinary. I may not do it at all. Soon enough I am going to have to re-introduce myself into regular society. Rawene will be no more and the evils, the excitements, the temptations and the dangers of the wider world will be once again on our doorstep.

I have spent many years regressing and retreating. Not an attempt, as I said earlier, to hide or to fade. I am just more comfortable on the fringes, as grumpy an old man as the next but one who isn’t overly inclined to tick the boxes everyone else is busy putting their mark to. No mortgage, no job, no clubs or societies, no participation. No man is an island and all that but I can at least be a peninsula. You can get to me easily enough, but that is as far as you are going. Right where it looks like I end, lo and behold, I do.

Perhaps if I had a cause. If there was something out there I felt particular disgruntled about. Thing is, I can’t help feeling those who get stuck in, stick their head above the parapet and demand the chance to have heir say, fall into one of only two categories; those with a genuine grievance, a fight to get stuck into because it has direct relevance to and on their lives and the lives of their loved ones, a wrong done to them which needs putting right, or group two, those who perceive the fight, the cause, the wrong and feel, justly, righteously or not, they are the ones to sort it all out. The former I get, the latter can piss off.

Maybe I just need a project. Maybe a job. The same nine to five drudgery everyone else seems to relish. Maybe I shouldn’t drink so much red wine and ramble in front of a keyboard. Maybe you care if I do or I don’t. I suspect the latter.

Maybe my place is out there waiting for me, or just maybe it has already passed me by and I failed to notice. Perhaps I was the guilty party, I passed that place and failed to recognise it. For all any of us knows, we are in such a place right now.

Are you?

Are you disenfranchised? Itching to be part of the mans liberation movement. Are you a frustrated feminist, sure the movement has failed to achieve it’s goals or has shifted, lost sight of the target? Are you content, something completely different, more relevant and certain and long lasting than happiness? Do you need the fight, the battle, the injustice to present itself so you can rail against it, or are you one, to live moment to sweet unconcerned moment?

Do you need a sense of place? A time and space which defines you, or is you being there and then definition in itself? Are showery Sunday’s something a stay at home Dad, afforded a few introspective moments to himself, should avoid?

If so, should I just shut up, get up, and do the dusting?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You

Just be yourself.

So easy isn’t it. Once you know how. But self-awareness, and the ability to identify and be comfortable in that awareness, is not an easy thing at all.

It takes a heck of a long time to try and figure out the person you are. Not the one you portray to the world, or the person you want to be, the person you feel others are expected, the one everyone is saying who you should be.

I’m talking about that guy or gal in the mirror, the one you catch a glimpse of just before you realise someone (you) is watching. A snatched, corner of the eye moment when the guard is down, when there is nothing going in your mind about from all the things that need to go in order to sort you out for the day.

You all know that face. Your face. Slightly disheveled, straight out of bed hair, puffy ‘I don’t want to be open yet’ eyes, mouth agape in a yawn which releases the breath of rotten seal, wrinkling your nose as your nostrils are tainted by your own foul stench. You are probably scratching your arse at the time, on the way to the bog for that morning, clockwork, constitutional. Maybe you are itching at your nutsack, knowing any minute a stretch will attack your entire body, creaking and cracking you upright in preparation for the day to come.

Many of us are used to seeing ourselves like this, all of us. Some don’t care, give their appearance no further thought, are comfortable with how they look regardless of time of day or state of undress or lack of manicuring. Others would never be caught dead until showered and product in their hair and faces on and moisturised and teeth sparkling white and all the rest. For a lot of us, putting the face on each and everyday has not so much to do with how others might see us, but how they perceive us.

Wee-Man is not all that far off turning two. He is a robust little bomber of a boy, covered in all the scrapes, bumps, abrasions and bruises of a young dude furiously and fastidiously exploring his surroundings. The youngest of our mob, it is not a case of him trying to keep up with his older siblings, more a desperate attempt by them to slow him down.

And if he wants to do all of it in dress and tiara, then damn it he will.

His sister, E-Bomb, Weapon of Mass Interruption, has developed a fairly particular style and sense of fashion in her tender years to date. With two older sisters, I have seen all that play out already and outside of the odd individual quirk, there are few surprises. At her age, practicality isn’t always high on the list so a trip to the library on a hot summers day in gumboots, isn’t out of the question. Singlets and vests in the rain, tights to the beach. None of it matters. She is happy and is allowed the freedom to pick and choose. We have a climate here which let’s her get away with most of it and let’s be honest, I am not really the best person to judge whether or not stripes should be matched with hoops.

So if the Wee-Man sees a dress he likes, damned if he isn’t going to wear it. If that printed shirt several sizes too big, resplendent with pink roses, is going to be his thing for the day, or at least until such time as he makes a banana stained, muddy, tomato sauced mess of himself, then all I need to ensure is that he rocks it.

The only time you will ever see the fella uptight and concerned about what he’s wearing is when a sleeve gets caught, hampering his progress at whatever task he has placed all of his short attention span into. He may get frustrated at a full nappy, or having to wear one in general. He may want to wear boots and shoes which haven’t for fitted him for a while or are unlikely to for several years.

Wee-Man looks snappy in a cycle helmet while having a book read to him, debonair in a life-jacket bouncing on the trampoline, and positively sharp in his Mother’s heels in the vegetable patch. No doubting the little dude is a trend setter extraordinaire and there is not a moment when he doubts himself (in fact there are many…realising the heels are not much good on steep grassy banks has been a rolling, tumbling, learning curve).

There is no pretension. No pressure, external or otherwise. There is no mask, no facade. Nor is it freedom of expression, or self fulfillment or an abandonment of society constraints. It is freedom, at it’s truest and most earnest. What the Wee-Man decides to wear he just does, from felt-tip fingernails to crayon lipstick, top and no pants, pants and no top. Not a stitch.

It is the freedom to express himself beyond what he wears that is the true magic growing older forgets. Random yelling, growling at a fly on the wall, pointing at one thing or another which have no bearing or relevance.

Jumping. Just because he knows how to jump.

 

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Like everyone, Wee-Man can get frustrated when he isn’t understood. He has several words in a rapidly expanding vocabulary. Stringing them together is an art which still eludes him. He gesticulates widely and is very adept at getting his message across,. He is also quick to move on if he doesn’t. Because he doesn’t care.

Of course Wee-Man doesn’t care. He isn’t yet two. He is fed, clothed (sort of) and nurtured and loved and stimulated and all the other things that are supposed to be happening for him at this time in his life. What on this big fat Earth is there for him to worry about?

Hopefully, in the fullness of time, bugger all. Ideally, my son will cruise through life ticking all the boxes he has identified as in need of checking. All my kids will succeed in the manner they identify as appropriate, in the things they recognize as success. I wish them luck.

And I hope too, when they catch that morning glimpse of themselves, they don’t take a snatched second look. I hope my daughters and son don’t give that person in the mirror another moment’s consideration. I hope they scratch and poo and brush their teeth and get on with their respective days. Because I don’t want them to be searching for themselves or the person they want to be.

The only way to identify with yourself is to forget the person you are, as you see yourself and certainly as you think others might. And while you are at don’t try and recapture that Wee-Man left somewhere in all of us. Don’t force it, don’t try and make yourself spontaneous. A search for freedom is the biggest trap.

Just try painting your lips with crayon, coating your finger-nails in felt-tip, donning your favourite flowery shirt, stripping off your nappy, slipping into your Mum’s high-heels and go yell at a spider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boss Baby

Is it possible to rule the roost and rule the country? Our Prime Minister thinks so.

Jacinda Adern is clearly a very ambitious women. She has become the darling of the political world, both nationally and around the world, in relatively rapid time. Her rise through the Labour Party ranks may not have been as meteoric as the media might have us all believe, but her ascendancy to the top job, elected or not, came on a rocket-ship.

And thus, Jacinda Adern was thrust into the limelight. Prime Minister. Leader of a political party, leader of a nation. Our nation. My country and the one I am raising four children to live, love, grow, work, fade and die in.

Now our Prime Minister and her First Man, Clarke Gayford, will shortly be doing just the same; raising a child to grace these shores with it’s beautiful presence. Congrats and all that are due. Never mind whether it is appropriate or not for the leader of a nation to be taking some time out for the birth of a child. Don’t worry over the rights and wrongs of not informing the populace, effectively her employers, of any pending pregnancy.

Adern will stand by her right not to have to divulge that information and on principal, such a stand has to be accepted and applauded. She must have faced quite the dilemma, discovering her pregnancy at a time when the political whirlpool was in vortex, sucking everything and everyone in, as the last election seemed to do. She made her call, it can’t be changed now and to my mind, Mark Richardson’s abilities as a clairvoyant aside, the point is kind of moot.

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Richardson got lambasted in all this, complete with stern, unhappy teacher face and waggling finger, and while it is important to avoid the temptation to make cricket analogies, it seems our First Man has been left out of the playing XI all together.

Clarke Gayford should be offended . Miffed at the least. The question keeps getting raised, time and again, in our mainstream media, in opinion pieces and blogs, in twitter rants and wherever…will the Prime Minister will struggle to do both jobs.

Damn right she will. She is clearly an ambitious and extremely hard working woman and must come with the verve, drive and energy required to get to the position she is in. It is going to take all of that and more, to get through the next year or so from here, relatively incident free.

But, I ask from the cloistered confines of full time fatherhood, why is it we seem to be neglecting, no…failing to herald, Clark Gayford’s role in this?

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Hasn’t the man put his hand up, stating his intended lead role in the raising of the Clarke/Jacinda bub? Are his abilities so doubted we have to question his wife and hers?

Let’s get real here, it ain’t easy raising a child, no matter who you are, what gender you have assigned yourself (that’s how it’s done these days isn’t it?) and certainly no matter what you do for a living. I don’t imagine the Clarke/Ardern household is struggling financially, I can’t see them being under a great deal of pressure in providing all that is needed to give their little one every opportunity. I would also like to think they have a nurturing, close and supportive wider family and social network. Our nations Prime Minister will not be flying solo.

And neither will  Clarke. If nothing else, a rapt nation will be kept well and truly over informed on the progress of bubs, Mum and yes, maybe, just maybe, Dad will get a mention too. Breakfast show TV will be all over it, Mark Richardson or not. But in reality, this baby is going to spend the first few years of it’s little life, essentially without a strong Motherly influence.

Adern will be busy running the nation, a task I am sure does not leave a huge amount of time for full nappies and rolling over and sitting and those all important first steps. Not to mention teething. I wonder how much time it leaves for breast feeding. Are we going to see our P.M. with a baby on the breast in parliament? Not for the first time and bloody good to see being accommodated and readily accepted, just as it should be.

So, to my mind, there is no question of whether or not Jacinda Adern will be able to cope, juggling motherhood and the leadership of this nation. She is only going to be doing the one job full time. The one with the paperwork and the negotiating and the press conferences and the pressure and stresses. The pressure and stress her husband will be under are far different, but you sure as hell won’t catch this guy belittling them.

The real debate is who is going to be working the hardest. I reckon I know the answer.

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IRRELEVANT, IRREVERENT.

Not so long ago I started to question my relevance. 

 

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I don’t know if that is a middle-aged, life in crisis thing, or not. Technically my middle age, according to my demographic, slipped by, virtually unnoticed, some years ago. As it stands, I do not own a red convertible sports car and am not dating a pretty blonde, twenty years my junior. It rains too much for a convertible and I am already married to a blonde. Yes, she is still pretty.

Is the word ‘still’ a mistake there?

The thing is, who would I be trying to prove my irrelevance, or otherwise, to? I am not sure. Why it is I felt the need to muse over my relevance at all, I am also not certain.

I have long held the base idea, or opinion, we are all, as humans, here to do the exact same thing every other creature on the planet is trying to achieve. We are here to procreate, in order to continue and possibly advance the populace of said creature, us included. After that deed is done, we die.

Pretty simple really. What each and every creature gets up to in the interim, between procreating and dying, is a very personal thing, but there seems to be a base. It kind of boils down to eating the little guy, all the while trying to avoid being eaten by the bigger guy. Because you are never the big guy.

So we mate, we kill and/or be killed and we die. For all the micro-organisms, up to the alpha predators, it is more or less the same. Only the time frame is the great variance. A life time can be measured in hours to days, to weeks then months and years.

I stopped myself about there. The thought processes got too big, too involved, too dramatic and not, really, all that relevant. The way my brain works, or fails to as the case may be, involves a great deal of tangents and off shoots. A singular focus is not a strong point of mine.

It is for a Shark. For an Echidna. Eat, fuck and die, more or less in that order, but things can be adjusted to suit. The shark and the echidna do not share a coffee or a beer and question their shared relevance or meaning. They do not attend lectures on the subject and philosophise over their place in things. They do not star gaze and design space craft and satellites and a giant telescope to try and work out what is beyond. The Echidna looks for bugs. His search is for sustenance. His quest is to not be the food source for something else. The shark takes a bite and if he likes the taste, swallows it down. His quest is for the same thing, sustenance. The shark, alpha predator that he is, gets to go about his business in a slightly more blase fashion, after all a shark doesn’t have to watch his back the same way we have to in the big, wide and deep ocean that is the world we live in.

The cynic in me has long since decided there doesn’t actually have to be any ‘meaning’ to life. Let’s face it, there probably isn’t. If you spend too long wondering about the why, searching for the meaning of your existence, then there is probably something seriously lacking in your life. Unless of course, you are paid to do so and if that is the case, good score, landing a job like that. We all think. Earning a living doing so is bonus territory for sure.

Sitting around philosophising, theorising, musing, is a good way to let it all, whatever your all might be, slip by almost completely unnoticed. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cliches out there about not seeing wood for trees. Other ones which escape me right now.  How easy would it be though, to ponder the day away, troubling over what it means to live a day, only to realise you haven’t lived it at all. Merely breathed your way through it.

Of course there is the other end of the spectrum. Everything and every one is on a spectrum these days and I figure in order to be on a spectrum, it needs two ends. It needs to end. There are a heap of folk out here who don’t put enough thought in. Perhaps they are the blase ones, though I tend to label them-because we all have a label-ignorant.

The great unwashed. Sounds good, even if it isn’t appropriate to what I am driveling on about. Just consider for a moment, all the people out there so dead set keen on convenience they can no longer cook properly. They heat and re-heat. All those who can’t tend a garden because they have never, really, set foot in one, let alone grow and nurture their own slices of nature. Fat, balding, hairy middle aged men (yes I realise I just described myself) who haven’t seen the light of day, apart from the assault of sun catching them as they waddle between door and car, car and door. Online lives playing out nightly, addictively, wanking themselves silly to the digital portrayal of someone most likely just down the street, who is in reality another balding, middle-aged waste of oxygen living in his mothers basement. At least in parts of this country, sad fatties still make it to the pub, guzzling their way through too many diabetes inducing beers and pies, ogling the girl behind the bar as if one day she might even acknowledge their existence.

Then there are those too lazy to manage even that much. Can’t make it to the pub, because leaving the house is a chore, let alone interacting with the world at large. Anxious people, depressed people, kids with A.D.H.D and adults with A.D.D. and whole populaces with labels attached to justify their inability to fit. To sanctify their inherent laziness.

I get anxious trying new things, testing myself and my preconceived ideas of what my limits might be. Doing so can bring on an anxiety disorder. Or is that just fear, just uncertainty, just caution. Am I just getting nervous?

Sometimes,  I struggle to concentrate. Occasionally the task at hand struggles to hold my attention, or more accurately, I struggle to give my attention to the task at hand. Just now I faded off, played a game briefly, gazed out the window, listened to one of the dogs licking itself, back-dropped by the morning tweet and twitter of birds and achieved a whole lot of nothing. There was a deficit there, briefly, in my attention.

A quick read of the above and it is clear I am unwell. I have an illness, or two, or three, perhaps a whole gamut. I am mentally diseased. But fear not. Someone ‘has been there’ and will proceed to tell me all about and then, quickly, before I can object, tel me how to fix it.

And, of course, there is a P.C pill which will mend all my woes. Off I will go, rattling on Ritalin, cruising on Fluoxetine or Citalopram. Washing it all down with bottles of cheap vino, my middle-aged, suburban, white middle-class lost dream drowned out and watered down, a malaise mixed with early season new potatoes. Wait, that’s mayonnaise.

Is there a pill for cynicism? Is there a quick fix, one stop shopping, chemical solution to the plodding monotony which can be our existence? Yes, good people, there is. Alcohol. Right there is the socially acceptable option.

I choose to shy away from that stuff, for the meantime at least. I have been, and will be so again, quite the fan of chemical options. But for now, I will opt to live my life vicariously, getting my thrills and spills, action and inertia, through my kids. Ride all their ups and their downs, live their highs and battle their lows. I will yell from the sideline, whistle and cheer too loud at the concert, applaud their successes and boo those that stand in their way. I will give my all, so that they, all bloody four of them, may get their all

That right there, is my relevance.

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Second Chances for Tony Veitch?

I feel conflicted, yet certain. 

I used to start my day early. Crawling out of bed at 4:30am and heading out the door was sometimes a trial and a drag.

Anything I could use to get me through was greatly appreciated. Some thumping beats, energy drinks or strong coffee, for those days when I was really depleted. Often just a laugh would go a long way.

Sometimes the key was distraction. I had a physical job, a courier on the streets of north Dunedin, at the time when the subject of the coming rant was relevant. Quite apart from the physicality was the time pressures and the demands of dealing with clientele and traffic, such as it is in Dunedin.

It was good to let the mind slip into auto pilot, let the job take care of itself for a bit and let the brain engage in something else.

I am sports fan. Not as much as I used to be, but I am still a fan of all things ball and bat and endurance and racing and mano vs mano and all the rest. Wind powered, people powered, petrol powered, bring it on.

So there I was, busy, focused, negotiating the streets of north Dunedin and the whimsies of my clients, RadioSport’s breakfast show giving regular updates, as I slid in and out from behind the drivers seat.

I have always had a soft spot for the show. Dearest and I even featured on one illustrious occasion. Back then, the host was Tony Veitch. I didn’t then, and I certainly don’t now, think he was the best broadcaster out there, not by a long shot. That said, there was something infectious about his style of presentation, high on energy and laughs and good with a guest.

Veitch was cheesy, but seemed to be self-effacing, able to laugh at himself as much as he poked fun at others. He could take it as well as he gave it. He struck me as a bit arrogant, but then maybe you need some arrogance, to put yourself out there each and everyday and I will not bag people for being a bit cocky, particularly if they are the top of the heap, and Veitch seemed as if was there, or there abouts.

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What I really did like was his access. The man seemed to have the ear of all the movers and shakers in New Zealand sport. He was trusted and even liked by sportsmen and women, by coaches and administrators and other broadcasters and journalists. He had a large and loyal following among the sports savvy listener and his opinions were listened to.

I listened.

Then one day I stopped. It was the day I found out, along with RadioSport listeners and the nation, that Tony Veitch had physically assaulted his partner.

Sounds mild, sounds bland, sounds like it would be too easy to be blase to something described in a term so everyday, so common in our current vernacular. Physical assault.

The man, diminutive as he is, kicked his Mrs down the stairs, breaking her back.

Then he paid her off.

Then he made a public apology, lacking any contrition, a statement all about how sorry he felt for himself. And if that wasn’t enough, we had to go through some sad, half-arsed, quasi O.J Simpson episode I was almost hoping ended more tragically than it did.

Okay, that last bit is a bit harsh and a tad too far.

RadioSport lost a listener. I was never able to reconcile the idea that Veitch’s employers, his colleagues at least, had no idea what type of man their star performer was, is, and just what he was capable of.

Gradually I forgave the radio station. After all, not their fault, not their doing and they took what seemed like appropriate steps. But then he was back, Tony Veitch, on our airwaves again, back in the public domain.

Was I, as a target demographic audience member, supposed to have forgiven the man? Should I have moved on, as the re-hiring of Veitch suggested?

And therein lies the conflict. Because I am all for giving people a second chance, believe in the possibility of rehabilitation and redemption. So sure, a second shot, time served and all that…but surely only after you have shown remorse, accepted and owned your guilt, made amends as best you can. No sign of that, not that I have seen, not that we have been shown.

Next thing, Veitch announces he is to be on our T.V screens again.

I was a little astounded to read a Stuff.co.nz article based on his announcement. Yes, I was taken aback at the idea our leading television sports caster would think it was okay to have Veitch back in the limelight.

How could this man’s opinion be valued anymore? How could Tony Veitch be held in any form of regard anymore. How could any right thinking Kiwi decide this was a good thing to do?

But what is rankling me too, is the association. Social commentators and opinion piece scribblers, already happy to tell me what I think, are too readily making the link between Tony Veitch and the everyday sports fan, particularly male ones.

Any domestic violence, in all its insidious forms, is too much. Everyone can agree on that, without having to be told to. I know a number of my peers who switched off from the man, Tony Veitch, and the broadcasters who have stood by him. As broadcaster, a presenter, for me Veitch fits into the ‘so what’ category…a voice I simply no longer hear.

As a man, as a follower of sports, I will not accept that it is okay to have this man in the public realm. The ratings dollar is obviously far too attractive and Veitch obviously rates. So the question of social responsibility is raised, and whether or not it is the concern of business, even one in the business of broadcasting.

But to be told I am responsible for okaying domestic violence? That sports fans, people like me, are enabling the behaviour? That all sportsmen are overly, overtly aggressive and excessively masculine, as if these traits will immediately correlate to hitting women?  No, way, leave me out it.

Reading that made me angry.

Just like the majority of men, the majority of sportsmen, anger is an emotion I can accept, control and even utilize. I won’t be lashing out, I won’t need to be apologetic and remorseful. Because I will be a man, a true man.

A real man.

Unlike Tony Veitch.

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Selfish Guilt?

An impromptu day off. 

My wife is ill. Quite unwell in fact.

Not only is she suffering toothache, the first time that dastardly infliction has struck her down, but she has copped whatever horrible affliction that lowered our kids over the last week or so.

One after another, they dropped like proverbial flies, hit with the spray of seasonal fever, cough and cold. And it ain’t over yet. The Wee-Man is yet to come down with anything serious, and the big one, me, has seemingly dodged a bullet…so far.

Enough cliches.

My wife is a battler. She works long and hard and is a dedicated professional. She is a mother, a chef, a house-cleaner, a chauffeur and a counselor. She pushes hard and lately, has been pushed hard. So when she gets crook, it hits her hard too.

It isn’t like her to want to take a day off work. She is not the type to cash in her sick days…for any reason, let alone that she might actually be unwell. Right now she looks like death warmed up and even then, barely. She is certainly not heated through. If she was a sausage, I would be putting her back on the BBQ.

So today, she didn’t go in. Others are covering the more important or urgent aspects of what she does and she is taking the time to wallow, to mope, to sloth and to generally take on all the images that come to mind when you think of a Zombie.

I went fishing.

Am I bad person? Because I viewed my wife’s tortuous condition as a day off for myself. Does that make me selfish? Or opportunistic?

With her home, the kids suitably supervised if not fully appreciated, I took the chance to slip the kayak into a glassy, still, incoming tide. I paddled around the head of the peninsula, trolling the main channel in the vain hope I might bring something fresh home.

I beached, grabbed a bottle of water and then sat on the tide and took in the ambiance of Rawene, as viewed from the water: The comings and goings from the Four Square, cafe goers at the Boatshed, strollers and cyclists and traffic heading to or from the ferry, plying its trade on the still waters.

It was magical. Rawene is a gorgeous town, but not more so than when viewed from the water. I soaked in the brilliance of it all and marveled at how grand life can be. I let the ferry slip away from the jetty, slung out the line, and headed back for deep water and home.

I took my time too. I had no real idea of when I set out and no clue as to how long I had taken so far. The wind didn’t get up, the tide was against me, but only making a token effort and the sun shone brightly. Heaven.

I don’t think you can catch Mullet on a line. Flounder aren’t interested either. Ideally, I would have pulled in a Kahawai and if Tangaroa had been smiling upon me from below, then I would have hooked multiple Snapper or maybe even a Kingi or two. Instead, I came home with nothing but a touch of sunburn.

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Wifey was hanging the washing. She looked like she might collapse. I dutifully took over, fed the kids their lunch and sent my little woman to bed. The Wee-Man joined her for a nap, a bonus to what had already proved to be a great day off.

Bring on the weekend! Oh wait…it isn’t the weekend already?

I had no idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks

My Mother is nothing or no one special.

I try to be an attentive and diligent parent. I believe I do okay and my Dearest is good at it too.

We try not to miss much, try to get the kids involved and be involved with them. All the while being aware not to push them.

It’s a challenge, attending to the above demands while managing a household of six. Not to mention the pets and the little extras that come with living reasonably isolated; the travel required just to the basics like groceries, having a social life and keeping in touch with an ever evolving world while the one around you stays rooted in times gone by.

And that is what it is, a management process. For me it has been a learning curve and one I don’t think will ever be complete. While I have never been afraid of hard work, I have never before faced the level of distraction that doing that work under the reproachful gaze of your children brings. And the Dearest, whose watchful supervision can be daunting.

At times though, given the isolation, the new (ish) environment we live in and the nature of Dearest’s job, it can feel a little like I am flying solo. There are a lot of demands on what my wife does for a living. As a Midwife, managing her time is paramount and the scope of her practice means there is often little time left for the demands of family life, let alone the energy or any hint of time for herself.

But here is the time for a little perspective, as my 44th birthday ticks by.

A thought struck me as I was vacuuming. With the dishes down, laundry sorted and the kids feed, entertained or packed off to school, it occurred to me just how easy I have it, especially when I compare my daily life with that of the woman who raised me.

I highlighted at the start that my Mother is no one special. Obviously she is very special to me, my wife and her grandkids, but putting that loving bond aside and looking at the practicalities of what I am doing as a stay at home Dad and what she achieved, I believe she wasn’t special…she was incredible.

There are a heap of other supurlatives I could throw out there. The gist though is that Mother, Nana, was a legend. A solo Mum, in a time when that was probably not the most fashionable of things to be. Social stigma aside, we are talking about a woman who not only raised two boys only fourteen months apart (imagine that for a load of shits and giggles) to be well-rounded, healthy, good men, she did so while working full-time, educating herself, developing a career, holding down a mortgage and maintaining a social life, such as the latter must have been with all the rest of it going on.

I look back on my formative years with rose-tinted glasses, as I am sure many do in a country like New Zealand which sure, has its issues, but generally is one of the best places in the world you could hope to be born and raised. At the time, as a kid in a sleepy Dunedin suburb, I wasn’t aware of the stresses my Mother must have faced; the hours of hard work, the tight budget, the loneliness, the pressures of solo parenting. In retrospect I can highlight a few moments when it must have been too much. Did my Mother let it show? Did her pressures and stresses weigh even the slightest on her children, her two boys? Not in the slightest.

Was there the support, from government agencies and the like, a societal awareness, that is available now? I seriously doubt it. For my Mother, there wasn’t even really the back-up of an extended family to lean on and not a thing from an absentee Father.

So how did she do it?

Everyone copes with adversity in their own way. My Mother is like my wife, an active relaxer. Trafalgar Street in Dunedin, where I grew up and where the real-estate agents will tell is situated in St Clair, but we all know is really St Kilda, is a grass verged short strip linking the half crescent former quarter-mile of Hargest Crescent and the stretch of Richardson Street, where around the corner my first school, St Clair primary, is housed.

There are bungalows and the odd villa. Clad in weatherboards and brick and roughcast, some were shabby, some were immaculate. Lawns were mown, sometimes by your neighbour and gardens bloomed and there was even the occasional blossoming tree dotted here and there. Fences were low and hellos were said and you knew everyone’s name and they knew you.

Far from idyllic, yet Trafalgar Street is only a fifteen minute walk to the beach, the Salt Water pool and there are plenty of schools and parks around for playing and sports, not to mention a decent back yard to run in. All in all it was pretty good environment to be growing up in.

But Mum couldn’t keep up with the Jones’. She didn’t drive, I guess never really needed to as she worked not far from home. Bus rides into the city were a bit of adventure and there were always friends offering excursions. Despite the Smith’s having four kids, their Holden Belmont seemed to accommodate everyone.

My brother and I had push bikes. A monumentous day when they arrived. We had cricket bats and all the associated gear, football and rugby boots, we had boogie boards and ‘computerised’ Battleships. Then it was an Atari, an Apple 11 and a ghetto blaster. Bro and I strutted around in Adidas three-stripe threads and whatever other hideous 80’s fashion was in vogue. I think I even owned hammer pants and had a flat top!

We wanted for nothing, least of all love and affection.

Our Grandmother would arrive with lemonade and sparkles and be with us through the day when we were sick. It was almost worth being unwell for. Then Mum would come home and take over where her Mother left off. We were clean, healthy, well fed, entertained and educated boys and we were hugged and kissed and tucked in.

Only now do I really appreciate all that. 40 years my Mother spent as an Early Childhood Educator, 25 or so kids under the age of five under her feet all day, just to come home and deal with her own two brats. Legendary stuff.

So I will stop prattling away here. I will pick up the toys and detritus in the path of the vacuum cleaner. I will do another load of dishes, prepare some lunch for the crew, feed off the scraps, take care of the recycling, make some beds and put some washing on, get some dusting done and hopefully find time to do some gardening with the little ‘uns, then start dinner and think about doing it all again as I get the kids settled for the evening, that is after the homework and the reading of books and telling of tales.

And just like my Mum, I hope to do it all with the type of demeanour that means, when my kids look back, all they remember is warm summers days and an even warmer smile.

Love you Mum.

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