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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glaze

How much do you care?

A broad question I know. And if I am perfectly honest, I don’t have any interest in your response, if indeed you bother to. Which, undoubtedly, you won’t, whoever ‘you’ are.

The thing is, now that the internet or World Wide Web or whatever it is actually called, is well and truly established, so much so the web has become an integral and in many cases vital part of people’s lives, everyone and anyone with a keyboard or a phone or a ‘device’ has been afforded a voice.

For a long time I resisted. Not because I was concerned or worried, suckered by one conspiracy theory or another, but more because the internet simply didn’t have a strong, direct, influence on my life.
As a parent, particularly a stay at home one, and living in rural and relatively remote environment, the internet and all it has to offer has quickly become a far more prominent part of my life. But there is very little of that ‘vice’ I care about.

I like YouTube, because of the instant access it gives me to new music and comedy. I like a tune and I like a laugh. So right there, I am entertained. I like search engines. I love that I can have the answer to any and every query, right there and then and I love how easy it is to delve deep into a topic, find all sides of an argument and even join in if you so chose. So right there and then, I am informed.
What I don’t have time for is all the vitriol, all the hate, all the ignorance, ironic in itself given the wealth of information and expert opinion out there and readily available at your fingertips, and not to mention all the bad spelling. For all the wealth of information and entertainment out there, there is an equal measure of ignorance, stupidity and plain old dumbness.
All avoidable, simply stay away from comment sections. Unless you want a derisive laugh now and then.

It only takes a few minutes, less, logged onto your PC or phone or tablet or device of choice, to see all the dross permeating the internet. You need a strong and reliable personal filter not to be caught up, or worse, put off, by all the drivel clogging up your data.
Not advertising. People hosting sites and blogs and all the rest, need to be able to pay for it or are in it for financial reward in the first place. Good luck to them and it is entirely up to you what you click on.
By drivel I am really referring to poorly informed opinion. The world has always been full of it – there are many who would freely claim I am indeed ‘full of it’. People will always have their say and full credit to them for being bold enough to do so. A keyboard and a potentially unlimited audience, just makes doing so all the easier. But there are many who would have their say regardless of the advent of the internet. These are the folk who carry their own soapbox with them wherever they go, on the off chance one isn’t readily available.
You know the type; the finger waggers and pointers, the head shakers, deaf to other opinions and standpoints, ears only capable of selective hearing. It is difficult to fault the passion of people like this, but it is hard to get on-board with the pig-headed stubbornness.

And then there is the abject dross. We are supposed to care, are we, about someone’s change in diet? About their exercise routine? About their weight loss or muscle gain? Do we have to feign interest in their crafts and hobbies, their holiday’s or travels?
No, we don’t have to fake interest, because this is the internet and therefore everything and anything is as avoidable as it is accessible.

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What I do here is no different. I do not claim any ability to garner the interest of the big bad world, any more than anyone else. In fact, if you looked at the number of followers/readers I have been able to draw in, during my few short months sharing my rambled thoughts, you would see I hold an exclusivity on mass disinterest.
My blogging is of no particular relevance to anyone but me, maybe my wife and then an decreasing order of interested parties, counting through family and friends, then vague associations and those who chose to click ‘follow’ for their own purposes and agenda.

I am not here, banging away with abject futility, to inform, to engage, to enrage, to entertain or to debate the issues, big and small. At best I am offering some observations, things anyone and everyone is welcome to share in, or not, as they see fit. Cherry-picking what, when and where you delve into the world of blogging and bloggers, is the real joy of it.
For my part, if I can offer nothing more than a few moments respite from the madness of the wider world, then job done. It would be disingenuous of me to suggest I don’t care if people like what I do here, but that said, it makes little difference to me if people do or don’t. Just don’t come here looking for too much inspiration, information or facts and stats. Lower your expectations.
All I can do is hope I am not boring, but more importantly, back myself to not be dumb, stupid, ignorant, rude or offensive (although I have no control if someone chooses to be offended). If I can put a smile on your face great and better still, if I can teach or inspire, absolutely brilliant.

So, while it is too easy to glaze over at all the humdrum, the sameness and repetitiveness and anger, hype, agenda driven rants or even the measured, well articulated but plain old boring stuff, go ahead and dive right in.
Delve into the wacky and the wonderful and the outright weird. Have fun with the bloggers world.
You never know, you may learn something.

 

 

Dreams and Dust

Many years ago, as a young man, I wanted something.

OK, just like any young fella, I wanted many things, but I had a direction, a goal. A chosen occupation, a pathway.

That chosen path sort of flew in the face of much of who I was at the time. I was in a band, the drummer no less. A pot smoking, booze drinking, mind altering substance swallowing, seemingly dysfunctional member of society. If you view musicians as non contributors.
As it stood, I had a job. A series of them, concurrent with being the so called musician. Real jobs, 9-5 type things, full time, gainful employment. Well, someone had to. It all added up to me being the only one in the band with a car, one of only two with a licence and certainly one of the few around the scene with the fiscal ability to put any petrol in the tank.
Cool. A means to an end, that was the premise behind me driving trucks, the drive which saw me on process lines. Never my future, simply an answer to the questions, the needs, of the here and now. Back then, I made a conscious decision to allow myself a couple of years or so, to follow some signs of potential, to chase a dream. No matter the unlikelihood, no matter the unreality.
The thing about following that type of dream, is not only the uncertainties, not the self doubt and the fear and the risk of ridicule or unfulfillment. It is knowing, recognizing and acknowledging it as just that. A dream. No matter how far fetched, how out there, no matter how close at hand. A dream is just that. I like to think I saw, at a relatively young age, the best way to maybe reach those lofty goals and aspirations, to grab a hold of the dream, was to tick off the day to day in the process.
Another thing, was to not limit the number of dreams.

Playing drums, being the guy who hit things while sitting in a room with a bunch of genuine musicians, was one thing. I met cool people and did cool things and I enjoyed, mostly, every minute of it. The dream turned to nothing but, in the back of my mind at least, I knew it never would.
Does that mean I was ever really, truly, dreaming? Maybe not, but it was worth the shot and I learned a lot about myself and those around me, about my own capabilities, about my frailties and yes, some harsh realities of the world.

Truth is, up until then and even through that time, I wanted to be a cop. A Police Officer. Without divulging details, boring my limited readership with details of my woo-begotten youthful folly, I blew my dream wide open. All my own fault. Suck it up and move on, forced to leave a dream behind. About the same time, the music thing folded too. Not my fault this time, if fault is ever a cause in such things. People simply got up and went their separate ways.

So guess what? I at least left the process lines behind, though I stayed behind the wheel. I drove trucks, then vans and finally drove spades and shovels into the ground. Music became something which came into me, no longer out of me. Did I miss it? Yes? Did that bother me? No. It was enough to know I gave it a shot, even if a brief and limited one. It is more than enough to know I can, that I have some sort of creative flair in me and have the ability to express it. As for being a cop?

Turns out, that opportunity, the dream, was not fully denied me. So I thought at least.
What the motivation is, or was, to be a Police Officer, I am not so sure anymore. When I was young, I could and did rattle of an entire, lengthy agenda, which had even my closest of mates nodding and smiling along, having long since given up trying to follow what I was on about. All virtuous and sincere I can assure you, reasons beyond reproach.
Much of that sentiment exists till this day, but now, as an older, pragmatic and family man, there is no denying the wage and benefits are a factor, particularly for an essentially unskilled middle aged man.
Like everything, the Police force and their policies change and adapt, including their requirements and restrictions for application. Finding this out, I did just that…I applied. Maybe, just maybe, the dream was still alive.

It was and I guess, hopefully, maybe, still is. But as the saying goes, my mind is willing…
Yes, as you might well have concluded, my body let me down. Namely my knees. But, more so, it turns out my body may well have let me down many years ago.
In a season of madness, I popped up in the front row of a Colts grade rugby team at club level in Dunedin. I came up against an ogre of a bloke, all brawn and no skill. I thought I might show him a thing or two. I failed to and he showed me the turf. All at the expense of my neck.
No drama, it healed and life went on. Yes, I feel for Sam Cane right now and the ordeal the All Black open-side is going through. I can only hope he gets all the right care and advice. He will, because of who is and what he does. For me, it wasn’t until some years later I realized the potential full extent of my injury.
As far as I was aware I was fine. I had moved on and had done, was doing, all the things a full bodied, healthy young man did at the time. I was working, playing sport, partying and recreationing and all the rest of it.
Then, I encountered an Occupational Nurse.

Part of an interview process. She accessed my medical records. I had a neck injury.
‘Sorry, even if you do pass the urine test the next time around, there is no job for you here.’
To say I was a little stunned and a whole lot confused, would be putting it mildly. However, at the time, I gave it little thought. I was only interviewing because the job offered more money and as money has never been the main focus in my life, I gave the whole situation little credence. Tomorrow was a new day. She, this Occupational Nurse, told me the neck thing would come back to haunt me.
She was right.

The Police recruitment medicos, in all their wisdom, feel the same. Not a blanket no, but a whole heap of hoops to jump through I am not sure I can, or will even try. The writing, it would seem, is well and truly on the wall.
So a dream gone. Again. Possibly, never say never and all that.
Many people might think right there is a reason or two to get down, feel despondent and sure enough, I had brief moment there where I felt fairly bleak. It is frustrating, knowing I can, being told I can’t. I’ll keep plugging away but there doesn’t seem much hope. Not, however, I will ever entirely give up hope.

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All and all I guess I am left wondering. Wondering if dreams are really that, or are there other labels which can smeared about; aspirations, goals, desires. I wonder if people who claim to have obtained their dreams are simply achievers, people who through hard work and dedication and plain dumb luck, have gotten what it was they originally set out after?
Or have they, like the majority of us I suspect, changed and adapted and altered those dreams and goals and aspirations as life has dictated? Only then, when all is said and done, have they looked up and thought ‘You know, just maybe, this was the goal all along’.

I’ll keep on dreaming.
Even while I am living my dream.

 

 

 

 

 

You’re Just the Roadie

For me, a song should be heard on the album first. That way, you hear it played exactly the way it was intended to be heard.

You get the mix, the fullness, of all the combined visions and imaginings from producers, the artist themselves and those playing alongside. It is a sum of all the collaborations and shared experiences and abilities. A bit like parenting.

You will often here a musician describing an album they have created or are in the process of creating, as their ‘baby’. They are referring to the all consuming, passionate, dedicated love for what they are doing. How creating that baby takes up all their time, dominates all their thoughts, beginning to grow and evolve under their guidance.

Track by track the album grows, song by song developing into the image the artist is trying to create. There will be singles, moments of standout perfection when everything coalesced into a pure moment of understanding. There will be misses, stuff in moments of reflection, the artist wishes had never made it onto the album, that no number of retakes and cuts or polishing in the sound booth is ever going to make right.

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Once the artist has given birth to the process of creating an album, a set of songs that will undoubtedly and hopefully take on their own persona and personality, it will become a being in and of it’s own right. What started out as snatched moments with a guitar and a note pad, time behind a keyboard with an old school eight-track, grows and blossoms and begins a life all it’s own. Once that album has been completed, when all the finishing touches and nuances have been laced together, then the artist has to ask, can this all be recaptured live, on the stage, in front of an audience.

Perhaps, by then, the album has decided it needs a horn section to flesh out their sound. Perhaps the album turns to cellos and violins to add authenticity or a certain feel. Maybe the album will add some electronica, to develop and grow. At times the album will rock and it will roll, then sink into soulful melancholy. There will be blues and then a show of jazz hands and there will be epic numbers stretching forever, reaching and yearning and striving. At times the album may be stripped back, raw and emotive, a return to that guitar and notebook, a solo voice, free of band and back-up singers.

Despite how well you think you know your kids, how well you think you might know anyone, people are always going to surprise you. Children more than most. You can never be too sure what direction they are going to take, just like a live, rambling, epic version of your favourite track, that cherished album. Because once your children, your album, is free of the studio, you can no longer peg it, no longer put it neatly into a box and seal it with a label.

Every time you see that album it will be bursting free, growing  new tendrils, a new root. A new note. Today is the first time you have seen it, heard it yet it is the same song you started humming some time ago. Different, fresher, grown and growing. Another song for the album. Another verse, bridge and chorus.

Sometimes the kids are like London Calling, the scratchy old (not Hipster) vinyl; played to death, as a soundtrack to my life. Angry yet comprehending, understanding yet questioning.  Between the four of them they become the Rolling Stones’ Tumbling Dice, a compilation but a stand alone work of art in it’s own right. A family of music. I know the verses, the rhythm, the beat and the choruses, yet there are layers and always a little something new, something previously undiscovered.

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So many nuances, so many new and updated versions of the same song. Melded by the influences surrounding the artist at the time. A new artist now, creating their own songs as they compile their very own album. All you can hope for is that somewhere, tucked away on a B-side, maybe never to be released, is an homage to you.

Perhaps, for your budding artist, the world will be their stage. Massed hordes of adoring, screaming fans, hanging off every chord, every riff. Larger than life, popular, influential, admired and set to be heard for years to come.

Perhaps your artist is content to stamp their foot on the battered deck of a flatdeck truck, parked up somewhere in the middle of a sunny domain. Families on blankets are munching trailer food and sipping craft beer as their kids, future artists themselves, are bopping along. Maybe no one is paying any attention and the album is banged out regardless, raw and true and happy and back to work on Monday.

Perhaps that album never leaves the notebook, never comes out from behind the guitar or keyboard. It has been played all the same, heard all the same.

However that album seeks to manifest itself it is important to nurture it, let it grow and develop and find it’s own way to the stage of its choice.

The key is to play, hear and listen to the album your kids are creating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks

My Mother is nothing or no one special.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how did she do it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love you Mum.

supermom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runnin’ Down A Dream

When those that made you are dead and gone.

Sound off the names: Leonard Cohen, Glenn Fry, Prince, Lou Reed, David Bowie…David Bowie for goodness sake!..and now Tom Petty.

There are other names I have missed and I have touched on this subject before. It is just, with the passing of Tom Petty of  Heartbreakers fame, I am once again struck by a few things. The fallibility of your idols, the way I am clearly getting old, how people can have such an effect on you without you necessarily being aware of it and how powerful that effect could and can be.

For me, it is musicians in particular. A song, a tune, a melody, even a lyric, can transport you back to a time and place, just like that. The work of a musician can reach you, touch you, get inside you and take a hold. When that happens you are marked. That musician, that artist, has left his or her imprint. And you aren’t even aware it has happened.

Think about it. What song was on when you had your first kiss? The proper one, not the peck you got playing catch and kiss in the playground.

When you were handed the keys to the car, for your first solo drive, what tape did you slide in, to blast out, speakers up and windows down? High School dances and that first big hall party or the bonfire, what tinny sound system or thumping P.A channeled the tunes of that day? Beat boxes on the shoulder to that first MTV music video, the first vinyl 45, EP to LP to CD.

The tracks that get you hopping and bopping and jumping and throwing your hands in the air and waving lighters (sorry, cell phones) and the songs that you scream for if you are lucky enough to see that artist perform them live.

The songs that bring a tear to your eye, or an outright sob. I mean, who hasn’t thought of the track that will lead your coffin out of the service? (Simply Red’s If You Don’t Know Me By Now for me thanks).

Of course it isn’t about music for everyone. Maybe it is something political, a world leader, who inspired/inspires you. A JFK or a Che Guevara or Martin Luther King. Think of all the philosophers who have blessed us with their thoughts, the great thinkers of our time and times gone. The poets and the painters and the sculptors and the writers. Perhaps it is nature which inspires; a landscape, the eruption of a volcano, a glance to the stars and planets and galaxies above. Maybe your cultural heritage and history, maybe crafts, or architecture or something botanical.

Many get hooked on sporting idols. I won’t get into the debate around if a man or woman can kick, pass and catch makes them a  role model or otherwise, because either way, kids inspire to be like them. David Beckham, Mohamed Ali, Jonah Lomu, Jesse Owens, the Williams sisters, Lydia Ko. You could do worse than pinning some hopes and dreams on emulating a crew like that.

When these idols and legends pass, the rock stars and the superstars and the greats and the awe inspiring, don’t despair. Reflect, cry, bemoan the unfairness of the world it you have to, but be comforted in the knowledge the works of these idols, the people who inspired you, lives on as long as you allow it to.

The potential to inspire is endless and it is personal. I guess the point is to be inspired. Find those around you doing it, whatever it is, their way. Then find your way to do it a bit like them, if that is what works for you.

And while your at it, crank out the tunes.