Summer Fun

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

I’m not so sure about Nat King Cole’s take..he can keep the soda and pretzels. A cold beer never goes amiss though.

Summer is here officially. The calendar has told us so, even if the sun and the sticky heat which comes with it, has been with us for a while.

Apart from a well earned cool, crisp brew on a warm evening and summery Christmas treats, there is a whole lot else to look forward to. Here, the garden is cranking. A little effort will hopefully bring a great deal of reward. So much easier up here in the sunny and warm North, our veggie growing season well advanced on what we are used to down South. Even though water restrictions have kicked in already!

The other side of the coin is some of the extra care required, now the longer, hotter days are upon us. Especially for our blonde, blue-eyed, fair kiddies.

Already they are kissed by the rays of the sun, browner than I have ever seen them, particularly for this early in December. So that means reinforcing the good old mantra Slip, Slop Slap.

Getting girls to slip on a shirt is easy enough, as long as you keep it fashionable. Hardly princesses anymore, they still know what they like. So nothing daggy, even if practicality is the priority.

Slapping on a hat isn’t a part of the fashion equation unfortunately. Even if their Mother is lucky enough to track down something the girls think is cool, getting them to actually put it on their heads is a different story. The same goes for sunscreen.

Slopping on sunscreen is a necessity in this part of the word. Simply, you have to do it and then do it again and a little while later, do it again.

One and Two are useless at it. The E-Bomb and Wee-Man are supervised and therefore it gets applied, whether they like it or not. Luckily getting smeared in the stuff is still a novelty to them, so no arguments there. In fact, the Wee-Man is an awesome volunteer.

He is the one setting the summer sun smart example. He will put his hat on, his sunscreen and wears a sensible top to keep the burning rays at bay. E-Bomb might put up a fight every now and then when it comes to her attire but generally we are on a winner with her too. It is One and Two proving themselves dumb and dumber.

Maybe they are too cool to be seen being sun smart. Maybe they are preoccupied. Obviously they need urging and reminding, the behaviour to become a habit. It is a lot to ask of a teacher, who probably has enough on their plate at any given time during the school day. But at what age does self responsibility really kick in?

The same question pops up when you think of all the wonderful summer holiday experiences the Hokianga and Far North has to offer. Mostly, especially if this heat keeps up, in and on the water.

Number One is a confident swimmer and loves it. Number Two is capable but lacks the confidence, a work in progress. The two little ‘uns are strictly learners, but if you plonk them down on the beach and don’t get to them quick enough, you better have bought a dry change for them.

The thing is, you can’t have eyes on all of them, all of the time. When the wife and are a together, and we are a whole crew, no worries. We divvie up who is doing what with whom and it all works. More or less. How easy I make it sound.

Despite their confidence, their undoubted abilities and our own faith in our kids as sensible, intelligent, brave and able, the barriers can’t come down too far, just because the sun is shining and everyone is relaxed and happy.

I want to let the kids lose. I have rose tinted memories, of wading out,O way passed my depth. I’m still here.

Roaming the sand-hills, digging forts and tunnels, that by all rights should have collapsed. I’m still here.

Climbing the cliffs behind Seconds Beach, leaping into the surf and swimming all the way back. I’m still here.

Bikes without helmets, jungle gyms made of galvanized steel on the concrete, trees I could get up and struggled to get down, hills too steep for the brakes on my bike to be able to arrest my momentum. Poha’s and Tom Thumbs and slingshots and BB guns and withering gazes from a watchful Mum and I’m still here.

We have spent years putting boundaries in place. We are blessed with kids that push and test the settings no real harm will come from if there is a bend, or a break, in the rules. Riding the outgoing tide on the Hokianga might not be the best time to test the limits set in place by parents.

Our little crew will wear their helmets, their sunscreen, their life-jackets and all the rest of it, whatever is required. So that they can do whatever they are doing safely.

So Mum and Dad can relax with a cold one of choice.

Bring on the summer sun and fun!

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Second Chances for Tony Veitch?

I feel conflicted, yet certain. 

I used to start my day early. Crawling out of bed at 4:30am and heading out the door was sometimes a trial and a drag.

Anything I could use to get me through was greatly appreciated. Some thumping beats, energy drinks or strong coffee, for those days when I was really depleted. Often just a laugh would go a long way.

Sometimes the key was distraction. I had a physical job, a courier on the streets of north Dunedin, at the time when the subject of the coming rant was relevant. Quite apart from the physicality was the time pressures and the demands of dealing with clientele and traffic, such as it is in Dunedin.

It was good to let the mind slip into auto pilot, let the job take care of itself for a bit and let the brain engage in something else.

I am sports fan. Not as much as I used to be, but I am still a fan of all things ball and bat and endurance and racing and mano vs mano and all the rest. Wind powered, people powered, petrol powered, bring it on.

So there I was, busy, focused, negotiating the streets of north Dunedin and the whimsies of my clients, RadioSport’s breakfast show giving regular updates, as I slid in and out from behind the drivers seat.

I have always had a soft spot for the show. Dearest and I even featured on one illustrious occasion. Back then, the host was Tony Veitch. I didn’t then, and I certainly don’t now, think he was the best broadcaster out there, not by a long shot. That said, there was something infectious about his style of presentation, high on energy and laughs and good with a guest.

Veitch was cheesy, but seemed to be self-effacing, able to laugh at himself as much as he poked fun at others. He could take it as well as he gave it. He struck me as a bit arrogant, but then maybe you need some arrogance, to put yourself out there each and everyday and I will not bag people for being a bit cocky, particularly if they are the top of the heap, and Veitch seemed as if was there, or there abouts.

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What I really did like was his access. The man seemed to have the ear of all the movers and shakers in New Zealand sport. He was trusted and even liked by sportsmen and women, by coaches and administrators and other broadcasters and journalists. He had a large and loyal following among the sports savvy listener and his opinions were listened to.

I listened.

Then one day I stopped. It was the day I found out, along with RadioSport listeners and the nation, that Tony Veitch had physically assaulted his partner.

Sounds mild, sounds bland, sounds like it would be too easy to be blase to something described in a term so everyday, so common in our current vernacular. Physical assault.

The man, diminutive as he is, kicked his Mrs down the stairs, breaking her back.

Then he paid her off.

Then he made a public apology, lacking any contrition, a statement all about how sorry he felt for himself. And if that wasn’t enough, we had to go through some sad, half-arsed, quasi O.J Simpson episode I was almost hoping ended more tragically than it did.

Okay, that last bit is a bit harsh and a tad too far.

RadioSport lost a listener. I was never able to reconcile the idea that Veitch’s employers, his colleagues at least, had no idea what type of man their star performer was, is, and just what he was capable of.

Gradually I forgave the radio station. After all, not their fault, not their doing and they took what seemed like appropriate steps. But then he was back, Tony Veitch, on our airwaves again, back in the public domain.

Was I, as a target demographic audience member, supposed to have forgiven the man? Should I have moved on, as the re-hiring of Veitch suggested?

And therein lies the conflict. Because I am all for giving people a second chance, believe in the possibility of rehabilitation and redemption. So sure, a second shot, time served and all that…but surely only after you have shown remorse, accepted and owned your guilt, made amends as best you can. No sign of that, not that I have seen, not that we have been shown.

Next thing, Veitch announces he is to be on our T.V screens again.

I was a little astounded to read a Stuff.co.nz article based on his announcement. Yes, I was taken aback at the idea our leading television sports caster would think it was okay to have Veitch back in the limelight.

How could this man’s opinion be valued anymore? How could Tony Veitch be held in any form of regard anymore. How could any right thinking Kiwi decide this was a good thing to do?

But what is rankling me too, is the association. Social commentators and opinion piece scribblers, already happy to tell me what I think, are too readily making the link between Tony Veitch and the everyday sports fan, particularly male ones.

Any domestic violence, in all its insidious forms, is too much. Everyone can agree on that, without having to be told to. I know a number of my peers who switched off from the man, Tony Veitch, and the broadcasters who have stood by him. As broadcaster, a presenter, for me Veitch fits into the ‘so what’ category…a voice I simply no longer hear.

As a man, as a follower of sports, I will not accept that it is okay to have this man in the public realm. The ratings dollar is obviously far too attractive and Veitch obviously rates. So the question of social responsibility is raised, and whether or not it is the concern of business, even one in the business of broadcasting.

But to be told I am responsible for okaying domestic violence? That sports fans, people like me, are enabling the behaviour? That all sportsmen are overly, overtly aggressive and excessively masculine, as if these traits will immediately correlate to hitting women?  No, way, leave me out it.

Reading that made me angry.

Just like the majority of men, the majority of sportsmen, anger is an emotion I can accept, control and even utilize. I won’t be lashing out, I won’t need to be apologetic and remorseful. Because I will be a man, a true man.

A real man.

Unlike Tony Veitch.

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Selfish Guilt?

An impromptu day off. 

My wife is ill. Quite unwell in fact.

Not only is she suffering toothache, the first time that dastardly infliction has struck her down, but she has copped whatever horrible affliction that lowered our kids over the last week or so.

One after another, they dropped like proverbial flies, hit with the spray of seasonal fever, cough and cold. And it ain’t over yet. The Wee-Man is yet to come down with anything serious, and the big one, me, has seemingly dodged a bullet…so far.

Enough cliches.

My wife is a battler. She works long and hard and is a dedicated professional. She is a mother, a chef, a house-cleaner, a chauffeur and a counselor. She pushes hard and lately, has been pushed hard. So when she gets crook, it hits her hard too.

It isn’t like her to want to take a day off work. She is not the type to cash in her sick days…for any reason, let alone that she might actually be unwell. Right now she looks like death warmed up and even then, barely. She is certainly not heated through. If she was a sausage, I would be putting her back on the BBQ.

So today, she didn’t go in. Others are covering the more important or urgent aspects of what she does and she is taking the time to wallow, to mope, to sloth and to generally take on all the images that come to mind when you think of a Zombie.

I went fishing.

Am I bad person? Because I viewed my wife’s tortuous condition as a day off for myself. Does that make me selfish? Or opportunistic?

With her home, the kids suitably supervised if not fully appreciated, I took the chance to slip the kayak into a glassy, still, incoming tide. I paddled around the head of the peninsula, trolling the main channel in the vain hope I might bring something fresh home.

I beached, grabbed a bottle of water and then sat on the tide and took in the ambiance of Rawene, as viewed from the water: The comings and goings from the Four Square, cafe goers at the Boatshed, strollers and cyclists and traffic heading to or from the ferry, plying its trade on the still waters.

It was magical. Rawene is a gorgeous town, but not more so than when viewed from the water. I soaked in the brilliance of it all and marveled at how grand life can be. I let the ferry slip away from the jetty, slung out the line, and headed back for deep water and home.

I took my time too. I had no real idea of when I set out and no clue as to how long I had taken so far. The wind didn’t get up, the tide was against me, but only making a token effort and the sun shone brightly. Heaven.

I don’t think you can catch Mullet on a line. Flounder aren’t interested either. Ideally, I would have pulled in a Kahawai and if Tangaroa had been smiling upon me from below, then I would have hooked multiple Snapper or maybe even a Kingi or two. Instead, I came home with nothing but a touch of sunburn.

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Wifey was hanging the washing. She looked like she might collapse. I dutifully took over, fed the kids their lunch and sent my little woman to bed. The Wee-Man joined her for a nap, a bonus to what had already proved to be a great day off.

Bring on the weekend! Oh wait…it isn’t the weekend already?

I had no idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Labour of Love

I’m a Dad. A Father, a parent a caregiver.

That is who I am, kind of the thing which defines me, for the meantime at least.

I am the ‘go to’ in the household, the term I like to use to describe my part in the family dynamic. It is also the driving influence behind this blog, why I am here at this keyboard and hopefully, what has you fixed to the screen of whatever medium it is you have chosen in order to get your Hoki Hubby fix.

The set up in our household is exactly, more or less, how we have chosen it to be. The decision to have me at home was driven by a number of factors, ranging from emotional to financial.

It is no secret and no shock to my pride as a male, that my wife has the capacity to out earn me. At least in the space of a 40hr working week. So right there is a good piece of reasoning as to why it would be her that sought to fill the coffers first and foremost. Balance that with the cost of childcare and it is not hard to see why I have remained out of the workforce for a while.

When I was working, when my two eldest were just the two, I saw bugger all of them. The nature of what I have done with my working years has often meant early starts, followed by long days. Tired and hungry, I would get home in time to drag the kids from the bath, dine with them if I was lucky, then kiss them good night. If that is, I didn’t fall asleep before them. Nodding off half way through story time was not unusual.

So we made the call, Dearest and I, to reassess where we were at the time. As a family, as a nucleic unit. Back then we were both self-employed and while in general that wasn’t an issue, every now and then it blew up in our faces. If hadn’t been for an incredibly understanding and accommodating mother, the wheels could well have come off.

Like I say, in general, we coped just fine. So did the kids. But it was a toll we were paying, me in particular. I was struggling to justify the decision to breed, given I was rarely afforded the time to see my off-spring, let alone be an active and captivated participant in their lives. So we upped stakes.

We did our due diligence, looked around at things and into things. We wanted what everyone wants; a modicum of income, a lifestyle. We wanted that balance everyone seeks. When we found something we could agree on, we latched onto it and have never looked back.

Doing so meant big changes in how we operated as a household and as individuals within that dynamic. On a personal level, so many new and exciting opportunities have been afforded to me. Yes, I have sacrificed too, we all continue to do so.

What Dearest and I never gave up on was the right to what we saw as best by our family. We made a series of decisions and moves that suited us, the kids and the way we intended to raise them. These decisions were based on everything that makes us the people we are; our own childhoods, our experiences both individually and shared, our educations and opinions and attitudes.

All those things are ours. They are peculiar to us. There is nothing special, or different about Dearest and I and nor is there anything weird or odd. We are just like you and you are just like us and we are all different. Yes, I am confused too.

When we made our call to leave Dunedin, our home up until then, and to leave behind the way we had been living our lives, the choices we were making were talked over and discussed. And not just among ourselves. I spoke to Mum, to mates, Dearest did the same.  They agreed or they didn’t. I don’t really recall there being any great debate. It wouldn’t have mattered a blind bit if there was, for as much as I love and cherish all the people important to me, the decision was ours to make and ours alone.

Not the imprint of our parents idea of how things should be done. Not the result of a survey of friends opinions. Not a decision made by a Doctor or any one in any profession.

Except for politicians.

Congrats to our new government on their achievement. Not quite how I envisaged the election result panning out, but I voted for change and I, along with every New Zealand citizen, got just that.

Extending Paid Parental Leave is a good thing, a real and tangible positive move in the right direction. Still a long way from a full year, something I think would be hugely beneficial, but hey, small steps. But why I ask, as a parent and a male one at that, stop there?

Why has the Labour government decided I don’t have the right to be a paid parent too. And when I say too, I mean as well. Why is only the one parent eligible?

The development of a bond between Mother and new born child is readily accepted as vital. Who could disagree with that? So why is the idea that a bond formed between Father and child so readily dismissed?

I say father, as it is most likely Dads who will miss out by the new governments decision not to allow both partners the option to take shared time away from work when their lives are joined by that of another, namely that of their new born. And I don’t get it.

Why can’t a couple of weeks be taken together? If it means dropping two of those paid weeks off, making it twenty-four, then where is the issue, if that is the choice a family unit decides to take? There are all sorts of permutations available, to make this kind of base policy suit all those that it may affect. Say the total was 12 months, why couldn’t it be six months off each? like a prison sentence, served concurrently, or stacked. Why not both parents at once, for all of that six month period, instead of the one parent for twelve?

So why the dictatorial, ‘nanny state’ approach? I am no economist, no accountant, no financial guru, or numbers whiz kid. I am no policy analyst either. You don’t have to read far to see that happy and healthy parents raise happy and healthy children and happy and healthy people, are productive. Parents out of the workforce for a period of time, prove to be better for an economy, rather than a detriment.

I fancy myself as a pragmatic and practical person. I also consider myself as an individual, one that chooses to share my life with another, mostly like-minded, individual. It just so happens, my partner in life has some quite extensive training, experience, understanding and yes, strong opinions, on the mother and child bond.

It starts with skin to skin contact and that first latch. And all the other, warm fuzzy stuff. It starts by looking that moist, wrinkled, brand new creature in the eye and falling instantly, unerringly, forever in love. An incredibly important step for everyone involved. Obviously, it isn’t as simple as all that, certainly not for every birth experience and it most certainly doesn’t end there.

I am left wondering where the motivation comes from, behind the decision to deny a clearly progressive step forward. A look at long term family welfare can’t be the motivator. Over worked enough aren’t we, in this country, without added to the stresses of longer hours, for the duration of the single income period. Take a break, just when things in life are getting more hectic, when those around you need more support, your loved ones, in need of more nurturing and care? I don’t think so. And neither do the Labour government.

A question of cost? Like I have said, there are plenty of options to mitigate further expenditure. But, what price do you put on happiness? And what is the cost of freedom of choice? I would suggest the cost of being unhappy and of lacking the freedom to make your own choices in life, is far greater.

 

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Thanks

My Mother is nothing or no one special.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how did she do it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love you Mum.

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Taking the Piss

I sit down to pee.

I don’t throw like a girl. I never had a great arm, but nor was it a bad one. Besides, I preferred to field in closer to the action. Cricket is a great way to ruin an entire Saturday anyway.

If I have a feminine side, and I don’t believe I do, then I am not ‘in touch’ with it. Even typing it sounds a bit rude. I am not a woman trapped in a mans body, I am not experimental with my sexuality/gender. However, more often than not these days, when the need arises, I sit down to take a piss.

Part of the problem lies in the fact there is no latch on the toilet door. Anyone, even little toddler sized little ones, can push the door open.

I am not precious. Mike Bracey is not the type to suffer from ‘stage fright’. While I agree there are some things best done alone, I am still capable of doing them in the presence of others, if need be. What bloke hasn’t been to a urinal? But a toilet bowl in an en-suite bathroom is no urinal. Theoretically, I should have the place to myself. I don’t.

I’m all for a little up and coming man being taught the ropes of manhood by his male seniors. Isn’t that part of being a parent, the point of being a Dad? Raising the next generation, training and guiding and encouraging and mentoring and all that.

Yes, I hear you all chorus, so is the way of the world. Man and boy. But the way to teach a man to urinate is not to shower him in my own steamy stream.

“For goodness sake boy, get your head out of there.”

My Wee-Man (suddenly that moniker has taken on a whole new meaning) has a fascination for all things wet. He loves water, in all its forms. Cool. I am a bit of a water baby myself. My love of the water, however, does not extend to the toilet bowl.

Wee-Man will lift the lid, stare intently, drop this and that in, lean too far and threaten to take a dip. And if he hears the tinkling sound of piss, he is all for the yellow waterfall.

So I have taken to barricading myself in. I sneak away, careful to make my departure is as unnoticeable as possible, suitable distractions in place. I close the bedroom door, then the bathroom door, then due to the lack of a latch, place the heaviest available item up against it. That item isn’t the scales in case you are wondering. They don’t get heavy until I put my feet on them.

Seems excessive just to avoid pissing on my sons head, but at least it avoids the inevitable clean-up and any awkward questions from the Mrs. His time will come. Right now, he is vertically challenged and is yet to fully master the concept of balance.

At least he is yet to wriggle his way onto my lap why I am reading the sports news.

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Hi di ho Neighbour

Ever regret not having made the effort?

How many times have you seen the neighbour over the fence? How many times have you seen him/her/them getting into their car, just the driveway over? How many times have you bumped into them on the street, in the local convenience store, at the nearby petrol station? The dog park, the supermarket, the hairdresser, the school gate, Bunnings or Mitre 10 or Smith City or the dairy or the library or the zebra crossing down the road.

How many times have you said hi?

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Not a nod. Not a small smile and then a look away. I am asking how many times you have stopped whatever meaningless, monotonous, innocuous bullshit you are currently doing and acknowledged the existence of the person standing right next to you?

I can be a pretty reclusive guy. I am not in hiding and I am not antisocial, but I am inclined to stay in my own little bubble and view the world from the safety of my family perspective. Having said that, my neighbours know who I am and I them. Not hard when you live in a town with a population a little over 400.

There is a family over the way that have come for a BBQ. The dad will crack a beer and watch a game of rugby here. Up the hill, a couple will have coffee and bribe my kids with treats. Everyone knows our dogs, who roam freer than I should probably allow, snatching what they can when your back is turned. Some around here only know enough to wave when passing, some will come out of their way and say hello. There are still more, from the wider community, we see around and who have been welcomed into our home.

Like I say, it’s a small town and community and we are new to it. We didn’t really have to go out of our way to make an effort to be known and I am pleased to say we were in no way shunned on our arrival. For us it it easy. Given my wife’s occupation as a midwife, she has a foot in many doors, so to speak. Kids help too. You have to take them to school and they are social butterflies and you end up meeting folk through them, whether you like it or not.

But what if there isn’t that ready and easy connect?

In my experience, there is still that open, honest, welcoming aspect to Kiwi culture. There really are still people out there who will show up on your doorstep with a Tupperware container of fresh baking when you land in their neighbourhood. A ready made meal is still dropped off after you have had a new born. Despite popular belief, as far as we as a family have experienced, there is not a small minded, small town clique mentality, designed to shut out the new comer. Quite the contrary.

I grew up in suburban Dunedin. Old Ted used to lob fresh veggies over the back fence and Mrs Brockie tolerated our cat eating from her cats bowl. So much so, she eventually got her one of her own. We played cricket in the street with neighbourhood kids who became friends for life and our mums nattered over instant coffee, while we broke their windows with wayward lofted drives and hook shots.

Sure, a different generation and a different era. We were known by name in the streets we haunted and we could run up to the school, or the beach or the sand-hills, more or less where we liked and we could do so without fear of anything perverted or weird. Our neighbours knew us by sight and by name. There was a safety in that.

That way of life simply isn’t the case anymore, real or imagined threats abound. And whether the chance of anything genuinely creepy happening is real or not, the fear of it is threat enough. In the media there is talk of an urban/country disconnect, we hear and see more and more violence, even if stats are reflecting a lessening in that behaviour. We kill ourselves on our roads and beat each other up in the street and as far as I can see, not many people seem to care.

The safety net has gone from our culture and our society. That net comes in the form of community. For some, I guess, it is found in the realms of social media and an online world I don’t really understand. Can a virtual hug replace a smile, delivered straight to your face? Can an emoji give the same sense of satisfaction as a handshake? Can a thumbs up do the work of a hand on the back, an act of kindness and support where it may be needed the most?

Our youth and our middle aged men are killing themselves.We don’t call it suicide and we dodge the subject, cloaking what is a pervasive and sinister societal ailment in language and attitudes hiding the seriousness of the problem, beneath layers of political correctness. What are we scared of? Why are so many members of our communities feeling so isolated and cut-off? Why aren’t we poking our head over the fence any more?

Someone nearby to us attempted to take their own life last night.

I don’t know this person. I’ve waved in passing. I had every intention of knocking on the door one afternoon and saying hi. But I didn’t. Do I feel guilty about that lack of community spirit, in failing to welcome a new member to the hood? Do I feel any sense of responsibility? No.

Will I do everything I can do help, in whatever from that may take or is needed. I hope so.

I hope we all will.

 

 

 

 

The Walking Talking Dead

I would like to this opportunity to introduce you all to Jake.

Jake is three. He is a little boy that lives in the forest.

Jake does not attend school, Pre-School, Creche, Kindergarten or Play Center.

Jake owns a car but does not drive. Jake drinks beer. Jake only eats Lolli-pops, Lollies and Chocolate

Jake is my daughters best friend. As far as I can tell he is invisible. It could be that he is more fantastical than I am giving him credit for. Perhaps he has cloaking devices or magical disappearing shrouds or perhaps he is hypnotising me (and everyone else too).

You see, I am not entirely sure Jake exists. Having said that, I think Jake is very real. He certainly has a great impact on our days at the moment. We all get to hear a great deal about Jake and just what he is up to.

This weekend we had a BBQ and socialised with the nieghbours. Jake was invited, but as my darling daughter put it so eloquently, he was not available.

Jake is an imaginary friend. I feel the need to spell that out, in case there are those out there beginning to believe my daughter has supernatural friends. Or perhaps, sees dead people. Jake is however, all too real as far as the E-Bomb is concerned.

She knows we are on to her and the E-Bomb is not silly.  Several attempts have been made by the family to meet Jake, but conveniently, he has always had other things on at the time. I don’t believe Jake is intentionally avoiding us, but he certainly seems unwilling to make an appearance.

Jake and his exploits have become a bit of a running joke over the last couple of weeks, since he appeared on our doorstep, seemingly out of nowhere. However, I am becoming increasingly wary of belittling his presence. It has in fact led me to question some things; is our daughter bored? Is she lacking social interaction, so much so she has to invent some? Is she not challenged, is she  fearful of others and therefore has become too insular? Is our daughter a headcase?

The answer to the last question is pretty simple. No. The E-Bomb is not mad, she does not have ‘issues’. She just has an imaginary friend. I have heard stories of parents having to go so far as to set a place at the dinner table for a child’s little invisible mate. Seats need to be made available for the mystery one in the car, an extra ice-cream has to be bought. While we have not had to go so far as placating to Jake quite to that extent, I can understand the need or desire to.

To our little one, Jake has rapidly become as much a part of her world as anything ‘real’ or tangible.  He is in her life, very much so, and therefore in ours. Jake has become a part of the family and that in no way concerns us and I don’t believe it should. If we are still hearing from Jake in ten years time, if Jake is still accompanying us on family outings, if we are still needed to BBQ an extra sausage or two, when both he and our darling daughter are in their teens and beyond, then there might be an issue or two worth discussing.

The E-Bomb does not see dead people. She does not have visitations from ethereal beings from the ‘other side’ and she is not cavorting with mythical creatures like faeries or pixies or anything of the sort. And Jake sure sounds like no fairy.

Our daughter is not delusional. Well, no more so than anyone else in this family; her mother still thinks we are going to win lotto, I still think I have my baby-faced good looks. I would hope that she isn’t lonely. We are a fairly tight-knit family, our third daughter gets on well with her older siblings and with her little brother. Gone are the days when she was doted over by her sisters, but she is still very much a part of their day and theirs to her.

We live in a small country town. That means we lack some of the facilities and extras readily found in metropolitan areas. Child care is one of those things. But there is a playcentre the E-Bomb attends twice a week and she loves it. There are some other kids in the neighbourhood she gets to hang with every now and then and, as has been proven by the arrival of Jake, she has a vivid and active imagination. She is a great little communicator, good with language and has excellent comprehension. With our little E-Bomb, there seems to be a great deal of excess, rather than anything lacking.

All the while she seems to have some form of telepathic means of communication with Jake. She knows what he is up to pretty much at all times and where he is at. She knows what he has been doing over the last few days and where he was doing it and she knows what his plans are for the coming days. I don’t think Jake is alive. But I do think he exists, if that makes sense.

Then again, maybe the E-Bomb does see dead people. Perhaps, Jake really is real. Either way, welcome to the madhouse.

 

  a53

 

 

 

Runnin’ Down A Dream

When those that made you are dead and gone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And while your at it, crank out the tunes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unobtainiuim

What do you do when your wife, the woman you ‘obtained’ is unobtainable? 

My wife is a babe. She’s hot, in a ‘Don’t be ridiculous, I’m not hot’ sort of way.

She isn’t the woman I married, nor is she the woman I met. All those many years ago. My wife has changed and adapted, both personally and physically, as the years, and children, have piled up. Her views have broadened, her horizons. So have other things.

My wife is an intelligent, smart, clever, educated and well rounded women. The latter, in more ways than one. (okay, I’ll stop labouring that point, before I get in trouble). I challenge any one to think she isn’t a hot tamale. She is the main bread winner. Cooks and bakes. Is clean, tidy and hygienic. A great mother and a good friend to her children. She is funny, witty and challenging. All the while looking the part.

So given all the above, how am I supposed to reconcile the idea that I get to sample only a small slice of the package she presents?

My wife works full time. She is also on call twenty four hours a day. A hard worker and dedicated member of the community. A hands on Mum, still breast feeding.

There are four kids in this household. Two dogs. Not sure why I mentioned the dogs, but they do add to the mix somehow. By the time the basics are done, the cooking and the cleaning and the cleaning up after the kids have helped with the cleaning, everyone is tired. Well, that is the theory.

The ideal, that there is some sort of watershed hour, a time past which children no longer intervene, is a wish yet to come true. More often than not, the little two in particular, set their own agenda. I have tried to propose an arbitrary time of 8pm. Half eight at the latest. Beyond that hour, or part thereof, not a peep should be heard from the lips of anyone under the age of say…sixteen. Which in this household, leaves me and the Mrs. Heaven forbid a little creature would be bold enough, read stupid, to venture back down the stairs after the cut-off.

That’s the ideal. Bollocks isn’t it? But you knew that.

I just want to cuddle my wife. Directly.  Not reach and strain to get my stumpy limbs around another form, just to get my equally stumpy fingers on my wife’s flesh. I love my Wee-Man, but get off my wife.

Sometimes I picture the scene. It is an every day one. Or rather, every evening. Kids don’t even feature in this vision. Perhaps they are already tucked up in bed, sound asleep. Perhaps they are off on holiday, staying with a Nana, or a Granddad. Perhaps, in this vision, they never existed.

Perhaps, seeing as we are being fanciful, the wife and I have settled to watch a Western (my favourite genre). We had something spicy for dinner, we are sipping a wine and have no fear of getting inebriated. It doesn’t matter, in my vision, if we cannot be roused from our slumber, by the cries of children in the throes of a nightmare, or not.

My wife’s body will be close against mine. I will have my arms around her, she will be embracing me. It will be loving and cosy and cute and charming and all the things it used to be.

Who knows…it might lead to something. Just not another bloody kid!

Between the work my wife does, and the children she has had, the age she has reached (dangerous territory again I know) the energy is sapped out of her before I even get a look in. The vitality, the verve and vigour. Sometimes she brings the stresses and pressures of work home with her. Nothing a glass of wine doesn’t fix, but it can be hard to watch and makes me realise, she was once on the receiving end.

for me, with the wife working, I have learnt a lot and I deeply appreciate the opportunity. I can cook. Not just bang some odds and ends together, stick in a pot on a medium heat and fifteen minutes later call it a meal. I mean I can really cook. Plan, prepare and make a meal, start to finish. I hate it and I love it all in one.

I hate the stress of cooking. I still struggle with the timing. I love the appreciative feedback when I get it right. First silence, not a word spoken as gobs are filled, food swallowed and the process rapidly repeated. Then the praise. Head-swelling and heart-warming.

There is heaps I don’t get right, according to her standards. I have developed and practiced and gotten better in some areas. She has learnt to let go in others. Some things she just does again when she thinks I am not looking. All in an effort to relieve her stresses and the added attention thrown at her by the little ‘uns when she walks in the door.

There are ways I can relieve her stresses. Ways that have nothing to do with little ones. With chores or food. Well, maybe a little bit to do with food…who knows, if you ask nicely.

But what with the ways of a busy, modern family, I sometimes think maybe in the asking, I am simply adding to the pressure. The asking, the cajoling, the hinting and the winking and the nudging, and if it has been long enough, the touching, feeling and groping. Seriously, I can be a charmer, but so often there is little or no time for that type of carry on.

I want my wife. The thing is, so does everyone else.