Why Not You?

Why not me? Why not more all of us?

All of us who can. Who are capable, willing and able. Check out this story and putting aside the luck of it, ask yourself why not you? Why aren’t you doing more, even just a little…

https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/all-blacks/104743815/good-samaritan-turns-down-free-trip-to-watch-all-blacks-play-overseas-so-12-kids-can-attend-france-test

The above story shows there is still love in this world. Aroha. It shows, with the benefit of luck, of timing, of virtue and moral integrity, so much can be done and achieved with just the simplest of gestures.

Dave Newman is just a man. I know nothing of him, apart from the gesture, a real and genuine one, he has made. The difference he has made. Circumstance gave him the opportunity, the chance to make a real and tangible difference. And please, let’s not forget the part played by New Zealand Rugby, who cynically have not missed a golden marketing opportunity, but who have seen and seized the chance to do good.

Like the above article suggests, like Dave Newman hoped, there are twelve kids who now will have memories to hold onto for life. There is so much more than a golden hued day in the sun for them on offer here though. These Welligntonian children have been given, gifted, a catalytic moment. Perhaps they are all too young to realise but I can only hope they are not too young, are guided and mentored well enough, to be able to grasp it. A defining moment in their fledgling lives.

This sort of thing, through the generosity of one man and the cooperation of a large and power, influential, sporting body, can and should prove to be a turning point. There is nothing to suggest these are a group of bad kids. Nowhere do I get the impression from the Stuff article we are being introduced to a bunch of dodgy little buggers being given an opportunity otherwise unavailable to everyday youth. It seems to be this lot have been carefully selected and are genuinely in need of just this sort of support, this kind of selfless generosity.

Could you do it? Give up a prize like that? I turned down a seat at Wimbledon for a woman. I married her, my motivation was very different, we had only just met. I sure as hell benefited but certainly not for the greater good. I could have rescheduled but I didn’t. Wimbledon will be on every year, at the time I couldn’t guarantee this woman would be. However, my decision didn’t impact, directly or indirectly, anyone but me, the woman involved and the kids we ended up having together. Four of them…I hope at least one of them is a Pulitzer prize winner and at least one of the remainder represents their country or their beliefs on a global scale. Time will tell. The point is, I haven’t made my stand, my effort or contribution or whatever it might be, which will effect on a grander scale, outside of the direct influence I can have over the lives immediately attached to my own. I wish I had done more to date, on a wider basis, a community basis. I wish I did more. I hope I do more.

There is a man here who has been financially rewarded for the efforts he has put into the community and in particular youth, in this little slice of New Zealand. What exact prize he won, who was responsible for awarding it and who was noble enough to nominate him for it, I do not know and it is irrelevant. The thing is, there was a person who put himself, purely voluntarily, in a position where such accolades were deemed to be justified. Where reward was granted as a direct reflection of effort, of caring, of love and compassion and understanding. I will just about bet the money he won filters right back to the people he earned it on behalf of anyway. Yes, earned , not won, not gifted. Earned.

We all lead busy lives. We all have our own lives to deal with. For some, the pull and push of domesticity, of the work life balance, is all absorbing, leaving little or no room for intervention in the potential well-being of anyone else. Not to mention the near impossibility of making a financial contribution beyond what you can scrap together to fill fridge, freezer and pantry. How much donation is there in your pocket?

But, time? Can we spare some of it? Can you? Even just a little…what’s an hour a week? Sixty minutes is what it is, 3600 seconds which could prove the make or break for someone. Give up Coronation Street and manage a sports team, coach. Tutor some reading or math or join the Guides or Scouts or the yacht club or…or…or…utilise whatever skill you can and bring it to the lives of others, so it is a skill shared. Once your skill, skills or skill set (to quote a certain rugby coach) is/are shared, a new thing entirely is developed. A burden on society is lessened. There can be purpose and meaning attached to a skill. Yoga, fitness, boxing, cooking/baking, art…anything and everything, especially in rural communities. You might be surprised. You will certainly be rewarded.

Not financially. Not monetarily. Smiles, handshakes, to know you, your knowledge and skills and abilities and passion and understanding and desire and love and caring and openness and availability, has meant something, even just a little thing, to someone. Don’t be aiming your generous time and passion at no one but youth either. Sure, try and give a little of what you have held on to, your experiences and your learnings (there is that coach again), so coming generations can benefit, but we mustn’t neglect the guy next door.

Not everyone is lucky enough to win prizes they can trade for greater reward, and not every organisation will be willing to deal on a giveaway. Not all of us have the time, the skills, the gumption, to give up a little of themselves for the benefit of others. I certainly don’t believe anyone should feel compelled to do so…it is hard enough looking out for number one let alone for others. And, if you have read anything I have spouted about over the last handful of months, you will know I am big on personal responsibility. But you can’t teach yourself what you don’t know and you can’t learn if you aren’t being taught. The same way not all of us were taught to swing a hammer, to start a lawnmower, to bake a cake, to paint…the walls or a canvas. For every little thing we take for granted there are those, all around, who don’t have a clue. Could be though, they grow a mean tomato, can pull a fish from a puddle, can weld, can sculpt…who knows. Stands to reason though, doesn’t it, for every little thing you can give, you are going to receive.

My son isn’t yet two and has the basics of how to use a spanner. Maybe one day he’ll be a mechanic. The kids in the article above aren’t yet teens. Maybe one day, they’ll be All Blacks. I’ve shown my boy how, given him a pathway and Dave Newton has done the same for a group who would never otherwise have the opportunity…

So look around. Firstly, in the mirror. Think what it is, above and beyond time, you might have to give. Then, look for whom might be around you to give it to, whatever it is. Start no further than the house you live in, the street that house sits on, the block that street leads to, the neighbourhood, the schools within it, the organisations and trusts and charities and the city and the district and the region and the country. The place you call home. If you take the time to make it a better place for ‘them’, wouldn’t it end up being a better place for you?

I think so.

 

 

 

Long Time No See

A lot has gone on of late and not a thing has changed. 

The sun is still shining.

I am starting to wonder if it will ever stop, but these last few mornings mist has been touching the still, glassy waters of the mighty Hokianga Harbour. It is almost impossible to drag your eyes away from the dreamy views sitting right at our back doorstep.

But dragged away I have been. All the things so mundane, so everyday, have proven the drag. Then the rounds of illness and poor health. Top all that off with a bout of malaise and a thriving streak of laziness and here we are. So far down the track with barely a word said. I even flirted with the idea of getting a job!

Nothing much has inspired me of late and there hasn’t been a great deal to rile me either.

Apart from ten million dollar roundabouts.

Shane Jones and his billion dollar regional fund. As cynical as I am, jaded and mistrusting, I am sure there will be many positive outcomes from the government opening its wallet in places long overdue a spend. I sincerely hope a fund of that magnitude, earmarked for projects designed to breathe live into struggling communities, will find it’s way, most likely in dribs and drabs, to the areas it can be of most benefit.

I don’t know. How about a footpath? Something my kids can utilise on their way to and from school. They don’t need a roundabout at the cost of millions, to satisfy tourists and the fancy of a white middle-class who surely can’t be that inconvenienced.

Even over this side, millions earmarked for a cultural center in Opononi. Cool, anything and everything to celebrate the rich cultural history of this part of the world, so entrenched as it is in the birth of this nation both Maori and European. It is vitally important the local populace, the wider New Zealand community and yes, tourists, have the opportunity to be immersed in our wide and varied history of settlement as much as is possible.

No argument there, right?

Except when you start to make comparisons with the things this community, this region and so many more like it, are missing.

Yes, footpaths. Playing fields and sports clubs. Playgrounds and recreational reserves. Roads free of potholes and verges cleared , adequate street lighting and domains for the people who live here to congregate and meet and grow as a community. All manner of infrastructure, maintained and supported and allowing for growth and a sense of well being to battle the stagnation that seems to hang like a pall over much of rural, regional New Zealand.

I know much of this falls on regional and local body authorities. Here too, Iwi need to make their presence felt. The thing is, with minimal population bases, there is only so much such bodies can do. Certainly, there seems to be a lack of motivation to do much and not a great deal of desire to commit to options which may hit their bottom lines long term. Understandable maybe. Disappointing and short sighted certainly.

Fair to say if all those bits and pieces were of real concern, we would not be living here. Somewhere more metropolitan, housing the type of extra curricular stuff you would expect from city living. So eventually we won’t be. Living here. We will be forced to move on, so we can better cater to the ever expanding curiosity of our kids.

We are blessed we are able to so. My wife has a career path she can follow and yes, if I must, I will return to work. We will, particularly me, be sacrificing lifestyle, not to mention turning our back on a community desperately in need of the likes of my wife and our beautiful children sticking around. People like my wife, in her role, can shape and influence, to a degree. People like our tamariki are the future, of that there is no question. They are the ones who will inherit and the ones we will have to pass responsibility onto.

So come on Shane. Come on Labour. Help us leave something worthwhile. Something tangible, things which will mold and shape and guide and influence and prosper. It starts with footpaths, a route tamariki can place their feet on and begin their journey.  Put the dollars into encouraging community involvement, driving progress and parenting change.

Sports clubs and the facilities which go with them. Fairs and fetes and jamborees and galas and exhibitions and all things cultural and festive. Maybe a new roof on the community hall, maybe a repair to a boat ramp, street lighting, parking, beach side bbq areas, sealed roads…all things locals can highlight and get involved in.

How about state sponsored beach cleanups? What if communities were armed with the equipment, courtesy of the government, to set about cleaning up their own backyards so to speak? Give a bloke a weed-eater, a few litres of petrol and a date. See you there mate, down where all that Pampas is growing…all that gorse all that broom all that elephant grass all that sycamore all that whatever it happens to be and whatever it is needed to get rid of it…knapsacks and sprayers and P.P.E and boots and overalls. Most important, all that know how and a little bit of motivation.

I guess I am saying let’s put the money into pride. Let’s invest in hope. How about we give the regions a chance at the same level of comfort and convenience, or close to it, as they do in the urban centers. Making life easy, easier at least, makes for better chances, better option taking and decision making. Lets not put too much money into going around in circles.

Then maybe, our tamiriki can have their minds on their futures. Not on where they are putting their feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La la la

You can say everything needed with la la la. As long as you mean it.

I sat myself down on occasion of late, diligently displaying the best of intent. However, while the day gets warmer, muggier and eventually wet, I realise I needn’t sweat. Even as I sit here chaffed and dripping.

But enough imagery of a chubby, balding, 40 something bloke wallowing in pools of his own drenching. I was wanting to, as I swam the pond of sweated quagmire, put something out there others might want to read. Something light and comical, or satirical, or darkly observant, witty and wordy. Perhaps a challenging blog, striking at the virtuous core of a middle New Zealand, or prodding those below to rise up. Maybe I could open the shutters on the cloistered, but sweetly air-conditioned, non-sweaty one percent, an expose so shocking, so revealing my balding mug, sweated brow and all, will most likely feature on Time Magazine.

Flustered and flummoxed. Like a middle aged woman, recently divorced, spying her first ever male stripper at her nieces hen’s night. Hot and wet. The weather has everyone a little frazzled, a fine sheen of ‘Christ when is it gonna stop’ smeared across each and every brow. Today is a blazing glory, but does that mean I am blazing with it. If I couldn’t manage an oppressive pall over my masses of followers and associated readers, then how am I going to leave vapour trails of glory across azure skies?

I’m not. Plain and simple, I don’t need to have my name in lights, my words written in the sky. I don’t blog for fame and fortune and I don’t seek notoriety.

I certainly could. There are plenty of subjects, big and small I have decided, since I began this caper, to intentionally neglect. There are issues, from controversial to first world, localised idiosyncrasies or a splayed big picture problem, all of which I have left by the wayside, as I rocket through the world of home husbandry. Even as paradise surrounds, the raw reality of the big bag world never fails to present.

Our stunningly gorgeous location may look the part from the inside of the window pane. Looking in can be a different story. My wife, privileged to have unfettered access to peoples homes, an intimate months long snap shot of their lives, can come home with horrendous tales of the things, the situations, the people, she encounters.

At the small local school, yet to be treated to the modern idea of how a school should look and feel, thankfully, my kids have encountered racism. Mild, lower end of the scale stuff and technically, reverse. Yes, that is right, our sweet and innocent little whities have been treated differently, adversely, because of the lack of colour in their skin. There has been bullying, particularly directed at our eldest, because she is a cool kid, a popular addition to the place. Jealously has reared it’s ugly head and she has been shunted and shunned.

No biggy. We worked through it. People concerned were open and honest and proactive. That doesn’t take care of the proliferation of weeds, noxious and invasive.

The neighborhood and indeed the greater region, is strewn with Elephant Grass and Wild Ginger. There is the obligatory Gorse and Blackberry and wilding Pines and there are flame trees, with their thorny warning. These plants line broken footpaths, a drainage swale full of stagnant water, battling for supremacy against escapee bamboo. Verges are infrequently mowed, if ever, sprayed quarterly at best…which is worse.

Poke your head into the scrub, to confirm that identifiable object is in fact the discarded mattress you thought it might be. Cars break down and are burnt, shunted off the side of the road, to rust where the paint has been scorched free. Stray dogs take care of most of the rubbish, house hold disposables, that don’t make collection.

Have I painted a pretty enough picture of paradise yet? Yes, I can go for a fish basically from my doorstep. But I can’t eat the shellfish and sometimes they tell me I can’t even swim. That information, courtesy of a randomly placed, faded yellow sign, too small to garner a great deal of attention, does not go down well with my kids. I can bundle those same kids in the car and drive us all to some of the most picturesque, uninhabited, un-visited, coastal and forested spots of beauty and cultural significance.

The roads are bumpy, winding, tight and skinny and bouncy and unsealed and potholed and generally no exit. Just the way I like them. Many tourists don’t seem to be so fond. Can you pick the ones who have traveled the east coast first, the Bay of Islands, with all it’s grey retiree dollar and escapee Aucklander investment? All their vehicles are registered, warranted and are road worthy.

So do I get controversial? Tell a joke or two, to lighten some shock tactics? Do I mine the depths of substance abuse, wreaking stumbling havoc on a community? Do I battle the abusers, both of those same said substances and the men and women abusing each other and the brood of children they have created together. Do I stand up and yell it, the wrongs that I see being perpetrated, the often harrowing results of which can bee witnessed on the worn features of my tired wife at the end of a working day.

We can be a cynical bunch in this country, but we do like a laugh. We will happily poke fun at ourselves and others, often liberal with the threat of offence. But, as I have said before, offence is taken, not given and if you are offended by the things you see and hear, perhaps it is because those things; that abuse, that degradation and poverty and systemic failure, trouble you and the infinity pool world you like to think you swim in.

Sometimes, when you are hot and flustered, flummoxed and frazzled, light hearted poking and prodding just doesn’t cut it. And who needs another white, middle-class, in this case un-educated, keyboard warrior telling it like it is. For a start I don’t really know. I am a kept man after all. And sadly, people like me don’t really want to know. We may snigger and snicker and righteously comment our agreeance, but we offer nothing in the way of solution. So I for one, should shut up. No stomping and shouting, no raising a grumpy, disenfranchised placard waving mob, Hoki Hubby at the head, megaphoned voice waxing lyrically poetic, the strain of tortured passion ringing from my lungs.

Instead I sip a commercially produced craft beer, meat sizzling and spitting on a BBQ over looking the water from our habour side deck, women inside making salads, 90’s alt-rock backing up the waffle I share with my council of local whities, putting the world and it’s woes to rights on the back of an unlabeled red wine or two, a toke here and there, while our young men are killing themselves. We are all killing each other every time we pop out for a drive and we are ignoring the mentally ill, in the hope they will go away.

They will.

One by sad, miserable, lost, disconsolate one. Cracks in systems, as wide and deep as the holes and dips and splits in State Highway 12. Not swallowing them whole. Nothing that comforting. Like a cat, the mentally unwell are toyed with a little first, teased, dangled.

I can smoke a hooter and get quietly pissed under a sun umbrella, kids streaming around me, confident in the knowledge we will not be visited by an agency, a service. People like us don’t get visits from units like that. We don’t need it. Our lives and those of our children might be mildly dysfunctional, but who’s isn’t? Local body authorities are not going to trim the verges at the top of our drive, regional administrators are not going to monitor those polluting our waters. Central bureaucrats are not got to fill the pot holes, feed and house the poor, clothe them and protect them from the elements, treat their illnesses and educate them, detox them, unify and strengthen them. So each and everyone of us appears to be on our own.

And if we are all alone, then we are all in it together. Aren’t we?

So I will sit here and sing la la la. All the while hoping there is someone out there with greater, more in-depth, more analytical lyrical content to offer. The same old chorus I can do, like everyone else, members of a mass choir. If the western Mid North is the tune, the Hokianga the verse, then who is going to play the lead break?

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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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Festive Greetings

So here it is, the silly season. How are you coping?

I will admit, I am not the most festive of people. If it wasn’t for the fact I have kids, I would probably have no part of the whole Christmas vibe.

Okay, that said, I am a fan of all the excessive eating and drinking. And it is nice to see communities and workplaces and neighbours and families and everyone, getting together with a smile on their face and enjoying some sun and fun. Our little town did their mini version of Christmas in the park, with a quite spectacular fireworks display, the hospital put on a big feast for staff and family and Wee-Man and the E-Bomb had their Do, complete with petting zoo, on a day that cooled suitably.

Faerie lights are flashing around the neighbourhood, tinsel is slung from windowsills and  trees are up. Ours is ridiculously tall, as we have the ceiling space to get away with it and was decorated lovingly by the whole family. Old men impersonating Santa have already been sighted and I will do a similar, though more clandestine impersonation, when the kids finally go to sleep on Christmas Eve.

That’s right, I’ll be dragging the presents out of their various hiding places and placing them under the tree. I hope there is cookies, or Xmas cake and ideally, a single-malt.

So, when do you stop believing? When, if you can even recall, did the myth of Santa and all his helpful little elves, tucked away in the North Pole studiously making toys all year round, finally get exploded for you?

The E-Bomb is only just starting to get the whole Santa thing. The mystique and the fantasy is only, this summer, starting to dawn on her, yet she still is not fully invested. Maybe she has an inherent mistrust, like it all sounds just a touch too good to be true. A natural suspicion, instinctively telling her as fun as it all seems, surely a jolly laughing man sharing treats and presents with everyone from the back of a sled pulled by flying reindeer, is a bit much to comprehend.

Her little brother, the Wee-Man, has no idea but likes the baubles and decorations and candy canes and flickering lights, as much as anyone. Leap to the other end of the scale and there is Number One, old enough now to be starting to really understand what Christmas is actually all about, or at least a major part of it; family, all together at the one place and time.

It is Number Two I feel a bit sorry for. She is nine. Old enough to know Santa is not real, or at least she is pretty certain he isn’t. Young enough to still want to believe. She loves the fantasy, the feel good factor of it. I might not be the most festive of people, but I hope it is a feeling, a sentiment, that Number Two can hold on to for all of her life, indeed, pass on to her own offspring.

There is so much in the life of a child that is bright and shiny and new. We all know as adults, how quickly that outlook can be dulled. Surely it is a good thing to be able to hang to that starry eyed wonderment for as long as possible.

Innocence. I guess that is what I am referring to, even if the majority of what is so fun and wondrous and lively and entertaining and open and dreamy, is such a construct. Fantasies and fancies we, as a culture and society, have for whatever reason, chosen to latch on to. Putting all the religious connotations and overtures aside, for the majority Christmas has become about a celebration of family, all wrapped up the trappings of marketing and sales.

Yes, that is very cynical of me, you are right. But each year, the decorations in the shops seem to go up earlier and earlier, the background music pumps out the carols for longer periods, no matter how much it depresses the retail staff, and the adverts hit the TV screens before you have really gotten used to the idea your kids are going to be home for six weeks.

SIX WHOLE WEEKS!!

The reality is these days, there is not Christmas without shopping and boxing and wrapping and all the baking and cooking and therefore, the pressure and the stresses. Not a cheap time. That is why the kids are donating gifts under the big Nga puhi tree in Kaikohe this year. They don’t need for much, if anything, in terms of cheap, plastic, throw-away pressies. That ought to help them get an idea of what Christmas is really about and they can soak up a bit of the charitable feel good factor while they are at it.

All the trappings are great. I am not going to sit here bagging any it. If it is what you are into, then fine, get into it. Sing along with Mariah Carey and Michael Buble and all the other cheesy, sickly crooners. I pick and choose the parts of the festive spirit I want to be involved in. Normally the food. I love a ham, love marzipan, love the excuse to have a drink or two in the sun, even if there is nothing but rain predicted for the next few days…much needed by the way.

So for me, Christmas is about the gathering and it is about a stolen nap in the afternoon after a sumptuous lunch. Christmas is about a glass, or maybe two, or maybe even one too many, of whatever is your chosen tipple, shared with company and a laugh. It is about the smiles on the faces of delighted children, beaming and tearing into wrapping paper, opening up presents and giggling and laughing with glee.

Christmas is about long afternoons on the beach, lazy strolls in the bush, stretching out with a book. It is about holidays and sweaty, hot road trips to places far flung.

All of that and family too.

Have a good one.

 

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Labour of Love

I’m a Dad. A Father, a parent a caregiver.

That is who I am, kind of the thing which defines me, for the meantime at least.

I am the ‘go to’ in the household, the term I like to use to describe my part in the family dynamic. It is also the driving influence behind this blog, why I am here at this keyboard and hopefully, what has you fixed to the screen of whatever medium it is you have chosen in order to get your Hoki Hubby fix.

The set up in our household is exactly, more or less, how we have chosen it to be. The decision to have me at home was driven by a number of factors, ranging from emotional to financial.

It is no secret and no shock to my pride as a male, that my wife has the capacity to out earn me. At least in the space of a 40hr working week. So right there is a good piece of reasoning as to why it would be her that sought to fill the coffers first and foremost. Balance that with the cost of childcare and it is not hard to see why I have remained out of the workforce for a while.

When I was working, when my two eldest were just the two, I saw bugger all of them. The nature of what I have done with my working years has often meant early starts, followed by long days. Tired and hungry, I would get home in time to drag the kids from the bath, dine with them if I was lucky, then kiss them good night. If that is, I didn’t fall asleep before them. Nodding off half way through story time was not unusual.

So we made the call, Dearest and I, to reassess where we were at the time. As a family, as a nucleic unit. Back then we were both self-employed and while in general that wasn’t an issue, every now and then it blew up in our faces. If hadn’t been for an incredibly understanding and accommodating mother, the wheels could well have come off.

Like I say, in general, we coped just fine. So did the kids. But it was a toll we were paying, me in particular. I was struggling to justify the decision to breed, given I was rarely afforded the time to see my off-spring, let alone be an active and captivated participant in their lives. So we upped stakes.

We did our due diligence, looked around at things and into things. We wanted what everyone wants; a modicum of income, a lifestyle. We wanted that balance everyone seeks. When we found something we could agree on, we latched onto it and have never looked back.

Doing so meant big changes in how we operated as a household and as individuals within that dynamic. On a personal level, so many new and exciting opportunities have been afforded to me. Yes, I have sacrificed too, we all continue to do so.

What Dearest and I never gave up on was the right to what we saw as best by our family. We made a series of decisions and moves that suited us, the kids and the way we intended to raise them. These decisions were based on everything that makes us the people we are; our own childhoods, our experiences both individually and shared, our educations and opinions and attitudes.

All those things are ours. They are peculiar to us. There is nothing special, or different about Dearest and I and nor is there anything weird or odd. We are just like you and you are just like us and we are all different. Yes, I am confused too.

When we made our call to leave Dunedin, our home up until then, and to leave behind the way we had been living our lives, the choices we were making were talked over and discussed. And not just among ourselves. I spoke to Mum, to mates, Dearest did the same.  They agreed or they didn’t. I don’t really recall there being any great debate. It wouldn’t have mattered a blind bit if there was, for as much as I love and cherish all the people important to me, the decision was ours to make and ours alone.

Not the imprint of our parents idea of how things should be done. Not the result of a survey of friends opinions. Not a decision made by a Doctor or any one in any profession.

Except for politicians.

Congrats to our new government on their achievement. Not quite how I envisaged the election result panning out, but I voted for change and I, along with every New Zealand citizen, got just that.

Extending Paid Parental Leave is a good thing, a real and tangible positive move in the right direction. Still a long way from a full year, something I think would be hugely beneficial, but hey, small steps. But why I ask, as a parent and a male one at that, stop there?

Why has the Labour government decided I don’t have the right to be a paid parent too. And when I say too, I mean as well. Why is only the one parent eligible?

The development of a bond between Mother and new born child is readily accepted as vital. Who could disagree with that? So why is the idea that a bond formed between Father and child so readily dismissed?

I say father, as it is most likely Dads who will miss out by the new governments decision not to allow both partners the option to take shared time away from work when their lives are joined by that of another, namely that of their new born. And I don’t get it.

Why can’t a couple of weeks be taken together? If it means dropping two of those paid weeks off, making it twenty-four, then where is the issue, if that is the choice a family unit decides to take? There are all sorts of permutations available, to make this kind of base policy suit all those that it may affect. Say the total was 12 months, why couldn’t it be six months off each? like a prison sentence, served concurrently, or stacked. Why not both parents at once, for all of that six month period, instead of the one parent for twelve?

So why the dictatorial, ‘nanny state’ approach? I am no economist, no accountant, no financial guru, or numbers whiz kid. I am no policy analyst either. You don’t have to read far to see that happy and healthy parents raise happy and healthy children and happy and healthy people, are productive. Parents out of the workforce for a period of time, prove to be better for an economy, rather than a detriment.

I fancy myself as a pragmatic and practical person. I also consider myself as an individual, one that chooses to share my life with another, mostly like-minded, individual. It just so happens, my partner in life has some quite extensive training, experience, understanding and yes, strong opinions, on the mother and child bond.

It starts with skin to skin contact and that first latch. And all the other, warm fuzzy stuff. It starts by looking that moist, wrinkled, brand new creature in the eye and falling instantly, unerringly, forever in love. An incredibly important step for everyone involved. Obviously, it isn’t as simple as all that, certainly not for every birth experience and it most certainly doesn’t end there.

I am left wondering where the motivation comes from, behind the decision to deny a clearly progressive step forward. A look at long term family welfare can’t be the motivator. Over worked enough aren’t we, in this country, without added to the stresses of longer hours, for the duration of the single income period. Take a break, just when things in life are getting more hectic, when those around you need more support, your loved ones, in need of more nurturing and care? I don’t think so. And neither do the Labour government.

A question of cost? Like I have said, there are plenty of options to mitigate further expenditure. But, what price do you put on happiness? And what is the cost of freedom of choice? I would suggest the cost of being unhappy and of lacking the freedom to make your own choices in life, is far greater.

 

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Hi di ho Neighbour

Ever regret not having made the effort?

How many times have you seen the neighbour over the fence? How many times have you seen him/her/them getting into their car, just the driveway over? How many times have you bumped into them on the street, in the local convenience store, at the nearby petrol station? The dog park, the supermarket, the hairdresser, the school gate, Bunnings or Mitre 10 or Smith City or the dairy or the library or the zebra crossing down the road.

How many times have you said hi?

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Not a nod. Not a small smile and then a look away. I am asking how many times you have stopped whatever meaningless, monotonous, innocuous bullshit you are currently doing and acknowledged the existence of the person standing right next to you?

I can be a pretty reclusive guy. I am not in hiding and I am not antisocial, but I am inclined to stay in my own little bubble and view the world from the safety of my family perspective. Having said that, my neighbours know who I am and I them. Not hard when you live in a town with a population a little over 400.

There is a family over the way that have come for a BBQ. The dad will crack a beer and watch a game of rugby here. Up the hill, a couple will have coffee and bribe my kids with treats. Everyone knows our dogs, who roam freer than I should probably allow, snatching what they can when your back is turned. Some around here only know enough to wave when passing, some will come out of their way and say hello. There are still more, from the wider community, we see around and who have been welcomed into our home.

Like I say, it’s a small town and community and we are new to it. We didn’t really have to go out of our way to make an effort to be known and I am pleased to say we were in no way shunned on our arrival. For us it it easy. Given my wife’s occupation as a midwife, she has a foot in many doors, so to speak. Kids help too. You have to take them to school and they are social butterflies and you end up meeting folk through them, whether you like it or not.

But what if there isn’t that ready and easy connect?

In my experience, there is still that open, honest, welcoming aspect to Kiwi culture. There really are still people out there who will show up on your doorstep with a Tupperware container of fresh baking when you land in their neighbourhood. A ready made meal is still dropped off after you have had a new born. Despite popular belief, as far as we as a family have experienced, there is not a small minded, small town clique mentality, designed to shut out the new comer. Quite the contrary.

I grew up in suburban Dunedin. Old Ted used to lob fresh veggies over the back fence and Mrs Brockie tolerated our cat eating from her cats bowl. So much so, she eventually got her one of her own. We played cricket in the street with neighbourhood kids who became friends for life and our mums nattered over instant coffee, while we broke their windows with wayward lofted drives and hook shots.

Sure, a different generation and a different era. We were known by name in the streets we haunted and we could run up to the school, or the beach or the sand-hills, more or less where we liked and we could do so without fear of anything perverted or weird. Our neighbours knew us by sight and by name. There was a safety in that.

That way of life simply isn’t the case anymore, real or imagined threats abound. And whether the chance of anything genuinely creepy happening is real or not, the fear of it is threat enough. In the media there is talk of an urban/country disconnect, we hear and see more and more violence, even if stats are reflecting a lessening in that behaviour. We kill ourselves on our roads and beat each other up in the street and as far as I can see, not many people seem to care.

The safety net has gone from our culture and our society. That net comes in the form of community. For some, I guess, it is found in the realms of social media and an online world I don’t really understand. Can a virtual hug replace a smile, delivered straight to your face? Can an emoji give the same sense of satisfaction as a handshake? Can a thumbs up do the work of a hand on the back, an act of kindness and support where it may be needed the most?

Our youth and our middle aged men are killing themselves.We don’t call it suicide and we dodge the subject, cloaking what is a pervasive and sinister societal ailment in language and attitudes hiding the seriousness of the problem, beneath layers of political correctness. What are we scared of? Why are so many members of our communities feeling so isolated and cut-off? Why aren’t we poking our head over the fence any more?

Someone nearby to us attempted to take their own life last night.

I don’t know this person. I’ve waved in passing. I had every intention of knocking on the door one afternoon and saying hi. But I didn’t. Do I feel guilty about that lack of community spirit, in failing to welcome a new member to the hood? Do I feel any sense of responsibility? No.

Will I do everything I can do help, in whatever from that may take or is needed. I hope so.

I hope we all will.