Archive for the ‘Films/Shows/Talks’ Category

My Dunedin motel had a bench-top induction unit. I’d never used one of these, and there were no instructions, but I managed to poach two eggs for breakfast and felt pleased with myself. The rain had stopped so I headed downtown with a small umbrella but no parka. Tired of carrying a backpack with everything in it I took just a handbag which included a shopping bag. After my success in getting a bus ride back to the motel the previous day I looked hopefully at the stop across the road, but it seemed I’d just missed one bus and although several routes go that way the Saturday timetable indicated I might wait an hour for another.

Mural in George Street

So I walked towards the Octagon, stopping at a pharmacy which offered free hearing tests. My G.P. has suggested it would be worthwhile getting an assessment of my hearing which could provide a base line in case of later need, so I went in. The self-test by Triton Hearing consisted of listening through headphones and entering the digits I heard on a keyboard. They later emailed me to say my result is a strong indicator of hearing difficulties and a full diagnostic hearing assessment is recommended, but I plan to wait until I notice difficulties.

Near the Octagon I was surprised to be greeted by an old friend from Christchurch. She was coming from the Farmers’ Market at the Railway Station which was where I was headed. This is a great venue with a wide variety of stalls, all selling food or plants, no craft items at all.

Farmers’ Market at Dunedin Railway Station

I couldn’t resist some fine looking radishes, and bought tiny turnips to take back to Christchurch. I stopped to rest on the bus stop near the New World Supermarket where the only passing buses were cruise ship shuttles, so I walked all the way back to the motel, and on the way discovered the Playhouse Theatre.

Fantasy mural beside the Playhouse Theatre

Back at the motel I managed to get my tablet connected to WiFi, which was useful for checking email and the weather forecast, but I couldn’t access this blog. At lunch time I finally manged to open the bottle of fruit juice I’d bought the day before. Because I’m “losing my grip” I usually get Stephen to unscrew any difficult tops, and this had eluded me the previous evening. I was able to pierce some of the small metal connections with the tip of a vegetable knife and the juice tasted good.

Despite the forecast of rain I left my parka behind when I headed to Otago Museum. I was keen to visit their Tropical Forest, but felt it wasn’t as good as it had been on previous visits. There weren’t as many butterflies, although I did get one to perch on my finger. The quail, which I adore, have all been replaced by a few parakeets.

Butterfly on my finger

In the early evening I went to the Playhouse Theatre and saw The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard, performed by the Dunedin Repertory Society. A rather strange play, but well performed in an old theatre with difficult access. I felt some of the acting was over the top, but probably suitable for the piece.

Dunedin has a lot to see
all close to centre of city

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Russian aggression against Ukraine and the new media ecology was the subject of an enthralling talk by Natalia Chaban. She is a Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Canterbury, and the President of the Australia and New Zealand Ukraine Studies Association. Natalia comes from Ukraine, and researches political communications, but never thought she would be studying a war in her own country. Having been in Aotearoa since 2002, Natalia can see the Ukraine conflict both from within and from outside.

She spoke of how media love war, scandal, and bloodshed, but the level of media attention on Ukraine in Aotearoa has now dropped. The Western audience has little patience for a long and costly war where they see no clear threat, and the goal of the Ukrainian Government is to make sure the war is not forgotten.

In 2014 Russia annexed Crimea and the Donbas region. The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight17, and the humanitarian crisis in Donbas was news at the time, but the war smouldered on for eight years, with little attention until Russia invaded Ukraine in February of this year. So, what is different in 2022? The Global Soft Power Index shows that there has been a change, with improved perception of Ukraine.

Ukraine is the largest country in Europe, with a relatively old population of 43 million. By 6 September12 million had left the country and 7 million had been internally displaced. Natalia’s parents evacuated from Ukraine a few days after the invasion. A car journey that would usually take 24 hours took them three days. They were unable to sleep because the line of cars kept slowly moving. The Government had asked evacuees not to use GPS as this would alert the Russians to where the cars were, so Natalia navigated for her parents from her home in Christchurch.

Natalia comes from the city of Cherkasy in central Ukraine where there were 34 schools. She and her sister went to Russian-speaking schools, because at that time it was the best option to prepare for a professional career. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union four schools were Ukrainian-speaking, and 30 were Russian-speaking. After independence this ratio was completely reversed. Natalia pointed out that ethnicity doesn’t mean patriotism, and many ethnic Russians are fiercely devoted to Ukraine. In post Soviet Ukraine there was democracy and freedom, with new values formed, and this is why Ukraine is determined to keep fighting. This short video shows how the country was flourishing before the invasion.

The war in Ukraine is the first to have been fully fought with immediate internet information, and information about the war is much more accessible than it was in 2014. President Zelenskyy had for the previous decade been a scathing satirical commentator. He is a lawyer, a businessman, and a millionaire, having made his money from a humour empire. Zelenskyy is often seen with people, in contrast to Russia’s President Putin. He understands the media, is accommodating, open, and sincere, and knows the power of dramatic scenes. Through Zoom diplomacy he meets with policy-makers all round the world, and receives standing ovations. He also pursues celebrity diplomacy, with stars such as Mark Hamill (Luke Sky-walker). All his top advisers have a sense of humour, and he collaborates with exiled Russian opposition commentators.

Ukraine has benefitted from psychological operations such as winning the Eurovision Song Contest. Ukrainian soldiers dancing on TikTok show the human side of the Ukrainian army. First Lady Olena Zelenska has proved to be the country’s secret weapon. When she appeared on the cover of Vogue wearing ordinary clothes and sitting in a traditionally masculine pose she inspired a new tag #Sit like a girl.

When asked why it is that no-one smiles in Russia, Natalia explained that scientifically different cultures have different neutral faces. There is a pre-Christian belief in the Soviet area that you need to not smile to deceive the spirits into thinking that things are not going well for you, so they don’t try to make things worse. When she took her baby to Ukraine her husband was surprised that people commented “ugly baby”, but this was done to deceive the spirits.

Internet trolls were active in Ukraine before the invasion, and since then activity has multiplied. Natalia noted that just yesterday a Russian businessman, a close ally of Putin, admitted that he had interfered in the U.S. elections, and would continue to do so. The power of global social media is strong and to avoid being manipulated people need to develop the skills to compare different perspectives.

Asked about the bombing of power stations and what this will mean in a severe winter, Natalia said the effects on electricity, water supply, and sewage were very stressful. However such bombing makes people angrier, and more determined, and strengthens their resolve. Ukraine has many nuclear and hydro power stations, but the distribution infrastructure is under threat. The Government has asked those who left the country not to return during winter. It’s likely that three million people from Kyev will be evacuated to the countryside. Ukraine is looking for solutions and not giving up.

When asked how Aotearoa can best help Ukraine, Natalia said we are already doing much with targetted sanctions, special visas, and support in global forums. Individuals can donate money to the National Bank of Ukraine. Most important is to discuss the situation with our family, friends, and networks, to ensure the world keeps talking about it.

We need to stand beside Ukraine
until they can be free again

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Equitable Energy

Sheralee MacDonald,who is an Innovation Facilitator for Orion, told us of various ways in which that company is assisting work towards a zero carbon future which we aim to reach by 2050. Orion is the community-owned electricity distributor for Canterbury, covering the area from the Waimakariri to the Rakaia, and up to Arthur’s Pass. Locally we get electricity mainly from the hydro power station at Lake Coleridge, but there are currently many proposals being considered for large solar farms, including Kowhai Park near the Christchurch Airport.

It’s surprising to know that in 1918 there were 200 electric trucks in Christchurch, although their speed and range was limited.

In recent years there has been a huge increase in the number of solar panels being installed on houses, and the number of shared vehicles is growing, all helping us to limit our carbon emissions. We will need more electricity as coal use decreases and more people move to electric vehicles. The challenge is to balance supply with demand.

Energy Equity is a strategy to ensure that no-one is left behind because they can’t afford new technologies. For example, through Empower Energy those who have extra solar power can donate it to those who need it.

People who live in housing units where different owners have different electricity retailers can share solar energy through Multiple Trading Relationships. If you’d like to know more about surveys and trials under way Orion have a forum for this.

Electrical energy is a basic human need, and a change in our behaviour is as necessary as new technology. I didn’t learn much that was new from Sheralee’s presentation, but it was interesting to get an overview.

Unfortunately we devour
a bit too much electric power

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John Marks, an inveterate traveller, spoke to us this morning about his love of train travel. In his youth he often went to Dunedin on a steam train, and through the hill to Lyttelton on an electric train. He’s travelled on many trains, in Aotearoa and overseas, and has enjoyed the steam train at Weka Pass.

Weka Pass steam engine approaching Glenmark Station

John’s favourite steam train trip is the Mainline steam four day expedition from Christchurch to Westport and return.

Today he talked about the trips he’s taken on The Ghan, a trip Stephen and I did in early 2019. This is the longest north to south train journey in the world, and is named for the Afghan cameleers who helped the British access the interior of Australia in the 19th century. It was in 2004 that the train made its first trip from Adelaide to Darwin on a standard gauge line. As John said, it’s like taking a cruise, but on a train. His anecdotes were for me a nostalgic reminder of the luxury of this way of travel. His first trip was in 2015, and he started in Darwin, whereas we had gone the other way from Adelaide. John showed many photos of the Nitmiluk Gorge at Katherine, which was also a highlight of our trip. His second time on the Ghan was early this year, when he stopped at Alice Springs to take a week’s detour to see Uluru. My main memory of Alice Springs is the excitement of a camel ride.

Ruth riding a camel at Alice Springs

John told us he and his wife have booked to take the Indian Pacific from Perth to Sydney next year. I felt envious! Perhaps we’ll manage to ride the Coastal Pacific before long.

I dearly love to go by train
see local sights in new terrain

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The history of Tuahiwi, a Kāi Tahu village in North Canterbury, was the subject of a talk by Antony Nihoniho, who has made this the subject of his PhD research. He stressed that the dynamics of both cultural groups, Māori and British, were equally valid, and that the history he was presenting was an example of the colonial process that went on throughout Aotearoa. In the early days there were six Māori communities with marae in Christchurch, and Kāi Tuahūriri were the most influential historically, and now. They saw land as not able to be owned, but rather conferring responsibilities, and giving the right to resources. The rights of the individual were embedded in the community, and rights of access came through highly complex relationships with land and people.

In England in the 18th and 19th centuries there had been a change from feudalism to capitalism, and land had been commodified. Acts of Enclosure created legal property rights to land previously held in common and many rural people became paupers. After their land was no longer available the only thing they had left to sell was their labour. As some British moved to Aotearoa there was a clash between how people viewed land and its ownership.

Kāi Tahu had moved to Te Wai Pounamu/ the South Island and absorbed the tribes of Waitaha and Ngāti Māmoe. In 1700 they established a pā at Kaiapoi (Kai-a-poi, the place food was swung in and out of) which was the centre of the Kāi Tahu economy. In the late 1790s sealers and whalers settled, especially in the south of the island, and inter-marriage was widespread. The Kāi Tahu economy thrived, and included international trade. In 1829-32 Te Rauparaha sacked the Kaiapoi Pā. At the same time Māori were affected by measles, influenza, and tuberculosis pandemics, introduced by immigrants.

In 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi was signed, and between 1844 and 1864 most of the South Island was sold under eight deeds known as the Kāi Tahu Covenants. The largest of these was the Kemp Deed of 1848, where 20 million acres were sold for £2,000. The Deed had two versions, in Māori and English, and they were different. It was promised that 10% of the land would be reserved for Kāi Tahu and that schools and hospitals would be provided. Māori expected they would still have access to food sources, but neither this expectation or the promises were fulfilled. Kāi Tahu were given just 6,356 acres, with no schools or hospitals, the British expectation being that the tribe would soon die out. From 1849 Kāi Tahu claimed that the Deed was neither just nor honoured, and they pleaded for land to be allocated so they could participate in the growing economy. The tribe descended into abject poverty with children dying, and people living in squalor unable to feed their families.

After the sacking of Kaiapoi Pā people fled south and settled at Tuahiwi, the home of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, which became the centre of Kāi Tahu recovery. Families were allocated just 14 acres each, despite the fact that the British believed 50 acres was the minimum to sustain a family. From 1848 the Canterbury Association surveyed and sold land, and in 1853 the Canterbury Provincial Council was established. Swamps and wetlands were drained. Pastoral farming was imposed and boomed, but Kāi Tahu were unable to participate. By 1865 572 farms had been established by settlers north of the Waimakariri. Kāi Tahu were unable to vote or stand for local body elections, e.g. for school and drainage boards, and Agricultural and Pastoral Associations. Land which had been in Kāi Tahu ownership was purchased by people sitting on local boards, and only one-third of the Tuahiwi Village is occupied by Māori today. Lawyers were allowed to represent both the Māori owners and the Pākehā purchasers, and sometimes bought land themselves. Benefits available to non-Māori were not available to Māori. In 1966 Rangiora County Council decreed that only one house was allowed on each ten acres, (remember, Māori whanau had only 14 acres each), and this was not changed until 2011. Tuahiwi was not provided with water-lines, sewerage, footpaths, or other amenities.

Antony spoke of his paternal grandmother, Te Uira Barrett (1907-79) who had been a significant landowner and should have had a prosperous life. In 1937 there was a Māori Housing Survey where each family was graded. Extensive records of this were kept, with patronising comments judging whether some Māori were able to live “like Europeans”. Because there was little alternative, land was either leased or sold. Te Uira went from owning five sections to just one, and in the 1930s gained a subsidy to build a house there.

Kāi Tahu are no longer invisible, and today are involved in assisting the Christchurch City Council in caring for the land, as can be seen in many aspects of the Christchurch rebuild. Antony spoke movingly of how, just two months ago, he was privileged and honoured to be able to buy back a section at Tuahiwi that was originally his family’s land, and will now be occupied by an eighth generation.

He spoke of how all parties involved had been trying to operate out of the best interests of their family, and considered how we can prevent such a disaster happening again. One way is to make the partnership between our two peoples work.

The story told of Tuahiwi
applies also to other Kiwi

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Mental Health and Addictions in Canterbury was the topic of a talk by Monique Gale who is the local Portfolio Manager for Mental Health. It was especially appropriate as this is Mental Health Awareness Week.

Monique, whose background is in social work, gave an outline of He Ara Oranga, the 2018 Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. She also spoke about Pae Ora, the Healthy Futures Act which came into being on 1 July 2022, and will change the public health system. We are currently in transition from 20 District Health Boards to four regional systems. This will take considerable time and work, but eventually health IT systems will all be able to talk to each other, and your health records will be available anywhere in Aotearoa. The biggest challenge is to recruit a suitably trained workforce. At present there are positions which are funded, but cannot be filled.

There are many self-care digital services available for mental health, and these can be accessed by phoning 1737. Mental health services all have targets for wait times, and in Canterbury wait times have been especially high for child and youth services, with a recent huge increase in demand. A new building at Hillmorton Hospital, due to open early 2023 will include the “stranded” services currently still at Princess Margaret Hospital. There has been an increase in NGO care, sometimes offered in a peer support model.

Te Tumu Waiora is a grass roots service where mental health care is embedded in General Practices, and staffed by Health Coaches and Health Improvement Practitioners. More women than men access mental health services, and there have been large increases in the demand for this, especially since the earthquakes and the mosque massacre.

Monique was asked whether there was meaningful extra funding to deal with the aftermath of the earthquakes as there are often no therapists available. She replied that staffing was an ongoing problem, and that young people in particular are facing multiple crises, including Covid and Climate Change. Restrictions in the training of Clinical Psychologists and General Practitioners are mainly caused by the lack of suitable placements.

Asked about the high rate of suicide in Aotearoa, Monique pointed out that the End Of Life Choice Act passed in 2019, may lead to an increase in suicide as has happened in other countries with similar laws. This is because people start to understand that they have a choice.

She finished by reminding us about the Five Ways to Wellbeing, which are so important, and pointed out how coming to U3A helped us to meet those five ways.

I was the person chosen today to thank our speaker, Monique (an opportunity to Give). Having been well-trained in Tecorians, public speaking does not daunt me. However I was somewhat daunted by the fact that most of her talk had been theoretical, and I am cynical as to how much is actually in operation.

We must remember to be gentle
take special care of health that’s mental

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Spiritual Care in Healthcare was the subject addressed by Richard Egan, Associate Professor at the Department of Preventative and Social Medicine at the University of Otago. He has qualifications in Theology, English Literature, Religious Studies, and Public Health. Richard stated that spirituality is implicitly present in healthcare and that it is timely to make it more explicit.

He was raised a Roman Catholic, and spent time in a seminary until he fell in love and needed to leave. These days he says he is more spiritual than religious, and has been teaching medical students about spirituality in the clinic for the past three years. In the past healthcare has often been medicalised and dehumanising, but there is now a movement towards an holistic care approach which is patient- and whanau-centred. The 2018 census showed that 48% of people in Aotearoa had no religion while 37% stated they were Christian. Secularization can be defined as having the choice to believe what you like. These days dying can take a long time, and consideration of spirituality is an important part of the process.

Since 2000 hauora/health in Aotearoa has been based on Te Whare Tapa Whā, the four houses which were developed as a model of wellbeing by Sir Mason Durie. They encompass physical, mental, spiritual, and social wellbeing, with a fifth (land/roots) added more recently.

Interestingly Treasury uses He Ara Waiora, which can be seen as Te Whare Tapa Whā version 2.0.

At this point Richard invited us to share with our neighbours one to three words which describe spirituality to us. My word was connections. We were then told that the most common definitions of spirituality in global research are connectedness and meaning of life/purpose.

Unaddressed spiritual needs can affect the patient’s quality of life, and integration of spirituality may result in more patient-centered care. Meaningful Ageing Australia is an organisation which is working in this area. Spiritual care is about enabling the person to access their own spiritual resources. Sadly in Aotearoa only 0.25% of the health budget is spent on spiritual care. However spirituality is increasingly becoming part of health policy, and healthcare providers are cultivating compassionate presence, which need not take a great deal of time. In pairs we discussed ways in which this policy might be put into practice.

It was acknowledged that many health providers are short of time to simply sit with patients. In Hospices the staff to patient ratio is one to three or four, whereas in hospitals it is one to twenty. Richard acknowledged the importance of having an Advance Care Plan, which is a place where you can specify your spiritual needs. It was noted that continuity of care is important, e.g. having a relationship with a particular G.P. Hospital chaplains are often Christian Ministers, but there is a trend to include non-Christians, and the title of Chaplain could possibly be changed to Spiritual Care Practitioner.

It’s something that needs to be there
the spiritual side of care

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Alice in Wonderland was used as the basis for a talk by Professor Barry Borman, Director of Environmental Health at Massey University. His title was Down the Rabbit Hole: The Wonderland of New Zealand’s Folic Acid Saga, and he pointed out that Lewis Carroll’s book had lots of resonance with the story of folic acid in our country. This reminded me of when I once did a Continuing Education course on Statistics in the Social Sciences, and the recommended prior reading was Alice in Wonderland. Barry pointed out that the only two countries mentioned in this book are New Zealand and Australia.

In 1992 with several randomised trials it was scientifically proved that the incidence of Spina Bifida and other Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) could be reduced if mothers had sufficient Folate before and during pregnancy. Folate is the natural form of Vitamin B9, and its synthetic form is Folic Acid. This can be provided through diet, supplementation, or fortification, and the latter can be voluntary or mandatory. In the U.S. Folic acid was given in the late 1990s (Folic before you frolic), and in ten years led to a 36% reduction in NTDs.

In 1993 it was decided that there was no need for fortification of Folic Acid in Aotearoa because we eat green leafy vegetables (although you would have to eat a tremendous amount to get sufficient Folate). In 1997 Kellogg’s added Folic Acid to some of their cereals, and in the early 2000s some supermarkets added Folic Acid to their bakery products. Millers and bakers said then they were willing to add Folic Acid, but the Government declared such fortification must be voluntary only. There was concern that “mass medication” could cause problems for the elderly, but this was theoretical only, and never proved.

It was agreed that the science endorsing fortification was accurate, but there was disagreement as to how it should be done. In 2006 both Australia and Aotearoa decided it would be best if fortification was mandatory. Annette King, who was the Minister of Health at the time, promoted the idea, but Green M.P. Sue Kedgley was against it. There were a number of public consultations over this ethical dilemma, with some believing the fortification might increase the risk of cancer although there was no evidence for this. In 2009 John Key cancelled the idea, mainly because of the influence of Katherine Rich and her colleagues. In 2018 a report by Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser, recommended fortification, and it was finally made mandatory in 2021, with a two year implementation period. There will be huge cost savings for the Health Department with fewer NTDs. Previously milling wheat has removed 80% of the Folate, so the fortification is simply putting back what has been milled out.

I went home and checked our bread, but could find no reference to Folic Acid in either my Home St organic bread, or Stephen’s white toast loaf. As there’s no likelihood of my getting pregnant, I presumably don’t need additional Folate anyway.

Today has been the first day when masks were no longer required. It was lovely to be able to see people’s faces and smiles, both in the lecture theatre and at Turanga.

Women are warned before they frolic
they’d best top up with acid folic

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Testing Tumours

Hailstones lashing the windows in a noisy storm woke me up at 1.30am. When I looked outside the garden was white. I thought it must be drifts of hailstones, but people have assured me today that we had snow. Whatever, it was cold! Luckily the sun shone, and I dressed warmly to walk to my U3A gathering.

Melissa Habberfield, Director of the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation spoke to us about that organisation. Started 62 years ago, they have had significant bequests that have enabled them to build up an investment fund which means they can spend at least a million dollars each year, funding research (35 projects each year) and helping to keep experienced researchers in Canterbury. In recent years they have funded research into Type One Diabetes in children, which led to the development of an automated system so that parents no longer need to wake and test their young child every three hours.


Doctor Elizabeth Phillips spoke of her research into the links between fat cells and cancer, as part of the MacKenzie Cancer Research Group, who investigate modifiable personal and environmental factors. 25,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Aotearoa each year, and research shows that when fat cells interact with cancer cells they produce proteins that can make the cancer cells more aggressive, move faster, and become resistant to chemotherapy. This research includes both breast and prostate cancer, and donations from the Cancer Society tissue bank are utilised. There are fewer of these now that mastectomies are less common. Patients tend to choose wide local excision instead, which is better for physical and emotional health. Elizabeth showed how they can use a 3D printer to print tumours for research. To continue her work she makes an average of ten grant applications each year, and only 10-15% of these are successful.

Melissa emphasised that there is little security for researchers who always need to apply for grants. The Foundation relies on donations, and gets no Government funding. Donations of any size are always welcome, and you can become a member for $25. The Foundation regularly offers free presentations, such as one on Depression at Turanga on 15 September.

Support for research into health
needs people who will share their wealth

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Writing a memoir is an act of resurrection. I was privileged to hear three authors of memoirs speak at a superb session at this year’s WORD festival. The session was titled Whose life is it anyway? and facilitator Victor Roger was engaging and knowledgeable, telling us that he had laughed and cried when reading each of the three books.

I arrived early with time to browse the University Bookshop stall, where they were selling literary t-shirts, buy one, get one free. I was delighted to get a long-sleeved shirt with a quote from Hermione Granger which says When in doubt go to the library. For Stephen, a lifelong Science Fiction fan, I chose one featuring The War of the Worlds by HG Wells.

The three writers on the panel were Ruth Shaw (The Bookseller at the End of the World), Megan Dunn (Things I learned at Art School), and Clementine Ford (How We Love). I’d not read any of these, although two were already on my For Later list (to which the third has now been added). I was surprised that the theatre was only two-thirds full. The session was also being live-streamed, and I guess there are people who are still wary of being out in crowds, even though all the audience was masked.

Megan Dunn, Clementine Ford, Ruth Shaw, Victor Roger

Clementine explained she was wearing a hat because she’d been travelling for ten days and her hair needed attention. She also said her grandmother would have been horrified by this. I’d previously heard Clementine speak on a panel in 2015 where the topic was How to be a feminist. This time she spoke of how we often see our past selves in negative ways, carrying self-doubt inside. To have a relatable story with depth you have to get to know your inner self, ask them to forgive you, and they will, because all they’ve ever wanted is your love.

Megan said: Good girls write memoirs, bad girls don’t have time. Her father had suggested to her that some things are better left unsaid. In 1989 she was 14 years old and her family were living above an old persons’ home, when her uncle killed himself. Some of her writing is therefore about a child absorbing death. Her description of her own mother’s death was incredibly moving. This mother was never supported to reach her potential or be publicly known, and Megan is now honouring her in this book, so that thousands of people know her and cry for her.

Ruth said she was able to draw on lots of diaries and letters, but recalling the emotions was tricky. She often imagined the person she was writing about standing beside her, together with those who would become her readers. After being raped she became pregnant at 17, and found her mother’s reaction difficult to understand, but her mother later explained the difficulty of living in a small community among the families of the perpetrators.

Megan pointed out there are many lonely people in the world, and suggested one way to combat loneliness is to buy these books.

Clementine said that if you know someone you can be a witness to their life, and that is an important form of love. She recommended the film Beaches as an example of this. Clementine would like to write about her father, who re-married after her mother died. She hopes he will die before his second wife does so she can write the book and that woman can read it.

When questioned about censoring what you’ve written Ruth said she had changed the names of her four husbands and son, to protect their privacy.

All the authors were amazingly open about their stories, and I had tears in my eyes on several occasions. This was a stimulating and very worthwhile session, and I look forward to the pleasure of reading each of their books. Have you read these memoirs?

Their stories came right from the heart
there’s more to read – a further part

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