Appreciated?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

C’Mon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/105435407/newshubs-correspondent-lloyd-burr-attacked-by-angry-football-fan-live-on-air

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

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

Tell them, it’s just a game

 

 

 

All in the Name

Are Labour, our governing party, considered a soft touch?

It seems to me, at the moment, every time you turn on a news bulletin, read an article, switch on the radio, you hear the same thing. One group, body or another, threatening industrial action due to the inability for negotiations to reach an outcome either side view as favourable.

I better state, here and now for the record, I firmly believe there are a number of our public services which are grossly underfunded, undermined and under appreciated. Think police, nurses, teachers and I have to say, for fear of a the cold shoulder given what my illustrious wife does for a living, midwives. And by that, I mean far more than just the wage they receive. Much of what these good people are trying to achieve is near impossible given the constrictions that seem to be inherent when you work for and in the public sector. But hey, who wants to pay more tax?

That is what it will take to get services like these better funded and as a part of that, those who work in these roles, better remunerated. A higher percentage of your hard earned dollar gone before you see it. And while I appreciate many enter such positions because of a passion for what they may be able to achieve, calling if you will, it doesn’t stand that such verve for what you occupy yourself with should be done for chips, simply because you care.

It wouldn’t be hard to wax lyrical about police being the thin blue line, nurses as angelic celestial bodies, teachers as molders of our youth and therefore our future. Therefore, it stands to reason, most people would approve of a union standing up for their members in the hunt for a fair deal for all. Justified, surely, the fight to have our very public servants, well paid so that they may be able to do their jobs comfortable in the knowledge they can feed and cloth and shelter their families, can pay their bills and maybe, just maybe, have a modicum of a life. Like in many jobs, I am sure there are perks and privileges which come with nursing, policing and teaching etc. Of course, these will sit alongside all the trials and difficulties that accompany such a role.

A couple of things leap out at me. Ignoring for now the debate around pay reflecting performance for our teachers, but focusing on them, due to their apparently imminent industrial action and the fact their approach will have a direct influence on this household. I want to ask, was their a collective dissatisfaction to the fore, long before our current government was elected? Was there a case, building, when National were at the helm? I think yes, certainly around funding and how it was applied to infrastructure and maintenance. Our schools are managed more or less independently with Board of Trustee system, but that does not mean central government can wash their bureaucratic hands of the day to day.

As for pay, sure, I am all for our teachers being remunerated to the extent their wage better reflects the current cost of living, as I am for every working man and women and youth. And if ‘sticking it to the man’ is the only approach left, then go for it. Please though, be aware of the effect, however minor, such action will have on the average family.

A couple of days ago the local school conducted a meeting among staff and I suppose, representatives of their union, presumably to discuss what lies ahead for them and their fight. As that stands, fine. I don’t know how every school operates in such a situation and I am sure coordination of such an undertaking is no mean feat. But, before any real and meaningful action has even taken place, there has been an immediate impact on the education of our kids.

Numbers One and Two attend the local primary. They came home the other afternoon with a far from usual response to the ‘What did you guys get up to today?’ question. Made popcorn and watched a couple of movies was not what I was expecting to hear. Movies! Not documentaries, not an art and craft afternoon, not some sport, not some time reading or perhaps taking part in some grounds and buildings maintenance, like weeding and window washing. Sat in front of movies! Under the watchful eye of untrained and unqualified parents and other ring ins….because that was who was in attendance.

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Yep, the logistics of roping in helping hands in a community like this is never going to be easy. At the local school, the final bell rings at 2:30pm. That leaves a lot of day, gainfully employed day, to sip coffee and feel collectively wronged about the situation education and educators find themselves in. So beforehand, our tamariki are getting a full days learning in, their futures are not being maligned because of the perceived injustices of the here and now.

Sure, industrial action is designed so that it has as much impact as possible. running the risk of alienating a wider public, I guess the idea is to put the plight at the forefront of the media and therefore the public. But I ask, how much do you feel it should cost you, your family and household, your kids, so that teachers are free to fight the good fight? Because, if time has been missed, valuable learning time, from the classroom before anything has actually taken place, what is it going to be like when the placards are waving and the chanting starts?

How much time can you take off work when your kids are forced to be at home? How many hours of valuable pay are you willing to forgo? We will cope, because I am at home anyway. If our situation was different it would be damn near impossible. My wife has a job which doesn’t just stop because the rest of the world does. She can as an expectant mother to cross her legs all she likes, a baby will come when it is damn good and ready and no amount of industrial action will put a stop to that! So where would that leave her? Where does that leave the ferry operator, who so many rely on just to get around? What of the hard working folk in any role and position? People will manage because they have in the past and will again. The real question is, how much disruption is too much for our children and their education.

It won’t be a lot. Let’s be real about that. It may not be a thing at all, if a resolution is found good and early. A day here, a half day there. So what you might think, if it achieves a greater good? True, kids catch up, the good ones anyway. Those who are struggling might always be destined to do so under an education system many might find fault in. I have no fear Numbers One and Two will be anything but fine and will most likely enjoy the interlude should it eventuate. If or when it does, I can only hope those already struggling on fixed or low incomes, are able to wear the shortfall which could well come about if the above comes to fruition.

So perhaps we, as parents and members of a concerned and caring public, should have our hands up now, our voices raised. If we are supportive of our teachers and education staff, and we should be, then let’s weigh in on the debate, stop our traditional Kiwi apathy and have our say.

teachers

Fizzy Rolls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

coke vs milk

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

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

FAT

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

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

Or are the fizzy rolls getting in the way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be a Good Sport

The All Blacks play France at the Cake Tin tonight in their second test match up. Head high anyone?

Play hard and play fair. That was the message I received as a child growing up and learning various sports. I turned my hand to a lot of different options, from racket sports indoors and out, to water sports in and on, to all the others on muddy, frosty, grass paddocks with balls of numerous shapes and sizes. I learned to use my hands and feet and to hold sticks and to swing and hit and catch and pass. I never mastered any of it but a heap of fun trying.

‘Get into it’

‘Have a go’

All and any other cliched line Dad’s threw out there to encourage the gaggle of kids they were coaching to glory on chilly winter afternoons at poorly drained council recreation fields up and down the country to ‘Give it a crack’.

I didn’t then and don’t now, know what a crack is meant to be or how I was supposed to give one but I did understand the sentiment. The idea is to put some effort in, to apply yourself, to be a part of the team, to be involved and to do your best.

All of the above.

Let’s take a moment here, to thank all the Dads, giving up their own time to slog through the mud every Saturday morning, resisting the urge to yell out from the sideline shouts of encouragement, be one of ‘those’ fathers, taking his turn on the whistle, standing for an hour or so behind the stumps pretending he knows anything about the LBW rule.

And the Mum’s, forlornly hoping one day there will be an indoor sports venue in their town, one large enough to cope with multiple netball games, hordes of young girls sheltered from the worst of the elements as they spend winter afternoons and mornings dodging around in slippery courts in bibs and skirts. Think of all the bumps and bruises and scrapes and cuts and scratches. The tears and tantrums and fusses and fights. And that is just from the parents.

Thousands of kids giving it a crack. Those Mum’s and Dad’s are role models, the true ones of the sporting world. Personally, I have never felt just because someone is built athletically, can run and catch and pass, do it all at the same time, they are necessarily people we should, as parents, teachers and schools, the media, have our kids aspire to be like. Praise that sports-persons work ethic, their application and dedication and desire to succeed. Applaud the systems in place in many different sports and recreations which allow participants to reach pinnacles and peaks, to be at the top, the best in the world. So a thanks there too, for the administrators and managers and volunteers and everyone who contributes, often above and beyond, to make levels of success like that happen.

Sure, for every clap and shout out, there are going to be detractors. The good ole Kiwi tall poppy syndrome. I think we, as a nation, have gotten better. We a more prepared to celebrate success, the gold medalists and the big pay day professional contracts. It is no different for our All Blacks, the most high profile team, grouping of and individual sportspersons in this country.

Ryan Crotty took a dive. The guy should play football in Europe or South America. Or maybe take up a role on Broadway. He was way too convincing for Shortland Street. There, his antics wouldn’t look so ridiculous. Cane and Ofa made direct contact with the head of an opposition player and circumstances aside, should have been sanctioned, at least in the form of a penalty.

These are not the actions of role models. Heat of the moment stuff, ‘dynamic’ ‘fluid’ situations, call it what you will. I agree with the general consensus…It is a heavy contact sport and accidents are going to happen. There is no cheating, no intent. The All Blacks, Le Blue, the Kiwis, the Wallabies the Dallas Cowboys all play hard and fair. Some individuals, some teams, bend the rules, play to the letter of the law and the ref’s whistle and here we go with the cliches all over again…

It is how we, as kids, as teens and young adults, reinforced as senior representatives, are taught to play the game. Whatever that game may be. So I reckon, as media and avid sport fans, we need to not beat up on the rough stuff. By all means, legislate against the dangerous and the unhealthy, sort the rule books so the violent and the nasty is eliminated from the game and make it so the accidental, the reckless and careless actions are strongly discouraged. And then, move on.

Highlight too much of the bad and the ugly, you detract from the good. Participation in sport for our youth, particularly team sports, is a vital and healthy thing in society and needs to be nurtured, encouraged and given every opportunity to grow. It helps our kids do just that, grow. Think of all the bonds and friendships and good memories we can all take away from our time on the track, in the gym, on the pitch, the sideline, in the clubroom. Don’t forget to thank the ladies for the feed and honour the opposition for the half they contributed to the game.

Let’s instead show the good and the great and the excellent. Let’s not have photo after photo after video footage repeated daily via every media outlet imaginable showing forearms to the head, cracked cheekbones and swollen eye sockets. Mummy and Daddy aren’t going to want their precious little ones involved in all of that and sport will suffer for it. Not just contact sport, not just rugby or league. Kids love the crash and the bash of it and boys in particular, will find away to do it regardless of a contact sport like rugby. Bullrush anyone?

A controlled environment, with coaches and trainers and all the rest. Technique and back up and support and encouragement and praise. Show our young how to do it right, how to do it fairly. How to do it for the result. To win. Just not at all costs. Teach integrity. There is a culture in sport we cannot afford to lose.

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Show us the runaway tries, the behind the back passes, the banana kicks for touch. Tell us about the never say die attitudes, the ‘big engines’. Talk of the handshakes afterwards, the mutual respect given freely between two teams who have given there all, had a crack, played hard and fair.

And while we are at it, let’s keep our heads.

C’mon the All Blacks!!

(Last weeks performance lacked timing and there was punch missing. Where is Naholo? If not him, Laumape? Given it is the same squad, let’s see the likes of Squire running wider with a bit more room and freedom and the injection of Fifita, with the same remit, a little earlier. Expect a more attacking French outfit, their defense to be as resolute as it has been all season and the AB’s attempting to achieve the same hectic pace they started with, and stayed with, last weekend but add accuracy, timing and cohesiveness…AB’s by 12)

 

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.

 

 

 

Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tut Tut Taika

I like Thor. And the Hulk. Even though one is Nordic and the other green. 

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I don’t like being called racist.

Truth be told, I don’t like being labelled at all, but that one is right up there as possibly the worst. Sexist, ageist, whateverist.

I was born and raised in the south of the South Island. A Southern Man then, all stubbie shorts, boots and rifles and Speights and dogs and utes and blue and gold and each and every other cliched piece of imagery you can conjure. There were all sorts of cultural mixes going on, from surfies to rugby-heads to liberal hippy students and potheads and musso’s and religious zealots and poor on the flats over looked by the wealthy on the hills. Generally, I was just one chubby round white face in a sea of white faces.

But, some of my best friends are Maori (s).

Yes, I said it. Partly because it is true, but also because it is the go to get out for those who want or need an out clause, when it comes to their views on race. That I had and have Asian friends, Oriental friends, Samoan and Tongan and Cook, English and Scots and even Australians, is not the point. The race, creed or colour of who you chose to associate with is not relevant to anyone unless you, or they, decide to make it that way.

What is relevant is the respect we have and show for one another.

I respect a man like Taika Waititi. Even while most likely mispronouncing his name. I, like many the world over thanks to his continued success, believe he is an immensely talented person. Like all creatives, what he presents to the world can be a bit hit and miss, depending on your tastes. It took a second look at Boy before I was hooked, but I could watch Hunt for the Wilderpeople all day and find no liking for it. Meaning obviously, I couldn’t watch it. Maybe he did a great job with the Thor thing, don’t know, maybe not. Haven’t seen it. The vampire stuff lost me.

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Taika Waitit’s views and opinions are just the same. A bit hit and miss.

Like all of us he is obviously a thinker. The difference is, for a guy like Taika, he has a voice. A variety of platforms and soap boxes from which his every word will be lapped up by an adoring media. No one can begrudge him that and no one can argue his right to have a take on things, his point of view.

But like everyone, his perspective is distorted. It is impossible for anyone, anywhere, anytime, to be completely subjective. Doing so simply would not be human. We are a haphazard bunch with our emotive input and output. We can be vitriolic one moment and stunned into silence the next. We are full of pride or shame or righteousness or uncertainty. So Taiki, not for the first time, has made wide, sweeping, generalised statements. Emotive statements.

I don’t know how or where Taika grew up and nor do I know how that may or may not have had a lingering affect on the man. Where I was raised, more importantly educated, there was not a single thing culturally relevant to our very own New Zealand/Aotearoa in school. We did World War Two in history, which certainly had a huge role to play in the identity of this nation, but it wasn’t until I was an adult I ever heard of the New Zealand Wars. I could learn French or Latin. Not Maori. I wanted to speak Spanish.

Electives meant I could study the history and culture of ancient Greece, formative stuff for the entire western world we now live in. But Hone Heke taking an ax to a flag pole sounded like pure myth. And who knew it wasn’t a one time deal…he went back four times!

I have been to Otakou Marae many times. Down there on the ‘Otago’ Peninsula they would probably still cringe at the way I pronounce it. I hate to think what I sound like to the folk up here in the mighty Hokianga. But it’s okay, I have kids, the next generation, to set me straight.

Maybe I am not the target of Taika’s rants. I hope not. As a family we make the attempt to nail a bit Te Reo and as part of our colloquial vernacular, there is a surprising amount of the Maori language in our everyday. So I try, just like I did in France, Spain, Portugal, and even Scotland, an impossible language to comprehend after a pint or two. I am told it is English but am yet to be convinced.

If a local mispronounces a place name, because everyone does and always has in his or her time there, is that their fault? No. Is it their responsibility to try and change such a cultural misrepresentation? Partly.

The French insisted on calling me Michele. Michael in French. Irritating but I wasn’t about to change much in my time there and would have needed to care more. However, I did my bit. When I met a Guillaume I called him such, trying my best to repeat it the way it had been said to me. I didn’t call him William or Willy or Bill. The Irish called me Mik (ironically?), Eastern Europeans Mikhail and virtually no one Mike, the way I say it. I answered to all and anyone.

The cheese eating, wine sipping, bread baking Frogs also referred to my home land as  Nouvelle-Zelande. I think of myself as from Aotearoa.

Land of the wrong white crowd?

 

 

 

Acceptance

It is a hard enough job teaching the next generation what is considered acceptable, when we still don’t know what to accept in and of ourselves.

 Sex and sexuality.

Just by  banging two words like that down, you can garner a headline or two. Start questioning gender, gender roles, take a look at something kinky or a fetish or delve into fantasy and before too long, you find you might have fired a few people up. In more ways than one.

Dominatrix and Submissives  and all that, so de riguor for a moment there, what with the Fifty Shades fixation. As tame as those portrayals were, they were at least a vessel for opening a few minds and mouths, starting conversations around cafe and dinner tables, in our main stream media, which might not have happened so readily otherwise. I succumb to the hype around that story. The fact I found it a dull, forced, passionless, prescribed read unable to drag me passed a handful of chapters, doesn’t preclude the fact it grabbed the worlds attention. Question is, did it need to?

 

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Tame and lame. Fifty Shades titillated the press and in a country like New Zealand, so open and forthright and honest and earnest on the one hand, a book like that took many things out of the bedroom and placed them firmly in the limelight. Apparently, as we were told, our eyes were being opened, our minds expanded.

One the other hand, while some New Zealanders flirted with the idea of wild, crazed, mad passionate love making, testing boundaries and opening now pathways to pleasure, others were handed a gilt-edged opportunity to huff and puff for a whole bunch of different reasons.

To many folk, topics like sex and sexuality are controversial. For all the enlightenment a country like ours displays, there is no getting passed the fact we have an aging population and with that, an inherently conservative one by modern standards. That isn’t to say the old and elderly are not as willing and capable as the next person of changing and adapting. I like to think attitudes to all manner of things ‘new’ or at least more widely and openly viewed,  are fluid. That as a supposedly better informed populace we are more open to sensible, intelligent, questioning and debate.

LGBT and what ever other labeling letters are thrown in the mixing bowl, the cake mix of life. We are handed those labels. Fed them. Perhaps some are derived directly from the communities they are intended to be descriptive of. More likely they are catchy little phrases and terms heard and leaped upon by a scribe here, a journalist there, a blogger or opinion piece writer, an internationally best selling author.

The questions and so called issues around sexuality and sex, around gender and all the rest, are deemed controversial because we are told they are. Articles and opinion pieces roll hot off the press as if they are scheduled. “Time to wind the populace up again”. A cynic might have you believe it was a deliberate attempt to divert and obfuscate. A conspiracy theorist might make you want to consider the concept of an agenda. Driven and motivated by who or what I have no idea.

The thing for me, the ‘every-man’, is I would never give these things any thought at all. Not a moment of contemplation, not a time to pause and reflect. The sexuality and the sexual practices of others has absolutley no bearing on my life, the lives of my family. Until it is force fed on a regular basis by mainstream media outlets. Paraded as such, like a winged, hairy legged fairy on Auckland’s man drag once a year.

We are told we need to accept. Told we need to be more open and tolerant, less judgmental. Quite apart from the fact it is human nature to judge the actions of others, why am I having it dictated to me what it is and isn’t I should have opinions on?

I could care less if you fancy a hook up with another woman, another man, two men, two women a whole bunch of them all carrying whips and chains and wearing masks made out of natural fibers (read leather) or slick shiny synthetics. If you like to tie people down, be tied, strangle them, tickle them, be tickled, humiliated, exposed, damn near tortured before you cast your mind back for that agreed upon safety word, then woohoo for you.

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If I am into any or all of that, or none if it, isn’t relevant to you and nor is it going to feature in any part of my life if you are. Writing it down in newspapers and flashing it across our television screens robs people, the young in particular, of the opportunity to learn, explore and develop their own thing or things, in their own time. We moan about the porn culture, then offer a softer version we are told should be socially acceptable. We tell people they are prudish and close-minded, then tell them what they should be thinking and feeling. By trying to open up everyone’s minds to the realities of what goes on, or not, behind closed doors, we are removing the mystique, the fantasy, the taboo. We are taking away the titillation and normalising all the things which apparently what set us apart. In our rush for mass acceptance, we are categorising everyone and the things they do, forming a great big lump of mild-mannered numbness.

Go mow the lawns. Wash the dishes, scrub that ring off the bathtub. Mundane tasks which allow the mind to wonder. If you end up mentally counting keys in a bowl or musing over how many colours gimp masks are available in, cool. If you are worried about the price of petrol or Myrtle Rust, that’s cool too.

I don’t care.

Neither should you. Because I told you so.

 

 

 

 

 

Donations Gratefully Accepted

There is more suck in an octogenarian with pneumonia, than there is in our vacuum cleaner.

A fourteen year old school boy pulls harder than our car. More cushioning on a fat girl’s thighs than on our sofa.

Perhaps I am being a bit harsh on the sofa. It is lasting pretty well, considering the inconsiderate attentions of four children and a Dad, who falls asleep there after too many attempts to sit through late night rugby games he isn’t invested in or watch movies which struggle to hold his interest.

I’m sure you  get the point. We are at the stage in life where it all needs an update. From the knife set which will no longer hold an edge, the mixer which smokes every time it is operated, the rusted this, bent and barely operational that. Almost everything we have, the bigger ticket items, were purchased all those years ago when Wifey and I first set up house. We met in London, a story in that chance encounter in itself, while both on our Big O.E’s. The two of us eventually arrived back in New Zealand with literally little more than packs on our backs. Starry-eyed lovers, keen to get about setting up our love nest.

Credit this, hire purchase that. Tables and chairs and couches and desks and beds and mattresses and a car and dish racks and utensils and towels and pillow cases and some of it wears out in time, replaced as a natural course of things.

The bits and the pieces. Easy enough, grab it at the supermarket or the Warewhare or a seemingly never ending Briscoes sale. But you don’t go out and just grab on the fly the dining set you have outgrown, which happens to be occurring at the same time as the car is dying. In collusion with the television and the sometimes functional but no longer loud sound system. The lawn mower smokes like a reggae musician and drops more oil than a careless Saudi sheikh.

Our bed squeaks an unjustifiable amount given the lack of activity it receives.

I’m not bad with a spanner, can handle a screwdriver. A mixture of brute force and ignorance can get you further than you might think. Coercion and patience saw a washing machine limp along years passed it’s used by date, but I can’t make the dryer warm. Well maybe I could, I know it is just the element after all. But, as much as I fancy myself with a tool or two, I am better suited to pulling stuff apart as opposed to putting it back together.

So here we are, surrounded by next to worthless junk. A pile of virtual crap best loaded into a trailer rapidly succumbing to the ravages of time, and hauled off to the tip.

The big ticket items. As decrepit and broken as the guy who owns them. Better management when we set up would’ve meant we might not be in this spot right now, drip feeding non-existent savings into fanciful ideas we can have bigger and better. Or even just operational. A chest freezer to replace the dead, smelly one. A fridge we can actually fit a week or two worth of groceries for six in. Time to rebuild and restructure. A daunting prospect.

Wifey earns well and we don’t have the expenses many others face. I’m the day care, though quite possibly I come at a much higher cost than your average Kindergarten. Our lifestyle is far from extravagant, because it can’t be. As good as the dollar my wife slaves for is, with a crew of mouths to feed, the bills we all have to dig deep for, we are a hand to mouth, pay cheque to pay cheque operation.

We don’t have 9 cents a litre to spare.

 

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