Spring is here, and don’t we appreciate it. Today was my first long-ish walk on the hill behind my home for a few weeks. I’m a Polyanna at the best of times, and today I’m glad I was alone, because (internally at least) I was insufferably happy for far too long.
I hope that you can see these photos, and I haven’t over-taxed your computer or smartphone. Because they are everyday, ordinary, and special.
Do you love the neighbourhood you’ve got? I think it’s usually possible.
My problems are never original. They are always in some sense generic, typical, almost universal. So when I write about them, it’s not because I expect you to be surprised or impressed. No, I expect you’ll recognise them.
Joy of the day — dancing!
Today is exciting and joyful because it’s the first of our 3-day dance season in Wellington. I’ll walk to the theatre at 4.45 (in 2 minutes) buying two bananas on route, ready for warm-up and tech rehearsal at 5.30. Hang out with friends while we organise our costumes and props and do panicky little rehearsals of tricky bits. And then dance dance dance our socks off, disoriented by lights and thrilled with our usual appreciative (ahem, discerning) audience. This year we — four groups of Crows Feet from four centres — do Climate Change, which is inspiring and entertaining too. Youngest dancer is 40, oldest is me at 77.
For this weekend, I must banish an infuriating (and common) problem to the back of my neck.
The curious case of the non-voluntary volunteers
I’m chair of a small body corporate (i.e. group of 5 owners who share an old 6-apartment block). I’ve been on the body corp for 31 years without ever hitting an insoluble problem. In that time we have gotten rid of two white-collar criminal members, legitimately and without fuss. I’ve had the occasional hissy fit but our finances, admin, and property have been managed successfully for 3 decades by the owners, mandatory volunteers, amateurs obliged to cooperate in a professional job of work. We have almost always managed to comply with the letter and the spirit of the law. I’m proud of what we have accomplished.
Until now. Two years ago, by sheer chance, all the apartments except mine were sold to new owners. Three of the owners are great people, cooperative, generous with their ideas and time. The other one (who bought two apartments, aaarrgh!) is one of those OSANPs.
Curse of the year — the body corporate OSANP
It’s a law of nature: every body corporate gets one of these people doled out to them at some point. All my body corp- friends have had their own versions, and I wondered why we were spared. Then the gods noticed their error and threw us a right humdinger.
It’s taken time to realise that this person lies by default, often with seemingly pointless lies that are spotted instantly. Makes promises, forgets and denies promises. Desperately wants to rule. Abuses and bullies anyone who opposes him. Has a contempt for the law and two abiding values: money and power. (Sound familiar?)
Yes, he’s a case study but what good does a fancy label do?
No more Mrs Nice Guy
Now I get it. He’s non-comprehensible. He’s almost like another species. He’ll never change no matter what we do so I’m getting tough.
He has recourse (through the very Act he despises) — he can take us to the Tenancy Tribunal, mediation, or the High Court. Meantime I want us to appoint a professional manager, just for starters.
And then… There will be ructions but A. we will have professional support and B. there would be ructions no matter how nice I am.
And then… I will get my life back. I will have room for the creative activities that are my lifeblood. I will revert to my baseline of steadiness and joy. That’s the plan.
Wish me luck. And tell me, have you been there, done that too?
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
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
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.
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.
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.