And Finally This

I’m thinking that I might just delay New Years. Just for a couple days, until I can have a night off. So then I could have a drink or two without immediately falling asleep.

It’s been a weird year altogether. Everyone seems to be stuck in this idea that it was overwhelmingly awful and they won’t miss 2016 at all, but it’s hard to pin down exactly why.

Continue reading And Finally This

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The Project Debrief – Attack of the Killer Couch

Maybe it’s not symbolic of the whole year in general, but it sure is special when Eva decides to crawl under the fold-out couch and then climb up inside the mechanism and shoot her paw out between the couch cushions to slash at your feet and wake you up just 4 hours into your recovery from a 14-hour shift. All your brain can think is “Why is the couch trying to kill me?!?!” screamed at full mental volume. And then you see the little white-tipped paw retreat back beneath the cushions and realize that it’s just someone cute being a dick to you because they find it amusing.

It’s probably because I took her frog off her. It was a real frog, hiding among my potted plants, and it was squealing with that horrid noise that distressed frogs use. It appeared unharmed, if only because she was so put off by the sound that she was just standing back, sniffing and occasionally tentatively batting at it. So I put a pot over it, and distracted all of the cats with treats while I let the frog get away. This apparently meant that Eva was going to spend the next few hours primed with the caffeine high of hunting energy… and that she was going to get more creative with her stalking technique.

Or perhaps this is symbolic of the year in general. We started the year fairly settled and looking for a pretty section to buy. We’d put in a lot of work trying to find a place over the previous year, and we juggled a few squirming cats and distressed frogs, but we were generally optimistic about our future here. And then we found a place and (despite some issues trying to sort out the finances) we bought it. Sorted.

But perhaps the financial issues at the start were just a sign of things to come. Everything seemed fairly settled and the tasks were moving ahead well when the proverbial couch decided to try and kill us. Surprise! You don’t have a mortgage anymore!… Surprise! It turns out that you never did!

That was tough. And the fact that this sweeping change piled on top of the recent revelation that my job no longer had the potential for future growth… well it was like falling down a deep well. Trapped. No way out. Wondering how the heck you ended up here.

And I have ended the year still trying to climb out of that well. Less optimistic than when we started, but persisting forward because there are no other options. There are still a lot of things that need to be sorted out for the house. I’ve had a couple of encouraging sniffs at new jobs, but no concrete offers at this stage. Still, we are trying to climb.

In between those 14-hour shifts…

 

The Project Debrief -an introduction

It’s inevitable as you reach the end of another year that you start to look back and reflect. Where did you start this year? Where are you ending it? What has worked? What hasn’t? I guess it’s the Project Debrief Meeting of 2016.

When events have been anything other than smooth and predictable, I tend to spend my last 30 minutes at work (late at night, while the dance music rages or while some poor 16-year-old mops the floor badly) in my office with a hot drink, writing an email. In the email, I will catalog how things have progressed: why decisions got made, what has changed from the original plan, and what was missing from the original plan. Sometimes I just send that email to myself. It’s not meant as a moan session about how other people haven’t done their job – it’s just a record of that particular event while it’s fresh in my mind. It’s a learning tool. And I have to do it on the day, because by the next morning I will walk into another event having forgotten 90% of what went on at the last one. After years of doing events, my brain automatically switches to the next priority task rather than dwelling on the past.

It’s a huge problem when someone calls up three weeks later looking for lost property. “The wedding of Frances and Frank?… Um, sure, let me look…” Rummages through her memory. Which wedding was that again? The pink one? The blue one? The lilac one?… Oh, the one where they made the florist cry! The one where they kicked a hole in the wall… Oh fuck those people. “No, sorry honey, I saw your 2-year-old tearing up your $2 paper pompoms.”…

So this is what I’m doing now: writing my notes in the closing hours while the event is still in swing. Listening to the 16-year-old mop the floor while I drink coffee and try to put my addled thoughts in order.

I will keep you posted.

Really?… Really?

Well great.

Perhaps my recent lack of motivation for writing also has something to do with the growing body-count of 2016 and my inability to deal with it. I was never a huge fan of George Michael, and I won’t pretend to be now, but I respected him and empathised with his personal struggles. Like many nerdy geeks, I was a fan of Princess Leia but I’m not fool enough to confuse my love of the character with an undying love of the actress. Again, I respected her work and the way she opened up about her problems with celebrity – she could be dryly funny – but I just didn’t know enough about Carrie Fisher the Human Being to count myself as a fan.

Still. These aren’t people who I was expecting to scratch out of the living world so soon. I feel for their families and friends. It does seem like the good (and subversive) parts of the 1980s are falling away, and pretty soon all we are going to be left with is blind Reagan-worship. Someone please take care of Bruce Springsteen. He’s been looking very thin lately.

 

Giving Thanks

Why exactly do we insist on giving thanks by eating copious amounts of food? It does kind of make sense if we are thankful for a harvest, and if the weeks leading up to this have been starving times where we waited impatiently for the food to come… But like most people in the Western world, I have a supermarket nearby, so the highs and lows of subsistence farming no longer affect me. Basically I’m just showing thanks through gluttony.

And there’s still Christmas to come.

My husband was grateful though. Grateful that I would rush home after 11 hours at work to cook a big meal so that he could come home from his work day and eat dinner with his wife. And I am grateful that he is wonderful and he wants to have a meal with me. And that he will do the dishes.

I’m grateful that we finally found a section to buy, and figured out how to make the loan work, even though it’s currently crippling us financially.

I’m grateful that we have a happy home, with 3 sometimes-lovely cats (even though Scrappy kept jumping up on the table throughout dinner and trying to steal turkey off our plates).

I’m grateful that our plants are mostly growing, and in a few months there will be harvests of our own to do.

But mostly I am grateful for him and how supportive and kind he is. I am grateful for that every day.

Despite the harshness of the past winter, there is so much to be grateful for this year.

 

Storms

Summer is officially only 13 days away, and yet we’re still being hammered with freezing southerlies and rain. I’m wrapped up on the sofa in a fluffy blanket, contemplating lighting a fire, in mid-November.

Poor Wellington seems to be copping the worst of the weather. More and more buildings are being condemned because of the earthquakes, and then they’ve added flooding to that. It’s a miserable end to an already trying year.

And as if to prove that America does not hold the monopoly on stupid, fear-mongering bigots, a fairly prominent New Zealand preacher has proclaimed to his followers that the earthquake was caused by homosexuality… Fortunately most New Zealanders responded with laughter, but someone also started a petition to get the church’s tax-free status removed – which is actually a pretty sensible solution when people widely regard this particular church as a manipulative money-making enterprise designed to make the preacher rich by bilking the poor. Giving him attention now for his offensive comments almost seems counter-productive, but if it at least results in a downturn of cashflow for him then I suppose it was worth it. Encouraging people to actually read the Bible he’s foolishly misquoting might also cause some to stop giving this charlatan their money.

Unfortunately it’s not even the dumbest theory I’ve heard thus far about the earthquakes. A US Navy destroyer (the USS Sampson) has gone to Kaikoura to help evacuate people who were trapped in the coastal town after the roads were destroyed. This is a good thing – helpful, humane, kind. But of course, I’ve actually heard a fully grown adult state that it is not a coincidence that the US Navy has arrived so quickly, because they caused the earthquake just so they could start an invasion…

I know.

I know.

I’m actually sitting here wondering how this person has managed to keep themselves alive this long. Do they have the intelligence necessary to open a refrigerator? Can they figure out how to button clothing? Should I get them some kind of home help to ensure that they don’t burn down their house when they use the stove?… But instead all I could do was shake my head and walk away. Sometimes you can’t even help people without them spitting in your face.

More Earthquake Weather

S’raining.

I swear this has been the coldest, most miserable spring for a long time. All the kitties are inside dying from the rains. Or so they’d have me believe.

Despite New Zealand suffering a 7.5 earthquake yesterday, life goes on much as always in this part of the country. The earthquake hit a rural area of the South Island, and after shocks have been rumbling up much of the country all day. I still haven’t felt one. One man died when his 19th century house collapsed, and another had a fatal heart attack, but it could have been much worse. Roads have been badly damaged by landslides, cutting off some towns. Power was lost in a lot of places, as were phone and water connections. Several buildings in Wellington were evacuated, as well as some schools. The rainstorms that are rolling through today will certainly make life even more difficult for those with broken houses. Repair bills are likely to run into the billions… A 7.5 earthquake is certainly nothing to sniff at, but as I said: it could have been much, much worse.

One shouldn’t be smug, but at least New Zealand is accustomed to earthquakes. We get lots of them. I’ve felt several already this year. A few of them are big and serious, but most are very small and no more noticeable than a truck rumbling past your house. The small ones are really only scary if you choose to be scared. We have building codes (now) that are designed to accommodate earthquakes. (Hint: wood is good, masonry is bad) In general, we can regard earthquakes much like the weather: sometimes inconvenient, rarely fatal, but altogether something that no one can control so you may as well just put up with it.

For those further south, the aftershocks will continue for a few weeks, but then they will rebuild and things will go on largely as they did before. Even the rain will stop. Eventually.

Secret Time

I’m sure there will be too much detail in this post, but why is it that cats cannot seem to respect toilet privacy?

I came home from work late at night and went to the toilet to do a poo. So of course, Scrappy pushes the door open and starts alternately staring at me intensely and smooching and purring around my legs. Then he jumps up on my lap, still purring loudly, and begins smooching my face so much that he’s basically kissing me. It’s nice to be so loved, but it does make it really hard to concentrate on the actual business at hand.

And I have to wonder why cats are so vastly fascinated in humans’ toilet habits. They don’t do this to each other. When one of them needs some “secret time”, the others don’t follow them into the litter box and cuddle up with them – they’re likely to get smacked. Instead the respect one another’s privacy.

But even on a scale of regular toilet-bothering, this session from Scrappy was particularly intense. I mean, he just wasn’t going to let me get on with my own secret time. He was so clingy that he was practically crawling inside my face.

… Oh, there was an earthquake last night at about that time. That’s probably why. There was a big earthquake in the South Island and so my cat wouldn’t let me take a poo without him.

I guess things could be worse.

Conversations with white men

Whenever I was home over the past week, I’ve been watching South Park DVDs. It has been keeping me sane.

I also spent a while on Facebook yesterday, trying rather impotently to console a friend of mine in Colorado. He’s angry, and frustrated, and scared all at the same time. He probably looks on the outside like an average Trump supporter, but he has a lot of friends who are gay, a lot of friends who are ethnic and religious minorities, and a son approaching military age. All of these things are playing on his mind right now.

When I went to work, one of my colleagues (a young, blond, blue-eyed Czech) was confused more than angry. “What were they thinking? The last time a Western country voted in someone who talked like that, it didn’t work out so well.” And we both know that he’s talking about Germany in the 1930s, because he’s from central Europe and that history is alive and real to him. Plus we have talked at length before about the similarities: vitriol against ethnic and religious minorities; nostalgically hearkening back to a “great” time in the nation’s history that never really existed; harnessing the frustrations of people who don’t like how their world has changed; inventing “crimes” committed by his enemies; the implication that the people of this nation (or rather, some of them) are special and superior to the rest of the world…

Later in the afternoon, one of the young waitresses at our event (not white) asked me what I thought of the election result. The Head Chef interjected. “He’s a fucking idiot. But we’re on an island, so don’t worry – it’ll take a while for the nuclear fallout to drift this far.” I added that we could dig a bunker in my yard and she could come and live in my bunker if she wanted.

I had been feeling heartsick (and powerless) all day about my friend in Colorado, and all of his friends, and all those like him. When I got home, I sent him the link to the Skilled Migrant list for New Zealand immigration. I suggested he share it around, as pretty much every job in his industry is on that list (including his own). I said I’d be happy to help out and sponsor anyone who wants to come live here for a while. It’s not a bunker, and it’s not a suggestion that people should give up on America – just an acknowledgement that some people may feel safer if they move away for a while. And hopefully things will all be okay… but they might also get very bad in the short term.

None of us really know what the future might hold.