How to understand this blog

Monday, July 25, 2011

snow day

Okay, so if you want to read this blog post, you first have to agree to the following stipulation:

If you come from a very snowy wintry place, you are not allowed to scoff at my overwhelming excitement about the following blog post!!

Right. Moving on.

Last night, it started snowing. While I was at church. After I got home, I rushed outside to wander down the street looking at the light smattering of snow that had managed to settle.

Very nice and exciting but I didn't think we'd get much more than that.

Imagine my satisfaction to wake up this morning and look outside to find this:

It feels like the entire population of Christchurch has a smile on their faces today!

(Sad news, however. Since making the snowmen, their heads have fallen off. We are all Arts students.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

30 years today

The Springbok tour of New Zealand began on July 22, 1981. The South African rugby team came to our shores while most of the rest of the world refused to take part in any sports competition involving the country which still held onto apartheid. What's more, our rugby officials decided not to put any Maori players into the All Blacks team just in case it was offensive to the sensitive white Springboks players.

I would like to think New Zealand has learned something from the tour. I hope it has, anyway, but feel slightly pessimistic.

It's so strange for me to admit that rugby is not just a game. The rugby world cup is coming to New Zealand this year and I am so thoroughly fed up with rugby-mania and misplaced national pride that I just want to scream with my hands in my hair - "IT DOESN'T MATTER!"

And yet professional sports are not just a game. Apartheid was not a game. I wish I could feel confident that the lessons of history are being learned, but if so how are we to account for the Beijing Olympics of 2008? The relentless disregard of basic human rights is not a game. Learn the lesson, New Zealand.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Over the last two and a half years, I've flatted with about ten or eleven people altogether, which seems a lot now that I've thought about it. I've flatted with two of those people the entire time, and we're a pretty tight unit, so I hadn't realised there had been seven or eight others.

We've always had a quote wall up in our flats, to capture moments of unintentional humour and potential embarrassment. I thought I'd share some of them with you today. Most have been taken completely out of context. Unnamed, because I don't want to share my flatmates' names, and this is a great excuse to avoid indicating which ones are mine!

"The chicken is soft and tender like a love song."

"Did I tell you the story about when I was in the oven the other day?"

"It screens in 120 countries."
"120?! That's like 60 times two!"

"No, no, not the chicken!"
"I did not want to have to resort to this. I am afraid you leave me no other option."

(Re: guys) "They all just want me for my body."

"I've listened to this music for so long that I could go put on a bonnet."

"No one's that beautiful in real life."
"Of course they are! I have to look at it in the mirror every day."

"If Jesus was in a fairy tale, he would slay the dragon."

(Struggling with a bean bag) "I feel like a whale trying to get out of the sea."

"[Unnamed] kisses like a ravenous wildebeest."

"He likes goats."
"Wow, so much potential for seducing him."

X: "Allie failed at picking up ... (long pause) ... cabbage."
Y: "X failed at remembering what cabbage is."

(After hearing Adam Lambert sing Led Zeppelin) "I'm so jaded. I've heard it all before."

"He could carve my roast any day!"

(telling a story) "So, I used my intelligentness..."

"In all seriousness now..."
"I know. We never joke about dinner."

X: "It's zero, not oh."
Y: "Spot the pedantic person!"
Z: "Spot the pedant."

"I can't be friends with you anymore, I'm a boyfriended woman."

"Is it just me or is the internet slow?"
"No, you're slow too."

"Let's go shopping! Let's get dinner! Let's watch North & South!"
"Let's jump up and down and squeal!"



We have fun.

Monday, July 18, 2011

when I grow up ...

... I want a cottage garden.

I am NOT a fan of the gardens that seem to be fashionable in New Zealand at the moment. Someone seems to have decreed that everyone should only use native plants in their gardens, but this person has only given them a selection of about three native plants. Don't get me wrong - I love tussocks, flaxes and lancewoods - but they look way better growing wild, there are plenty of other natives that should be used, and on top of this they have become boring, because most gardens look the same.

My frustration with boring gardens has meant I've spent some time thinking about the type of garden I want when I grow up. To be honest, I'm not sure I will ever be a very good gardener and so my dreams of domestic paradise might be delusions. All the same, I am pretty sure of my ideal by now. And it is a cottage garden.

I've spent so much time thinking about it over the last little while that I have even come up with a list of the plants I really want to have in my garden. And here it is, in no particular order:

1. Violets. We used to have violets at the shady bottom of the garden when I was a child. I loved the scent, and the way they seemed so hidden away, like fairies.

2. NZ ferns for a wet shady corner. One native plant I would like to see a lot more of.

3. Some sort of climber - there are many options but here are a few I really like:

Wisteria. (Problematic in that it takes ages to grow.)

4. Daffodils and lily-of-the-valley for spring. Of course.

5. A lemon tree. This is one of my top priorities. As you know, I am a lemonophile.

6. Lavender.
7. A plum tree. This is a picture of my big sister and me under the plum tree in our childhood garden. It was grown from a cutting from a tree that my grandfather bred, and so the plums were completely unique to our family and they were the most beautiful plums I've ever had. I would love to see if the current owners would let me take a cutting, one day!

8. Hydrangeas. It took me a while to learn to love hydrangeas. But now I really like them.

9. Hollyhocks.

10. A herb garden is essential.

11. Daisies.

12. Daphne. This is one plant upon which I absolutely insist. Possibly my favourite flower, and definitely my favourite scent.

13. Climbing roses. I like roses of all kinds, really, but my favourites are the smaller, slightly messy-looking ones with an amazing scent.

14. Bellflowers. I discovered these recently. Aren't they pretty?

Monday, July 11, 2011

alasdair and john

New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote. Hurrah! For some reason I've ASSUMED for some time now that that must mean our men are slightly ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to enlightenment.

Over the past few weeks we've been given a chance to see that that is spectacularly not the case. A few males in powerful positions have made some outlandish statements that have shocked the country - and so in some ways, of course, the reaction to these statements is evidence that many men feel very differently to them. But in other ways, too, it has become very obvious that a large number of men feel very sympathetic.

Back in the days of the women's suffrage campaign, this was the kind of criticism women were up against:

A frightening, domineering archwife lowering the dignity of Parliament. Emotional and uncontrolled, she is clearly unsuitable to guide the country with rationality and restraint.

The picture has changed rather a lot now. But, for two relatively high-profile men, these ideas linger.

(1) Alasdair Thompson, who has had to resign from his position as CEO of the Employers' and Manufacturers' Association (EMA), recently defended the gender pay gap, claiming that women take much more leave than men - an obvious example being maternity leave, a slightly less unnecessary example being "monthly sick problems". Eugh.

As inappropriate and thoughtless as this statement appeared to be, Thompson proceeded to dig himself a deep, deep hole. He appeared in a couple of TV interviews in which he behaved in a completely bizarre way, promised "satistics" and then produced anecdotes, and pretty much acted like someone who has no idea how to conduct himself in public. You can read about it, or watch the full interview, here.

Had a great time on twitter reading other people's comments on the issue, some of which have been recorded here.

One of my favourites was from someone calling themselves "Alasdair_at_EMA": 'I am being completely misquoted. I have not mentioned anything regarding menstruation. Period.'

Another @RyanSproull: "Women are actually paid less because they spend hours crying and gossiping and asking for directions."

Another @teh_aimee: "Dear Alasdair Thompson. People _all over the world_ are currently having to rehinge their jaws."

I have to admit to feeling a little sorry for Mr Thompson after he lost his job and became the butt of the country's jokes. He's obviously completely clueless rather than intentionally malicious, and he's probably a nice old man who dandles his grandchildren on his knee - definitely no domestic tyrant. But the things he said and the way he said them, as if they were perfectly obvious (again, see the TV interview) ... well, it became very clear that feminism still has some pertinent things to say to NZ culture.

So I thought that was it for a while - until...

(2) The marketing director for our very own slightly far Right political party, Act, came out with some comments so damaging that even the Act party had to get rid of him. Taken from this article.

John Ansell began with racism, criticising "white cowards" for not taking action against the "Maorification" of New Zealand. (The Maori being the indigenous people of this country.) He thinks that Maori get special treatment, and has compared the situation to apartheid.


This is the main focus of people's criticism of Ansell, and rightly so, I think. Couldn't help noticing one of Ansell's comments, though:

Act is "a men's party. I can't get them to agree to that but it's a party for men and women who think like men."

Great, here we go again. Then someone on twitter directed my attention to this comment thread which Ansell has been active on.

DPF: “I’d be fascinated to hear why ACT is not a party for women who think like women.”

The evidence of history, David.

The women who support ACT are not squeamish about speaking bluntly about rational issues (including racial issues). I respect them very much.

In short, they’ve got guts.

More typical women are less rational and more emotional. They’d rather preserve relationships than rock the boat. Is that not true? ... women, by a reasonable margin, preferred to cuddle the various minority groups and spend more of other people’s money on welfare that to take the hard economic decisions. These ‘soft mothers’ voted for short-term gain and long-term pain.

The ‘strong fathers’, also by a reasonable margin, voted for short-term pain and long-term gain. The rational ... approach.

Now of course I’ll be branded misogynist as well as racist. But again, I’m just pointing out the simple truth.

The soft mother model doesn’t seem to be universal. In Britain, women ‘got’ Margaret Thatcher’s bold approach (a woman who thought like a man if ever there was one).

But in New Zealand, when it comes to strong policies that actually allow the country to move forward, the girls let the side down. ...

Man, I love it when people claim "the evidence of history" or "I'm just pointing out the simple truth", without specific reference to evidence of any kind.

And yes, here we are again. Facing up against a really delusional man who cannot stop talking when he really should do so. Facing claims that any women who are womanlike in character are irrational and unsuited to take part in government or even to vote, if Ansell is to be believed.

It's amazing how much has changed since 1893. And yet it's amazing how much things have stayed the same.

(An interesting blog post on the political implications of people like Ansell - if you're interested.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I've been pretty quiet about what's going on in my life at the moment in terms of day-to-day rat-race kind of stuff - now that the MA is over finito kaput.

So here is a brief explanation.

- I am enjoying life post-Masters.

- I am kind of looking for full-time employment, but not particularly urgently. I am also looking into scholarships for PhD study abroad.

- I am seriously considering attempting to write a screenplay.

- I am still working in administration for my sister's organisation. I am really enjoying it. It's not too time-consuming, but it's been paying the bills perfectly well so far. It's varied and interesting and I can work from home.

- On top of this, I have another job for about six weeks. It would be a very complex and boring story to explain how it came about that I got it, but now that I have it I have to tell you how incredibly cool it is. I am writing up a teaching manual for a robot language!!! I was a little daunted at first by doing something which is really rather different to anything I've done before... but now that I'm a few days into working on it I am LOVING it. It's so interesting, it's challenging, it's ridiculously unique, and again I can work from home.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

the latest addition to my family

I have a beautiful new niece who is two weeks old!

Her name is Eliza, which I think is a beautiful name, so pretty in fact that it has been on my own list of names-to-call-future-hypothetical-daughters for some time. But as these daughters are hypothetical, I'm perfectly happy for my sister and her husband to use the name on their real, solid, tiny little daughter.

She was born after a particularly quakey night in Christchurch. There was a magnitude 5.3 quake at about 10.30pm, centered very close to where we were, and it was followed by about nineteen more quakes throughout the night, right up until little Eliza was born at about 5:45am.

Eliza is going to be part of a strange little generation. Her class at school will be full of earthquake babies. And her elder sisters will grow up knowing rather an unnatural amount about earthquakes for children their age.

Anyway - musings about the future aside - you may remember I had been doing some knitting for my future niece, and I wrote about it a little while ago on this blog. Unfortunately, I decided in the end that the little wrap I made was just not good enough. It looked okay in the photo you saw, but that photo did not reveal all the flaws and mistakes that are just so obvious when I actually held the wrap in my hands.

So I had a go at something a little less challenging:

And I am glad I did, because I think they're rather cute!

Monday, July 4, 2011

african queen

Last night I watched The African Queen for the first time. I am a big Bogart fan despite only having seen a few of his movies before this one: Casablanca, of course, The Barefoot Contessa, and The Big Sleep.

Loved it. I was expecting a rollicking adventure but I had no idea it would be so funny. I didn't know Bogart could be so hilariously undignified, and I thought Hepburn was incredible, with a few fantastic one-liners: "I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!" Then there's the Captain of the Louisa: "By the authority vested in me by Kaiser Wilhelm II, I pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution."

It's such a strange movie - it doesn't seem at all likely to work - but somehow it manages to combine Africa, suspense, war, romance, comedy, in a completely charming and exciting way.

Then I tried to go to sleep and kept waking up from dreams about crocodiles and rapids and being stuck in a papyrus swamp and arguing with Mr Allnut. It was most frustrating.