Conspicuous

While I have been conspicuous by my absence, New Zealand has been conspicuous for all the wrong reasons.

New Zealand is the place I call home. It is my country of birth, the place where my wife was born and the birthplace of my children.
In my limited time on this planet I have seen my share of other countries, differing cultures, other climates and all sorts of topography. This country, Aotearoa New Zealand, is no more beautiful, no more stunning, no more astounding, no more scenic or friendly or inspiring or great or just plain cool, than any other. What the land of the long white cloud has to offer, is accessibility.

These shores are a grouping of small islands-although not as small as we like to imagine-slotted away at the wash created by the confluence of the Tasman Sea and the mighty Pacific Ocean. To get here, even with thanks to the convenient wonders of air travel, is no mean feat. We really are at the bottom of the world.
Thing is, once here, everything these shaky isles have to offer really is right there at your doorstep.
Beaches galore, often just metres from your back door. White sand beaches at that. Mountains and forest and bush and sand and surf and sun and tempestuous storms and blazing scorchers, each and every day is different from the one previous and all is available within minutes, or a mere hour or two on the road.
You can hunt, you can fish, you can swim, you can walk and hike and trek and you can camp and you can dine out and surf and catch a movie or a play then dance the night away and if you are careful, you can pack most of this into just the one day. And night.

Nature abounds. Tourism seems to be the logical answer, from wine tours to bungy jumps and all in between. Aside from all of that of course, is the people. New Zealanders, Kiwis, are a pretty gregarious bunch, an open and honest group. A diverse group? Perhaps not so much but more so, despite our refuge access stats sadly lacking in comparison to the rest of the globes nations.
I’m not gonna get political, nor do I mean to be a glorified tourism brochure. Next year might be the time for political commentary but I am one of the great apathetic masses, so whatever I have to say on Beehive goings on will be lip-service at best. As it stands, my eldest doesn’t think I have a clue what ‘woke’ even means.
However, I will lament the lack of open eyes.

It would be harsh to say, seemingly yesterday, that no one picked an earthquake coming. Just like it would be cruel to suggest someone, somewhere, somehow, should have known Whakaari/White Island was about to pop. Christchurch suffered and still does and now it is the turn of Whakatane, a pretty, quintessentially sleepy seaside NZ town, to shed collective tears. As we do too, across the nation.
Of course Christchurch, a place I have heard referred to as the ‘Village of the Damned’ has suffered through even more pain and hurt. I never used to understand why New Zealand’s second largest city is tagged with such a moniker but I am beginning to get it now.
How much can you throw at the one place, the one grouping of people, before they break? For Christchurch it seems a case of bring it on.

Coming from Dunedin, I never liked the place. I was conditioned that way. Territorial prejudices aside, I don’t like how bitterly cold the place gets in winter, I don’t like the road layout, the lack of hills, I am not a fan of their rugby team and that wind!
As a young man visiting the South Island’s major metropolitan center, I was often struck by a sense of aggression. Statistically, as a young male on the streets of an urban center at night, there is a chance this is will be the case no matter where you are. But, Christchurch gave me reason to feel on edge.
Contrast that with the response to the twin tragedies the town has suffered and you would have to say first impressions don’t always last.
One disaster those damned villagers couldn’t avoid.

The people of Christchurch, of Whakatane, the folk on the West Coast who have endured the collapse of not only a mine, but the repeated collapse of their roads, have done it all with a grit and perseverance so Kiwi, that resolve deserves to be as cliched as our clean/green image, the perception of rugby as religion and our No. 8 wire can do attitude.
Heroes everywhere you look. People doing what they do best. To me, that is the thing, during a testing year, few years, which stands out the most.

People. Normal, boring, neighbourly, everyday heroic people.
Naming them wouldn’t be Kiwi. Even if I did, even if we already know their names, they will brush it off. After all, didn’t they do just what every one else would do? Weren’t they just doing their jobs? Catch phrases synonymous with this cloudy island nation of late.
Each and everyone one of us really is that hero. The old bloke next door, your mechanic, the night shift shelf stacker at the local supermarket. A given place, a given time.
At each place, on each occasion, when Kiwis have been asked to step up, we do it without fail. Without fail.
The failures come when our Prime Minister, Jacinta Ardern, is bagged for hugging emergency response personnel on the scene in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. There is blame to be apportioned when low brow Kiwis pop out of the woodwork to applaud and encourage the actions of madmen with automatic weapons.

Through it all, the year has drawn to a close with the sun making its presence felt, the beaches beckoning, birds chirping and bees buzzing. Same old same old.
At home, I have 3 kids showing the signs that a year in New Zealand’s education system is tiring. The remaining one is blissfully unaware, enviably young.
The drama, the tension, the frightening reality of the world, thrust upon sleepy white sand shores, seems to have had little or no effect on the lives of our four semi-rural children.
It’s hard to tell how affected kids are by the things which move their parents, their teachers, wider society. It washes in but I suspect, in many cases, it washes over.
Thank goodness.
Surely they feel the ‘vibe’. Surely our children feel the emotional content of such tragic events, even if at the time, they don’t understand why.
The hope is, following generations will be more empathetic, will have a greater compassion and understanding and consequently, more foresight.

As the year winds down, chilling as the air temperature warms, what was your big takeaway?
For me, I was struck by how diverse we are becoming as a people and how difficult it is for some to accept that. I was surprised by how much young people feel, despite being somewhat removed.
Sadly, I was not surprised by how non-plussed many people can be.

I promise not to be so inconspicuous.

 

 

 

Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone

Wifey and I are pretty open with our kids.
There is not much we keep from them, no subject we consider taboo and no questions we are not prepared to answer.

Of course we moderate the things our kids have access to; what they view on television and the internet, what they hear when listening to music or podcasts or anything of the like and, as old school as it might sound, what they read.
There are themes and theories and ideologies and images and thoughts espoused through a myriad of media platforms, all of which are readily accessible on a multitude of devices, many of which can be housed in your pocket and held in your hand.

We have good kids, children still in every sense of the word despite the wide scope of information they have at their fingertips. As a reasonably cohesive unit, the messages from Wifey and I have been fairly consistent over the years, our delivery relatively level and our availability assured.
Yes, I could spend a bit more time involved with their homework, delve deeper into their interests or passions.
Yes, we could be stricter on some things and show greater leniency on others.
Generally, we have a fluid household, plenty of noise and activity always under at least an element of control. To quote Madness and their hit Our House ‘there’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud’.

Like I said, good kids. No real dramas or concerns, outside of the myriad of things you might expect from a growing family with working parents.
When things go wrong, we are there for them. Open and honest and available. Wifey and I don’t have an explanation for everything and nor can we always find a solution. However, with a little reasoning, there isn’t much which can’t be worked through.

Every now and then, the big things come along.
Those moments you cannot be prepared for. Those times which catch you by surprise, no matter how organised and aware you might think you are.
You can’t have your finger on every pulse.
But, and what a big pause it is, there are some things  as a aparent it is almost impossible to explain, to find reasoning in. Because, simply, you don’t have the answers.

How do you explain pure, unfettered evil?
How can you help a child understand the hate fueled ideology which drives a person to perpetrate such horror on a community, on a people?
You can’t.
Especially when you don’t understand yourself.

Tears have been shed in this house and will continue to be for some time I feel.
Good. We are crying as a nation and as a people. Tears for those who lost their lives, their families and friends and tears for all they knelt and prayed for in the place they went for solace, reflection and the place they went for hope and love and all the rest.
Number One cried today, the enormity of it all finally striking at here heart.
The pain was there on Number Two’s face when she first asked what was going on Friday evening. There isn’t a full level of comprehension for her and for that small mercy, I am grateful.
E-Bomb and the Wee Man are too young to comprehend anything beyond the vibe emanating from their parents. They get it. Something is wrong.
Something is very very wrong.

I have struggled to keep the language of hate out of my own words.
My voice has crackled at times, close to breaking, when I speak of these events. It is hard, particularly when you have to look a thirteen year old girl in the eye and see the realisation dawning in her that this world we live in, the one we all share, can house people capable of being despicably wicked, people capable of visiting hideous acts of cruelty on others. Innocent others.

I am glad they got this bastard alive. I realise it is what he wanted; his platform, his moment of infamous immortality. I hope he gives us the answers, even though we all know they will be the deluded ramblings of a crazed mind, little more than a jujmbled rehashing of the various messages of hate brought to us over generations of evil thinkers and doers.
But I need to hear it, as awful and insidious as it might be. Because I don’t know what to tell our kids.
I don’t know HOW to tell our kids.

We don’t shelter our four children.
There is no cotton wool enveloping them, they do not view the world through the shimmering haze of a bubble.
The temptation is to put the walls up, bring down the shutters, erect the barricades.
We won’t. There will be open and honest discourse as long as there are questions.
Our kids will be watched, a eye kept on them in the same way I hope all parents are watching over their children at the moment.
Kids see and feel, sometime more they we do.
Kids hurt.

All I can ask of my Wife and myself is that we do the best we can to raise well rounded children, ones we can send off into the world as well prepared as we could make them. Happy and healthy and open and honest and caring and loving and genuine young people, armed with open minds, good hearts and a smile.
We want them to see the good, in everything they do and see and all the people they meet. We want them able to cope, to have them ready for the big bad world.
Because yes, some of that world around us is bad. So mind-numbingly bad. And that bad world is no longer surrounding us, it has visited us, come to our shores and bought an extreme example of its evil with it.
Let our kids be together. Let them play, let them sit and chat and let them mingle and let them laugh and cry and do whatever it is they feel they need to cope.
Youth are doers and they will want to be active and vibrant over this issue.
As such, we will visit the Whangarei Islamic Center on Friday and we, as a family, will watch over our local Muslim community as they bend in prayer. We will bring nothing more than a smile, carry nothing other than hugs and strong shoulders, ready to be leaned on.
Will we see you there?

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In the meantime, to the tune of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall…Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone!

 

The Cost of Education

Doesn’t sound right does it?

Teaching our kids, the next generation. Training them, giving them the tools they need not to just exist, to cope, but to grow and develop. More.
Yes, teach the children of the nation to be readers and writers, to support healthy minds and bodies and help them explore and inquire. Yes, up-skill them so a brave new world is not a daunting place, foreign and frightening.
Don’t hinder any or all of the above just because paying for a modern education is beyond the reach of many.

We all know you get nothing for free. The user pays.
Rightly or not, that is how it works in our ‘free market’ society. Yet there are some core tenants to the way New Zealand is set up and run, the bill for which is not supposed to be appearing in the mailboxes of everyday you and me.
All the stuff we need in our day to day modern existence, is taken care of. Apparently. Departments within Ministries, run by committees and overseen by appointed officials, answering to our elected ones. From the office junior, to the intern, to the lifer in middle management and the manicured mouthpiece put in front of the cameras if, low and behold, things should ever go wrong.

These are the mechanisms which bring electricity into our houses, bringing light and warmth. Systems are in place to ensure we have water flowing from our taps. Clean, potable water. Infrastructure like road networks, public transport, footpaths and street-lighting and sewage and refuse collection and disposal and recycling and and and…
It is a huge list, and much of the above is the responsibility of local authorities, let alone at regional and national levels. Just wait until you get to central government and start thinking about mammoth sectors like public healthcare. Like education.
Even in a small country like New Zealand, running these three islands, keeping pace with the needs and demands of an ever growing, ever aging population, is no simple task and every step of the way has to be paid for.

I get it.
We pay.
One way or another, our contribution is made, to the coffers of councils and government. Taxes, levies, duties. No matter the label, our income is siphoned off so the things we expect, demand and want, are there for us when we need, want and demand them.
Education is no different.

A big part of the last couple of weeks has been gearing up One and Two for their coming school year. A stand out in that process has been the expense!
Hundreds of dollars on uniforms alone, still more hundreds spent on stationery, a huge part of which are tech requirements like Chromebooks.
I get that wider society is in the midst of a technological revolution, that the way we communicate and the way we work is changing, so it stands to reason the way we learn must change and adapt also.
But, and it is a big, expensive but…at who’s expense?

We are not poor, however, we are by no means well off. Like many working families in New Zealand, we somehow manage to make one end get close to the other, week to week.
That is the thing though, it is a day to day, week to week, pay cheque to pay cheque process, one which leaves little or no room for error, nor is there room for contingencies. You know, rainy days, saving. That sort of thing.
Yes, our kids will go to school, well fed and clothed after a warm and cosy night in beds housed in a leak free home. They will be carrying with them all the bits and pieces ‘required’ of them.
Single items of clothing with three figure price tags and the tech bells and whistles. Then yes, we will fork out for the extras, which somehow never seem to be in a school’s operational budget or fall outside ministry funding umbrellas.

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Because there will be fees.
Because there will be ‘voluntary’ donations.
Buses will have to be paid for, so kids can get to swimming pools and museums and field trips and sporting and cultural events of all sorts and natures.
School camps will take place and there will be this and that required, to make it the sort of experience the one it should be, the one you remember with heavy rose tinting.
It is all valuable, in terms of what our kids get from it, what is given them in return for the dollar value it all comes at.

We will make the effort to ensure our kids want for nothing as far as their schooling and education goes.
It will be an effort. A costly one but something we will do because we feel we must and because we can.
What of those who can’t?
What about the families who have nothing to sacrifice, budgets stretched so thin a ‘fee’ or ‘donation’ is so far beyond them, it is a stress they don’t need, an extra bill they cannot meet.
It is their kids who suffer.
They suffer in the classroom and on the playground. Kids can be cruel and these kids, their families, will not be invisible because they don’t have a chrome book, because their woolen jumper is several generations old, straight off a second-hand rack. Exactly the opposite in fact.c They will stand out like the proverbial dogs bollocks.
Their pride will be hurting too. Sure, there are families out their who simply do not give a shit and they are lost causes, a s will their kids most likely be. However, there are many more, stuck in a cycle of poverty, wanting and willing to the best they can, just simply unable to.

I know funding is weighted, the decile system in place to balance out the differences.
We could debate the effectiveness of such a system all of one of these hot summer days. Doing so won’t put a Chromebook into the hands of our kids. It won’t put food in their bellies or shoes on their feet or jackets on their backs.
So, if you and I are the user, or even if we are not, we are paying.
What are we getting for our money? What are our kids getting?
What was so wrong with blackboards?

Cringe Factor

Have I fully of come of age? Because now, I am ‘That guy’. 

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with some of Claire’s family, down in the big smoke of Auckland.
Twenty five or so loosely affiliated kin, together for a laugh and a smile and to share a feed. Stressful for those at the helm, a good time for guests. For me, a headache waiting to happen, even if I managed to survive better than I thought I was going to to.

The hosts have a couple of sons. Great young me, one in his late teens and the other, early twenties. Friendly, open and engaging young people who are a pleasure to be around.
Hanging around with them, as much as you can between long sessions on their phones or in front of monitors, showed up a few things for me.
Firstly, it isn’t hard to work just where I stand physically these days. I am no Adonis, no shining light of what it means to be at peak physical fitness or health.
Wifey and I are working on it. Not some bullshit New Years resolution, not some fad diet or gym membership as good as money flushed down the toilet. A real and genuine desire, over a planned term, to make change, changes which are already happening.
The sad truth is though, I will never again be even on par with a 21 year old, when it comes to energy and vitality. Those days are gone and thankfully, I can accept that.

Other things stand out. I am not into the same cultural stuff; music, movies, I still read…you know, from pages full of the printed word.
The big standout was humour.
I am not going to be so harsh as to suggest younger generations don’t seem to have one, a sense of humour that is, but as far as I could see, it wasn’t readily prevalent.
There was the standard good natured bantering and put downs, over pool tables or dart boards or the obligatory outdoor/backyard games. You know the type, fun for the whole family and all that. It was OK to have a dig, to ridicule or embarrass or try and make a fool of someone. But a one liner?
No. Straight over their heads or seen as a deliberate attempt to offend someone. As for a drop of innuendo? Met with groans of derision.
Sure, a bit of sexual innuendo is a bit lowbrow. Not scrapping the barrel quite like toilet humour might be, but a sarcastic take on what someone else has said is hardly the epitome of comedy.

I tend to get my comedy fixes from the likes of Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Bill Burr and guys of that ilk. These are people who like to push a few boundaries, tell it like it is and have no compulsion about stepping all over people’s sensibilities.
I have heard Jimmy Carr say offense cannot be given, only taken. While I appreciate the reasoning behind such a statement, I get that deliberately trying to provoke a reaction is treading on dangerous territory. The whole ‘too soon’ argument for example, as guys like the aforementioned are quite topical with their material.
Timing and delivery are the key with humour apparently. If you are going to drop an off the cuff one-liner, you need to be as quick witted as you are alert and aware. It takes a level of intellect, even if your humour is cheap and crude.
Gauging your audience is key too I would assume. Everyone reacts differently and if you get a group offside, you are never going to get them back. A mob mentality and all that.

It seems a group of young men, aged somewhere between late teens and early twenties, are probably not my target audience. I am not saying I in anyway offended any one and in no way did I try to.
Yet the ‘audience’ plays it’s part too. The more these guys groaned, rolled their eyes or made derisive sounds and comments, the more I was inspired. While they got more laughs among themselves from put-downs, snide comments and cheap shots, shaming each other, I happily carried on dropping a line here and there, many of which I was becoming fairly certain were not going to go down well.
Which meant, they went down really well.

Does it sound strange that it felt good to be ‘that guy’?
That I was able to find the line others were not prepared to cross, so I could leap gleefully over it?
I guess I ran the risk of coming across like a jerk but the reality is, as far as those around me of a similar age bracket to me, I was only saying what most people were thinking.
At least, they were thinking it after I said it.

Future generations are getting taller. Younger people are developing physically, more so than those of my age did. Conversely, many of them are not using that physicality, preferring back lit screens and monitors.
What entertains those who came after me is changing too. Their levels of tolerance are different. At an age when they should be testing boundaries, threatening my sensibilities, it is instead them doing the cringing.
Is that the way it is supposed to be?
I don’t think so.

The next generation are the ones who are supposed to shock, to test the norms and boundaries and to change the parameters. They are the ones who are supposed to challenge current standards and seek to establish new settings.
Each generation should stand up to the things they feel are oppressive, should fight the good fight and all that. Our kids should break the rules we set, as we broke the ones set for us.
Is it the fault of political correctness? Have following generations become too sensitive, too aware of offending the sensibilities of others, one minority or another, one marginal group or another?

 Or maybe I should just stick to dad jokes.

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Gushing

I never wanted to, but the more my children progress, the more they offer me the opportunity to live through their achievements vicariously. 

Prize giving. I am not actually sure the day was called that. But it is exactly what it equated to.
In this ever more prevalent P.C world, every single kid in the school got a certificate. Damn near all of them got a prize of one sort or another. Richly deserved.

Rawene Primary School turned out, among it’s graduates, a bunch of awesome young people. Never matter their ability to read or to write, how they can add or subtract or divide. If I walk into that school, the senior kids in particular, are full of handshakes and smiled hellos. Even a bit of good natured cheek.
The joys of a rural, small town education.
Rawene Primary, where my two eldest have been educated over the last couple of years, is a small school with a roll around the 100 pupil mark.
That means intimacy. It means an unavoidable community influence and involvement. Everyone really does know everyone and in particular, the senior year which numbered only nine students, became a pretty tight knit bunch.
Cool kids and I wish them the best for what is hopefully a bright and promising set of steps on the next part of the journey.

The small Rawene town hall was packed, the entire school in attendance, with parents and uncles and aunties and brothers and sisters and grandparents and whanau from all over enjoying the occasion. Obligatory speeches, then waiata and haka. Stirring stuff.
It was quite an occasion, particularly for our Number One.

I am not one to brag and on this occasion, they are not achievements I have any right to brag about. But, shout it from the rooftops I will. It might be a little pond, but damned if our eldest daughter isn’t the biggest fish in it!
Awards for student leadership and promoting peace, for services to the schools corporate life (read fundraising), academic excellence and throw in a couple of others for good measure.
Add it all up and our girl was top dog, co-Dux and a very proud graduate.
Her mum and dad couldn’t have been prouder either.
With her school shirt signed by classmates and friends, a bit of a tradition, Number One will start her next part of the education journey in the new year.
A bigger pond. No doubt she will be a prize fish in those untested waters too.

Well done Kenny, we love ya!

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Dish Drying Dreams

Soapy detergent suds and a setting sun, to the backing track of the Smashing Pumpkins. 

I hope everyone has a dishwasher.
Here, at my place, unless I can convince the girls it is their turn, then I am it. The Dishwasher. Not Harvey Keitel The Cleaner. Nothing as cool as that for me.

So I have to improvise. Tonight, the motivation I sought to stick my hands into the soapy sud kingdom of the kitchen sink, came courtesy of the Smashing Pumpkins.
Tonight Tonight was the tune as it happens, courtesy of Spotify and a wifi speaker. Thanks too, to a glass or two extra of cheap red.

Years ago, as a teen, I developed one cheesy crush after another. All teens do it I guess and for me, there was a theme. Early on there was Deborah Harry. Quite apart from Blondie banging out disco infused New York punk with a French Canadian twist which thoroughly raptured me, (aficionados will know what I did there) Deborah Harry was a gorgeous, explosive blonde. Fiery and devastating, without quite being bombshell, which would have most likely not done it for me.
There was a dirty mystique to Deborah Harry of the late seventies and early eighties that as a young fella, I could not quite define and still can’t to this day. And, it didn’t stop there. Terri Nunn fronting Berlin, a dalliance with a young Madonna, never going to last, before a flirtation outside the norm with Belinda Carlisle and then Wendy James. Oh yes, Wendy James.
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Of  all of them, only Blondie really captured me and stayed with me. But, there had to be something, just a little thing, that meant more to me than just how this bevy of young songstresses looked.
Madonna had that thing, we all know it. Slutty I think it is called. For a young man, well not yet a man, from the southern most reaches of the world, there was no denying her impact. Sadly, for Madonna, her music didn’t do it for me and no matter how well presented the image, it wasn’t enough.
The same could be said for the Belinda Carlisle’s of this world. A husky sensuousness to her voice sure, an underplayed sexuality which went largely over my head.

Deborah Harry stayed there, the bench mark, seeing off flirtations with crops of newcomers, as an eighties pop explosion did detrimental harm to the world, damage we are still yet to recover from. But Debbie Gibson and Bananarama were never going to cut it for me. Babes to be sure, but where was the edge? Where was the challenge? Where was the musical integrity?
And then there was Wendy James. Maybe not the best vocalist. Maybe not the best songwriter or contributor of lyrics. Maybe she didn’t give the best interviews, maybe she didn’t have the greatest impression on me as a person, an individual, but the woman sure as hell made an impact on me. From my Dunedin-esque teenage perspective, here came a woman who was raw, true and honest and compelling and vital and real and so god damned sexy. Transvision Vamp were no Blondie, but bugger if they didn’t try hard to be, in their own way. I loved them for it.

Later, for a whole bunch of different, more mature, angsty reasons, was D’arcy Wretsky.
Siamese Dream was a piece of music, of art, which captured me.
I wasn’t alone. A seminal album, which managed to more than ‘say’ what a generation was feeling at a certain age, like Kurt Cobain did with Nirvana or the Smiths had done before them. Siamese Dream, Billy Corgan and co, made me feel.
I was a rugby playing, beach going lad. I was one of the boys, even if the guys and gals I hung with weren’t strictly the cool crowd. In reality, we were all cool, because we had each other and that was exactly the thing which made us cool. There was shared moments in time we were all experiencing, in our own ways, even while we were all doing it together.

At the time, early nineties, I was making a serious attempt to not take things seriously. In a way, I hope I still manage something close to that. I mean, I still rock. I let myself go, to the tunes that always did it for me, all the while seeking out the tracks which will do it all over again. My tastes have changed, my motivation has changed, my desires and wants and needs, everything is different yet somewhere and somehow, not a single thing is different.
My kids like ‘old man’ music. Every pop wonder hit they know is tempered by a Free Bird. Every cheesy one hit wonder of the day is countered by Rick Astley. Okay, maybe I am getting carried away. Did I mention the cheap red? Let’s try Heroes by Bowie instead

All that really matters, is while I have my hands softening under the effects of scented detergents, I am rocking out. I am in love with a bass player. I am in love with a grove, with a ‘feel’.
I am incredibly pleased to say I have not lost it. The ability to let go, knowing that no matter how ridiculous I look, how stupid and out of tune I sound, no matter the admonitions of my children, I can still rock like I just do not give a fuck.

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D’arcy Wretsky arguably made a mess of her live, thanks to the wonders of opiates. I can’t say I am where I ever thought I would be, a big part of this being because I never really gave it, life, a great deal of thought. Thing is though, for a time, as fleeting as it may have seemed, D’arcy was my dream girl and she lived my dream. One of them anyway.
She had that moment, her fifteen minutes. Or maybe, a little slice of forever. I prefer to see it that way.
The joy is, I can still live those moments. Recapture those dreams, lost or not, with her. I can do it while I wash dishes, while I vacuum or hang out washing or sit here at a keyboard and make out like I have something worthy to offer. D’arcy offered and we accepted and she drove a wedge into me, placing her right next to Deborah Harry and Wendy James and just because I twirled a drumstick or two years ago, I feel I have been a little, tiny, insignificant part of it and damned if I am not going to rock the fuck out every now and then, just because I still can and still do.

Can you?

Do you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Influence

Sometimes it is the people flying under the radar who have the most impact. 

I have made mention a few times over by now of the people who have passed away in the last year or two, the ones who proved so  influential. Not just to me, but to the world.
These were the big name entertainers, the top flight names across the music, literary and screen industries.

For me and possibly people of my age, my generation, recently there was the sad news of another persons death, one who had quite the impact over a number of genres and reaches.
William Goldman did it all. He wrote the stories and brought them to air. The Princess Bride anyone?! Important movies like The Stepford Wives and The Presidents Men, classics like A Bridge Too Far and for me, one of the all time greats and personal favourites in movie making, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
I never knew his name until recently and therefore have never appreciated the role this guy had on the way I think and feel. He shaped much of the stuff I grew up watching and reading, doing it all from under the scope of the radar.

Which got me thinking.
What sort of influencer are you? Were you? Do you still have influence? If so, has how you weld that influence changed?

It is obvious how much say and sway you have over kids when you are a parent. It stands to reason, the more engaged you are with your offspring, the more you will influence how they think, how they respond to situations and how they feel about everything.
Whether or not that is a good or bad influence, is up to you.
Your mood, your attitude, your emotional output, are things children are very susceptible to, particularly little ones. You can choose to have a direct guiding hand, or you you can leave it up to coincidence, indirectly guiding and shaping your children but dint of their observation and because children as sponges, soaking up all that occurs around them.
How you behave will be a vital component of your child’s development.

The same can be said of all the people who have direct involvement in the lives of your children. Grandparents and other close relatives, that really friendly neighbour who you call an Aunt and all the ancillary people; teachers and coaches and music tutors and the family doctor and the smiling convenience store owner who once in a while plies your kids with a lollipop here and there.
How come I never get offered a complimentary bottle of wine?
Not every thing your kids encounter, not every one, is going to be positive. IN the same breath, not all negative encounters are automatically a bad thing.
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Your indifference can speak volumes. Your attentiveness speaks louder.

 

 

Marvel-ous

Another one bites the dust.

At 95, it is highly unlikely anyone will be taken by surprise at the passing of Stan Lee. A good knock as ‘they’ say. And what else can’t be doubted is the influence the man had over so much of our modern culture.
One of the key people behind Marvel story-lines and their characters, Lee brought us many of the heroes we see on our big screens in just about every second blockbuster movie release.

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The last couple of years have claimed the lives of a lot of the people who I looked at as the iconic figures in my cultural formation. The Bowie’s and Prince’s and Cohen’s and the rest. I was never a huge fan of comics as a kid, finding more depth and nuance in them as an adult reader, than you might have thought was there originally. So not a fan as such, even of the movies, once they started rolling across our screens. I like them for the action, the comic strip references, am not immune to the hype and will happily watch them with the kids, but pieces of cinematic mastery they are not.
Of course this doesn’t mean I am unsympathetic to the passing of Stan Lee. I watched the very cheesy Hulk television series when I was a boy, was taken to the Spiderman movies, watching graphics and effects which would pale in comparison by modern standards.

The crew who have followed me, Number’s One and Two, the E-Bomb and Wee-Man love a bit of bright, flashy, action packed, non stop craziness flicking across their screen. Big, bold, good looking people doing impossibly heroic things as they do battle with ever more ridiculous baddies. These movies are a fun, wild ride which try not to take themselves too seriously and thank goodness for that.
Stan Lee sometimes got a little darker with the characters and their story-lines than modern portrayals would suggest. Peter Parker could get very introspective and there some touchy bits and pieces of subject matter, current and topical.
maybe not so much for The Avengers, but there can be no doubt the likes of Captain America, Ironman and the Hulk had their demons.

Hulking-out

Perhaps the themes are generally lighter, fluffier, more action packed and less demanding. Maybe this is because I am getting older and need a bit more to stimulate me when I am seeking my entertainment package. I want the challenge of multiple layers in a movie or, god forbid, a book.
One sure sign Stan Lee’s passing is an indication of my own aging, is the fact he has been able to influence the characters who have infiltrated the lives of my children. A tribute to the longevity and success of what Lee was able to achieve, the ability to transcend generations an impressive feat.

They don’t quite get the significance of Lee’s passing, or the import of his wide spread and far ranging scope of influence on the entertainment industry and therefore, culture. But in Lee and his works was a guy responsible for much of my children’s escapism, there fantastical imaginings, even shaping some of their ideas of right and wrong, good and bad. Such a clear delineation between good and evil, those in the right and those in the wrong, would be a great thing in the real world. If only it was all that simple.

For kids, it is. That simple. Things are more black and white, the grey areas less domineering. The good guy might not always win but, he is always good.
Stan Lee gave the good guys a great bit chunk of cool. It makes them, the goodies, attractive, makes them something young kids might want to aspire to being.

Thanks for that Stan, you’ve made my job a little bit easier.

 

Creepy

What to do when your kids get spooky?

Culture has been a bit of a theme of late. The 31st of October does nothing to alter that.

Halloween is a tradition that might date all the way back to the Celts, but it is relatively new to New Zealand, courtesy of the the good ole U.S.A.
American television has made Halloween a thing which has caught on here, something that is growing in popularity year by year while some of the older traditions fade.
Something like Guy Fawkes was the go to in my day and while it is still celebrated, if that is the right word for commemorating the actions of the figure head for a band of terrorists, it is certainly not as popular as it used to be.

Regulation and political correctness and rules have sucked the life out of something as explosively fun as Guy Fawkes. Civil authorities still put on a show in many centers and good on them. For me, Guy Fawkes will always hold a special place as my birthday falls just a day or two before, meaning blowing things up in sparkly detonations takes on a dual importance.

All Hallows Eve doesn’t seem to hold the same inherent danger as igniting tubes full of phosphorous and gunpowder. Despite the lengths some families seem to go to in celebration of a 2000 year old bow to the spirits of the dead, said to return to earth on the 31st, no one seems to be worried enough to put a halt to things.
Now would be the time I could enter into a rant about the Americanisation of the western world in particular. How American culture, delivered to us through the television, is shaping and influencing us, particularly our youth culture.

I could, but I won’t.
Sometimes it is just fun. Instead I will share with you the fun my crew had with a bit of dress-up and some clever face-paint/makeup from their creative Mother.

 You have been warned!!

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zombie 1

 

zombies

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Dad Dilemma

I sometimes wish my girls were butt ugly bush pigs.

Summer is pretty much upon us. The days have lengthened, thanks to daylight saving. The sun is getting higher in the sky, warming the world around us and drying out, mostly, the the damp Northland soil beneath our feet.
All of this is impossible not to notice, given the myriad of bugs and critters seem to have taken note too, busily crawling out of their winter hideaways by ever increasing numbers.
Great, isn’t it? Not really a question, because yes, it is awesome to wake to a bright sunny day, clear skies and birdsong. The promise of a stunning day ahead is alluring. My only issue, my equally stunning children.

Now of course I will say my daughters are stunners. I have to, but in my case, it happens to be true. While there might not be too many modelling agencies banging down the door, there is no doubt the three girls are lookers-it is at this point I very diplomatically point out how much our kids take after their mother-and I am not blind to their looks, as much as I am growing ever more aware how much I would like to be.
It is said ignorance is bliss and, at times, I am inclined to agree. As the season changes and the choice of wardrobe with it, I have to think, being ignorant would indeed be blissful. Perhaps, to the next extreme, being blind would solve the problem too.
What problem, you ask?
A good question and one I can only hope I am able to answer as subtly as possible, as diplomatically as possible, as innocently as possible.

My eldest has not long turned thirteen. She is a babe. Not skinny, not fat, developing into a beautiful, intelligent, inquisitive and vibrant young lady. Developing physically too.
Yes, a young lady in so many ways. And to be frank, it petrifies me.
As a man I am blase to a great deal of the changes taking place with my eldest daughters. Maybe it is due to a bunch of old fashioned hang-ups, but probably more because my kids have an engaging and involved mother.
Her presence and willingness to offer input and sage advice takes the pressure off me, of that there is no doubt. Even though I am the appointed full-time parent, I feel there may well be a bullet somewhere there I managed to dodge. I’m grateful for it, for being excluded from something I would fumble my way through at best, entirely fuck up in all likely hood.

I am of  course referring to the ‘talk’. And when it comes to girls, not just the one about birds, bees and bad boys. Both boys and girls change and grow and develop as the hormones kick in. As a bloke, I can only comment on what it was like for me and might be like for another bloke. And let me tell you, from the little, inadequate and quaint knowledge I have, the whole teenage developmental years seem a lot less troublesome for young bucks.

Not to belittle what it is each and every teenager goes through, no matter their gender. So much is happening, in such a relatively short period of time, it is a wonder anyone involved, even on the fringes like parents, manage to survive. At least, I am on the fringes, right where I choose to be, right where I belong and right where I have been positioned.
I am kept informed, I am updated. As far as I need to be and more than I want to be.

Development aside, growth and changes and all of that, I do not know quite know where it is I am supposed to make my stand.
How much flesh is too much? That is the question, a burning one, sun smart awareness aside, I am not sure how to answer and am even more sure there is no definitive response.
bikini
Some seasonal shopping was done, in preparation for our coming long hot summer on the beaches of Northland (fingers crossed) and damn, my girls look good!
How good are they supposed to look? How good are they allowed to look? How good can I tolerate them looking? Far less than their Mother it would seem. I am no prude and I realize the wisest course of action is to let my girls establish their own taste and style and sense of fashion, or whatever it is they are attempting to do. My girls are not victims of, or slaves to, fashion, yet they do have their own thing going on and have certain expectations, based on what is considered cool or not.
I don’t. As it is, I restrict myself to saying the word cool, because throwing out hip or neat or funky, or I don’t bloody know, is only going to make me sound like the out of date, old school, fuddy-duddy I guess I have rapidly become. Latest trends aside, Numbers One and Two want to look the part, who am I to stand in the way of that?

I am their father. That’s who!  Wait…Father…capital letters!! And yes, multiple exclamation marks required, until the point is well and truly made and completely understood.
But the dilemma, the Catch 22 for a Father, for a man as I see it, is in the very act of making the point. What say my eldest daughter, just turned thirteen, all gorgeousness and stunningness, gets caught up in the ‘beach body’ thing? What say she takes a cooling dip in the ocean, then lays back on a towel to dry off, clad in a bikini some fashionista came up with after a trip to Rio?
If Dad starts commenting about too much of this on display, too much of that catching the eye, he is instantly treading on dangerous territory. Think thin ice, think minefields. Straight off he runs the risk of surfing the gamut of teenage emotive responses. Something you want to avoid anywhere, let alone a chilled day at the beach.
Right there and then I have acknowledged the attractiveness of my child. I am not going to use words like hot, sexy, babe etc…wait…damn it! But that is what has happened, I, as parent, as man, as human, as Father, have noticed how attractive a child of mine is.

And it freaks me the fuck out!!!!!

Yes, again with the exclamation marks. I simply cannot emphasis this crisis enough. I am a dirty old creep if I notice, but I only notice because I am a parent and wish to moderate what I am seeing.
Okay, perhaps that is a little extreme. As a parent, a Father, I have ever right and all responsibility, to tell a child what they are are wearing is inappropriate…too little and light for the temperature, not waterproof enough for the level of precipitation.
Too damn revealing.
I am all for my kids being individuals. For finding and setting limits for themselves. In the same breath, they need, as we all do, guidance and advice and to be surrounded by people who care, because they have their best interests at heart. In the case of parents, their own interests too. I don’t want to be known as the P.P…Prude Parent. My ideals are not old fashioned, my sensibilities are not extreme and not set in concrete.
But I do not want to be guilty of going to the other extreme, being too liberal, too understanding and too giving. Boundaries and all that, if not strictly adhered to, are at the very least acknowledged and respected.

So where are we, at the end of this? No where further advanced, it would seem. Wear something practical for swimming, for tanning, if that is what you must do. Wear what you feel good in and what you feel you look good in. Do it all without incurring the wrath of your father, because you have made him too aware, to sensitive, to uncomfortable.
But, it isn’t about me and my hang ups.

Feel good and look good while you’re doing it.
Maybe I’ll just have to look the other way.