Birthday girl

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hey it’s my birthday!
I know that
but do you?

I popped out of my mother
upside down and early
and I jerked and jumped

right out of my pram
they called me Jigger
the baby who never lay still

when you think of the odds
what a miracle
what a marvel, what a thrill!

and every single day since then
I’ve clambered
out from the dark of sleep

and there I was and here I am
with another 20 years ahead
to jiggle and wriggle and always

upside down and early
to squeeze and crawl and run
out of the dark and into the sun

and every day’s my happy
and every day’s my birthday
I haven’t had my fill

here I am I am I am
happy birthday me
happy birthday you
—-

poem written in a rush on 24 February 2017, my 77th birthday
rachel mcalpine CC BY 2.0
that means you may copy it and share it, but give me credit
and please note that this sudden poem may well be altered when I settle down

Happy birthday to you! (You woke up, didn’t you?)

Tips on love from the 20th century queen of romance

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Here it is! a new edition of The Passionate Pen as a Kindle book.

It’s a wonderful book (though I say it myself) of 1997 interviews with New Zealand’s first romance writers, one of whom was already world-famous.And what a difference two decades make! These irresistible — and now historic — interviews will please romance readers, romance skeptics, and scholars of popular culture.

For Valentine’s Day, here is some hearty common sense about love and marriage from the unforgettable Essie Summers, who had already sold about 17 million books in 1997.

Essie’s own romance

[…] we had a courtship of about six weeks, completely by letter, and boy, could he write! Fourteen pages at a time. I hovered between thinking I had been rash to even encourage him, and feeling that it was right. Fortunately he came to Christchurch about May, and we ratified our engagement under a moon at Scarborough. So that was fine.

*

So I believe in romance. It didn’t alter. There were so many facets to Bill’s personality, that was the thing. Oh, we were both highly volatile people. We’d have our spats, but they weren’t important. We had great companionship, which is essential, although that wouldn’t be enough. You’ve definitely got to feel the physical chemistry too.

*

 It always used to annoy me at funerals when someone said, ‘We never had a quarrel.’ I think it’s nonsense. It either means that one is domineering and the other a vegetable, or else it’s a straight-out lie.

Tips for a happy marriage

It could be that some women read my books because they miss a bit of romance, which I think is a pity. Men ought to be able to tell their wives not only that they love them, but how they love them. You do get some men who take their wives for granted, and I think that love should be articulate, I really do. If there’s a quarrel some men feel they ought to bring their wives a gift or flowers, but it wouldn’t do me. If Bill and I had quarrelled in words I would expect to make up in words.

*

Women ought to be able to tell their husbands how much they appreciate them. It’s quite nice once in a blue moon to say, ‘Oh, I just feel extra special about you today,’ and a hug. Why should we be bashful about that sort of thing?

 *

And we’re not always very gracious about the way we receive compliments. You can turn it off by seeming embarrassed, and saying, ‘It’s a long time since I heard something like that.’ Which sets a man back, doesn’t it? If people can just be warm and loving, it’s great really.

Essie’s notes on romance novels

Perhaps romance fills a need, and that’s good. It is escapism, like whodunnits.

*

If you had them [the hero and heroine] fighting madly all the way through, or if you portray the hero as too macho, too horrible, the readers and the heroine would think, ‘My goodness me, I wouldn’t marry that man for anything.’

*

Though it often happens light romance is criticised for not being real enough, it is real. I’ve proved it in my own life. Life was never penny plain for me: it was always twopence coloured.

The big family get-together

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Aaaahhh, it’s Christmas and in New Zealand that means a summer holiday, time to relax, preferably by a beach or pool. For some the holiday involves a big family gathering. We are a huge family and we love our occasional maxi-reunions, but not at Christmas. Then we drift off in different directions for smaller gatherings, which are seldom fraught. And anyone introverted or restless can slide away now and then for a breather.

But for some families, such events are a problem every year. So for all who struggle to cope with the crowd and the ritual, here’s a poem, shared with the permission of poet Adrienne Jansen.

The big family get-together

It’s like swimming in the ocean
when the Titanic has gone down —
trying to keep your head above water,
trying to grab the food drifting past,
trying to think of things to say
when talking about the weather
is not appropriate.

~ (c) Adrienne Jansen

from Keel & Drift (2016) Landing Press
buy the ebook on Kindle
buy the book from independent bookstores in New Zealand or from www.landingpress.wordpress.com

 


 

Photo by Keri-Lee Beasley, CC BY-NC 2.0. Athenree Estuary near Waihi, New Zealand

Waiting: it’s a hobby

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The seminar would be late starting, because of a technological hitch.  The famous choreographer said, “I’m good at waiting. It’s my hobby.”

This startling statement has stayed with me longer than any of his brilliant insights into dance. I decided to adopt this hobby myself. Since then every slow queue, every delayed airline, every lonesome minute in a cafe or a dentist’s lobby is an event in itself for me. I’ve got to wait anyway: why fret about something I cannot change? Waiting is not a void: it’s an event.

A friend said, “What I don’t like about waiting is the fact that nothing is happening.” But something is happening: you are waiting.

A glimpse of angry waiting

I went to Warehouse Stationery for a small urgent printing job. One machine was out of action and a staff member away sick, so there was going to be a delay. OK, can’t change that. In bustled an upset person with angry hair.

P. from K. “I’m a proofreader and I’ve just come in from Karori” (a 15 minute bus ride) “and my job will only take two minutes so can you do it straight away?”
Staff. “I’m sorry / delay / 15 minutes / machine / away / queue.”
P. from K. Repeats her speech.
Staff “Many people are waiting, that lady” (me) has been waiting a long time.” (Actually only 5 minutes so far.)
P. from K. (To me) “I’m a proofreader from Karori, etc, will you let them do my job first?”
Me. “No, that will throw everybody out.”

P. from K. then rushed off town to find another printer willing to do her job instantly. Which would have certainly taken longer than 15 minutes.

Waiting under a tree

I understood her position. I felt sorry for her. And life had handed me the gift of ten minutes to ponder on the mysteries of waiting. I sat on a bench and watched clouds racing each other across the sky. Was I witnessing celestial road rage?

  • Does angry waiting sprout from that deadly seed, a sense of entitlement? This is always puzzling to an outsider: why should a proofreader from Karori take precedence over a writer from Mt Victoria? A Hummer over a VW Golf? Storm cloud over fluffy white cloud?
  • Does angry waiting hurry things up or slow them down?

Some waits are harder than others. Waiting for test results. Waiting for news of a life-and-death nature. Waiting for news that will determine your future. You feel frightened, powerless and frustrated.

But when these life-or-death waits occur I try to at least remember that waiting can be a positive thing. To perceive waiting not as a vacuum but a state that I experience for better or for worse. To wait mindfully. Perhaps to fill my mental waiting room with small good things and thoughts and helps and hopes. I can’t change the outcome, but at least I can avoid contaminating others with the toxin of my angry waiting.

Let me remember the tree and let the clouds do what they will.

Fixing Mrs Philpott: but how?

My new novel is ready for printing, after many a drama and deadline. Yippee!

The launch is on 29 September and if you are in Christchurch, New Zealand, you are warmly invited to attend! Rachel Eadie at Scorpio Books is the person to contact with questions.

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Meantime here is the first of, well, an indeterminate number of tasters. I’m hoping that you will give some unsolicited advice to my character Mrs Zoe Philpott. After all, you have much collective wisdom (and humour) and could surely help her. She has multiple problems … if you like to see it that way.

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It’s just a game but—Zoe needs your help!


Accessibility note

WordPress lets us add captions to images, but that’s always not the greatest solution for people who use a text-to-voice aid. So here’s a transcript of the text in the images.

  1. A new novel from Rachel McAlpine, celebrating the resilience of Canterbury women—especially the eccentric Zoe Philpott and her friends. Come and launch Mrs Philpott! In the earthquake era, she needs all the help she can get. Scorpio Books, 120 Hereford St, Christchurch. All welcome. RSVP rachel [at] scorpiobooks.co.nz.
  2. Zoe rolled off the bed into a mess of muesli and milk, clamping a pillow over her head. There she lay for 15 everlasting seconds. When the aftershock stopped, she pulled her nightie down over her panties and heaved herself back on to her feet. From “Fixing Mrs Philpott” by Rachel McAlpine. (So what advice would you give her?) Photo: Sharon Davis

The blessings of a big sister

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This week my dear big sister Jill turned 80, and this is the poem I wrote for her.

Poem for my big sister Jill

I wanted to give you a poem
eighty years back
when you were first-born
and armies were rising
and peace receding.
You learned about consultation
in the womb.

I wanted to give you a poem
to thank you
for protecting me
and holding my hand
and showing the way
and making peace
without any fights or feuds
or atom bombs.

The poem sat in my head for weeks
waiting for Mother’s attention.
On a short dark day
lop-sided day
turn-around day
a fence of shards and sand
and shrapnel sprang up
between the poem and me.

So I clambered over the fence
ripping my shorts
on splinters
lost a shoe
and clambered back to you
the almost perfect baby
to give you what you lacked
the one thing all big sisters need:

your very own big sister
just like Jill
to shelter and protect you
and hold your hand
and take the lead
on dark days
and on bright days too
the way big sisters do.

with love from Rachel 23 June 2016


(c) Rachel McAlpine.

Feel free to share or quote, but include my name as writer