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


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.


Shifting Tide Lines

It has been a day of developments all over the place. From the supposed (and perhaps momentary) halt on the Dakota Access Pipeline, to the shock resignation of NZ’s Prime Minister, many of my left-wing friends have been memeing for joy all day.

But not so fast…

Now that Prime Minister John Key has resigned, we will almost undoubtedly go into the New Year with a Prime Minister who is worse. John Key started out as a day trader – a bit of a Trump-like figure, who sat on a massive capitalist fortune, who made changes to benefit businesses whilst hurting those at the very bottom, and whose silly over-privileged adult children provided New Zealanders with a lot of amusement. However, his politicking was personality-based and cynical – he went for the type of glibness that would appeal to most voters, regardless of his own personal beliefs. I’m not even convinced that he has entrenched political beliefs. His potential replacements are career politicians – true-believers whose positions will be hard to shift, no matter what realities they face.

And as for the Dakota Access Pipeline… Well Obama can now count the remaining weeks of his presidency on his fingers. The halt called by the Army Corps of Engineers can be quickly overturned by the incoming President-Elect. And given that Trump owns shares in the company that is building the pipeline… Well it’s a surprise that anyone is excited about this. Why on earth would he make a decision that would damage his own personal fortune? When you prime an electorate to believe that all government is corrupt, then you can behave corruptly without much fear of consequence…

However… it was an unbearably hot day to be outside. So my husband decided that we should go for a walk down on the beach in the afternoon to cool off. It would have worked, except that the water was as warm as a bath. And I found a little injured sparrow.

He was lying on the beach, breathing hard, with his beak pressed into the sand. When I went up to check on him and see if there was anything I could do, he reacted with a panicked flutter but he clearly couldn’t fly. At least one wing was broken, and I’d say he’d been badly punctured by a cat.

Nature is a very cruel thing much of the time. It reminded me of my little story about the hedgehog. The natural world rarely offers comfortable and easy ways to die.

There was nothing I could do to save his life, and my presence only seemed to frighten him, so I resolved to do the only thing I felt I rightly could. I broke a branch off a nearby pohutukawa tree and, moving quietly and slowly, sank it into the sand beside him. This gave him camouflage should the cat return, and also gave him shade from the crippling heat. Yes, eventually the tide would come in, and he might have to make a choice to either move or remain, but in the meantime he would be more comfortable.

Just because we can’t fix all the injustices of life, it doesn’t mean we should give up on trying to be nice to one another…


The Last Yellow Hibiscus

It’s a day late for Thanksgiving, but I want to just take a moment to appreciate how beautiful this flower is.

Yes, after buying another hibiscus (labelled as yellow) which bloomed a vivid, fiery orange, I went to another store and bought the yellow one I’d always intended to get. See, it’s going to be part of the tropical section of my garden. It will tie in nicely with the banana palm, and the gardenias, and the papaya, and the white Bird of Paradise. I’m aiming for a mix of yellows and whites in this garden, which will eventually lead the eye to a big, flouncy, pink magnolia at the far end of this section.

I do have an ulterior motive for picking a yellow hibiscus for this garden – it’s not just about the color match. I used to have a yellow hibiscus, many years ago, which I grew indoors in the bathroom. I remember the last time it bloomed, in the summer of 2005-06. That was such a hard summer for me – what with Bad Boyfriend ruling my life.

He showed a momentary, vocal appreciation for the vivid yellow flowers on my bathroom windowsill. And then one day he killed it. He killed anything that made me happy.

I hadn’t bought another hibiscus up until this spring. Everything in my life has recovered from that bad year, so it was not an intentional avoidance, but when I saw the hibiscus plants in the store a few weeks back I remembered that last one. In a weird way, I wanted a yellow hibiscus to make up for what happened to the last yellow hibiscus.

It thanked me by blooming in the rain. And one day I’ll be able to look out from my dining room window, in Imaginary House, and see it bloom again. And it will make me happy again. Because the future has a lot more flowers to come…


And then Leonard Cohen died…

I’ve been having very vivid dreams lately. You know, the kind where you wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night and for a minute everything you just experienced was absolutely real, but then that moment passes and you suddenly can’t remember any of it and you realize you’re just in bed and none of it really happened at all… I’m waiting for 2016 to be one of those dreams. It would be nice to wake up and realize it’s still 2015 and none of this stuff really happened.

I’m sure I’m not the only one.

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.

Autism in the Age of Social Media

I removed a friend on Facebook tonight.

This is a wholly insignificant event in the greater scheme of life, but I’ve only done it once before (and I wrote about that a couple of weeks ago). This time around, the person didn’t hit on me inappropriately, or creep me out, or just generally bug me. Their crime wasn’t really even a crime. Their crime was to go somewhere fun without me.

It is entirely stupid, and this is part of the reason why I’m writing about it. To autopsy my own feelings. To expose the ugliness that lies within.

Of course, lots of my Facebook friends (probably all of my Facebook friends) go and do fun stuff without me. And when they put pictures of it on Facebook, I am happy for them. I care about them and I want them to do fun stuff. I am not usually upset by it, and rarely jealous.

The sole difference in this case is that this friend is a work colleague. Someone who (at work) claims that we are “best friends”, but who can therefore be a bit demanding of my time and assistance. I like helping her, I just don’t like it when she wants me to be the bad guy who has to break bad news to a client. A couple of weeks ago, she was mentioned in another work colleague’s post, which showed them out at the movies together. It showed a whole bunch of my work colleagues out at the movies together. The whole, full-time female staff in fact. And it was tagged as a girls’ night for our team.

I am female, but I wasn’t invited to that “girls’ night”, despite everyone in that picture claiming to my face that they like me.

Continue reading Autism in the Age of Social Media

Someplace Else

More progress on my assignment. Not as much as I’d hoped but…

It’s just so nice coming home from work when it’s still daylight. I can sit out on the deck, or at least with the windows open. The birds are out. The freesias and bluebells are in bloom. Knowing that the sun is still up when I need to be thinking about dinner… that just feels so good. I don’t know why we don’t have daylight savings all year round.

Seriously, why don’t we? Why not add a little bit more sunshine to our winter evenings?

I did have an ultrasound on my thyroid today. It’s the fourth one I’ve had, but the last one was three years ago. I already know that there are nodules in my thyroid, but they are looking for changes.

The lady who was giving me the scan was very chatty and friendly initially. She took two or three pictures. Then she moved over to the right side of my neck and suddenly got very quiet. She took LOTS of pictures of that side. Then she took some of the left side, and then she checked my lymph nodes. She reassured me that my lymph nodes looked normal. Somehow, it was obvious that she wasn’t saying everything.

In the end, she said there’s a large nodule on the right side of my thyroid – but certainly not the largest or worst she’s seen, and she didn’t think it looked sinister “but I’m not a specialist”. She said that she’ll send through her scans, they’ll compare it to my old ones, and I should hear back on Thursday.

It was ok. I already knew that it was worse on the right-hand side, so I’m actually not thinking that the specialist will freak out about it. This, of course, doesn’t necessarily solve my problem. In fact, no news is probably the worst news. Because that also means no answers…

So… ok, but also slightly melancholy and wistful tonight… Wishing there was someplace else to go…



The Hedgehog

So. Let’s get on with the topic I didn’t have time to explain yesterday.

My brain had been sparked when I’d read this article in The Guardian, which I will forewarn you is an excerpt from a book called The Ethical Carnivore, and which describes the author’s first trip to an abattoir. If you’d rather not know what goes on at a slaughterhouse, it will be a pretty tough read.

As with virtually any article that makes me think, I made a point of reading the comments too. I found the usual (but generally civilized) mix of “don’t eat animals!” and “stop anthropomorphizing things!” As New Zealand is a strongly agricultural economy, the issue of livestock actually comes up a lot around here. And this comment stream is typical – it seems to be the standard, shouty, non-debate that comes up at any time when people want to openly discuss veganism, or animal rights, or our management of the life and death of livestock. No one’s mind gets changed. Everyone entrenches. No common ground is found.

So I’m going to try not to entrench. Instead, I’m going to tell a story…

Many years back, I saw a hedgehog in the backyard in the middle of the day. Hedgehogs are a fairly common (but introduced pest) animal in New Zealand. However, they’re also usually nocturnal – snuffling around in the garden shrubbery past midnight, looking for snails. To see one walking (with difficulty) across the lawn in the heat of the day could mean only one thing: there was something wrong with this animal.

I went and had a closer look at it. The hedgehog generally ignored me. But I could see that it appeared as though all of the skin across its back was moving and boiling. Upon even closer inspection, I found that the moving effect was caused by maggots. Thousands of maggots. Writhing between the spines of this poor animal and literally eating it alive.

Continue reading The Hedgehog


It’s starting to feel like a really long time ago.

It was the middle of the night in New Zealand. I was rather rudely awoken by my boyfriend’s clock radio at a weird hour of the morning. He wasn’t even there.

Now I had a clock radio of my own – it dated from the late ’80s and was hot pink. It also only got AM, so I just used the buzzer as an alarm. But the buzzer sounded like the drone of a thousand angry bees in your sinuses, so my then-boyfriend decided that he needed something gentler to wake him up when he stayed over. Hence the fact that he had put his own clock radio UNDER MY BED. And the buttons on it were all in Dutch, so I couldn’t figure out how to work it. It had developed the random tendency to just go off in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Which is what it did that night. At about 3am.

…”plane crashed into the World Trade Center. Authorities are warning of the possibility that this is a terrori…” which was about the point that my stumbling hands found it and bashed it back into silence.

Continue reading Distance