Bounce of the Ball

All Blacks give way to Black Caps as the kids turn blue and brown.

Yesterday was the first attack of the beach for the season.
The sun was shining, the day was warm if a little windy, the kids paddled and swam, dug and scampered, all as their dad failed yet again to prove himself provider, coming home with an empty chilly bin.
A big day of the first summer hit out. Consequently everyone was a little frazzled by the evening, not to mention a little red in patches. Even my own flexibility let me down, clear pink delineations marked on my skin where my hands fail to reach.

With a couple of late beers in me it was all I could do to keep one eye on the cricket test between Pakistan and the Black Caps. Not the biggest fan of the game, I do admit to being a bit of a tragic, fond of the longer version. Too long for me after a day in the sun, wind and sand, fruitlessly casting fish food out into the surprisingly warm waters of the Hokianga.  I went to bed not longer after the crew, my minds eye beginning to focus on the All Black’s vs Ireland.

That game came with a lot of hype and pretty much, it delivered.
Perhaps the AB’s were below par but if that was the case, it took an outstanding Irish effort to drive it home. They were belligerent, fired up, accurate and skilled. Everything the All Blacks weren’t.
The Irish defense was outstanding and they targeted our key players brilliantly, shutting down our play before we could gain any momentum. Pressure by the opposition resulted in mistakes by the All Blacks, which of course results in more pressure.
New Zealand were far from their clinical best, some players were off with a prime example being Captain Kieron Read. A poor start at scrum time didn’t help either, against a well coached and well drilled team.

We were beaten at the breakdown. I think right there was the winning of the game for the Irish, with players like C.J Stander and Peter O’Mahony nothing short of brilliant. Gone are the days where not throwing bodies into the ruck is an effective defensive measure. Fanning out flat across the field is one thing, but letting a team like Ireland get on a roll with repeat possession is quite another.
The All Blacks kicked a lot of ball early and I can’t help thing this might be under instruction. However, without the ball it is difficult to get into the game and for large periods of the game our back line in particular, looked bereft of ideas.

Where is the strong man? The hit-up man who will just tuck the ball under one powerful arm and just go, straight and hard? Yes, as a unit and individuals, the All Blacks made mistakes, individual errors and some poor calls. We were soundly beaten by the quintessential better team on the day. Ok, fair calls, but where was the man to wrestle the decision making around, to change tact, to put his hand up, or better yet a couple of guys like that?
We weren’t tidy enough, we weren’t mongrel enough and for whatever reason we didn’t seem to want to attack like we are known for.
Oh well, bugger. Well done the Irish, they won because they were better.

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There was one, if only one, really good thing I was able to take away from the game.
The kick off time.
On the couch, cup of tea, a blanket despite another beautiful Hokianga dawn and the kids starting to stir, making their fuzzy ways into the living room. Pretty much perfect.
8am New Zealand time is as about as perfect a kickoff time as you are gonna get for family entertainment in the weekend. If it was a local game, maybe not of course, but still a whole lot better than 7:30pm on a cold winter evening.

The kids didn’t last long though. Once Dad starts yelling at the television, they find better things to do. Even when we haven’t left the home, I still have the ability to embarrass my kids. Just part of my job.

In closing, Naholo in on the right wing, with Smith returning to fullback. Laumape in the midfield, or to at least come of the bench in tandem with the Lienart-Brown’s of the world and Mackenzie. We had no punch, lacked that little extra our bench normally provides and run Squire in the wide channels instead of Read. Seen that guy in full flight?
I could go on all day but I won’t
The sun is shining.

Marvel-ous

Another one bites the dust.

At 95, it is highly unlikely anyone will be taken by surprise at the passing of Stan Lee. A good knock as ‘they’ say. And what else can’t be doubted is the influence the man had over so much of our modern culture.
One of the key people behind Marvel story-lines and their characters, Lee brought us many of the heroes we see on our big screens in just about every second blockbuster movie release.

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The last couple of years have claimed the lives of a lot of the people who I looked at as the iconic figures in my cultural formation. The Bowie’s and Prince’s and Cohen’s and the rest. I was never a huge fan of comics as a kid, finding more depth and nuance in them as an adult reader, than you might have thought was there originally. So not a fan as such, even of the movies, once they started rolling across our screens. I like them for the action, the comic strip references, am not immune to the hype and will happily watch them with the kids, but pieces of cinematic mastery they are not.
Of course this doesn’t mean I am unsympathetic to the passing of Stan Lee. I watched the very cheesy Hulk television series when I was a boy, was taken to the Spiderman movies, watching graphics and effects which would pale in comparison by modern standards.

The crew who have followed me, Number’s One and Two, the E-Bomb and Wee-Man love a bit of bright, flashy, action packed, non stop craziness flicking across their screen. Big, bold, good looking people doing impossibly heroic things as they do battle with ever more ridiculous baddies. These movies are a fun, wild ride which try not to take themselves too seriously and thank goodness for that.
Stan Lee sometimes got a little darker with the characters and their story-lines than modern portrayals would suggest. Peter Parker could get very introspective and there some touchy bits and pieces of subject matter, current and topical.
maybe not so much for The Avengers, but there can be no doubt the likes of Captain America, Ironman and the Hulk had their demons.

Hulking-out

Perhaps the themes are generally lighter, fluffier, more action packed and less demanding. Maybe this is because I am getting older and need a bit more to stimulate me when I am seeking my entertainment package. I want the challenge of multiple layers in a movie or, god forbid, a book.
One sure sign Stan Lee’s passing is an indication of my own aging, is the fact he has been able to influence the characters who have infiltrated the lives of my children. A tribute to the longevity and success of what Lee was able to achieve, the ability to transcend generations an impressive feat.

They don’t quite get the significance of Lee’s passing, or the import of his wide spread and far ranging scope of influence on the entertainment industry and therefore, culture. But in Lee and his works was a guy responsible for much of my children’s escapism, there fantastical imaginings, even shaping some of their ideas of right and wrong, good and bad. Such a clear delineation between good and evil, those in the right and those in the wrong, would be a great thing in the real world. If only it was all that simple.

For kids, it is. That simple. Things are more black and white, the grey areas less domineering. The good guy might not always win but, he is always good.
Stan Lee gave the good guys a great bit chunk of cool. It makes them, the goodies, attractive, makes them something young kids might want to aspire to being.

Thanks for that Stan, you’ve made my job a little bit easier.

 

Limping Along

Look out, I feel a rant coming on…

Lately, I embarked on a mission. The plan was to get myself into the best physical shape I could.
Not mission impossible, but not far from it. At least, that is how it has felt, for a man rapidly approaching forty-five and essentially starting from scratch.

This was not some random decision. There is, or at least was, a particular goal in mind, with targets needing to be ticked off, within time frames. Suitable motivation and I think greater driving forces than just seeking to look good on the beach this summer. Obviously, there will be accumulated health benefits from getting physical, adopting a regular, intensive fitness routine. Greater fitness and improved health for starters. Good motivational factors too.
Nothing, though, has proven more motivational than Wifey, deciding she too wants to take part in early morning, living room, sweaty madness. We push each other to start, let alone to keep going when the going is tough. (Yes, I have plenty more cliches available)

Coupled with developing changes in what and how I am eating, I hope, with a bit of diligence and dedication, I can start reaping the rewards of sustained effort soon enough. Already the energy levels are up and the weight is starting to come down. Heck of a long way to go, but the ‘journey’ has begun. (I warned ya)
The main thing which provided motivation, which gave the impetus, has gone. Not to worry, with any luck it was nothing more than a catalyst and the rest will prove to be self-sustaining. That is the intent and at this stage, no qualms, no worries.
Although, I wish it was so easy.

I have already whined about my neck,  in a previous blog. I will not go on about the state of my knees, the quiveringly (no more cliches, I am now making words up) weak state of the tendons in my right shoulder, the pinched pain in my left elbow, the parlous state of my lower back. I could moan on and on, and at times I do. Deaf ears of course, such is the lot of an ever longer suffering Husband and father.
Ailments, aches and pains, I’m full of them. The worst of which, as far as I am concerned, is my toe. As innocuous as that sounds, it is the osteoarthritis inflicting the joints in that appendage ,causing me the most difficulty. Pain is just one part. An annoying and troublesome part admittedly, but also there is the lack of a full range of movement to contend with.
Never mind the cause. Never mind the apparent unfairness to have such an affliction at my tender age. What does pray on my mind is the apathy of the medical profession.

ouch

So, I hear you ask, where is the promised rant? Don’t panic, I would never let you down.

Thing is, I feel a little let down. By…wait for it…’the system’. To be exact, the health system.
Why do I feel that way?
Because I can be fixed. Because there are options for setting my toe right. No one can get rid of the arthritis, but they can rip the joint apart and put it back together again. They can fuse the bones, which will do nothing for the lack of mobility in the joint, but will take care of the pain.
I get the health system has to prioritise. Underfunded, understaffed and all the rest. No need to go into that right now, as my perspective is a little different. I am in pain. Reducing, relieving, getting rid of that pain, is a priority for me. Not an emergency. Leave me hanging if the ambulance pulls in, the helicopter lands on the roof. I think anyone would understand a priority call in situations like that.

Thing is, I can’t help thinking pain, great enough to be debilitating, is quite the matter of urgency. So why the reticence? Why would a case of hemorrhoids be considered for surgery ahead of me?
Wait, for all you butt grape sufferers out there, I get it. I too have bled for many a porcelain god in my time.  And yes, the affliction can be, well, a pain in the arse.

The argument from the specialist is there is no proof an injury led to the ongoing problem.  You see a couple of years back I got grumpy with an uncooperative tractor and gave it a good old fashioned kicking. It is easy enough to imagine who won that argument and here I am down the track, limping around the house and swallowing panadol like the stuff is going out of fashion.
Apparently, that run in with a stubborn tractor could have proven to be the catalyst for the underlying osteoarthritis. Or, it could be it was the injury, because believe me the tractor got the better of me, which has since caused the arthritis.

Most likely I broke my toe. Being the stupid hero I am, I didn’t do anything about it until a couple of weeks later, when I was seeing the doc on an unrelated matter. She agreed I had probably broken the hairy, stubby Hobbit impersonator but after that length of time, she recommended getting back to her if it didn’t settle.
It did.
Then it didn’t, now it hasn’t.

I could have my hip replaced. My knee. I think they are even doing shoulders these days. God forbid I will ever actually need to have any of my major joints replaced but the scale of such an action pales in comparison to bolting the bones in my toe together.
It can’t be denied my gait has changed due to the pain, lack of movement and deformation in my toe. Long term, the effects of that change could prove to be troublesome and could very well lead to the sort of remedial action mentioned above.

Which begs the question, why not something preventative now? Why the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach? Surely a little foresight, a little swift, less invasive and far less costly job done now, will reap rewards in the future? Short term loss for long term gain and all that.

My apologies. Think this has become yet another whinge, not the promised rant.

 

 

 

 

Creepy

What to do when your kids get spooky?

Culture has been a bit of a theme of late. The 31st of October does nothing to alter that.

Halloween is a tradition that might date all the way back to the Celts, but it is relatively new to New Zealand, courtesy of the the good ole U.S.A.
American television has made Halloween a thing which has caught on here, something that is growing in popularity year by year while some of the older traditions fade.
Something like Guy Fawkes was the go to in my day and while it is still celebrated, if that is the right word for commemorating the actions of the figure head for a band of terrorists, it is certainly not as popular as it used to be.

Regulation and political correctness and rules have sucked the life out of something as explosively fun as Guy Fawkes. Civil authorities still put on a show in many centers and good on them. For me, Guy Fawkes will always hold a special place as my birthday falls just a day or two before, meaning blowing things up in sparkly detonations takes on a dual importance.

All Hallows Eve doesn’t seem to hold the same inherent danger as igniting tubes full of phosphorous and gunpowder. Despite the lengths some families seem to go to in celebration of a 2000 year old bow to the spirits of the dead, said to return to earth on the 31st, no one seems to be worried enough to put a halt to things.
Now would be the time I could enter into a rant about the Americanisation of the western world in particular. How American culture, delivered to us through the television, is shaping and influencing us, particularly our youth culture.

I could, but I won’t.
Sometimes it is just fun. Instead I will share with you the fun my crew had with a bit of dress-up and some clever face-paint/makeup from their creative Mother.

 You have been warned!!

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zombie 1

 

zombies

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Glaze

How much do you care?

A broad question I know. And if I am perfectly honest, I don’t have any interest in your response, if indeed you bother to. Which, undoubtedly, you won’t, whoever ‘you’ are.

The thing is, now that the internet or World Wide Web or whatever it is actually called, is well and truly established, so much so the web has become an integral and in many cases vital part of people’s lives, everyone and anyone with a keyboard or a phone or a ‘device’ has been afforded a voice.

For a long time I resisted. Not because I was concerned or worried, suckered by one conspiracy theory or another, but more because the internet simply didn’t have a strong, direct, influence on my life.
As a parent, particularly a stay at home one, and living in rural and relatively remote environment, the internet and all it has to offer has quickly become a far more prominent part of my life. But there is very little of that ‘vice’ I care about.

I like YouTube, because of the instant access it gives me to new music and comedy. I like a tune and I like a laugh. So right there, I am entertained. I like search engines. I love that I can have the answer to any and every query, right there and then and I love how easy it is to delve deep into a topic, find all sides of an argument and even join in if you so chose. So right there and then, I am informed.
What I don’t have time for is all the vitriol, all the hate, all the ignorance, ironic in itself given the wealth of information and expert opinion out there and readily available at your fingertips, and not to mention all the bad spelling. For all the wealth of information and entertainment out there, there is an equal measure of ignorance, stupidity and plain old dumbness.
All avoidable, simply stay away from comment sections. Unless you want a derisive laugh now and then.

It only takes a few minutes, less, logged onto your PC or phone or tablet or device of choice, to see all the dross permeating the internet. You need a strong and reliable personal filter not to be caught up, or worse, put off, by all the drivel clogging up your data.
Not advertising. People hosting sites and blogs and all the rest, need to be able to pay for it or are in it for financial reward in the first place. Good luck to them and it is entirely up to you what you click on.
By drivel I am really referring to poorly informed opinion. The world has always been full of it – there are many who would freely claim I am indeed ‘full of it’. People will always have their say and full credit to them for being bold enough to do so. A keyboard and a potentially unlimited audience, just makes doing so all the easier. But there are many who would have their say regardless of the advent of the internet. These are the folk who carry their own soapbox with them wherever they go, on the off chance one isn’t readily available.
You know the type; the finger waggers and pointers, the head shakers, deaf to other opinions and standpoints, ears only capable of selective hearing. It is difficult to fault the passion of people like this, but it is hard to get on-board with the pig-headed stubbornness.

And then there is the abject dross. We are supposed to care, are we, about someone’s change in diet? About their exercise routine? About their weight loss or muscle gain? Do we have to feign interest in their crafts and hobbies, their holiday’s or travels?
No, we don’t have to fake interest, because this is the internet and therefore everything and anything is as avoidable as it is accessible.

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What I do here is no different. I do not claim any ability to garner the interest of the big bad world, any more than anyone else. In fact, if you looked at the number of followers/readers I have been able to draw in, during my few short months sharing my rambled thoughts, you would see I hold an exclusivity on mass disinterest.
My blogging is of no particular relevance to anyone but me, maybe my wife and then an decreasing order of interested parties, counting through family and friends, then vague associations and those who chose to click ‘follow’ for their own purposes and agenda.

I am not here, banging away with abject futility, to inform, to engage, to enrage, to entertain or to debate the issues, big and small. At best I am offering some observations, things anyone and everyone is welcome to share in, or not, as they see fit. Cherry-picking what, when and where you delve into the world of blogging and bloggers, is the real joy of it.
For my part, if I can offer nothing more than a few moments respite from the madness of the wider world, then job done. It would be disingenuous of me to suggest I don’t care if people like what I do here, but that said, it makes little difference to me if people do or don’t. Just don’t come here looking for too much inspiration, information or facts and stats. Lower your expectations.
All I can do is hope I am not boring, but more importantly, back myself to not be dumb, stupid, ignorant, rude or offensive (although I have no control if someone chooses to be offended). If I can put a smile on your face great and better still, if I can teach or inspire, absolutely brilliant.

So, while it is too easy to glaze over at all the humdrum, the sameness and repetitiveness and anger, hype, agenda driven rants or even the measured, well articulated but plain old boring stuff, go ahead and dive right in.
Delve into the wacky and the wonderful and the outright weird. Have fun with the bloggers world.
You never know, you may learn something.

 

 

Culture Shock

New Zealand is a great big little country. 

I am too young to really feel like I was ever a part of a cultural identity.
The imagery was still there, when I was a young lad. Black singlets and stubby shorts and floppy hats and keys left in the ignition and long hot summers and obedient border collies rounding up fluffy white sheep.

Iconic characters like Fred Dagg played up to the image New Zealanders had of by-gone days, people like Colin Meads were the real deal. A time when life was apparently better, easier, more wholesome and safer, less complicated. Probably, maybe, life really was all of those things. Certainly sounds like it, when you talk to the oldies who grew up in prior generations.
Even in my time, memory banks are full of long sandy beaches, tall grasses browned off, home to the chirp of crickets and grasshoppers. Rose tinted glasses or not, I don’t recall there being any real drama or concern, certainly not on a global scale and not really at a national level.
Of course, I was young,  so I wasn’t aware of the ‘big’ issues. By the time walls were being demolished in Germany, I was becoming old enough to appreciate and understand what was going on a bit more and that, coupled with the advent of the internet and truly international media awareness, gave not just me, but every Kiwi who cared to, a greater global awareness.

For good and bad, Kiwis were suddenly aware of the world around us and, with just as many pro’s and con’s, the world knew we were here too. If anyone bothered to look.
Tourism was not something I was aware of years ago, despite being raised on the fringes of one of New Zealand’s tourist hot-spots. As a teen, the Southern Lakes District, namely Queenstown and Wanaka, were the party capitals for us Dunedinites, when it came to New Years celebrations and summer fun. A few hours drive and you were into it.
At the time I never looked up and took too much note of the diverse groups and couples and loners moving through that part of the world. I wasn’t blind to it, but the relevance of it meant little. I drank in the sun with my mates, cooled off in the alpine fed lakes and when we had sobered up and as the sunburn settled, we drove back to our lives in Dunedin.

Look up now and it is easy to see things have moved on, beyond backpacking Europeans and bus loads of Far East Asians. Our towns and cities are full of the sounds, sights and aromas of people and their cultures, from all over the globe. No complaints from this guy, no fear that a potential job has been taken away from me, that the price I have to pay for a house has been adversely affected. I like a bit of spice, colour and variety in my diet, so bring it on I say.

I like some cultural variety too. I like the thought my kids can go to school and share the classroom and playground with a genuine mix of all the ethnicities the world has to offer. The food and the music and the fables and legends and traits and habits and all the rest, from foreign lands, virtually all of which have far longer and deeper histories than ours.
But, when does cultural appreciation reach saturation?

You gotta have it. Awareness of the differences of folk and the things which motivate those differences, is a good thing and cool, especially for our kids to be getting at school and not just from their peers. Cultural activity and participation and awareness is an important part of any curriculum.
The same has to be said of New Zealand’s unique cultural position. Our geographical position on the globe gives us a Pacific identity, encompassing much of Island culture. Not to mention, though obviously I am now making special mention, of our Maori culture.

I say ‘our’ because Maori culture is specific and unique to New Zealand. More or less. Therefore, even for no other reason, we should be celebrating that, nurturing and enhancing and supporting and doing all things necessary to keep Maori culture alive and well and right at the forefront of our lives.
It is good to see local schools here getting heavily involved in Kapa Haka. So involved in fact, my kids are sick of it.

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They now dread going to school and I can’t actually recall a time they came home and told me about the academic work they had been involved in for the day. I get that, with a festival coming up, things can get a little competitive and of course each school, their pupils and staff, want to put their best foot forward.
Shouldn’t something like Kapa Haka be fun? A celebration? My older girls loved it at first, have always been into it no matter what school they have attended. But now, the fun has been burned out of them. That’s right, they have reached Kapa Haka burnout.

Such is the ill feeling towards the song and dance routines, I feel there is a greater chance the performance, come festival day, is going to be flat and uninspired. Three full days a week have been committed to the learning of combined lyrics and actions, over the curse of a number of weeks. Now there is talk of attending the regional’s as well, meaning there is little end in sight.
Meaning too, there is little academic learning taking place.

Sure, this is the final term of the year. The better part of a child’s lessons should well and truly have taken place. Now is the time for polishing and refining, maybe revisiting some areas and tackling the weak points. For a pupil like Number One, this is her final year before going on to high school, surely a time to be looking to take that next step, researching how to go about doing so, in order for the transition to be as smooth and complete and uncomplicated as possible.

I’m from down south. Even between islands there can be quite the cultural divide, but not a division so strong I can’t embrace the beauty and joy of a skilled, practiced and well honed Kapa Haka. But, I want to see that joy expressed on the kids faces, not a pained, tortured tiredness. I can’t help feeling it might be worth sacrificing a bit of sloppiness, a missed poi twirl here, a fudged line there, for the sake of enjoyment.
Embracing cultural awareness, participating in it, should be about joy and fun and laughter and a celebration of new and old, a coming together in mutual appreciation.

Something our kids should revel in, should enjoy.
Not dread.

Dreams and Dust

Many years ago, as a young man, I wanted something.

OK, just like any young fella, I wanted many things, but I had a direction, a goal. A chosen occupation, a pathway.

That chosen path sort of flew in the face of much of who I was at the time. I was in a band, the drummer no less. A pot smoking, booze drinking, mind altering substance swallowing, seemingly dysfunctional member of society. If you view musicians as non contributors.
As it stood, I had a job. A series of them, concurrent with being the so called musician. Real jobs, 9-5 type things, full time, gainful employment. Well, someone had to. It all added up to me being the only one in the band with a car, one of only two with a licence and certainly one of the few around the scene with the fiscal ability to put any petrol in the tank.
Cool. A means to an end, that was the premise behind me driving trucks, the drive which saw me on process lines. Never my future, simply an answer to the questions, the needs, of the here and now. Back then, I made a conscious decision to allow myself a couple of years or so, to follow some signs of potential, to chase a dream. No matter the unlikelihood, no matter the unreality.
The thing about following that type of dream, is not only the uncertainties, not the self doubt and the fear and the risk of ridicule or unfulfillment. It is knowing, recognizing and acknowledging it as just that. A dream. No matter how far fetched, how out there, no matter how close at hand. A dream is just that. I like to think I saw, at a relatively young age, the best way to maybe reach those lofty goals and aspirations, to grab a hold of the dream, was to tick off the day to day in the process.
Another thing, was to not limit the number of dreams.

Playing drums, being the guy who hit things while sitting in a room with a bunch of genuine musicians, was one thing. I met cool people and did cool things and I enjoyed, mostly, every minute of it. The dream turned to nothing but, in the back of my mind at least, I knew it never would.
Does that mean I was ever really, truly, dreaming? Maybe not, but it was worth the shot and I learned a lot about myself and those around me, about my own capabilities, about my frailties and yes, some harsh realities of the world.

Truth is, up until then and even through that time, I wanted to be a cop. A Police Officer. Without divulging details, boring my limited readership with details of my woo-begotten youthful folly, I blew my dream wide open. All my own fault. Suck it up and move on, forced to leave a dream behind. About the same time, the music thing folded too. Not my fault this time, if fault is ever a cause in such things. People simply got up and went their separate ways.

So guess what? I at least left the process lines behind, though I stayed behind the wheel. I drove trucks, then vans and finally drove spades and shovels into the ground. Music became something which came into me, no longer out of me. Did I miss it? Yes? Did that bother me? No. It was enough to know I gave it a shot, even if a brief and limited one. It is more than enough to know I can, that I have some sort of creative flair in me and have the ability to express it. As for being a cop?

Turns out, that opportunity, the dream, was not fully denied me. So I thought at least.
What the motivation is, or was, to be a Police Officer, I am not so sure anymore. When I was young, I could and did rattle of an entire, lengthy agenda, which had even my closest of mates nodding and smiling along, having long since given up trying to follow what I was on about. All virtuous and sincere I can assure you, reasons beyond reproach.
Much of that sentiment exists till this day, but now, as an older, pragmatic and family man, there is no denying the wage and benefits are a factor, particularly for an essentially unskilled middle aged man.
Like everything, the Police force and their policies change and adapt, including their requirements and restrictions for application. Finding this out, I did just that…I applied. Maybe, just maybe, the dream was still alive.

It was and I guess, hopefully, maybe, still is. But as the saying goes, my mind is willing…
Yes, as you might well have concluded, my body let me down. Namely my knees. But, more so, it turns out my body may well have let me down many years ago.
In a season of madness, I popped up in the front row of a Colts grade rugby team at club level in Dunedin. I came up against an ogre of a bloke, all brawn and no skill. I thought I might show him a thing or two. I failed to and he showed me the turf. All at the expense of my neck.
No drama, it healed and life went on. Yes, I feel for Sam Cane right now and the ordeal the All Black open-side is going through. I can only hope he gets all the right care and advice. He will, because of who is and what he does. For me, it wasn’t until some years later I realized the potential full extent of my injury.
As far as I was aware I was fine. I had moved on and had done, was doing, all the things a full bodied, healthy young man did at the time. I was working, playing sport, partying and recreationing and all the rest of it.
Then, I encountered an Occupational Nurse.

Part of an interview process. She accessed my medical records. I had a neck injury.
‘Sorry, even if you do pass the urine test the next time around, there is no job for you here.’
To say I was a little stunned and a whole lot confused, would be putting it mildly. However, at the time, I gave it little thought. I was only interviewing because the job offered more money and as money has never been the main focus in my life, I gave the whole situation little credence. Tomorrow was a new day. She, this Occupational Nurse, told me the neck thing would come back to haunt me.
She was right.

The Police recruitment medicos, in all their wisdom, feel the same. Not a blanket no, but a whole heap of hoops to jump through I am not sure I can, or will even try. The writing, it would seem, is well and truly on the wall.
So a dream gone. Again. Possibly, never say never and all that.
Many people might think right there is a reason or two to get down, feel despondent and sure enough, I had brief moment there where I felt fairly bleak. It is frustrating, knowing I can, being told I can’t. I’ll keep plugging away but there doesn’t seem much hope. Not, however, I will ever entirely give up hope.

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All and all I guess I am left wondering. Wondering if dreams are really that, or are there other labels which can smeared about; aspirations, goals, desires. I wonder if people who claim to have obtained their dreams are simply achievers, people who through hard work and dedication and plain dumb luck, have gotten what it was they originally set out after?
Or have they, like the majority of us I suspect, changed and adapted and altered those dreams and goals and aspirations as life has dictated? Only then, when all is said and done, have they looked up and thought ‘You know, just maybe, this was the goal all along’.

I’ll keep on dreaming.
Even while I am living my dream.

 

 

 

 

 

Dad Dilemma

I sometimes wish my girls were butt ugly bush pigs.

Summer is pretty much upon us. The days have lengthened, thanks to daylight saving. The sun is getting higher in the sky, warming the world around us and drying out, mostly, the the damp Northland soil beneath our feet.
All of this is impossible not to notice, given the myriad of bugs and critters seem to have taken note too, busily crawling out of their winter hideaways by ever increasing numbers.
Great, isn’t it? Not really a question, because yes, it is awesome to wake to a bright sunny day, clear skies and birdsong. The promise of a stunning day ahead is alluring. My only issue, my equally stunning children.

Now of course I will say my daughters are stunners. I have to, but in my case, it happens to be true. While there might not be too many modelling agencies banging down the door, there is no doubt the three girls are lookers-it is at this point I very diplomatically point out how much our kids take after their mother-and I am not blind to their looks, as much as I am growing ever more aware how much I would like to be.
It is said ignorance is bliss and, at times, I am inclined to agree. As the season changes and the choice of wardrobe with it, I have to think, being ignorant would indeed be blissful. Perhaps, to the next extreme, being blind would solve the problem too.
What problem, you ask?
A good question and one I can only hope I am able to answer as subtly as possible, as diplomatically as possible, as innocently as possible.

My eldest has not long turned thirteen. She is a babe. Not skinny, not fat, developing into a beautiful, intelligent, inquisitive and vibrant young lady. Developing physically too.
Yes, a young lady in so many ways. And to be frank, it petrifies me.
As a man I am blase to a great deal of the changes taking place with my eldest daughters. Maybe it is due to a bunch of old fashioned hang-ups, but probably more because my kids have an engaging and involved mother.
Her presence and willingness to offer input and sage advice takes the pressure off me, of that there is no doubt. Even though I am the appointed full-time parent, I feel there may well be a bullet somewhere there I managed to dodge. I’m grateful for it, for being excluded from something I would fumble my way through at best, entirely fuck up in all likely hood.

I am of  course referring to the ‘talk’. And when it comes to girls, not just the one about birds, bees and bad boys. Both boys and girls change and grow and develop as the hormones kick in. As a bloke, I can only comment on what it was like for me and might be like for another bloke. And let me tell you, from the little, inadequate and quaint knowledge I have, the whole teenage developmental years seem a lot less troublesome for young bucks.

Not to belittle what it is each and every teenager goes through, no matter their gender. So much is happening, in such a relatively short period of time, it is a wonder anyone involved, even on the fringes like parents, manage to survive. At least, I am on the fringes, right where I choose to be, right where I belong and right where I have been positioned.
I am kept informed, I am updated. As far as I need to be and more than I want to be.

Development aside, growth and changes and all of that, I do not know quite know where it is I am supposed to make my stand.
How much flesh is too much? That is the question, a burning one, sun smart awareness aside, I am not sure how to answer and am even more sure there is no definitive response.
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Some seasonal shopping was done, in preparation for our coming long hot summer on the beaches of Northland (fingers crossed) and damn, my girls look good!
How good are they supposed to look? How good are they allowed to look? How good can I tolerate them looking? Far less than their Mother it would seem. I am no prude and I realize the wisest course of action is to let my girls establish their own taste and style and sense of fashion, or whatever it is they are attempting to do. My girls are not victims of, or slaves to, fashion, yet they do have their own thing going on and have certain expectations, based on what is considered cool or not.
I don’t. As it is, I restrict myself to saying the word cool, because throwing out hip or neat or funky, or I don’t bloody know, is only going to make me sound like the out of date, old school, fuddy-duddy I guess I have rapidly become. Latest trends aside, Numbers One and Two want to look the part, who am I to stand in the way of that?

I am their father. That’s who!  Wait…Father…capital letters!! And yes, multiple exclamation marks required, until the point is well and truly made and completely understood.
But the dilemma, the Catch 22 for a Father, for a man as I see it, is in the very act of making the point. What say my eldest daughter, just turned thirteen, all gorgeousness and stunningness, gets caught up in the ‘beach body’ thing? What say she takes a cooling dip in the ocean, then lays back on a towel to dry off, clad in a bikini some fashionista came up with after a trip to Rio?
If Dad starts commenting about too much of this on display, too much of that catching the eye, he is instantly treading on dangerous territory. Think thin ice, think minefields. Straight off he runs the risk of surfing the gamut of teenage emotive responses. Something you want to avoid anywhere, let alone a chilled day at the beach.
Right there and then I have acknowledged the attractiveness of my child. I am not going to use words like hot, sexy, babe etc…wait…damn it! But that is what has happened, I, as parent, as man, as human, as Father, have noticed how attractive a child of mine is.

And it freaks me the fuck out!!!!!

Yes, again with the exclamation marks. I simply cannot emphasis this crisis enough. I am a dirty old creep if I notice, but I only notice because I am a parent and wish to moderate what I am seeing.
Okay, perhaps that is a little extreme. As a parent, a Father, I have ever right and all responsibility, to tell a child what they are are wearing is inappropriate…too little and light for the temperature, not waterproof enough for the level of precipitation.
Too damn revealing.
I am all for my kids being individuals. For finding and setting limits for themselves. In the same breath, they need, as we all do, guidance and advice and to be surrounded by people who care, because they have their best interests at heart. In the case of parents, their own interests too. I don’t want to be known as the P.P…Prude Parent. My ideals are not old fashioned, my sensibilities are not extreme and not set in concrete.
But I do not want to be guilty of going to the other extreme, being too liberal, too understanding and too giving. Boundaries and all that, if not strictly adhered to, are at the very least acknowledged and respected.

So where are we, at the end of this? No where further advanced, it would seem. Wear something practical for swimming, for tanning, if that is what you must do. Wear what you feel good in and what you feel you look good in. Do it all without incurring the wrath of your father, because you have made him too aware, to sensitive, to uncomfortable.
But, it isn’t about me and my hang ups.

Feel good and look good while you’re doing it.
Maybe I’ll just have to look the other way.

 

Happy Birthday

Well that’s it. Officially old. 

Number One turns thirteen today. A major step for her, becoming a teenager. A sign too, her Mother and I have taken a fair few steps of our own.

Many people tell us this is where it really begins. Parenting. Throw out all we know and think we know. Disregard everything we have learned and been taught. Nothing is relevant, nothing holds true, once those mystical teen years are reached. The best of it and the worst of it, so we are told. Well if it is to be the best, these following teen years, then they are going to have to prove to be pretty darn exceptional.

Don’t get me wrong, Number One is as moody, surly, grumpy and snappy as any other kid her age. Possibly a bit less, she seems to sail on a fairly even keel. The mood swings are no more or less than what you what might expect from any other person on the planet, man, woman or child, boy or girl. Yes, only the beginning you might say, just you wait. But I won’t be holding my breath.

Change is coming. In fact, the ‘change’ has been on us for a while and so far, he says with digits firmly crossed, life has gone on. Maybe that is the key. Not Number One, not her Mother, not me or the other siblings or anyone I can think of, has made any fuss. Barely any comment. After all, what is there to say? What is there to make a big deal out of? A Human Being growing and developing and aging, whatever you want to call it, is hardly a surprise.

Long may Number One continue to sail smoothly but even I can’t deny there is a change in tide ahead for her and consequently, for all of us. High school will play a big part. Her social scene will change, her horizons will be broadened academically, recreationally and socially. There will be more involvement in  this and that and the next thing. She will, hopefully, chop and change, experimenting with the new horizons and directions available to her and all the while, learning.

Teenager or not, all I can do as a parent is listen. Step one. Beyond that, I can be empathetic, try to be understanding and patient and caring and maybe, just maybe, Number One will continue to see me as an option, a real and genuine one, when she is in need. Having said that, I am fairly certain things are going to crop up she will not want to bring to her Dad, go to parent or not. And I know for sure, there are going to be things I would rather deflect, fend some issues and concerns off, send them in the direction of mother dearest. Probably best for all concerned.

As parent’s we are not ones to tip-toe around subjects. Ask a question, we will give our children an open and honest answer. Transparency is a policy we are fond of and the basis of our approach to teaching our crew the things they can’t, don’t or won’t learn at school. There are however, some things, topics and subjects I am not so sure I am all that interested in covering. The ‘Talk’ for example. School touches a bit on the birds and the bees. I have a get out clause, one which I fully intend to invoke. ‘Your Mother is a health professional, a Midwife no less…you want that info, she knows better than I, ask her.’

I am not entirely sure how I will deal with the subject of boys. Not an issue yet and I can only hope I don’t come up with some cliched rubbish about porches and rocking chairs and rock salt cartridges, loaded into double barreled shotguns. I don’t even own a shotgun. Take note though, any would-be suitor…I do own a high powered rifle and we have a loving, caring and protective dog…as old and grumpy as I am.

There is no doubting the introduction of a teenager to the house will mean a shift in dynamic. Numbers One and Two have always bickered and bitched and winged and moaned at each other. They are two distinct and different people, who by and large get on pretty well. Without being aware of it, they are actually fairly reliant on each other. It will be interesting to see the inevitable shift in their relationship. The younger two,         E-Bomb and Wee-Man, turn to their eldest sister more than any of them might realise. She is a source of respite, for both those two little ones and me. An engaging, involved, interested and interesting part of their lives. How much her own life, evolving and burgeoning and all those sorts of words, will impact on those relationships I guess only time will tell.

I must admit, I lean on Number One a bit. I rely on her, to give me some breathing space, so that I am not completely lost as an individual in this family. I suppose I run the risk of alienating her, having her resent the role she plays, fully aware of it or not. As I have said though, she is engaged and engaging, a very active part of the lives of all of us. For that she gets recognition and, both now and in time, finds reward. The adoration of her little brother, the appreciation of her Father.

We have treated and continue to treat all our children like little people, not inferior or incomplete. Just young. People. We communicate with our kids as the individuals they are. Our efforts to do that won’t change just because there is teen at the end of their age’s. I like to think we have been, as parent’s, pretty good listeners over the years and good communicators too. Not ‘tellers’ but talkers and explainers and debaters, as open to what they have to say, as they need to be to what we are trying to impart. I look forward to Number One expanding her thoughts, her opinions, her ideas and ideologies. My only concern is if I can keep up.

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Today is about cake and treats and presents, phone calls from relies, candles and all the rest. We will make a fuss, we will cuddle and tell each other how much we love the person wrapped in our embrace. No matter her age, Number One will be spoiled, because we love her. We love her pimples and her mood swings and her sour tiredness, no matter the length of the sleep-in. We love her growth spurts and her desire for more independence and her failures and her advances and we love her argumentative streak and her stomp out of the room and her sense of humour and her growing intuition and her developing awareness, both of self and the greater, wider world.

You really are Number One.

 

 

 

 

Teachers Strike Back

Twenty four years, sixteen percent.

Just two of the numbers bandied about in relation to New Zealand’s primary school teachers negotiations. Over two decades since they last took such action, and a pay rise request based over two years.

So far, the demand for pay has not been met and there is a large gap back to what has been offered by the ministry. There is certainly room for movement and that is what mediation and negotiation is all about, an attempt to find some middle ground both parties can commune on. It is clear teachers feel undervalued and I am not in a position to question that. Personally, I value the teachers of my children based on the development of my kids. A teachers value to me, to my family, to my kids, is based solely on how well our kids are learning, how they are growing educationally and how they are developing as young people in our community. From a parents perspective, value has nothing to do with how much a teacher is getting paid.

I understand a well paid employee, in any vocation, is a generally happier one, although cash is not a panacea. That said, I guess it is important to find out about the other complaints from teachers and their union. If you have bothered to follow the media releases, read through the stances of both sides, then maybe you have been able to form a semi educated take on the arguments and counter responses. Or not, particularly if you scroll down to comments sections, getting caught up in the vitriol and heated debate.

The voice of teachers and those who support them have been the louder, more vociferous one. There seems to be a desperate need for our teachers to dispel what they feel are a bunch of urban myths out there, based around the time and effort they apply in and around their working day. Holiday time is a big one and an apparent short working day. Perceptions which I know to be false, but I can also see as being easily validated.

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For a time I served on a school board. I felt it was important to have some investment in what is a major part of my kid’s lives, namely their schooling. After all, good or bad, vast tracks of your school years stay with you for life. During monthly board meetings I saw passion, I saw frustration, I saw desire and will and elation and disappointment and I saw people, everyday normal people, trying to do their best as part of a massive and at times seemingly unwieldy system. I was lucky, as were my two oldest girls, to be attending a great little school, in a rural environment richly supported and a vital part of a caring and involved community. The same probably can’t be said for every community and every school.

Anecdotal at best, but I observed teachers starting their day well before the first of the school buses pulled up or children started to disgorge from a series of SUV’s, people-movers and crowded hatchbacks. Board meetings aside, part timers aside, teacher aides aside, these staff members worked a full day.

The working day for a teacher is not 9-3, as some might like to think. They are there longer, a normal, full, working day and so they should. They are paid to be. Yes, staff were in the classroom over the holiday periods, term breaks there for the benefit of the children not teachers…ever seen a child at the end of a long hard term, dragging their feet to and from school, a look of thunder on their face you as a parent do your best to tip-toe around? The teachers I witnessed prepped for the coming term. No, not necessarily full days and not throughout the whole two week break. But it was rare to see any teacher show up to class empty handed or leave at the end of their day without an arm load of files and a head full of ideas and issues.

Nothing new there really, for any one person in any one job. We all put effort in, we all struggle to leave it behind us when we leave the door and we all face that in our own way. I do have some frustrations about a few demands which have arisen around teacher requests. Namely, more time away from face to face contact, the desired preparation and planning time.

My kids, as an example I can readily turn to, are home by 3pm. They walk home, having left the school gate at around 2:30pm. The school grounds might not be completely empty of kids at that point, but damn close to it. No face to face time required there. That leaves a couple of hours a day too get things done. Ten hours over the course of the week, not to mention the brief time available each and every morning.

Sure, teachers are parents too. They have lives outside of the school gate and demands on their time from their personal lives, just like everyone else. Those ten or so hours might not and will not be available all the time. Particularly if a teacher is involved in any extra-curricular stuff kids are into. Coaching, music lessons, tutoring. But, if the voluntary feel good stuff is getting in the way, then it needs to be put aside. If the extras are affecting your ability to do the core roles of your profession as a teacher, then leave it up to the parents and others who have made themselves available.

Time management. Obviously something which bugs me. Teachers asking for less contact time when all I can think, as a parent, is how to get more. Greater time and contact between my children and the people charged with educating them. To mind, that whole argument is arse-about-face. A teacher should want more and more quality time in the classroom, involved directly with the learning of the children in question. Shouldn’t they? Isn’t that what they signed up for?

Which means better resourcing. Which means a lower ratio of teachers to kids, smaller classroom sizes, greater support and backup for those at the chalkboard (yes, showing my age…I know chalk has given way to the digital age). Does it really mean Special Education coordinators (SENCO) in each and every school?

I have moaned before about a lack of solution based rhetoric in society. We blame, point fingers, highlight and show concern. We don’t offer fixes. I don’t claim to have them, but another bug is language.

Crisis? Great way to attract people to the teaching profession. And after all, wouldn’t more teachers in the classroom be the ultimate fix? I think both parties agree on that, but how to make it happen? Perhaps instead of terminology which sounds panicked, we can voice alternatives. What incentives are there to get people into teaching? And not just remuneration. Could fees be subsidised? Could there be greater cross-crediting of prior qualifications? Are we working at targeting the right members of society to look at teacher training as a viable option? Parents, returning to the workforce, older members of our workforce looking for a change, a new direction? Maybe if you are 45 you can still be eligible for assistance in the form of allowances and loans, fees subsidies, structure it how you like, if there is an agreement to train and commit as a teacher for a set period of time. Free fees if you teach for a minimum of five years?

Get places like Auckland better resourced, so teachers can manage to live and work there. Not just Auckland, but any center facing housing pressure and shortages. Our rural and country schools too. If that means pay more, then so be it. If that means chipping in to cover accommodation expenses, then cool. Incentives for qualified and experienced staff to move to the regions in the most dire need, good idea. But we need to be wary of looking into things like performance based pay scales. How a system like that would be measured I am not sure and I can’t help but feel the risk good teachers would migrate to more affluent, better placed parts of our country, is too high, leaving the areas which need those sorts of people the most, suffering more than they are already.

The above may or may not work, may not make any sense at all. Potential solutions like those, or any other, will chew into existing budgets and that means more pressure on pay scales. It means a ministry, which clearly struggles to cope at any given time already, what with all the myriad of changes in thinking around education and behaviour, cultural awareness and sensitivity and the ever changing diversity of our broader society and its future needs, is going to have a whole bunch of new hurdles thrown in front of it, all of which need to be cleared.

Our education system needs to constantly evolve and grow. From governing bodies to teachers and support staff. That growth needs to be handled in a careful and thoughtful manner and it needs to be done with sensitivity and with an eye on a mid to long term future. Too often, in all sectors of business and industry, we hear words like crisis, shortage, lack of skill or training and development. We don’t have enough truck drivers, years ago it was plumbers and try getting a builder in a hurry, finding specialists in one field or another.

If shortages in teacher numbers and those willing to enter into training has already occurred, what does that say of our future? The future for our kids, trundling off back to school tomorrow morning? The current issues will be fixed, at least patched, one way or another. But, there will be a gap and that will reflect down the track. How do we prevent it from happening again? I don’t know. Maybe, twenty four years from now and sixteen percent later, we’ll find out.