Sunday, 16 December 2007


The approach of Christmas has put my plans to lose 10kg on hold. As I’m sure it has for many women. The intention was there until that first celebratory glass of champagne, and somewhere along the line, lost in a haze of drinking the decision to get a “fresh start’ on the weight loss plans in the New Year was made.
Which is why I ended up in Smith and Caughey’s lingerie department contorted, trapped and unable to free myself from a garment sometimes known as an “easy squeezy” also known as “magic knickers” and in my mother’s day as a “corset.”
The reasoning behind my solo and very clandestine visit was the reliable information that this garment would hold everything in, thus giving the illusion that you have lost weight, which is very useful at Christmas time when you are forced to get out your party frocks.
The woman beside me in the lingerie department accurately surmised that what we were trying to achieve was basically taking a sausage and squeezing it into a shape which had a waist. Where that sausage meat would end up was never discussed but laws of physics told me that it would either be the thighs or the breasts. I was about to find out. As I entered my changing room I heard my new friend rather ominously grunting and groaning next door.
Armed with a selection in black I proceeded to haul one over my head. It got as far as my shoulders where it settled one side under my arm, the other around my head so that only one eye was visible and every increasingly panic stricken breath I took was obtained through the thick gusset of lycra and some elastic substance so strong they should make car tyres out of it. Both arms were sticking straight up in the air and were locked in place by the band of black which seemed determined to squash my face into my armpit before it was done with me. And there I was. Stuck, like some interpretive dancer during the bit when she runs around the stage with her arms in the air cowering from the Komodo dragon .Only this was me, on my own at Smith and Caugheys. As I sat down awkwardly, arms akimbo on the gilt and velvet chair I realised with horror that I could die in here and no one would know where I was. So ashamed was I about my “easy squeezy” adventure that I had told no one, nor had I brought with me water, scrogan and my cell phone as one does on explorations into the unknown. I had another wriggle to see if the garment would budge and then I noticed that the red button by the door. As I pressed it I couldn’t help noticing my friend next door had gone strangely silent also. I waited and wrote the headline:
“Two fat women smothered at top department store.”
A very nice young girl who was yet to endure her first stretch mark peered around the door at me and did a very commendable job of stifling both a giggle and a shriek of horror. What eventually emerged from her mouth were the words “oh dear” with a tone I sensed she had used before in these very changing rooms.
It was at that moment I caught my reflection in the mirror. I now prefer to think of the red face, the sweaty brow, the sausage meat poking out in all directions as a nightmare, nearly as bad as the one in which Jennifer Ward-Lealand shot my horse and chopped down my fern tree.
The garment was eventually retrieved by much pulling over my head and I was instructed to try putting it on from the bottom up.
I now have two “easies” as I affectionately called them. And they’ve changed my life because the constriction on my body is also working on my mind with the psychological effect of making me a bit of a nana. While I have my “easies’ on there is no risk of taking my clothes off and jumping naked in a pool as I usually do about this time of the year, nor have I flirted outrageously with a younger man. And while my friends get drunk and disorderly around me I remain mentally rigid, squeezed and in control of all my faculties. I like the “easy” me, and if I ever do lose that elusive 10kg, I might just keep on wearing them.

Image by Anthony Ellison

Sunday, 9 December 2007


Christmas functions are designed to give everyone the chance to get a bit tipsy and bond with each other in a celebratory fashion. But they also present the danger that you will run into someone you’ve been avoiding all year. The woman you yelled at in accounts when you had the hangover from hell and discovered that your expenses for your last lunch had been declined. You’ve had to get off one floor above your office and take the stairs down all year just to avoid walking past her office.
Then there’s the guy in maintenance you pashed behind the air conditioning unit at the last Christmas function when you decided in a moment of enthusiasm that you like men with dirty fingernails and a mullet. If it’s good enough for Cheryl West, it’s choice for you when you’re five rum and Cokes down on an empty stomach. And then there’s the other woman in the office. The one you hate with a passion because she hates you with a passion and you’re both up for the same promotion next year. You won’t spend a second in her breathing space yet alone propel a thin-lipped word of Christmas cheer in her direction.
Avoidance is therefore a necessary skill to obtain prior to Christmas functions. The most common technique is to employ your back. With your back to a person you can create the illusion that you haven’t seen them. You spend your entire night swivelling on an axis rather like a weather vane, only stopping when your subject is safely behind you. Odd but effective. Of course if you are the one being avoided this can be a very strange experience indeed. I was recently “backed” by an editor whose magazine I had been critical of on the radio. I know a bit about magazines, I like to think my criticism is constructive, but you can’t get it right all of the time. On entering the room and joining a group of women I greeted her only to find that she turned to face the wall behind us as if admiring a rare and unique work of art hung there while the rest of us talked in the circle which now had one piece around the wrong way. Only problem was there was no art, just a blank wall so there she was staring at nothing while the rest of the group chatted about the weather, our frizzy hair and how much we planned to drink that day, as you do. The moment I moved on she swivelled back, champagne at the ready.
Another more successful technique is to hide behind pillars which may be dotted throughout the room. You can nonchalantly lean on said pillar and swivel around without looking quite so obvious.
The “excuse me I need another drink” statement is my personal favourite, and the one most commonly employed to avoid me. The person promptly downs the contents of their glass, makes the statement and heads off. Only problem with that one is you risk getting really pissed if you’re avoiding a lot of people. Someone once said to me: “excuse me but I see someone far more interesting I’d rather talk to” and headed off which was brutal but I admired the honesty in their expression.
But by far the most effective avoidance manoeuvre is the intense conversation. It’s similar to the inappropriate kiss they do in movies where a couple who aren’t together, but will be by the end of the movie pash madly so that they are not seen by aliens or FBI agents running past them at great speed. When you see someone you need to ignore heading in your direction you suddenly find the person who is telling you about the cute antics of their two-year-old on the potty so interesting that you simply can’t take your eyes of them, need to lean in with intense interest and laugh like a drain. The impression is that you are so engrossed you can’t possibly notice someone else walking past, or indeed standing next to you. This can also be achieved by talking on the cell phone with an intense attitude which says “I’m buying a million shares in a dairy farm which renders me incapable of recognising anyone.”
But the simplest method in avoidance is simply to avoid the function which has been my policy for many years. I have one night of drinking scheduled and there’s not a magazine editor in sight.

Image by Anthony Ellison

Sunday, 2 December 2007

End of Year

I’m sure there are many parents who find the end of the year flurry of prize givings and drama productions an exhilarating time. The prospect of rushing straight from work through peak hour traffic to school is immensely rewarding because once you get there and discover there are no seats in the hall, you can stand at the back for three hours immersing yourself in the creative and intellectual endeavours of several hundred children.
I’m not one of those parents. I’ve been doing end of year stuff for the past 16 years and every time I sit in the hot, stifling, overcrowded hall for three hours, my pampered bottom hurling abuse at me because of the harsh reality of wooden form seats, I tell myself never again. Because the only part of those achingly boring hours I would ever want back is the 75 seconds it took my child to receive an award, flit across the stage dressed as a sunburst, or swing a poi. I’d gladly keep that 75 seconds of pride wrapped up in ribbons in my mind forever. And I’m sure my child quite liked me being there. The other two hours, 58 minutes and 45 seconds I add to the ever increasing pile I like to call “Time which could have been used to cure cancer or at least read a book.”
This is the time you spend in waiting rooms, at bus stops, in queues when you come to understand why God put the backs of heads where he did so we would have something to look at when we get bored to the point of screaming. Is that nits or dandruff? Dyed or natural? Air dried of blow dried?
This isn’t restful time such as sitting on a beach and breathing deeply while de-stressing. This is time where you are locked in conflict with your brain arguing that a) you cannot simply get up and walk out, much as all your senses are screaming that you do so b) just because Helen Clark did it with the Queen, doesn’t mean you can start sending texts and c) yes we still have two hours, 58 minutes and 45 seconds to go.
I’ve always been really happy that my children go to a school full of talented children. I know that, I don’t need to see them play the flute, twirl pieces of ribbon, sing, and give speeches. I have no connection with 99 percent of these children, I will never see them again and I don’t think the kids themselves are really worried who is watching them, as long as they can do that weird half smile and fluttery semi-wave to Mum and Dad just before they go on.
Nor will I find myself lacking if I never hear another school principal bemoan lack of funding, NCEA drawbacks or in one rare case a treatise on the changing values of society since he was a nipper. (Turned out things hadn’t got any better.)
The end of year gathering is also a form of elder abuse as grandparents are expected to join the stifling, heaving, uncomfortable throng. There is a real possibility they are actually enjoying the interpretative dance solo set to the theme from Star Wars, but they are old. Which means their arses are screaming louder than yours and they are unlikely to be able to pick out their grandchild from the back in the hall for the required 75 seconds. The last time I put my parents through an end of year torture session, my mother was convinced my daughter was the pumpkin when in fact she was the tomato for the entire three hours. On discovering her mistake there was a palpable sense of loss in the air at having devoted so much reflected pride to a stranger’s child. I haven’t encouraged her to attend again and my husband later confessed he thought our daughter was the banana.
And I never, ever leave an end of year event without feeling enormously grateful that there are people on this earth who are prepared to be teachers. Because they rally, cajole and organise the very children who have tortured them throughout the year.
The only consolation left is that even if the space-time continuum is shattered or I fall through a wormhole into an alternative universe, sooner or later – well, later – the torture will come to an end. I can even tell you when – in exactly two hours, 58 minutes and 45 seconds.

Image by Anthony Ellison

Sunday, 25 November 2007

The Volunteer

When you’re white, middle-aged, middle-class and live in Grey Lynn and that’s most people in Grey Lynn these days you are likely to find the idea of becoming a volunteer exciting at least once in your life. Either you’ve read too many ethical living books and you feel the need to connect with your local community, or you’ve read too many Nigel Latta books and feel the need to rock up to your overworked local social workers and offer to help out.
The only problem when you’re white, middle-aged, middle class and live in Grey Lynn is that the actual act of volunteering will never be taken seriously. You see yourself rocking up exuding waves of charitable urges, dressed down in your non threatening third-best jeans, fair trade converse replica shoes and hand knitted cardie, and the thought bubble above the receptionist’s head reads loud and clear “Is SPQR closed today?” They explain to you that they would love someone to come in and patronise the needy, but sitting in on family conferences and working miracles with abused children in the window between the gym and your massage was not something volunteers were used for. You need a degree to perform miracles. Then you see the look on their face. It’s a tolerant expression which attempts to hide the sure knowledge that you will turn up enthusiastically for at least a week before the bach, that month in Europe and lunch get in the way. “Oh and by the way – we’re the charity. Not you.”
I’ve been determined to volunteer for some time now and for all the right reasons. Such as that my garden is begging me to stop weeding it obsessively five times a day, there are only so many books I can read in a week and then there is the ethical connecting with your local community thing. And apparently it’s a really good thing to do for your head, karma and sense of purpose. Over one million New Zealanders do it, so there has to be something in it, even if I think the definition of volunteer they used to get that figure included sending positive thoughts to the All Blacks.
Disturbingly some people like it too much. The Department of Corrections has recently had to address the problem of “volunteer groupies” by limiting their helpers to 20 hours a week. I guess there’s just something so damn attractive about stepping out of your white middle class life and sitting across from a really bad man covered in tattoos for half your week teaching him how to read. .
My problem, apart from the fact that I’ll get the look by the receptionist, is that I don’t know what I want to do. My husband suggested my idea of volunteering is being the one who gets the paper from the letter box in the morning. Although he did say that if there was a shortage of people to take old drunks out to lunch. I’d be in my element.
So I spent the day on the net and discovered a whole new world of opportunity. I could volunteer abroad and work with children in Ghana, Vietnam or Romania. Or I could help protect turtles in Costa Rica. The Fire Service needs people, as does the museum, and then I found the website for all volunteer hopefuls. where I found 359 possible positions in my area. The Ellerslie Flower show needs a lot of people to do some mail outs, although I’m not sure why I would volunteer for a privately owned business. Sylvia Park Mall needs Christmas gift wrappers for charity, and I could help out at indoor bowls where I would ‘mix with bowlers: chat and assist as needed and have fun. Group meets each Monday night from 7 to 8:15 pm.” Which sounds awfully like bowling.
.I quite like the idea of caring for a children’s play ground, raking leaves and such like (North Shore). And welcoming visitors in the arrivals hall of the airport would be nice, as would welcoming people at the Auckland Zoo.
And then I found it. Under the list of the type of volunteering I wanted to do I clicked on "Befriending." I’m tossing up between visiting a lady in a rest home in Epsom who is very disabled but can hold a good conversation and doesn’t have many visitors or reading a newspaper to a resident over morning tea at an Aged Care facility on week days.
My husband says he’ll be a befriender too, but we mustn’t tell our parents. They’ll get jealous.

Image by Anthony Ellison

Monday, 19 November 2007

The Return of the Leggings

Sometimes there is one pressing subject which just won’t go away no matter how many lunches you attend. For the past month only one topic of conversation has been nagging my friends and me over our bottle or two of Vouvray at midday, even extending late into the evening on the phone and into the next day’s emails. I would like to say our concern was focused on the threat to free speech, rare white whales, and how to make a Molotov cocktail, but when it comes to the lunch ladies it’s all about footless tights, or leggings.
“How old is too old?” was the first question which needed solving. As women who wore them the first time around, in the late 80s, we have fond memories of slipping on a pair of leggings with a big baggy fluoro T-shirt and dancing around the lounge to Wake Me Up Before You Go Go. We also loved the lycra numbers to team with our leotards at the Les Mills Jazzercise classes as we high kicked it to It’s Raining Men. And it took me years to let go of my stirrup leggings which made me look like a cross between a show jumper and a ski jumper, which I rather liked in that jolly hockey sticks way I could never really pull off. It was fun, it was easy, it was when we had slim legs and not a dimple in sight.
The thing about leggings is they are one of those nightmare hybrids fashion often challenges us with, just to see if we’ll go there. They aren’t tights, nor are they trousers. They aren’t bicycle shorts, nor are they skinny leg pants. They’re, well, tights with the bottoms cut off and I have a nagging feeling they were invented for amputees. I can just see the Fashion Gods hooting their socks off as they shout: “fashion victim” down at us mere mortals.
“But they’re a great insurance for when you wear shorts and short jersey dresses,” someone suggested. The thought being that a layer of black lycra will hide the inch of flab which has planted itself on our thighs since we were in our 20s. Which seemed like a good theory until we realised that it all came to a nasty end at our cankles (when your calf blends into your ankle) and our wrinkly old chicken’s feet revealed themselves in all their puffy, ageing glory. We surmised that there was a high chance we would look like a brood of chickens dressed up as superheroes.
Then I attended a presentation designed to tell older women how to look after themselves and discovered to my horror that the only thing older women seemed to be doing en masse was wearing leggings. It wasn’t a brood of chickens it was a whole shed full of them squeezed into every superhero outfit you could imagine. I reported back.
“What about just ¾ ones then?” came the ladies’ response.
My friend bought some. She was going to give it a go. She looks as good as she did in the 80s so we decided she could be the first.
“So have you worn them yet?” I inquired a week later.
“Yes…” she said with just enough of a pause to indicate she was only telling me half the truth.
“Outside?” I persevered.
“Well no, but gosh they’re comfortable,” she responded.
At another lunch there were some ¾ leggings and my friend and I made inquiries of their wearers. Did they think this was a look better suited to the young? we inquired rudely.
“God no, why should they have all the fun!” was the response.
Spoken like a true feminist thinker. Why should we care about what we look like at our age, we have the right to do and wear what we like and they’re just so damn comfy.
In the end I handed over the casting vote to the most stylish people in my universe, my children. I appreciated their diplomacy, while wondering where they got it with a mother like me, and listened carefully. Their findings are that older women should stick to proper black tights with feet in them but if I was determined to restore an item of clothing from my past the 70s maxi dress is probably a safe bet.
I have one, and I’ve worn it, but not outside.

Sunday, 11 November 2007


It is a universal truth that for every action there will be a reaction. You throw a ball and it will hit the ground, or a window or a person’s head. You stick up for something and you will get a law changed, be ridiculed, shamed or totally ignored. Pretty soon we work out which person we will be. The person who acts, the person who reacts or the person who lives under the radar, dog paddling in increasingly smaller circles determined to never make a ripple in the pond of life.
Louise Nicholas acted. She put herself out there in an attempt to stop some policemen raping more women. Her case against police officers Clint Rickards, Brad Shipton, and Bob Schollum was one of the 94 per cent of rape case reported to the police that failed to achieve a conviction. The police reacted by protecting each other and portraying Louise as a slut. Meanwhile the rest of us dog paddled around our lives and read the court case reports eagerly
I’m not sure whether Tame Iti acted out there in the Urerweras or why he acted, but I know the police reacted and hauled out anti-terror legislation to do so. Meanwhile the rest of us dog paddled and tut tutted about terror in the bush.
And that’s about it for this country, because we’re no longer a great nation of activists. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten the watersider's strikes, the Springbok tour, the Vietnam War, the nuclear disarmament, the bra-burning. We have lost the will to act when we see systems failing us, children dying from abuse, a government taxing us into a groaning surplus, heritage buildings being razed to make way for shonky developments you wouldn’t let your dog live in, that sort of thing. Did we become too frightened to stick our head above the precipice and save the beautiful old building down the road? Did we discover that life is just so much easier dog paddling around in circles putting up with it all?
I think we did. And in doing so we gave way to the reactors in our society, or,
as I like to call them, bullies. These people call talkback from the safety of their homes and pull out the oft-used tools of hatred: racism, sexism and class. Much easier to fire off anonymous letters, create whispering campaigns, shut doors and glower at the world. And as Louis Nicholas has proved, even some of our boys in blue are bullies.
No wonder we are now battling a bullying epidemic in our schools. For years we have wrung our hands and sighed at the way our teenagers binge drink, without once looking at ourselves as the role models for that behaviour. Now we send our kids off to school with the instructions to “stick up for yourself” against the bully, without once looking at our supposed community leaders, the police and our politicians, thanks to Tau and Trevor, for the examples our children are being given.
I’ve had a bully for 25 years now and I know how hard it can be to “stick up for yourself.’ I’m an unusual person to bully, having a tendency to be a bit of a tough nut, but my bully likes a challenge and at times he’s been so successful I’ve wanted to crawl under the floorboards of my house and never come out. I’ve craved the anonymity and the soothing waters of the ripple-less pond, but you just can’t do the dog paddle when hostility and hatred towards you are brewing out there in various whispering campaigns. When you realise that in the village where you live, the bully will always be around the corner waiting for you and even your children, you have to stand up and make it go away.
Louise Nicholas did it. After many years of rape and abuse by police she took them to court. She lost the case, but she gained Dame Margaret Bazley and the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct, and former cop John Dewar is in jail guilty of attempting to obstruct or defeat the course of justice.
And it is not lost on me that Louise is a woman, because Kiwi women have always been good at leading the way.
We should be grateful that she acted. That despite the reactors and the dog paddlers, this woman has shown us that a life led free of the bully, even if it takes 20 years and putting your face on every newspaper in the country, is because, in the words of that cosmetic campaign. You’re worth it.

Image by Anthony Ellison

Sunday, 4 November 2007

"Put Upon"

There comes a stage in most women’s lives when we find ourselves at the centre of such extreme responsibility and dependability that we feel Put Upon. From where we are standing the earth would simply refuse to turn on its axis if we weren’t there to give it that much needed push. No one, it seems can do anything without our help. From finding the only pair of jeans someone can possibly ever wear to rescuing the pot of yoghurt from the back of the fridge someone absolutely must have for breakfast. Everyone wants you at the same time for a million reasons and before you know it you begin to use the Put Upon language you vaguely remember your own mother using once upon a time.
“I don’t know why I bother!” is the phrase for those times when you have tidied the kitchen and returned minutes later to find it in disarray.
“Do I have to do everything?” is for those times when there’s no milk, My Sky crashes and you’re the only one who knows how to fix it and no one seems able to identify parsley in the garden when you need it for dinner.
“What did your last slave die of?” is mainly for those times when you really don’t want to get up off the couch during Coro St.
In reality we all know that we are never really indispensable. We create the Put Upon rod for our own back by failing to teach other people in the family how to fix things, turn things on and identify plant life. And if we’re honest most weeks of caring and nurturing pass unnoticed but occasionally this particular week is Put Upon week and our family wonders out loud if it’s a full moon again so soon.
During one of my Put Upon weeks I’ve glared at a glass of water resenting its apparent neediness. I’ve sworn at a novel feeling it was deliberately taking too damn long to finish being read. I’ve resented my books being put on my bookshelf, somehow segregated from the other main bookshelf. I’ve “I don’t know why I bother”-ed over the fact no one said “yum dinner Mum” within two seconds of it being placed in front of them. And rather than simply swear out loud at Leighton Smith’s callers I’ve actually thrown a tea towel at the radio.
But the secret is to get over it. Hot baths, glasses of wine, time alone in the garden and an early night are usually sufficient to shift a Put Upon. Because if we don’t shift it then we risk becoming a Permanently Put Upon. This is the woman whose life has become such a chore that she ages prematurely, never walks but stomps and whose every utterance is preceded by a sigh.
So occasionally, a slight dose of the Permanently Put Upon requires drastic action. One simply has to disappear for a few weeks under the guise of writing a novel to get some Put Upon free time, leaving the husband and children, dog and cats to fend for themselves. I ate whole grains and strawberries, didn’t answer the phone and typed furiously on the laptop with my view of the sea. And then I was Put Upon by one of my rowdier characters who decided she absolutely had to be Russian. No amount of persuasion would have her be a Parisian or a Hamiltonian, both places I can write about confidently. So I had to find a library and books about Russia before I decided to let her cool off in her St Petersburg Summer Palace while I popped home for a night of peace and quiet.
“We might have to take the dog to the vet,” said my husband when he picked me up from the ferry with his trademark irritating calmness that always kicks in when everything is collapsing. “She hasn’t eaten for two days and my computer crashed this morning so you’ll have to find the receipt because I’m sure it’s under warranty and Pearl’s finger is swollen.”
Within half an hour of walking back into my house the dog was eating, the computer had leapt back into life and I have no idea if the finger was any better but Pearl was smiling.
“You’re a miracle,” I expected my husband to announce like a TV husband on the commercials.
But he wasn’t about to admit that things work better with me around.
“I just feel so put upon,” he announced. And stomped off to the gym.

Sunday, 28 October 2007


The only problem with dining in exclusive posh restaurants is that it’s so damn quiet in there you can hear an egg crack in the kitchen and the Superior couple two tables away from you.
Superiors are a new breed of diner who recently emerged out of the mating of the nouveau riche and the fashionably challenged. When those two bred they produced a person who by necessity must dine in exclusive posh restaurants to illustrate their wealth, a trait inherited from their nouveau riche parent, and they must clothe themselves in ridiculous clothes simply because they have a label and cost a lot. Early Superiors dined at Number 5 and wore Trelise Cooper. Superiors these days dine at Dine and wear something obtained on their last trip to Paris in “one of those gorgeous designer boutiques in the Marais.”
Superiors are easy to spot in any restaurant as they adopt one of two positions. The first is a cool, cold gaze at their surroundings which says “I really can’t believe I’ve been forced to leave my world and join yours.” They sit in perfect silence as they wait for a perceived insult to occur. The second comes a mere 10 seconds later as the perceived insult is leapt on like a starving dog and kick starts and exhausting session of eye rolling, tittering and sighs.
My recent encounter with Superiors was something not only enjoyed by my table but the one next to it and the one next to that. We were all enormously entertained in our own private ways and reliant on each other to keep the collective group informed of the horrors taking place two tables away.
I was first alerted to the Superiors presence by the announcement of their waiter in a voice I felt was a little loud and possibly playing to his audience, which went something like:
“An offering from the kitchen by way of apology for the mistake with the asparagus!”
I paused momentarily as I munched through my asparagus, the first of the season, divine and perfectly presented.
The Superiors scowled, nibbled, then pushed their plates away.
We were there for our wedding anniversary. A particularly good one being the 10th but my attention was barely on my husband or his fond recollections of our honeymoon in Paris, something he likes to do on every anniversary (I was pregnant and too focussed on food to really be that romantic but I did cry at the Swan Lake.)
Instead I was drinking in the Superior woman. Short black hair perfectly styled to resemble Liza Minnelli in her early days. Crisp white shirt, something black, trim, stern and a few well placed pearls.
“She’s a lawyer,” I whispered to my husband as he was half way through his often told and engaging honeymoon story about the cheese. “Well he’s something intellectual or academic,” he jousted back. “Only intelligent men wear a pink striped shirt and get away with it.”
So there it was, the lawyer and the lecturer doing their best to have the worst night of their lives and pay $200 for the privilege.
We dined exquisitely, as always and every so often I could eavesdrop on my neighbours who, like us, spent most of the night commentating on the Superior table.
“She’s just sent back her glass of wine,” whispered the woman.
“But they’ve already drunk half the bottle!” replied the man.
In lesser restaurants we would have witnessed a meltdown by the staff. The chef storming out of the kitchen and giving them an ear full, the maitre D telling them to leave if they didn’t like it. But no. Dine and its staff kept on keeping on, even when Pink shirt asked that they bring him his jacket so that he could reach into the pocket and withdraw his stunning collection of platinum credit cards which he produced with a flourish. Apparently they can be made out of moon rock now.
And it was over. My husband gladly returned to his honeymoon stories but not before I had taken another look at my lawyer and seen the full extent of her outfit.
“She’s wearing a bloody curtain!” I shouted as my eyes took in the full splendour of her cream voluminous designer outfit making full use of the term “ruche” which had been hiding under the table all night.
I think she heard, because she threw a filthy look in our direction, but maybe she was wondering why the whole restaurant was in hysterics.

Image by Anthony Ellison

Sunday, 21 October 2007


There is nothing more unsettling than being the subject of a rumour especially when it is in the street you live in. I do my best to keep my nose clean down our street, but I’m willing to accept that lately there’re could be one going around about me which doesn’t involve alcohol for once.
It all started the day I bought home a bulk lot of baby gear in the back of the Mitsubishi Chariot. I had bought it off Trade Me and my nine-year-old daughter Pearl was excitedly helping me carry everything into the house.
“You have to tell them Mum,” she said seriously as I passed her the teenie weenie cute car seat.
“I’m too embarrassed,” I replied as I extricated the adorable high chair.
“Look Mum, you know the sooner you tell them, the better you’ll feel about it all,” Pearl advised making full use of her newfound tweeny wisdom.
“I know, I just can’t ye,.” I moaned as I wondered what colour to paint the tiny table and chairs.
At that moment I looked up over the box of gorgeous fluffy nappies and blankets and observed my neighbour staring in disbelief before hurriedly looking for something in the bottom of his car.
This is when my street came to the conclusion that I was pregnant. At 45 I was having a senior moment baby.
I now set off for my morning jog wondering how many people are peering over their lace curtains or yucca stone gardens as we get in Grey Lynn, to observe my tummy and the fact that I shouldn’t really be jogging so early in pregnancy at my age.
And of course it’s not true. Instead I’m going to be a Nana. And Pearl will be an aunty and it’s been such a long time since anything has excited me quite as much.
When my step-son Joel and his partner Gemma told us the news my husband and I leapt in the air and screamed with delight. I think we may have even high-fived but both of us have decided to blot that from our memory. The embarrassing bit is that days after, while the baby was still only 13 weeks into it’s gestation I bought a bulk load of baby gear. Shades of interfering mother-in-law crept in as a result of my eager purchase, the other kids just thought I’d gone mental, and even the woman I bought the gear off in Dannemora told me it was a bit odd. There are plans to tell Joel and Gemma, mainly because Pearl refuses to keep it a secret any longer, and I have been advised to show them one thing at a time rather than let them into my office which is now doing a very sizable impression of being a nursery.
I’m hoping they’ll think of my actions as a version of nesting which all women get when a baby is on the way. That fantastic fussing and knitting, folding and shopping and stroking of baby stuff.
I would like to say that the news that I would be a 45-year-old grandmother was met with resounding positivism and joy by my peers. But it seems no matter how excited you are and how many ways you tell people how excited you are there are always those in your age group who fire back the classic line: “I’m just not ready for grand-children yet.”
What part of not ready must you be at my age I wonder? Not ready to love a baby? Arms not ready to cuddle? Nose not ready to sniff the top of their little head and go ‘awww?’ Of course not. The problem seems to be that the very word “grand” placed in front of any noun denotes bad imagery. Grand old pooh bah, grand dame, a Starbucks grande latte, grand duchy, grand mal, grandiose. These are all bad things. So to be a grandmother means one must have a bad perm, a body resembling a lump of bread dough, the ability to do crosswords before, during and after lunch and to never shut up in a conversation.
We have seen the scan DVD and counted its delicious fingers and toes and we’ve already decided that the baby will sleep in our room when it stays. And my husband’s first words after the embarrassing high fives and large embraces of the new parents were: “We’ll be able to take it to the caravan.”

Sunday, 14 October 2007

"Shell Union"

“Have you read the ceremony?” a friend shouted. “God it’s all about shells and sea water…it’s so completely gay!” she squawked.
Normally my friend’s ability to put her foot in it is something I enjoy immensely. Watching her vocally stumbling across a minefield of human sensitivities is a big reason I like to hang out with her, but in this case it was my minefield and my sensitivities.
“I designed that ceremony, you bitch,” came my spirited reply. “And by the way it’s what they wanted, it’s not your wedding.”
“Oh I’m sorry and will you be wearing pink to blend in with the shells,” she guffawed deciding that now the hole was dug she might as well wallow in it. Another one of her attributes I enjoy. “And who gets to drink the seawater at the end?” she chortled.
This was to be my first civil union ceremony as a celebrant but there were two problems. I am not a celebrant. I am only two papers into my four paper celebrant certificate. And I’m not registered. I tried to get out of it several times, but my friends were insistent and I love them both very much so I drew heavily on the two papers I had completed and designed what I thought was a short, moving, deeply symbolic little ceremony and called on a proper celebrant to do the legal bits.
And yes, it involved shells because the wedding was by a beach, and each guest would be asked to place one in a bowl of sea water collected from the beach earlier. You don’t need a degree in symbolism to guess what that was all about. I asked my two friends to spend some time before the wedding wandering along a beach, collecting the shells as they thought of their family and friends and I would collect the sea water.
When I turned up to the rehearsal the shells looked suspiciously clean, perhaps even bleached. I sniffed them carefully, and reached the conclusion that the shells had possibly spent some time between the beach and the ceremony on a slow boat to China where they were processed and returned to be sold in a gift shop somewhere. Hey, they were shells I reasoned and my friends are busy people.
There were tears at the rehearsal and I mentally noted that I may have to draw on my funeral paper where we are taught how to stop people crying. I’m not telling you because it’s a celebrant secret but I was convinced I would be forced to use the manoeuvre during the ceremony.
Later that afternoon I waded into the sea and carefully collected a San Pellegrino water bottle – though other kinds of bottle can be used - full of sea water and went back to get dressed.
Which is when the third problem happened. I was late. I broke the first celebrant’s rule which is always to arrive early and help calm your couple’s nerves. Be their rock, or shell, in this case. I thought of my disappointed celebrant tutor and hoped she never found out.
“We’ve got nine minutes!” he shouted, sweat trickling down his well groomed face.
“Oh gosh have we, sorry.” I mumbled, noticing a small rip in the side of my dress achieved as I hurried out of the car.
“Where’s the sea water?” he screamed, eyes piercing mine in a menacing manner.
With eight minutes to go there was no way I could make it back to get the lonely bottle of sea water sitting expectantly in my kitchen.
“Deep breaths, count to ten, you both look terrific, don’t worry about a thing,” I said confidently as I grabbed the empty glass bowl and ran in no particular direction as long as I looked like I was in charge.
Under the tap it went and I even sprinkled a bit of table salt in to make it almost authentic. And so it began.
It was beautiful, moving, inclusive and funny. Everything it was intended to be.
I was surprised to find that none of the same sex couples there had been to a civil union ceremony despite it becoming law in 2004. In fact last year there were only 397 civil unions registered compared to 21,500 marriages in the same year.
Civil unions, despite all the fuss from Brian Tamaki and the Catholics, seem to be a very new thing. Perhaps they just need some more shells.
I ended the night having rather enjoyed my role in it and having found the determination to finish that certificate and get registered. I’m thinking the business card will be pink with a shell on it.

Image by Anthony Ellison

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Killing Jokes published Oct 7

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but there are some people for whom it can be a long journey before they come to the realisation that they can’t tell jokes. There are only so many times you can look at a sea of confused faces and announce: “you had to be there!” I am one of those people. Know me before you judge me.
The main problem appears to be the punch line. I forget it. Usually just after I’ve started telling the joke. But I sail on confident that it will come to me before I reach the end, like magic, and it never does.
This is a rare disability which is not so much short or long term memory loss, its important information memory loss of the creative kind.
I can sit through half a movie and read half a book before I realise I’ve seen or read it before. Don’t ever ask me if I’ve read or seen something because I just won’t know. I’ll have to ask you to describe it in detail, including all the action up till about half way through, when I’ll say “Oh yeah – and in the end she strips naked and floats away on the iceberg. That’s, like, my favourite movie of all time!!!”
On other occasions I give away the punch line before I’ve even told the joke. “I’ve got this great joke about a doctor having sex with his patient,” I’ll announce.
Fortunately in my world there are people who tell jokes very well indeed. One of my favourites is Kerre Woodham. Her jokes usually involve a lot of set up and every moment of it is exquisitely described as she captures the scene and takes you on a journey of marvellous humour. Passers by watching me listen to Kerre may mistake me for a love struck groupie, so heavenly is it to be entertained by her. I sit huddled in intense anticipation, like an addict about to get their fix and when it comes I shriek like a mad woman and ask for more. I’m ready to admit that I’ve become a bit of a Kerre cheerleader of late, recently interrupting a Paul Holmes lunch so that everyone could hear my Kerre tell her joke. As Kerre positioned herself at the head of the table, thrust her tits out and launched forth I took one look at Paul Holmes’ face and suddenly remembered with horror that it was a Paul Holmes lunch not a Kerre Woodham lunch and if anyone was going to be telling long funny jokes at the head of the table it was the star of the lunch thank you very much. Sorry Paul.
What Kerre and of course Paul have is timing. When you earn your living as a broadcaster you learn to take it easy and not rush into your joke with the sheer enthusiasm of a beginner. An immaculately told joke will always contain at least a pause or a brief silence for effect. And I’ve never been good at silence, even for that long.
A good joke teller will also have the desire to entertain. Years ago we decided as part of our blended family easing-in strategy to get everyone in our family of six to tell a joke at the dinner table. Everyone would swat swot up their joke books and deliver everything from “Why did the man throw his toast out the window? To watch his butterfly” to every knock knock joke you never wanted to hear. Except my son who when it came to his turn said: “Why did the chicken cross the road. Because he could” every night. His need to entertain was obviously very slight. Either that or his need not to feel like a dick was very high.
Recently I’ve been determined to end my long career in killing jokes. I just want to be one of those people at the dinner party who makes people laugh out loud because of a punch line not because I’m drunk and waving my skirt above my head. I’ve been receiving instruction from my husband who has learned not to shake his head in dismay quite so often as I stunningly destroy great jokes simply by telling them. I’m not quite comedy festival stand-up material yet and I’ll never be a Kerre, but if you hear me telling a joke in the future, please at least pretend to laugh.

Image by Anthony Ellison

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Unexpected published Sept 30

There are some events which happen in life that we are completely unprepared for. You think about such catastrophic happenings but you doubt that they will ever really take place. You use phrases such as “pigs can fly” or “I’m Marie of Romania” with reference to these things occurring and you go about your daily business confident that they won’t. Sure that in the ways of the universe it would never happen to you.
One of these events happened last week. To be fair I had been warned, and it should have been expected. But I just didn’t think it ever would.
My husband stopped smoking. After thirty years of devotion to tobacco he smells like a different man. Our house is smoke free for the first time and I’m looking forward to having him around ten years longer than the smoking version. It’s the coolest, sexiest most wonderful think he’s ever done. He’s told me to increase our mortgage payments by the $100 a week he’d normally spend on fags, but I’m secretly putting it into a savings account so that he can fulfil a life long dream of visiting Antarctica, something being a smoker would be difficult to do.
As it turns out it was quite the week for unexpected events.
We had a tyre blow out on the southern motorway and we didn’t swerve across the road into oncoming traffic at 100 km an hour and die. In fact within minutes a nice man stopped to offer help followed by a fine police officer who had the tyre off and spare on before you could say thank you very much. My husband nearly started smoking again from the stress but didn’t.
I caught my first fish in two years. It was only 20 cms long and requested that it be thrown back in the sea. I acquiesced, but only after securing from it a promise that it would send back a bigger member of its species next time I was fishing.
My best friend had her birthday. Which wasn’t unexpected but she did manage to eat her lunch while my Kumfs shoes, which she had previously declared she would not allow within a 100 metres of her own Miu Miu’s, had a nice rest under the table directly beneath her calamari.
My novel which is half written and has sat grumpily in my computer for the past few months untouched, put its hand up and requested a month in Venice to be completed. Apparently as half of it is set in Venice it needs to revisit the light, the churches, the canals and the food. It claims to have been inspired by watching the movie Don’t Look Now again, and denies it is obsessed with the sex scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. I’m delighted the novel is ready to be finished but unsure if I could stand a month in Venice away from my family nor am I prepared to filch the money out of my husband’s Antarctica account, even if he doesn't know it exists. My novel tells me to harden up.
My five-year-old huntaway/golden retriever cross decided to reveal her latent ability to kill possums. We’re not actually sure if the possum died but it was last seen swimming out to sea. The last time the dog showed any interest in wildlife a possum ran for dear life across a patch of grass and up the nearest thing which looked like a tree, which was me.
Oh and then to top it all off a frippery of a memoir I had tapped out over the summer more for my own amusement than anything else never left the warehouse where it was sitting eagerly awaiting a day out at the book stores.
I heard from friends and colleagues I hadn’t spoken to in years and we discussed themes of censorship, the defence of truth and we recalled our early years as fearless journalists when we got stories out there, no matter what. And then we laughed my old friends and me. Because with such a fuss I wished my book had died an honourable death having brought down a corrupt political party or some hidden truth like who really killed Princess Diana and where Madeleine McCann is. But instead it is still a frippery of a memoir which in its short life made people laugh and cry. My husband nearly started smoking again from the stress, but didn’t.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Souvenirs published Sept 23

It’s strange the things people remember. Recollections of white hot arguments, mad dreams, romantic interludes and hot sex are all capable of hitting us at the most inconvenient times, simply because we triggered the memory.
A smell or an object can bring it all back in living colour which is quite cool. Embracing your memory and reliving events in your head, such as hot sex as an example are an essential way of getting through a bus ride or that phone call which just won't end. And that is why some of us collect souvenirs. Not the snow dome, fridge magnet, shot glass type souvenirs, but the ones the French meant when they invented the word souvenir which means to remember.
And while some may collect these memory prompters and put them away in little boxes, I prefer to have mine with me. If someone were to pounce upon me and shake my huge handbag upside down they would find the following:
A silver button found on a street in Paris on the way to a special dinner in 1997.
A piece of King Arthur’s Tintagel castle which found its way into my shoe (honest) in Britain on a special holiday in 1995.
A child’s tooth. I’m not sure which child this belonged to but it makes me remember all their gappy smiles, which is always nice.
A religious picture of Mary given to me by an old lady outside Pompeii in 2006. It’s very pretty.
A shell from the beach my youngest daughter took her first steps on.
And numerous business cards from restaurants I have adored eating in. As I fumble in my purse for loose change or a lipstick I often find these cards in various states of disarray and think straight back to the sardine, pine nut, raisin pasta or the crayfish. Yum.
I often gaze at other women and their immaculate handbags with nothing in them except a lipstick, a mirror, a cell phone and a purse. All placed just so. What chance do memories have of surviving in such sterility?
Of course there are other souvenirs we do not welcome. The smell of Kouros aftershave wafting off a man in the street will cause me to double over in revulsion, such is the gloomy sexual memory I have associated with that. The scent of Charlie reminds me of an operation my mother had when I was young and worried. . Five inch heel, drop dead gorgeous shoes in my wardrobe remind me of the two years I have spent under the care of a podiatrist after one particularly energetic night out and the fact that I will never again be truly glamorous. Two inch suede courts from Kumfs, remind me that I’ve really given up, and my friend is still recovering from the shock that I actually went into a Kumfs store yet alone tried some shoes on and bought them. She’s now banned me from wearing them anywhere near her, she claims she can smell them coming from 100 metres away, such is her distaste for anything other than Miu Miu or Manolo Blahnik.
Gold wrapping paper has its own special memory associations. Mainly of shop assistants who take as long to gift wrap something as it took for you to drive to the shop, find a park, look around the shop, decide on you purchase and pay for it.
No wonder I keep a piece of old castle in my bag to give me something to look at as I resign myself to the fact that I’ll never get that half hour back again.
And then there is food as a souvenir. I’ve found this quite an absorbing pastime as I’ve determinedly lugged wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano back from Italy and presented them to the nice man at customs. Tins of pate and terrine, spices, jam and chocolate. I’ve brought them all back from far flung destinations, proudly lining up in the “Something to Declare” cue and smiling sweetly at the customs man who sniffs, and attempts to read the French or Italian on the package and then finally lets me through with my gastro souvenirs. All except the duck confit. Two whopping tins of it, lugged in my hand baggage. I think I might have cried at the waste of it. The customs man patted my shoulder and said: “There, there.” I’ll never forget him.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Welcome to my blog

I hope you enjoy the columns I am posting on this site. I came up with the idea after I backed up my computer and saw I had about three years' worth sitting on my hard disc. I figured someone other than the Herald on Sunday readers might like to read them. If you don't that's fine because in reality I'm just trying to avoid writing my novel, like most writers who have blogs. I've tried baking bread (see next week's column) and my garden is flourishing. Tomorrow I start on my writer's regime as advised by Stephen King and will write a little every day. That should help. I have done chapters one and two which my 18-year-old daughter tells me are very good but advises that I concentrate on showing the story rather than telling it. I'm not sure where she gets these things from but it is age old advice especially for journalists trying to write fiction and I think I'll keep her on as my novel tester. If I am looking for even more distraction I may start posting my Agony Aunt columns for your amusement. Off to bake more bread.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

"Noticing Death" published September 16

An obsession with death notices is something most often found in the elderly. The sure knowledge that someone you knew has passed away before you is enough to keep old people scanning them daily. I’m not sure if this is a good feeling to have, knowing that you have been pre-deceased, or a bad feeling knowing that your circle of friends is growing ever increasingly smaller.
Being obsessed with death notices when you’re my age, on the other hand, is a simple case of nosiness. It started in my early years as a journalist when you were trained to read every inch of a paper in case something popped up of interest. Now you have shows like Fair Go and What Ever Happened To….to do that. But it’s a hard habit to break because you can tell a lot about a person from their death notice. And in my opinion you can never know too much about strangers.
Popularity is always an important consideration after someone dies. If they get a lot of notices, for many days then you can be assured they were well-liked. One lonely notice detailing the rest home they died in, a few relatives mostly deceased and an age of 94 and you can pretty much assume it was a fairly lonesome old passing.
Personality has only a slim chance of making itself heard in the death notice because it comes down to the nickname. “ Plonker,” “Big Boy,” and “Stinky” are all self-explanatory and impart a certain sense of fun. Likewise “Shrimp,” “Jiggles” and “Fats” require little interpretation although their owners would probably have preferred “Twelve Inch”, “Tits” or “Boulder Boy.”
Frustrating is the insistence on olde worlde language which tells us death notice sleuths absolutely nothing. Like sex and bowel movements, our language around death is required to be in code. No one dies; they pass away or pass on. Dead people are deceased, and they are always cherished or treasured.
“Passed away peacefully” is fair enough as it most likely means someone just died of natural causes at a very old age. But words such as “suddenly” and “unexpectedly” leave the reader hanging somewhat. Suicide or heart failure? We need to know. Car accident, violent stabbing, fishing trip gone wrong, alien abduction? Could someone not tell us the story about how Bob left early to go hunting with his best friend Steve, who then shot him thinking he was a deer. Now that’s a good death notice read on any given day.
Poetry is also encouraging in it’s effort to impart a little more information about a person although I’m now sure the one about God only taking the bes, makes a lot of sense, death being the non selective beast it is. Or the bit about the dead person being needed elsewhere. What for? Being a bank manager for dead people? It’s the amateur poetry not provided by the bible, but inspired by the grieving relatives which can be a little frustrating for its tendency to rhyme stay and away, joke and bloke, go and flow and Kevin and Heaven. I haven’t seen pissed and missed yet but I live in hope.
And of course lately you can have a picture too. I’ve previously written about the care which must be taken in leaving behind a suitable shot of ourselves when we were hot in our 20s to accompany our death notice, but one must now leave instructions as to the clip art you would like to go with your notice. Will it be the red rose outline or just the red rose? The dove and window or the baby angel and dove. Frustratingly none of these illustrations give the nosy parker any more relevant information about the deceased, apart from the fact that their relatives or funeral director like to add that special touch.
And occasionally there are strokes – sorry - of sheer brilliance for the obsessive death notice follower. Times when someone has penned something so gorgeous you sigh with appreciation, such as the great grandchildren who recently said they would miss the cookies and lemonade and the beautiful garden.
Now that’s more like it. If I had it my way death notices would be more like a collection of mini obituaries along the lines of my own…
Nissen, Wendyl, aged 98. Suddenly, outside SPQR, after a short battle with the footpath. In lieu of flowers champagne may be brought to what should be a very interesting party.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

"Irrational bad moods" published Sept 9

There just aren’t enough bad moods in the world any longer. It used to be that you could wake up hating the world and people would leave you be. They’d describe you as being a bit “under the weather” or having “got up on the wrong side of the bed.” They would work around you, leaving you to sort out whatever demons were fighting it out in your head, bring you cups of tea and wait patiently for the storm clouds to clear. Before the age of “feel good” radio, television and magazines it was okay to be a bit down. No one ever put their hands on their hips and said: “cheer up!” or “don’t you think it’s time you had closure?”
Today, when you start the day glaring at your nine-year-old daughter who hops into bed, grabs the newspaper and reads out the weather in Rome (23 degrees), Paris (23 degrees) and Mecca (43 degrees!!!), you are forced to feel guilty about your irrational bad mood. How could you possibly be irritated by your darling daughter reading to you as she does every morning? Perhaps it has something to do with her kicking you, dropping her toast crumbs, elbowing you into the corner and spilling your cup of tea. That exact sequence of events happens every morning and you don’t mind. Too bad. I just want to be grumpy for once.
The modern day requirement to be consistently cheerful is one I’m able to fill most of the time. I’m generally quite an upbeat, wine glass three quarters full type of person who likes to see the good in everyone and everything. Which makes it all the more special when a bad mood does strike. It’s new, it’s exciting and absorbing, like a wild affair with a very bad boy without the sex. But deep down you know it’s not right, so you have to find the reason for it, deal with it, and attempt to please everyone by getting happy again.
For women our first thought is PMT. And 90 percent of the time that’s the culprit especially if you’ve been dropping things and crying. If not, then something has happened that has annoyed you like realising all the Auckland mayoral candidates are ridiculous or someone at the newspaper you work for ran the same column you wrote two weeks in a row. Perhaps it’s the weather? Those relentlessly grey, wet days just will not end at this time of the year. And if it’s none of those things then one must come to the realisation that you are just being a self indulgent cantankerous old bag. And you have no choice but to embrace, indulge and enjoy.
As the day progresses you dismiss your adult children’s conversations with curt phrases such as “get over yourself,” “whatever” and “are you home for dinner?” You remind your husband that a) he already kissed you goodbye and no he can’t have another b) no you don’t want a foot massage and c) life does not revolve around what’s for dinner.
Then some old person rings up to talk to your husband about something and you yell at them because they got confused and had the audacity to say in a rather loud voice, as old people do: “Who are you? I don’t want you. You’re not the person I rang to talk to!” Later you hope like hell they didn’t hear the words “rude” and “prick” which accompanied the phone as it was thrown across the room.
Then you turn down a job just because you can. Not because you didn’t have the time, the ability or the inclination. You just felt like it. So there. Later your friend reminds you that you’ll never pay off the mortgage with that attitude. You hope like hell she’s forgiven you for using the words “rude” and “prick” in the same sentence.
And then it’s over. Just like that. Nothing a quick lunch and a few glasses of wine at SPQR can’t fix. Miraculously you rejoin the land of the contented as you find yourself complimenting your daughter’s outfit, laughing at your other daughter’s joke, singing to yourself as you cook dinner and giving your husband a kiss just because you felt like it.
And you realise that irrationally bad moods are possibly sent to us for a reason.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

"Diana a Decade of Dreariness" published Sept 2

I sense I was not alone in my need to groan with despair at the manufacturing of recycled grief as we remembered Princess Diana a decade after her dreary death.
Okay so the actual death wasn’t dreary, surrounded as it is with tales of a missing white Fiat, paparazzi chases, a mystery foetus, a supposed engagement, a jealous heart surgeon, MI5, CIA. Brilliant. When will they make the movie and will Hugh Grant be the love interest or the driver of the Fiat?
But what has always been dreary is Diana. She was a dreadful bore from the moment she emerged from the dodgy Spencer clan into the even dodgier royal family. She showed nothing but a crippling shyness and naivety which fuelled by the rigorous protocol and emotional coldness of her husband and in-laws swiftly blossomed into a maniacal attention seeking loo loo la la nutbar.
In the last few years of her life she spent much of it asking for privacy from the very media she courted with exclusive “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” documentaries, secretly co-writing her own tell-all book which was described as the “longest divorce petition in history” and leaking stories to her preferred newspapers.
She was not the first celebrity to believe her own publicity but she was and still is the first celebrity to be crowned Queen of Media Manipulation.
She also managed to get a grip on her deplorable style. Who will ever forgive her for introducing knickerbockers let alone those dreadful drop-waisted Mother Hubbard dresses? And she made sure that the best photographers in the world took suitably gorgeous shots of her, for which the media are now eternally grateful as they all reprint that classic black and white Mario Testino shot over and over, year in and year out. Strange how we never see her in those demonic polka dot tents complete with ridiculous hats she got about in during the 80s anymore.
I never shed a tear for Diana, even though I knew her life intimately having sold thousands of magazines on the back of every story ever conceived about her. I just never really liked her because what’s to like?
While she moaned on about Charles and his relationship with Camilla, one had to wonder what part of British Royal History 101 she was reading before she signed up to the marriage? Did she not get the bit about mistresses and turning the other cheeks? I’m not saying its right, but no woman in her right mind would marry Charles or any royal for that matter and expect a conventional marriage. And while we’re at it let’s take a close look at just what she was doing with her fidelity while she was throwing up her dinner from the stress. She was hardly idle, choosing to entertain herself with such class acts as James Hewitt and other such bores in uniform.
Possibly the only thing you could like about the women was her way with kids. There was no doubting she loved her sons and could hug any old orphan in any old orphanage and mean it. But being a good mother is something 99 per cent of women do well, there are no medals available for that, it’s called instinct. And let’s just pause a moment and look back at how she treated William and Harry. If your children were being harassed by paparazzi because of wouldn’t you do something about it? Here’s a suggestion: retire from public life and stop jet setting around the world with dodgy billionaire’s sons. A quiet life in the country perhaps with some security help from her ex hubby’s staff. It might take a few years of fighting your addiction to fame but you’d still be alive for your sons.
Ten years on I think the rest of the world may be starting to catch up with me. Unlike the initial and astonishing outpouring of grief in Britain for Diana from a nation renowned for its emotional reserve and stiff upper lip her anniversary seems to have gone quietly past with no one having anything much more to say than “where is that white Fiat?” and “Gosh didn’t her death teach the Royal family something about being accessible to their public.”
Perhaps in 2007 we have other more pressing concerns to cry about and the media just aren’t doing their job. I haven’t heard a thing about Paris Hilton for weeks.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

"Virtual Reality" published August 26

I had just managed to change my shirt from purple to blue, make my hair blonde and change my pants from jeans to black when a friend rang suggesting we catch up for a drink in an hour.
I was hoping that in an hour I would have removed my blue shirt and my black pants and would be having sex, but that’s the great thing about the internet I could log out and do it later.
I am one of nearly 9 million registered members of a virtual colony called Second Life. I signed up because I read about it in Time magazine and I couldn’t quite believe anyone would seriously want to exist in a virtual world, buy land, build houses, go shopping or have sex. Pretty soon I was an “avatar” and while my co-“avatars” had names like “Echo” and “Wind.” I opted for a more Kiwi approach and called myself “Kauri.
My first session lasted four hours by which time I had managed to change my clothes so that I didn’t look like Paris Hilton, conversed with several other Second Lifers who were all new too and just having a look around (although one woman was practicing yoga and hid behind a tree when I said hi). Another man dressed in black sat on me, well virtually, and I got scared. Sitting at my laptop on a Sunday afternoon a man who doesn’t exist scared me shitless and I felt certain he was going to virtually rape me. So I flew away and landed at the bottom of the sea. But I didn’t drown I just walked out dry as a bone and fresh as a daisy, no blow dry needed.
It was about this time that my husband wandered in to see what I had just bought on Trade Me, that being the only other reason I would sit at my computer for hours without moving. I asked him if he’d mind if I had Second Life sex for research purposes. Call me old fashioned but I just had to see how you did it. The words “virtual” and “orgasm” were weighing heavily on my believability register. He wasn’t keen but did suggest that he could enter Second Life too and we could have virtual sex with each other. “Kauri” meets “Rubber Plant”, how sweet. He’s always been quick on his feet when it comes to problem solving, damn him.
The trend to live your life in your computer is something I have been battling to prevent others from doing for several months now. Friends send me emails saying they’ve signed me up for Facebook so instead of emailing, phoning or actually physically seeing me they can send messages from a website which seems to provide little else than a virtual community of like minded knob heads.
Why are we all avoiding real life?
Because in real life we are fat, and in cyberspace we can be thin. In real life we might not be as charming and witty as we would want to, but in cyberspace we have the time to think up the lines before we tap them out. I no longer visit Second Life, simply because things took forever to do and the Second Life community would often freeze while it caught up with my commands, which is probably more Telecom’s appalling broadband delivery problem than theirs. I just couldn’t face the thought of having sex and freezing at the wrong moment. It might send the wrong signal.
And I just couldn’t get my hair right. It insisted on looking like a dish mop after a big load of dishes, and quite frankly my hair looks like that in real life, so I wasn’t about to put up with it in virtual land.
Perhaps our computer is safer for many people. If you make a mistake, like landing in the ocean, then you’ll survive. You will always have something to do and people to meet who won’t judge you because you have a wart on your nose, big hips or a small dick. And at the end of day with your computer keyboard you will have had some emotional interaction of some kind. You may have been scared like I was, or you may have been loved, appreciated, listened to or played with.
Pretty soon you’d forget the joy of reading a good book, walking in the sun and meeting a friend for a glass of wine in an hour.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

"Celebrity Do Gooders" published August 19

When you spend your career writing about and therefore living off celebrities you tread a very narrow line if you turn on them. Welcome to my very narrow line.
On one side of the line is the right for all celebrities to be someone people recognise. Work on the tele, talk on the radio, star in a movie, read the news, learn to dance. Talk about these things in the magazines and give us some inside information on your personal life because people find you inspirational. They feel they own you and your star shines a little light on their ordinary lives. That’s celebrity culture and something I will always defend for its right to have a positive influence on people. I will also defend celebrities like Jools Topp to talk about her breast cancer and John Kirwan to talk about his depression. They are talking about their own experience of these issues.
But the other side of the line is where celebrities should not tread. Putting themselves out there to discuss issues they are not qualified to talk about, such as child abuse. There are doctors, social workers and Plunket nurses to do that. People who have actually met abusers and their victims and therefore have a reasonable understanding of why these atrocities happen and how one could go about starting to fix them. You don’t find many child abuse cases at a Trelise Cooper children’s fashion show. Well not the kind you read about in the paper anyway.
Celebrities do not own the exclusive rights to expressing their anger and concern either. We all have that in spades and don’t particularly need to watch them parroting how we feel on television. We have mirrors. If they have answers because their charity has invested its funds into research then let’s hear them, we’re interested. But don’t wring hands and talk about your embarrassment and the fact that you don’t know or don’t care about “the Maori problem.”
Recently we’ve seen celebrities emerge from behind their glamour and carefully maintained images to “protest.” Christine Rankin and her team of yummy mummies had the relatively easy job of turning up and saying nothing for three minutes to show their concern about child abuse. I was so deeply affected I went to Christine’s charity For the Sake of Our Children Trust on the net to see what I could do to help. I was encouraged to talk about the problem with friends and politicians, to sign up to the charity and get others to as well, to report incidences of child abuse and to become a positive role model. Who had any idea it was so easy to solve the child abuse problem?
Jonah Lomu recently reminded us to remind our power supplier if we might die if the electricity was turned off. Ta, Jonah. And let’s not forget Breast Cancer Awareness week when celebrities find a friend’s mother who once had a lump removed and recall the pain and agony this knowledge inflicted on them when they found out.
Some might suggest that celebrity wagons are being hitched to such shocking and disturbing issues as child abuse as a way of fleshing out their brand and getting them some much needed coverage. I prefer to see it as a misguided attempt on their part to use their celebrity status to draw attention to a cause they know little about. “If just one person stops beating a child because I’m embarrassed and I think it’s a Maori problem then it’s worth it because then I’ll feel better.” That might work for the correct way to put out a fire or not be killed on a railway crossing but child abuse? Such an endemic, historic, complex issue, will not be fixed by the stroke of a celebrity highlighter.
Celebrity causes are not new. Brigdet Bardot has devoted her life to saving little animals, Angelina Jolie’s work inflicting media intrusion on unsuspecting orphans is well documented and Diana Princess of Hearts tiptoed around a few land mines in her time.
But people are still cruel to animals, children are still suffering and people are still being blown up by landmines.
And Christine Rankin gets more news coverage for the alleged firing of a TVNZ security guard who challenged her racist views, than providing any useful suggestions for this nation’s child abuse recovery.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

"Grandma Envy" published August 12

Grandma envy is not something many women admit to. When you have adult children it is usually a signal to stop wearing underwear, remind yourself that “flirt” is not a dirty word and take up Ceroc dancing. I’m not one of those women. I can’t wait for grand children. My own kids grew up at SPQR so I figure it’ll be business as usual with the grand kids.
Which is why I’m practicing on Cleo. She’s four, and one of those kids you would repeat order if you could. She ticks all the right boxes from cute as a button right through to immaculate comic timing.
She came to stay for five nights. In anticipation I bought her a pink cuddly rug, a gypsy skirt, a bunny rabbit, two princess books and junk food. I’m not sure why I bought the baby rug but it was soft and cuddly and it made me feel grandma’ish.
What I didn’t realise was that no one else in my house was feeling remotely grandma’ish.
“Did you think about consulting the rest of us before bringing another child into our home?” said the indignant husband.
I think he was about to say: “A dog is not just for Christmas, it’s for life!” but thought better of it.
Men can be such pricks sometimes. Especially when proving points about consultative practice which is a theme we’re working on at present. Not to mention the new theme which emerged when Cleo came to stay called “doesn’t lift a finger.”
Non envious grandparent of the future chose to ignore the overwhelmingly positive and gorgeous presence of my practice grand-daughter.
So it was me and Cleo with some help from the adult kids who found her vastly amusing on the topic of nude male paintings.
“I have to move, I’m sick of looking at that man’s penis,” she announced.
Even the dog had something to say by urinating on the kitchen floor as she does when she’s emotionally unstable and coping with the realisation that she has just been relegated one notch further down the food chain. And Pearl the nine-year-old requested a day off at her friend’s house.
“I just need some space Mum. You know how it is.”
Meanwhile Cleo, sensing my acute aloneness in a house of many subtly worked on the husband in an impressively early display of sisterhood.
“Oh you are so tall,” she would say eyeballing him with her clear green eyes. “Uncle Paaauuulll can I have a cuddle.”
Good girl.
I tried to hide my exhaustion from Cleo. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to get my arse off the couch to watch a child have a bath, read bedtime stories or negotiate with a pre-schooler. “I don’t want to!” are four words Cleo uses a lot.
“I’ll give you a piece of chocolate!” were seven words I used a lot.
On the third night after I had cooked a meal for 10 (our usual contingent on a Sunday night) Cleo slipped in a puddle of emotionally unstable dog urine and everyone just kept on eating. As I calmed her and the dog down, changed her clothes and put dog out the back I caught a look of horror from the five big kids. And it was directed at Paul. The normally hands-on, can’t do enough Father of the Year. He was nonchalantly forking spaghetti into his mouth and looking the other way. Too nonchalantly. The kids were not impressed.
“Why is Mum behaving like a single parent?” my eldest daughter demanded to know in a reassuring display of sisterhood.
More spaghetti. More nonchalance.
“She saw me and ran up and gave me a huge hug!” he announced the next day after picking her up from day-care having casually mentioned that he could probably manage it on his way home from work.
“She’s soooooo gorgeous,” said Uncle Paaauuulll. “I’ve bought her a green umbrella. I can’t wait to be a grandpa,” he gurgled.
I put my feet up for the first time in days.
And then she was gone. Swept up by her tanned parents who reacted quite calmly to the news that “Aunty Wendyl gives me chocolate if I go wees before bed” which were the first words to tumble out of her deliciously funny mouth.
The dog is only just back to her normal non-urinating inside self and Cleo left behind the baby blanket and the green umbrella.
But they’ll be waiting anxiously for her next time, as we both are.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

"Phones" published August 5

There are three things in life which never happen. The first is having an overwhelmingly positive response when someone calls while you are on deadline to check “you’re happy with our service.” The second is having an overwhelmingly positive response when you’re on deadline and that person is calling from Telecom. And the third is being haunted by that phone call for months, day and night, dreaming and awake, so scary was your conversation.
Her name was Tania or Stacey or something like that. I told her I was unhappy paying hundreds of dollars a month for a phone line, broadband and two cell phones. I told her I couldn’t understand my bill no matter how many times I tried to analyse it Why is it that when you flick it over it is upside down and you have to turn it around and then you forget what you were looking at? And why is it 20 pages long? Why do 1D, 1W, 9D, and 9F in the “type of call” column all mean “mobile to mobile” What’s the difference? What do all my “plans” actually mean? I can’t remember. Tania or Stacey “pulled me up” on her screen. There was a silence. “It’s your cell phone, you’ve already spent $100 this month,” she announced.
“But I don’t use it that much, maybe you need to put me on another plan.”
Silence. Pause.
“Umm, look I’ve got to go into a meeting, I’ll call you back in an hour.”
Tania/Stacey never called back. I waited with an anticipation I found hard to justify to myself in my most confident moments. Why did it matter? Surely Tania/Stacey wasn’t keeping anything from me, like the fact that I was being ripped off and Tania/Stacey’s job was to upgrade me to spend more, not save me money. A nagging feeling planted itself on my shoulder from that day like some consumer time bomb ticking away. In moments of reason at 4am as I lay awake pretending to read but really wondering why she never called back I thought that perhaps the meeting she was called into could have been her last because she was fired for going too easy on the customers. Or maybe she was pregnant and working from home to make ends meet and she went into labour and obviously couldn't call me back.
There was nothing for it but to consult the kids. Not that any of them is particularly skilled in translating Telecom phone bills or was at all interested in a discussion as to why Tania/Stacy never called back. But they did know about Other Network charges. The fact that all my girlfriends, and therefore the ones I chat to are 021 people. When you’re an 027 calling 021 costs more than my life is worth.
“Change to Vodafone,” they announced on their way out the door oozing their particular brand of youth, vitality and cool.
But therein lies the rub. At the caravan only 027 works and I need that for my nifty email connection so that I can work and no one knows I’m actually down there. It’s amazing how many business conversations you can have in the gaps between seagull calls, crashing waves and camp mates dropping off buckets of kiwifruit.
Then Matt, the kids’ friend who just flew up from Dunedin for the holidays gave me the solution. Two phones. One for my 021 friends on prepay the other my 027. It’s not the most environmentally friendly option, he pointed out, but it saves you money. And as he actually flew the plane he just arrived on, I figured he knew a thing or two.
So the two phone option was adopted at the cost of $110 which I would no doubt save in a matter of weeks.
“Gosh it’ll be a bit embarrassing when both of them go off at the same time while I’m out at lunch,” I chortled to my daughter as I headed out to lunch.
“Has anyone seen my extra phone?” I yelled the next morning.
It was gone. It disappeared at lunch and SPQR report that it hasn’t turned up in the little draw under the cash register which so often minds the things I leave behind. I had used the phone for 24 hours.
I now have another one bringing the total money saving exercise into the red at -$220. Which will actually take months to make it worth my while even with my $6 Best Mate deal.
That’s the sort of thing I like to think Tania/Stacey would have warned me about if we’d ever got to have our chat.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

"Status" published July 29

Just once in my life you would think it possible to do something a little unusual and not have it become a trend. I’ve been catching buses consistently for 10 whole days. I’ve stood in the rain and waited for 20 minutes, I’ve caught the wrong one and I’ve forgotten to ring the button for my stop. But generally I’ve become quite the buster, complete with my 10 pass ticket and smug saving the environment face.
Distressingly I was recently in a very posh restaurant (having caught the bus and arrived a little early) and overheard a table of well heeled businessmen earnestly discussing their recent bus trips. The men had “my car cost as much as a small house” written all over them but they were telling tales of hopping on not one but two buses to get about the place. Surely rich white men were untouched by such hippy talk as using public transport? Surely my bus experiences were mine and mine alone not to be messed about with by people of that class and status? When my companions joined me one of them looked over at the table and explained away my dilemma.
“They own Stagecoach,” he announced in a matter-of-fact tone only news readers possess.
Obviously they’d been indulging in a fun corporate exercise of “getting down with the customers” and were celebrating in the relative safety of a restaurant none of their customers could afford.
But good on them. The more people who catch buses the better because then we might get more of them, on time and going our way more frequently. We’ll reduce traffic congestion, save petrol, and operate like a proper metropolitan city. We might also get buses free for students and old people which would be super.
There are some of us who adore public transport. I’ve been to Europe six times and never caught a taxi. Not even from the airport. Which sometimes means you’re in a carriage with dope smoking Nigerian teenagers who live in the outskirts of Paris, but they seemed quite nice. They were certainly laidback.
It also means you sometimes get told the train you’re on is the right one when it’s not. But how often do you get to see a quaint old train station in the middle of Sicily while a young woman (who later reveals she is a geriatric neurologist) screams at the top of her voice in staccato Italian at a station master to get her the right train and get it now.
But back in New Zealand if everyone becomes busters, there will be the problem of status anxiety. Without the buzz of sliding into your heated leather bucket seats, firing up the V8 and cruising around the streets in a car designed for fording rivers rather than negotiating traffic islands at an average speed of 40km, how are people going to know that you’re important? How will they know that you have six figure salary, a seven figure house and a really small penis?
I’ve been working on it. First you must wear your money in accessories. You don’t just plug into a 1GB iPod you have the mega 80 GB version. You also have headphones at least the size of your head if not bigger and every accessory you can find from skins to armbands. People will take one look at you and see the equivalent of at least a BMW 3 series or an Audi A4. But add a Blackberry and get busy with your emails and you can shift all the way up to a Porsche or even a Rolls Royce phantom if you score yourself a Vertu or an iPhone.
Then there is the problem of maintaining your status as in individual. By necessity public transport means you are not alone. You may have to sit next to a fat person or listen to rowdy children…yuck! But please don’t return to the solo haven of your vehicle. Consider this a good chance to mix with the “real” people and drop in funny anecdotes at work just to show that you’re “in touch.” You can even afford to become a little supercilious with it now you’re officially a buster.
And if you’re not a status seeking wanker, then it may be necessary to advertise your less materialistic attributes by reading intelligent literature. A newspaper is a good start, a Jane Austen if you’re into attracting the ladies, but why not go the whole hog and grab yourself a copy of “A Life Stripped Bare, my year of trying to live ethically” (available at all good Trade Aid shops.)

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Age published July 22

I turned 45 on Thursday the same week that cute little weather girl Toni Marsh was furiously trying to tell everyone she was no where near 40. Apparently she’s nearly 39 and someone had to rock up to Births, Deaths and Marriages to find out. I’m okay about admitting my age because secretly I know people really think I’m 35.
This year I’ve even started growing the grey streak back into the front of my hair, just so people will look at me and say: “Well she must be 45 she has that grey streak, if she was 35 she’d be dying it.”
And actually I’m more likely to tell people I’m older than I am because I can never quite remember what year I’m in or what year I was born.
I’m also quite happy for someone to look up my birth certificate to prove that I’m 10 years older than I am but to save you the bother it was July 19, 1962, North Shore Hospital. You’ll notice my name was originally Wendy, but it was altered to Wendyl when I was 10 months old. I tell people my parents had a huge weekend and decided to invent a new name for me. They deny this furiously (the bit about the huge weekend, the name is quite obviously made up) and while we’re at it Mum would like it if I mentioned something positive about her for once. She won at bridge this week. Got a silver cup and $50.
That same week I was also struck for the very first time with the knowledge that I had at least 40 years still to go if you take the average life expectancy for a Kiwi woman is 81.9. I’ve added 3.1 years for good behaviour. What an awfully long time to fill when you’ve already got a career, given birth four times, learned how to cook, sew, garden, read without moving your lips and have decent sex. What will I do with those 40 years? I’ve started doing the crossword.
Someone suggested affairs with younger men are all the go when you have a bit of time on your hands. I asked my husband what it would be like from the man’s point of view to watch an older woman take her clothes off in front of you. Would she be best to insist on lights out, take some E so that it didn’t really matter or give him a guided tour to the scars your life has left on you? Fell off the bike coming home from tennis, first baby stretch marks, second, third and fourth baby stretch marks, skin cancer removal, episiotomy scar times four. My husband suggested leaving out the episiotomy because young men don’t know what that is.
I had a dinner for my birthday. The friends I invited were different from the friends I invited the year before and the year before that. Some were the same, obviously I don’t go through friends quite that quickly, but none of them were at my 35th birthday. Age does that.
I refrained from screaming in a pissed way at my birthday lunch with the girls that I’d “bought myself Botox for my birthday!” as I once heard an older women in full flight at SPQR. If I did that I’d then have to scream: “And in 10 years when my liver gives up trying to cleanse my body of botulism I’ll die!”
At 45 my body has never been better. Not in a Nicky Watson tanned and terrific way,but in a healthy way because age tells you that it’s best if nothing goes in without evidence that it was created naturally. And that it’s quite good to do some exercise every day. A cold or flu contemplates settling in for a week of battle with my immune system and runs screaming from the room after 24 hours. And my body and brain have spent enough time working together that they combine to get me home before I start making a fool of myself in public places.
But the best thing about being 45 was turning up for a photo shoot for former editors of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly where I was admonished by another former editor for not following the brief of wearing “black and white.” I hadn’t read the brief; at 45 you read books, not briefs. But it didn’t matter because at 45 you don’t have to do white. You can do whatever the f..k you like. Toni Marsh might quite like that when she gets there.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

"On Being Interesting" published July 15

The long cold days of winter are threatening to turn us all into tiresome, jumper wearing people with nothing better to do than read books in front of the fire, slow cook pieces of meat which should have been fed to the dog but masquerade as comfort food, and start doing the Herald crossword. By July it always becomes essential to find ways to make yourself more interesting when you are forced out into the cold and exposed to others. Here are some ideas:
If you’re a girl shave your head for charity and post a picture of yourself on the net. Guaranteed to generate a few gasps from your friends and colleagues but highly unlikely to get you laid in the very near future. In fact not even the near future, try next winter when you’re hair has grown an inch or two.
Tell everyone you’re on the Global Poverty diet. You’ve just read the No Nonsense guide to World Poverty and were so moved by the story of Farida Bibi from a village on the Bay of Bengal whose family chews rags to ease the hunger pains that you can no longer put anything in your mouth without tasting rags. You’ve already lost two kgs and you’re having talks with a publisher about a possible book deal. It could go global.
Consider the vest. A bullet proof vest sends a really intriguing message that you’ve just popped in from a hostage siege or perhaps you’re a duck hunter who is worried his mates might mistake you for a duck. Either way it makes for fairly interesting conversation and you can even buy one on Trade Me at the moment – closes tonight 6.31pm, $1 reserve. Or how about a visibility vest? Available at all good $2 shops this says you have an important job on the roads, you’re an ambulance driver or you lead the walking bus to school. All interesting pursuits guaranteed to keep the conversation flowing for a while and always leads to a spirited discussion on fluro choices for winter: yellow, orange or pink.
Email all your friends You Tube clips. Nothing says “interesting” quite like clips of TV shows they’ve never seen, or indeed never wanted to see. But it proves that you are “up with what’s happening” along with the other 100 million people who log on every day.
Email your friends obscure websites like where you have catalogued your entire book collection, complete with the cover art and you just wanted them to know how many books you have. Fascinating and good for insurance purposes if the house burns down. You can also tell them a bit about yourself such as the fact that in the last year you’ve given a voice to the disposed homeless defended the dignity of the old and helped the anger of the young grow into understanding. Not to mention turning dreams of a future into a living experience and assisted others to connect and walk the talk.
Start “accidentally” wearing your work photo ID outside of work. It’s a great conversation starter as everyone in the pub reminds you you’ve got it on, it sends the message that you are employed and that you work for a really big firm and the words “Accounts Dept” or “Call Centre” are too small for anyone to read from a polite distance.
Don’t wear black. Nothing says “positive attitude” and “sunny disposition” quite like a splash of orange and lime on a dull winter’s day. You may be confused for Theresa Gattung “kicking back”, but hey you were noticed.
Get drunk. You’ll be interesting for approximately one hour so do realise that after that you need to get home fast to your comfort food, your fire and a soothing dose of Coro St.
Start a blog. I did ( and the abuse was so overpowering I had to block the comments section for a few days just to get over it. The only person who was a bit nice to me confessed on another blog that he was just sucking up so I’d put his blog address in this column and get him a few more hits. It’s an ugly world but go there and you’ll at least have something to talk about even if your self-esteem has been reduced to the level of the rags starving children suck in India.