Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone

Wifey and I are pretty open with our kids.
There is not much we keep from them, no subject we consider taboo and no questions we are not prepared to answer.

Of course we moderate the things our kids have access to; what they view on television and the internet, what they hear when listening to music or podcasts or anything of the like and, as old school as it might sound, what they read.
There are themes and theories and ideologies and images and thoughts espoused through a myriad of media platforms, all of which are readily accessible on a multitude of devices, many of which can be housed in your pocket and held in your hand.

We have good kids, children still in every sense of the word despite the wide scope of information they have at their fingertips. As a reasonably cohesive unit, the messages from Wifey and I have been fairly consistent over the years, our delivery relatively level and our availability assured.
Yes, I could spend a bit more time involved with their homework, delve deeper into their interests or passions.
Yes, we could be stricter on some things and show greater leniency on others.
Generally, we have a fluid household, plenty of noise and activity always under at least an element of control. To quote Madness and their hit Our House ‘there’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud’.

Like I said, good kids. No real dramas or concerns, outside of the myriad of things you might expect from a growing family with working parents.
When things go wrong, we are there for them. Open and honest and available. Wifey and I don’t have an explanation for everything and nor can we always find a solution. However, with a little reasoning, there isn’t much which can’t be worked through.

Every now and then, the big things come along.
Those moments you cannot be prepared for. Those times which catch you by surprise, no matter how organised and aware you might think you are.
You can’t have your finger on every pulse.
But, and what a big pause it is, there are some things  as a aparent it is almost impossible to explain, to find reasoning in. Because, simply, you don’t have the answers.

How do you explain pure, unfettered evil?
How can you help a child understand the hate fueled ideology which drives a person to perpetrate such horror on a community, on a people?
You can’t.
Especially when you don’t understand yourself.

Tears have been shed in this house and will continue to be for some time I feel.
Good. We are crying as a nation and as a people. Tears for those who lost their lives, their families and friends and tears for all they knelt and prayed for in the place they went for solace, reflection and the place they went for hope and love and all the rest.
Number One cried today, the enormity of it all finally striking at here heart.
The pain was there on Number Two’s face when she first asked what was going on Friday evening. There isn’t a full level of comprehension for her and for that small mercy, I am grateful.
E-Bomb and the Wee Man are too young to comprehend anything beyond the vibe emanating from their parents. They get it. Something is wrong.
Something is very very wrong.

I have struggled to keep the language of hate out of my own words.
My voice has crackled at times, close to breaking, when I speak of these events. It is hard, particularly when you have to look a thirteen year old girl in the eye and see the realisation dawning in her that this world we live in, the one we all share, can house people capable of being despicably wicked, people capable of visiting hideous acts of cruelty on others. Innocent others.

I am glad they got this bastard alive. I realise it is what he wanted; his platform, his moment of infamous immortality. I hope he gives us the answers, even though we all know they will be the deluded ramblings of a crazed mind, little more than a jujmbled rehashing of the various messages of hate brought to us over generations of evil thinkers and doers.
But I need to hear it, as awful and insidious as it might be. Because I don’t know what to tell our kids.
I don’t know HOW to tell our kids.

We don’t shelter our four children.
There is no cotton wool enveloping them, they do not view the world through the shimmering haze of a bubble.
The temptation is to put the walls up, bring down the shutters, erect the barricades.
We won’t. There will be open and honest discourse as long as there are questions.
Our kids will be watched, a eye kept on them in the same way I hope all parents are watching over their children at the moment.
Kids see and feel, sometime more they we do.
Kids hurt.

All I can ask of my Wife and myself is that we do the best we can to raise well rounded children, ones we can send off into the world as well prepared as we could make them. Happy and healthy and open and honest and caring and loving and genuine young people, armed with open minds, good hearts and a smile.
We want them to see the good, in everything they do and see and all the people they meet. We want them able to cope, to have them ready for the big bad world.
Because yes, some of that world around us is bad. So mind-numbingly bad. And that bad world is no longer surrounding us, it has visited us, come to our shores and bought an extreme example of its evil with it.
Let our kids be together. Let them play, let them sit and chat and let them mingle and let them laugh and cry and do whatever it is they feel they need to cope.
Youth are doers and they will want to be active and vibrant over this issue.
As such, we will visit the Whangarei Islamic Center on Friday and we, as a family, will watch over our local Muslim community as they bend in prayer. We will bring nothing more than a smile, carry nothing other than hugs and strong shoulders, ready to be leaned on.
Will we see you there?

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In the meantime, to the tune of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall…Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone!

 

No Winners

Is that true, what they say..there can be no winners?

On Saturday afternoon, the decision was made to cancel the scheduled round five Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Highlanders, set to be hosted at Forsythe Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

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Media outlets cited the police as saying there were no official fears held for the safety of the venue, its patrons or the players. The decision to call the game off must therefore have been made over sentiment.
Commendable. There is no denying the depth of feeling flooding the nation given the events in Christchurch on Friday. As a consequence, we were all encouraged not to view, share or partake in the filth Tarrant posted online.
Good call. Who wants to see such grotesque violence anyway, despite the ghoulish nature many people have.

So, with one hand we are denying this freak of a human the platform he so desperately sought, yet it seems with the other we are giving him the and his actions the credence they so badly do not warrant.
I have always liked to think sports is impartial. Free of politics or the whims of society and it’s ever changing standards. Just a bunch of men and women and kids running, kicking, jumping, throwing and catching, using whatever level of athleticism required to undertake their chosen physical past time.
We have seen time again how people will always persist in drawing a llink between sport and the wider issues of the world and indeed more and more we see modern sports people wanting to use the platform they have through their game as a chance to weigh in with their opinions.

Cool. I am all for wider debate, for as many voices as possible in any given debate and for perceived role models, such as sports people, making the most of what is a privileged position. Think the statements by TJ Perenara around the rainbow issue as a prime example.
To me, it just seems calling a halt to a rugby game because of the actions of a nutter is out of place. The cricket test to be held at Hagley against the Bangladesh team, sure. There is no way that game could have proceeded. But a rugby game in a different city over twenty four hours later? Out respect for the victims? Really?
I sincerely doubt the victims and their families were giving any thought to any game. All cancelling the game has done is extend the reach of Brenton Tarrant’s actions, furthering his hateful message.

I will admit, there is an element of selfishness to what I say.
I was looking forward to the clash between the Crusaders and my Highlanders. We took them down last season and while I don’t think we were likely to this time around, we were in with a shot.
Under the roof in Dunedin, a big derby match, the night of sporting entertainment would have been a spectacle, the Zoo in action and students and fans reveling in the streets.
The type of spectacle we as New Zealanders are more used to seeing.

Just what the doctor would have ordered don’t you think?

As for the name of the rugby franchise from the Canterbury, Nelson?Tasman region?
I for one, no fan of PC excesses, think it may be time for a change…

 

Innocence and Immunity

Was I naive? Was I blissfully unaware? Was I ignorant? 

The question of immunity is a gnarly one in New Zealand at the moment.
Measles has well and truly reared it’s ugly head as a problematic virus on our shores and re-ignited an immunisation debate, one which never really goes away.

My wife is a medical professional. Her mind works in the way of someone immersed in the jargon and language of her profession and those of the colleagues and others around her. She gets it, all the information. It makes sense to her as she has a mind trained to filter the dross and dredge out the important, relevant stuff.
To the layman, researching your way around the question of whether to immunise or not, leads to nothing more than a headache. Claim and counter claim, fact and counter fact.One study and trial versus another.
But even as a layperson, the evidence seems more than just conclusive. It is undeniable.
Jab your children.

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Perhaps I am susceptible to a viral attack such as Measles. To be honest, I don’t really know if I have been fully immunised or not.
One thing I am all too aware of now, I am not immune to the hate in this world.

Was New Zealand ever that idyllic, peaceful, sweet and innocent South Pacific paradise we all like to think of ourselves as living in?
Simply, the answer is no. But comparatively, we don’t have a great deal to worry about and never really have. Not from the perspective I have anyway, looking out from my bubble of family and everyday life.
As a nation, we are not immune to the hatred and vile, violent and disgusting behaviours and attitudes that seem to purvey so much of the rest of the globe. It has reached our shores, this cruelty. This terror.

It is being said we all saw it coming.
Did we?
Not this guy. I was not aware an attack of this nature was imminent. I had no idea, not even an inkling, there were people here in this country mad enough, angry enough, insane enough, low enough and organised enough to conduct such an act as happened in Christchurch yesterday.
Why would they be here? Why would they harbour so much hate, hold such evil in their hearts and minds?
Why would I, Mr Normal, Mr Average, Mr Everyguy, even suspect there was an element of New Zealand society capable of such an atrocity.

Don’t get me wrong. I know New Zealand is not perfect, that elements of our population are dysfunctional, for one reason or another. I know there is poverty and there is racism and there is violence and there is hate. I have seen examples of all of it and I am sure most of us have.
But, imagine the guy in the checkout queue in front of you is plotting, as he waits idly for the middle-aged part time working Mum to pack his groceries.
Plotting the purchase of mutiple weapons and the ammunition to go with them, the chemicals and the materials required to manufacture bombs. Plotting the logistics and programming routes into his GPS, taking note of timing and traffic, parking even.
Imagine that guy is plotting the death of as many as he can get. Imagine all that is running through his head, right as he is smiling at the checkout chick, politely declining a receipt, not having spent enough to earn a fuel discount.
A few days ago I might have been able to put my imagination to musings like that.
It would have meant little more than that. Random musings. A concept best related to another place; the States, Great Britain, Germany.
New Zealand? Nah mate.
Now, it is a hideous reality I am not sure I can fathom.

The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior was massive. It tore a big hole through this country as it did through the hull of the Greenpeace vessel.
New Zealand and New Zealander’s lost something that day. We were left exposed to the ugly truth of the world around us. A world, it seems, we cannot hide from, beneath veils of clean, green forest canopies and golden sand beaches.

That ugly world has spat in our faces again. A stench ridden, filthy, dirty and ugly reality New Zealanders…all New Zealanders most likely…probably never really considered. Or at least had stopped giving credence to.
The French assault on our soil, on our sensibilities, was a long time ago in the context of global conflict. Not forgotten but moved on, shuffled back to the places in our minds capable of reconciling the hideous and the ugly. But the shield of  ‘It doesn’t happen here’ and ‘It won’t affect us’ has yet again shown it’s vulnerability.
Turns out evil does happen and evil will have it’s effect.

But I am not scared. I am not worried and I am not concerned.
The vitriol has already begun and the spats over keyboard comments are well under way.
Soon the talks will be more earnest and responsible inside the chambers of our lawmakers and politicians. Things will change, inevitably and some of those changes will be for the good and maybe some not so much. One thing can be assured, there will be a great deal of debate, a huge amount of reflection and doubt and uncertainty and yes, there will be fear and anger. Hurt. Every single feeling, each and every emotional response, is justifiable.
Will there be retaliation? We can only hope not.
Who do you fire back at? More innocents? More men, women and children, lost in the fog of prayer? Christians? Catholics? The great secular unwashed that is the majority of Kiwis?

I always thought of this country as a laid back, cruisy, chilled place. We are all too relaxed to care a great deal. Aren’t we?
Life is too good to be worrying about hating. If that is your thing mate, good on ya.
And you know what? I am still going to think of this country like that. Of Kiwis like that. We really are inclusive. We really are giving and accepting and understanding and caring and open.

Please, tell me that won’t change.

Tears of Islam

Should that headline read tears for Islam?

According to my wife it should. She sat in her favourite chair, our slumbering youngest nestled against her despite the persistent heat of a summer which refuses to give in, and wept.

As far as is known, as I sit and write, forty nine people are confirmed dead.

Forty nine men, women and children, literally on their knees in prayer, gunned down.

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I don’t need to describe the horrors and nor do I need to decry them.
Done, by all the media outlets and all the commentators and all those with the tech and the wherewithal.
I am certainly not going to apportion blame.
I could point the finger at social media, which allows the like minded to agitate and to ridicule and to deride. Worse still, social media allows these people to congregate.
We could question gun laws, asking why there isn’t a register of weapons for every person issued a firearms license.
We could look to our police and our security agencies, our intelligence services and border control and government and policy, ask a collective why?
You can’t police the nutters. You can’t legislate for the insane.

You can blame the people pulling the trigger.

An extremist is insane.
Be they Christian or Buddhist or Catholic or Muslim.
Be as far right or left of the political divide as you wish.
Just not too far.
Be as devout and as pious and as proud of your chosen religion as you feel you must.
Where religion and politics intersect, be fervent and aware and earnest and also be open and appraising and smart. Stand your ground, by all means. All the while, let those around you stand theirs too.
There is plenty ground to go around.

I have been away from the keyboard for quite some time.
A new house, a new job, kids starting a new year in new schools in a new town. We have been busy, hectic at times and it pains me to acknowledge, it takes something like this to fire my emotional output.
Too often the word ‘tragedy’ is bandied about but now we have one, yet again in the city of Christchurch. So much that place has suffered and so often there are setbacks to recovery.
But, 15/3/2019 contained no force of nature, no random act of seismic power. People did this and they did it to each other.
I just don’t get it.

Video footage taken and posted by  the perpetrator, as if his actions and those of his mates were somehow significant, as if they had some point, some depth we all needed to become aware of. Bad enough and all as he defiantly gives the impression he is proud of his actions.
And in so doing, he drives the final nail into the coffin which contained the innocence of this nation. The perceived innocence at least.

The New Zealand Wars, Tiriti o Waitangi, Think Big, Nuclear Free. Big issues, big standpoints with different results or none at all.
In regards to our nations stance on the nuclear issue, we watched a ship blown up and sunk in one of our harbours, at the cost of a life. State sponsored terrorism.
Now the argument, and the terrifying response, seems to be over immigration. Delivered to us, it would seem, at the hands of an immigrant.
How is Australian Immigration gonna like getting this one back?

Because our Prime Minister is right. Jacinda Ardern is correct in telling us that this man, immigrant or not, is not one of us. He does not belong.
If his colleagues are Kiwi born and raised, then they too no longer belong.
They are not New Zealanders.
Not true, died in the wool (merino) New Zealander’s. They are white trash filthy scum and white trash scum should be stateless.

I know New Zealand is not the land of milk and honey.
No, wait…it is!
We are Godzone, we are small and far away and exotic and beautiful and clean and green and we are friendly and accommodating and yes, we are innocent.
We are non-threatening and we are courageous and we are forthright and earnest, trying our best in every endeavour and we do get so much of it right.
We smile because, generally, we are fed and housed and educated and yes, we are loved.
Kiwis don’t fear you because we don’t threaten you.

Number One’s math teacher is Palestinian. English is not his first language and I think he knows some of the kids find it hard to understand him at times.
But kids don’t want to send him back from where he came. Kids want a day off to wave banners and moan about the environment.After all, aren’t numbers a language in themselves? A language I can’t understand either.
Think. How is his night? Does he spend his night in fear? Does he worry, as he bends in prayer, that all he will be delivered was a bullet to the back of his skull?

Palestinian mathematics teachers are welcome in this town, on this island, in this country.
Bangladeshi cricketers are welcome and Pakistani grocers and Afghani accountants Uzbek truck drivers and who ever from where ever.
Extremists from Australia or Christchurch or Matamata or Culverden or wherever, aren’t.

But this isn’t really about race or creed or colour.
15/3/2019 Christchurch was about ego. It was about exclusion and loss and a sense of entitlement, a misguided notion of where the wrongs of the world are and how best to put them right.
This was about kitten stranglers, about kids who used to pull the legs off spiders just to watch the poor creature, and the poor gathered boys and girls, squirm.

This was not about Islam.

This was not about New Zealand.

I watched rugby tonight. My kids watched TV. We ate as a family. We remained ‘we’ even as my wife’s tears were justified and I battle to contain my anger.

Tears for Islam
Tears for Christchurch
Tears for New Zealand
Yes, tears for the people and families directly involved. Tears for the police and emergency services and all those who will now be involved mopping it all up, no doubt for years to come.

Tears for humanity.
Just when will we get that right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redneck Dad

The following content may offend some readers.

Be warned. I sit down on a sunny morning, surrounded by a slumbering household, as nothing more than master of this keyboard. An over-weight, balding, arthritic, white, middle class (I suppose) male. And somehow, I am supposed to be apologetic for that.

Because I am white, older and was born and bred in the South Island, I am racist, sexist, misogynistic, ultra conservative with a big red streak emblazoned across the back of my neck.
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I am the victim.
The victim of pigeon-holing. I have been labelled, my persona apparently so on display, the role I play in society can be summed up at a glance.

We all judge and are all judgmental. I get that. I do it too.
Everyone does and there doesn’t have to be any harm in doing so. If nothing else, it is a protective mechanism, one designed so we find ourselves in the company of like-minded people. An attempt, on the most part subconsciously, to group ourselves among our peers and avoid those with whom we may have some form of conflict. Sure, it is contrived, constructed, part of societal ‘norms’ we are conditioned to accept and rarely, if ever, question.

It means, because I hail from the south of this split nation and therefore my accent is different, I must be racist. It means, because I am of a certain age and skin colour, I must be conservative and materialistic.
It is assumed I am educated, have a job, am not divorced. It is assumed I drink Speights, when the reality is I have been steadily working my way through anything and everything crafty with a medal on it. I still like a cold Speights after a hard days work but given my middle aged spread, quality over quantity is a notion driven by health, as well as budget.
I am supposed to drive a hulking, modern, bright and shiny 4WD I don’t need, while the wife bops around in something eco-friendly, European. We might even have a boat or a bach or a combination of the two. Maybe even stocks and bonds, whatever that means, a rental property or two. Mum and Dad investors.
Our kids go to good schools and always have shoes on their feet and jackets to ward off the rain. They do, I was there when we purchased some of that stuff, but you try getting them to wear their protective layers when they are needed.
Basics, our budget is capable of that at least, even while we are not driving flash cars or taking island holidays.

Essentially, as my hair turns a distinguished shade of peppery gray (ok, what is left of it), because I can read and write, because I can spell and count, because I know how to communicate in full sentences using the English language, as my generation and the ones before recognise it, I must be a National Party voter. Or something like that.
One of my big regrets in life to date, is my inability to fluently speak another language or two, be it Te Reo or one of the romance languages. (If you can’t look sexy, why not sound it?).
No great dramas then. No real stresses. If I all I have to worry about is the my inability to babble away in another language, then there can’t be too much going wrong. Right?
Because, good people, their isn’t. Not really.

 Of course, this process works just as well in reverse. All Maori can sing. All Maori have rhythm and can dance. (I can play the drums, meaning I know and have rhythm, as white as I am, but man you don’t wanna see me dancing!)
Generalisations like this make our little clusters of society struggle to mingle. Instead of celebrating differences, we look to segregate and marginalize and the fault is as much with the so called minority, as often as not. I witnessed it with international students attending Otago University. There was a reticence to socialise outside of the small cultural circle these groups bought with them. If they did, it was with other students from foreign cultures.
New cultures can be daunting. Language barriers can seem insurmountable. Establishing yourself in a new and foreign environment, even if it is just the neighborhood across town, a new town, or on in a whole other island, is no easy thing and of course trying to be a part of an already settled group structure, the new kid on the block, is a daunting task.

We have moved around enough over the last few years to note it is the new kids on the block who have the least issue with the new and the untried.
They don’t see colour like we do, don’t hear a foreign tongue like we do.
Kids aren’t blind and deaf to differences, but they are far more accepting, less concerned about the difference and far more interested in common ground. Play, sport, the classroom are all great levelers and children find their fit in no time.
There is always the loner, the one who doesn’t fit, who stands out via their desperate attempt to do exactly the opposite.
Don’t worry about them until the the teen years and in this country, don’t worry too much. Our loner, social misfits don’t have access to automatic weapons.

Adults find it harder to meet and greet for some reason. Caught up too much, maybe, in the preconceived and the contrived.
Workplaces provide an avenue to find new faces but mostly, it is done through your children, around the school and the community which comes from that. You meet parents, teachers and principals and bus drivers and neighbours.
All these new people might see you as this or that or the next thing. They judge you.
Just as you are sizing them up at the same time. First impressions and all the stigma which comes with them.

Yes, I am Caucasian and I come from ‘regional’ New Zealand.
Yes, I have a level of tertiary education and I have full time employment.
Yes, we own two cars and yes, every now and then we can head out for lunch.
Am I a conservative capitalist? No.
I am a left of center idealist, one who would go a lot further left if I wasn’t cynical enough to realise it probably wouldn’t work.
Am I racist, bigoted, aggressively or even just assertively hardcore in particular view or assertion? No. I am too busy for any deep thought, any particular take on any given issue. Four kids remember. Have I ever mentioned that?!
Am I ignorant or worse, abusive of other beliefs of cultures. No.
Just no.

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Confederate flags and muscle cars and sexist ideology aside, Dukes of Hazard was a cool show. I love pick-up trucks (utes) as much as the next man and will stamp my foot to country music if you’re going to play it.
That school community, those neighbours, will most likely see my wife and me as we are. First and foremost we are parents. Hard working, dedicated family folk.
Just like the ones sitting across from us at any given table, no matter where we came from and how we got there.

 

 

 

Summer Musing

Hot enough for ya?!

Who doesn’t love it? Summer. And a bloody good one at that.
The 2018/19 summer is the first one I have worked in a couple of years and it feels like the holiday I was needing, without realising I was in need of one.
It is too easy to think the stay at home parent doesn’t need a break because, hey, it isn’t like they are working. My time in the crib, hanging with my crew, was the hardest work I have ever done.
Yep, you’re so right. I am too old and too Caucasian for that language.

There was nothing physically demanding about being at home, with a couple of little ones. Okay, a few of the physical attributes females are blessed with might have been handy. A hip or two might have taken some of the pressure off back and shoulders, a mammary gland here and there to placate wayward behavior or appease demands.
I might not necessarily have been fully equipped to deal full time parenting, though I coped. So did the kids!
I managed, in the same way I am not necessarily fully prepared to be as productive as I could be in my new role, but as I had to do being a stay at home Dad, I will learn and adapt and change and ultimately, succeed.

Being at work full-time does not mean I am any less a full time parent. Having a job does not exclude me from being a Father, nor does it mean I am suddenly ignorant of the trials of looking after a brood of kids during the summer holiday period.
The long summer break, for kids and parents alike, is all about prickles on the lawn, falling asleep in the car on the drive home from the beach.
It is trying snorkeling for the first time, testing out the new boogie boards, in waves you might not previously have been adventurous enough to venture into.
It is ice-creams, dripping down your hand faster than you can lick, one ice-block after another failing to quench your sea salt, sandy thirst, it is sweat and chaffing and barbeques and fresh green salads and dozing in the shade, as the birds chirp above and a hot Tasman breeze shifts clouds as lazy as your eyelids, from one bright blue horizon to the next.

The day done, summer is impossible nights, tossing and turning from fear of a settling mosquito, window wide to let in a drift of air no cooler than the heavy, sunscreen tainted wafts you want to escape.
Shut the window, ban the bug, toss and turn regardless, the heat rising from your sun-kissed skin.

For Wifey, summer is popping the cork free of the a chilled bottle of Pinot Gris, darling, a little earlier than might be otherwise appropriate.
For me, summer is a sleepy afternoon beer, warming the grill and waiting for the salads to be near ready, before standing dangerously close to the sizzle and pop of barbequed meat.
Summer is backed by a soundtrack of reggae and roots, the voices of Brian Waddle and Jeremy Coney.
Wifey cruises back to the vibes of Scott Bradlee and his hodgepodge of assorted vocalists and clustered instrumentalists.


Walks beneath a bush canopy, because it is cooler. Dining on the deck, in the shade and a cooler breeze. Indications it is summer.

Romantic stuff. All holidays and white sand beaches and fishing and the clink of bottles rattling together in a chilly-bin.
Of course, summer is stretching the budget, worries over childcare and the threat of behavioural hiccups among the wee ones, as routines are broken down and then suddenly reinstated.
You could worry over the effects of melanoma or the efficacy of your sunscreen. You could fret about what state work is going to be in when you finally get back there, or just how the kids are going to cope with a new year, maybe a new school.
Or…

Take ten minutes laying on the grass in the dappled shade of a plum tree and when you stand up, pick a few fruits for the bowl.
Twist the cap off a cheap Pinot, no one does corks anymore and don’t let that worry you.
Crack the cap on that first afternoon beer and down half the contents in a couple of mighty gulps.
Let the rhythmic squeak of the trampoline lull you, the cry of gulls, Tui, the screech of argumentative, sun frazzled children. Whatever.
Before long, routine takes hold, regathers it’s strength and starts to dominate. I can feel it doing that thing it does right now…

Until then, just because…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Soundtrack

In a world where identity is constantly under question, bent by questions around gender and labels, transformed by changes in acceptable norms, is there a place anymore for individuality?

Everyone has the right to be different, has the right to be exactly who they see themselves as. It is no easy feat, being the the person you want to be, the person you are and perhaps it is that bit harder again, to be the person you wish others to see you as. Everyone forms impressions and makes judgments. Doing so gets harder, the more boundaries are shifted, but people will do it anyway.

We are conditioned by the culture we are raised in, the house we are bought up in, the education we receive, the books we read, the movies we watch and the music we listen to.
We want to fit in, want to branch out, find a new path. We want to recapture a feeling, a vibe, we want to be challenged, feel something original.
At least, that is how it always is for me and music.

I was always happy to let anything into my ears my ears didn’t object to. Pop, classical, reggae, electronica in all it’s forms, jazz and blues and soul and R&B and rock’n’roll, you name it.
I had my preferences of course, still do but I made a point of always allowing myself to be influenced by friends and family, by the radio, the television, open to advances from whatever culture or media I had access to.
As a young g fella, growing up in the South of New Zealand, Dunedin to be exact, my location as a youth was both a blessing and a hurdle.
Quite apart from being raised prior to the digital era, there was often a sense, certainly when I was young, that the ‘on-trend’ stuff was late to get to NZ, let alone find its way south. Maybe this was a perception thing but there was no doubting there was another hindrance to fully developing your own ear.
The Dunedin ‘sound’.

I was a small part of it. That sound. After the hey-day, but I made my contribution to the noise pumping out of various old pubs dotted around the ‘scene’
That recognised sound, the style and energy emanating from Dunedin, was distinctive and more than a little commercially successful. Although recognised as a ‘sound’ it was an era in New Zealand music and musicianship where there really was something new and innovative.
Even then, everything was a little bit the same, people seeking to fit the sound and scene. Seeking to find their place meant there was the chance for a bit of individuality to be expressed and there were pockets of it, heads popping up above the pulpit, doing things the same way everyone else was but doing it their way. The same, a bit like The Jam were doing in the England in the late seventies and early eighties, but different in a way Chris Knox was always going to be.

The point is, there was a clear pathway in Dunedin at the time for a musician, for a band. As a drummer, I didn’t set about re-inventing the wheel, I just went along for the ride with some like-minded guys and enjoyed every moment of it. Essentially, I hung out in rooms full of musicians and hit things.
We got to be heard by the right people, got to play in the right venues and did our thing, just like every body else. I had the feel, at times, if you didn’t adhere to that scene, be a part of the ‘sound’ in one way or another, then you were a little on the outer. Frowned upon if you were not listening to the right thing, shunned if you were too interested in anything popular or mainstream. Perhaps you weren’t quite ‘coo;’ enough. Maybe your were yet to prove yourself.

And then Nirvana.
A shift. A change. A thing all shiny and new.
I was drunk and stoned, laying in someone else’s waterbed in the wee small hours of the morning, when i first heard Nervermind.
Grunge was not new to me. I was already a fan of Pearl Jam, had heard Soundgarden and Mudhoney, was mad for Stone Temple Pilots and Alice In Chains. Grunge existed before Nirvana and Nevermind and I knew it.
Dunedin didn’t and it was no wonder. Indulging in my tastes meant boot legged recordings, often of poor quality, meaning it was difficult to let my influences feed through to others and no one got that I wanted to drum like it was Flea making up the other part of a dream rhythm section, a whole new direction it seemed I was destined to do solo if Dunedin was where I was doing it. The Chilly who? The Peppers what?

Dunedin and her sound was individual, peculiar to the region. Time and place. Seattle was the same. All sorts of other sounds and styles were developing or changing or warping, as all kinds of other peoples did their thing. Distinctive and new or the same but different.
It filtered to you, wherever you might be, or those sounds never made their respective way through the airwaves, the radios waves or via MTV, into your ears and your consciousness.
Then boom, the digital era. The internet. Music was everywhere, from everyone and there was no excuse not to miss a thing. Or to miss out anymore on the things you had already missed out on. Confused?
In fact, thanks to modern technology and how it has changed the way we communicate, the way we educate and ‘publish’ it becomes impossible to be ignorant of new sounds and new takes on old ones.
At the end of your fingers, anyone you want to hear, doing anything audible. And yet, there is a lumping, a grouping, of artists and their efforts, which inhibits individuality, identity, the same way it did in Dunedin, but different.

Spotify. Soundcloud. Before that, think I-Tunes. A new way our music was and is presented to us. For a nominal dollar figure, you can be listening to what you like, on what you like, when you like.
And the advent of the of the ‘playlist’ means the artist becomes anonymous.

I am a bit of a nerd  or geek or whatever. I hear a song I like, on an advert, the radio, a movie soundtrack or played by someone else and if it rings my bells, I check it out. But, I don’t stop there.
What album did that song come from? When was it released? Is it recent, or something from their back-catalogue? Most importantly, what do they sound like live?
That, to my ear at least, is the true test of any bands real ability and thanks to YouTube and the likes, it isn’t hard to find out. No need to fly to exotic locations, shelling out hundreds of dollars in the process.
That is me though. Not many are like me. Bothering to troll through Wikipedia and Spotify and Google and YouTube and Facebook and whatever, just because I liked that one song you did that one time.

Sometimes I just click play. If I am feeling really adventurous, I even click shuffle.
Spotify knows what I like. Algorithms or whatever. Based on what I have already clicked, it puts together a bunch of this and that’s which takes away the necessity for me to even go to that much effort. Searching. Clicking. Listening.
The latter part I still very much do and me being me, I will stop what I am doing and look deeper, further, if my ears have been tweaked.
But, like everyone else, beer in hand, good company to left and right, that playlist becomes little more than background. Daily Mix, or whatever.

And there it is. A band, an act, and artist, become a ‘sound’. Identity stripped from them, starved of individuality.
So do the artists a favour and yourselves while you are at it. Make your own playlist.
Right here is where I was tempted to post my taste in tunes, but I think that is your job.

Mixed tape anyone?

 

 

The Cost of Education

Doesn’t sound right does it?

Teaching our kids, the next generation. Training them, giving them the tools they need not to just exist, to cope, but to grow and develop. More.
Yes, teach the children of the nation to be readers and writers, to support healthy minds and bodies and help them explore and inquire. Yes, up-skill them so a brave new world is not a daunting place, foreign and frightening.
Don’t hinder any or all of the above just because paying for a modern education is beyond the reach of many.

We all know you get nothing for free. The user pays.
Rightly or not, that is how it works in our ‘free market’ society. Yet there are some core tenants to the way New Zealand is set up and run, the bill for which is not supposed to be appearing in the mailboxes of everyday you and me.
All the stuff we need in our day to day modern existence, is taken care of. Apparently. Departments within Ministries, run by committees and overseen by appointed officials, answering to our elected ones. From the office junior, to the intern, to the lifer in middle management and the manicured mouthpiece put in front of the cameras if, low and behold, things should ever go wrong.

These are the mechanisms which bring electricity into our houses, bringing light and warmth. Systems are in place to ensure we have water flowing from our taps. Clean, potable water. Infrastructure like road networks, public transport, footpaths and street-lighting and sewage and refuse collection and disposal and recycling and and and…
It is a huge list, and much of the above is the responsibility of local authorities, let alone at regional and national levels. Just wait until you get to central government and start thinking about mammoth sectors like public healthcare. Like education.
Even in a small country like New Zealand, running these three islands, keeping pace with the needs and demands of an ever growing, ever aging population, is no simple task and every step of the way has to be paid for.

I get it.
We pay.
One way or another, our contribution is made, to the coffers of councils and government. Taxes, levies, duties. No matter the label, our income is siphoned off so the things we expect, demand and want, are there for us when we need, want and demand them.
Education is no different.

A big part of the last couple of weeks has been gearing up One and Two for their coming school year. A stand out in that process has been the expense!
Hundreds of dollars on uniforms alone, still more hundreds spent on stationery, a huge part of which are tech requirements like Chromebooks.
I get that wider society is in the midst of a technological revolution, that the way we communicate and the way we work is changing, so it stands to reason the way we learn must change and adapt also.
But, and it is a big, expensive but…at who’s expense?

We are not poor, however, we are by no means well off. Like many working families in New Zealand, we somehow manage to make one end get close to the other, week to week.
That is the thing though, it is a day to day, week to week, pay cheque to pay cheque process, one which leaves little or no room for error, nor is there room for contingencies. You know, rainy days, saving. That sort of thing.
Yes, our kids will go to school, well fed and clothed after a warm and cosy night in beds housed in a leak free home. They will be carrying with them all the bits and pieces ‘required’ of them.
Single items of clothing with three figure price tags and the tech bells and whistles. Then yes, we will fork out for the extras, which somehow never seem to be in a school’s operational budget or fall outside ministry funding umbrellas.

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Because there will be fees.
Because there will be ‘voluntary’ donations.
Buses will have to be paid for, so kids can get to swimming pools and museums and field trips and sporting and cultural events of all sorts and natures.
School camps will take place and there will be this and that required, to make it the sort of experience the one it should be, the one you remember with heavy rose tinting.
It is all valuable, in terms of what our kids get from it, what is given them in return for the dollar value it all comes at.

We will make the effort to ensure our kids want for nothing as far as their schooling and education goes.
It will be an effort. A costly one but something we will do because we feel we must and because we can.
What of those who can’t?
What about the families who have nothing to sacrifice, budgets stretched so thin a ‘fee’ or ‘donation’ is so far beyond them, it is a stress they don’t need, an extra bill they cannot meet.
It is their kids who suffer.
They suffer in the classroom and on the playground. Kids can be cruel and these kids, their families, will not be invisible because they don’t have a chrome book, because their woolen jumper is several generations old, straight off a second-hand rack. Exactly the opposite in fact.c They will stand out like the proverbial dogs bollocks.
Their pride will be hurting too. Sure, there are families out their who simply do not give a shit and they are lost causes, a s will their kids most likely be. However, there are many more, stuck in a cycle of poverty, wanting and willing to the best they can, just simply unable to.

I know funding is weighted, the decile system in place to balance out the differences.
We could debate the effectiveness of such a system all of one of these hot summer days. Doing so won’t put a Chromebook into the hands of our kids. It won’t put food in their bellies or shoes on their feet or jackets on their backs.
So, if you and I are the user, or even if we are not, we are paying.
What are we getting for our money? What are our kids getting?
What was so wrong with blackboards?

Last Weekendless Weekend

I know that doesn’t even make sense, but it does to me.

It is Sunday morning. How do I know it is morning? You would think the neighbours rooster would be a key indicator, but the stupid thing never gives up it’s plaintive call, cock-a-doodling his way throughout all hours of the day.
I know it is morning because, despite not yet re-starting the routine of work, somewhere deep in my thick skull my jaded old brain has convinced my body it is happening.

We all have a ‘body clock’, ticking away unobtrusively, letting us know some of the deeper workings of the world around us, without you necessarily being all that aware. This clock keys us into things like a change of season, when your sleeping patterns need to adjust for dawn a and dusk, drops happily into a routine and even tells women when it is time to have babies. Or am I taking that too far?

For the past couple of years my routine has not belonged to me at all. My days began when the wide, sweet innocent gaze of children opened to a new dawn.
Sound lovely? In reality, I had been up a couple of hours by then, as our kids have that wonderful ability to sleep in, or at least stay in bed, until a respectable hour. A couple of blissful, peaceful hours I could have a thing or two to myself.
Even that sounds awesome but it wasn’t always the case. Everything I did was dictated to by other people. There were two older kids needing constant urging and encouragement to get out the door on time, complete with teeth and hair brushed and appropriately clothed, lunches made and breakfast in their bellies.
They managed all this quite independently, though not without encouragement. Even Wifey needed to be told to eat!
Such is the life of parenting and I had no complaint. Who was listening anyway? Certainly not the children, not the first couple of times!

So apart from repeating myself repeatedly, there were all the mundane and ordinary and standard and ‘same’ things to go through any given morning. The fact I failed to make a proper routine of it is a testament to how far out of sync my body clock had (has?) gotten.
With half the occupants fleeing the confines of the house, to go about their daily routine, it was down to me and the little ones to spark the embers of the morning and fire the coals of the day. We had our little systems, our processes we would go through but generally, our days were fairly fluid.
There was joy in that and there was the risk of rot, the chance boredom could set in. The weather became a crucial element.
There was little change to it, that daily process. Far from a grind. When you are surrounded by little un’s, their curiosity, their wonder and inquisitiveness, their questioning and exploring and discovery, is as infectious as it is time consuming.

You might think the only point of difference would be the weekend. I can only suppose, for those who have things which occupy their weekends; jobs and school and the like, then it is Saturday and Sunday which stand out from the norm. That couple of days strung together and labelled the weekend.
Not for this guy.
Apart from the fact Wifey and Number’s One and Two snoozed through the better part of the morning, there was little to no difference. Perhaps those couple of early morning hours actually did manage to be a little bit more about me. Perhaps I wasted them, gazing at the spendiferous view the Hokianga provided, behind the misty rise of a freshly brewed coffee.

Soon, a weekend might mean something to me again.
Not to say it hasn’t for the last couple of years or so. If you are going to breed a crew of four, making for a total of six, it is because you like the busy exuberance of a full house. That means weekdays are as full of fun vigor as any other.
While my body clock has for a long time suffered the after effects of a previous working life, one which started early and stretched to long days, waking me from slumber on or around the wee-small hours, for no real other purpose than to be awake.
Sometimes annoying, sometimes a blessing, as dawn can not only be one of the more beautiful times of the day, I find it can be one of the most productive. Especially without the impediment of others.
Little others.
Heading back to work might mean I appreciate the company of my crew, without feeling frazzled or frustrated. I will actively seek to spend time with them, doing the the things families do as a group, participating as much as can and am allowed, in the things the kids want to do to fill their time. I hope they seek out time with their Dad too, because as much as going back to work will be a transition for me, it will have a similar impact, if not more, on the kids.
If for no other reason, they are going to need to put up with having their Mother around all the time, for the immediate future at least.
Good luck with that kids!

I guess, with my weekdays full, I will have to start thinking about planning the weekends, to best utilise them,  make the best of them.
But, for now, that is all I will do. Think about it.
The last thing I want to eventuate out of this return to being a productive member of society, gainfully employed, is to miss out on the spontaneity an the abandon and the free fluidity that is having a young family.  So, if ya wanna see me at the weekend, better let me know, I’ll see if we can fit you in…

Will I miss it? Being at home? Being the  ‘go to’ parent.
You bet.
Am i gagging to get back in the routine of work, have that body clock rousing me with the birds and the colouring of the sky?
Hell yes.
Come the weekend?
Who knows…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cringe Factor

Have I fully of come of age? Because now, I am ‘That guy’. 

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with some of Claire’s family, down in the big smoke of Auckland.
Twenty five or so loosely affiliated kin, together for a laugh and a smile and to share a feed. Stressful for those at the helm, a good time for guests. For me, a headache waiting to happen, even if I managed to survive better than I thought I was going to to.

The hosts have a couple of sons. Great young me, one in his late teens and the other, early twenties. Friendly, open and engaging young people who are a pleasure to be around.
Hanging around with them, as much as you can between long sessions on their phones or in front of monitors, showed up a few things for me.
Firstly, it isn’t hard to work just where I stand physically these days. I am no Adonis, no shining light of what it means to be at peak physical fitness or health.
Wifey and I are working on it. Not some bullshit New Years resolution, not some fad diet or gym membership as good as money flushed down the toilet. A real and genuine desire, over a planned term, to make change, changes which are already happening.
The sad truth is though, I will never again be even on par with a 21 year old, when it comes to energy and vitality. Those days are gone and thankfully, I can accept that.

Other things stand out. I am not into the same cultural stuff; music, movies, I still read…you know, from pages full of the printed word.
The big standout was humour.
I am not going to be so harsh as to suggest younger generations don’t seem to have one, a sense of humour that is, but as far as I could see, it wasn’t readily prevalent.
There was the standard good natured bantering and put downs, over pool tables or dart boards or the obligatory outdoor/backyard games. You know the type, fun for the whole family and all that. It was OK to have a dig, to ridicule or embarrass or try and make a fool of someone. But a one liner?
No. Straight over their heads or seen as a deliberate attempt to offend someone. As for a drop of innuendo? Met with groans of derision.
Sure, a bit of sexual innuendo is a bit lowbrow. Not scrapping the barrel quite like toilet humour might be, but a sarcastic take on what someone else has said is hardly the epitome of comedy.

I tend to get my comedy fixes from the likes of Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Bill Burr and guys of that ilk. These are people who like to push a few boundaries, tell it like it is and have no compulsion about stepping all over people’s sensibilities.
I have heard Jimmy Carr say offense cannot be given, only taken. While I appreciate the reasoning behind such a statement, I get that deliberately trying to provoke a reaction is treading on dangerous territory. The whole ‘too soon’ argument for example, as guys like the aforementioned are quite topical with their material.
Timing and delivery are the key with humour apparently. If you are going to drop an off the cuff one-liner, you need to be as quick witted as you are alert and aware. It takes a level of intellect, even if your humour is cheap and crude.
Gauging your audience is key too I would assume. Everyone reacts differently and if you get a group offside, you are never going to get them back. A mob mentality and all that.

It seems a group of young men, aged somewhere between late teens and early twenties, are probably not my target audience. I am not saying I in anyway offended any one and in no way did I try to.
Yet the ‘audience’ plays it’s part too. The more these guys groaned, rolled their eyes or made derisive sounds and comments, the more I was inspired. While they got more laughs among themselves from put-downs, snide comments and cheap shots, shaming each other, I happily carried on dropping a line here and there, many of which I was becoming fairly certain were not going to go down well.
Which meant, they went down really well.

Does it sound strange that it felt good to be ‘that guy’?
That I was able to find the line others were not prepared to cross, so I could leap gleefully over it?
I guess I ran the risk of coming across like a jerk but the reality is, as far as those around me of a similar age bracket to me, I was only saying what most people were thinking.
At least, they were thinking it after I said it.

Future generations are getting taller. Younger people are developing physically, more so than those of my age did. Conversely, many of them are not using that physicality, preferring back lit screens and monitors.
What entertains those who came after me is changing too. Their levels of tolerance are different. At an age when they should be testing boundaries, threatening my sensibilities, it is instead them doing the cringing.
Is that the way it is supposed to be?
I don’t think so.

The next generation are the ones who are supposed to shock, to test the norms and boundaries and to change the parameters. They are the ones who are supposed to challenge current standards and seek to establish new settings.
Each generation should stand up to the things they feel are oppressive, should fight the good fight and all that. Our kids should break the rules we set, as we broke the ones set for us.
Is it the fault of political correctness? Have following generations become too sensitive, too aware of offending the sensibilities of others, one minority or another, one marginal group or another?

 Or maybe I should just stick to dad jokes.

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