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Posts Tagged ‘Bloganuary’

This is an enthralling and moving memoir by a woman who has been at the forefront of Māori activism for decades. I remember Donna from feminist events in the 1980s, and for her radical essays on Māori Sovereignty in Broadsheet magazine. Her upbringing was strongly Māori, and she tells how when she was a child she only ever met people who were related to her.

Her father, a veteran of the Māori Battalion, spoke Latin fluently, and was a huge influence, although he was later convicted of murder and sent to prison. It was fascinating to read of the Treaty Protest in 1968 which Donna’s father organised. There were 20,000 Māori there, but because it was peaceful, and all in Te Reo, the media missed it completely.

Donna demonstrates that when working for social change action is more important than talking or writing articles. This slim volume (109 pages) gives an honest account of our country’s recent history and deserves to be part of the history curriculum for all students. It ends positively with Donna’s assurance that Aotearoa’s future is hopeful. Her book was published in 1996. I hope she still feels optimistic.

This is a woman fierce and strong
whose dedication is lifelong

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We are limiting our outings now that Omicron is here, but we needed to go out to celebrate Stephen’s birthday, and started with breakfast at Kin Bistro at Ballantynes. Ballantynes had been closed for the previous three days, having moved their annual sale online out of “an abundance of caution”. They have a staff member stationed at each of their six entrances checking that everyone is wearing a mask. The cost of this must add to their daily expenses and I wonder what, if any, profit they are making these days. The time for department stores has definitely passed and we are lucky that Ballantyne’s has managed to hold on and remain the anchor of the central city shopping area.

The bistro was quiet at just after 9am. The only other customers were two socially distanced single men, one engrossed in the Press and the other engrossed in his phone. I wondered whether they live centrally and frequently come there for a lonely breakfast. We savoured our poached eggs, mine with mushrooms, and Stephen’s with bacon and Cumberland sausage. It doesn’t seem right with Covid to ask a waiter to use my camera to take a photo, so I just snapped our meals.

Breakfast at Ballantyne’s

Afterwards we strolled down to Riverside Market to buy some cheese, then back to Scorpio Books where Stephen chose a Turkish cookbook as his birthday present.

In the evening we dined at Venuti in Colombo Street. They opened soon after the earthquakes and have long been a favourite. We were pleased to see four other groups of early diners – surely not bad for a Monday evening during a pandemic. Our chosen table was in the corner by the door, well away from anyone else. We finished our meal with a shared Tiramisu, absolutely my favourite dessert, and absolutely yummy.

Once was Tiramisu

On birthdays we choose to eat out
despite the virus that’s about

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Courgette Cropping

The first of our courgettes/zucchini were ready to pick, and serendipitously a recipe for Zucchini with feta, walnuts, and sage, from Emma Boyd of The Spinoff turned up in my Facebook feed.

Stephen liked the look of it and offered to make it for lunch. We have walnuts, and sage growing in the garden, so the only extra required was feta, which we had in the frig. If only we had a goat we might have had homegrown feta too.

Courgette lunch

My chef produced this courgette dish
which I found to be quite delish

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Do you know the name of our current Governor General? I heard on the 6am news that both the Prime Minister and the Governor General are self-isolating because they were on a flight with someone who’s now tested positive for Covid. My immediate thought was that they’ve both got big houses with plenty of bathrooms.

My next thought was what is the name of the Governor General? The previous one was Dame Patsy Reddy (not Riggir – she’s a singer). A new Governor General was installed a few months ago, and I remembered she was a wahine Māori, but had to wait for a later bulletin to remind me it’s Dame Cindy Kiro. With pandemic precautions and statistics dominating the news she’s had a low profile.

Dame Cindy Kiro

When I was at Grammar School we had a visit from Lady Fergusson, the then Governor General’s wife, and I remember we were all obliged to practise curtsying beforehand. It’s good to know we now have homegrown Governors General, and I don’t imagine Dame Cindy will expect people to curtsy.

While I’m not an active republican, I presume Aotearoa will eventually divorce itself from the monarchy. The defection of Harry and the dereliction of Andrew have detracted from any sense of respectful awe that may previously have existed. I feel some compassion for Charles, older than I am, and still waiting to fulfill his purpose in life. As far as I’m concerned he’s welcome to have Camilla as his consorting Queen.

William so far has an unblotted copybook and will eventually succeed to the throne, but I doubt Aotearoa will remain part of his realm. What do you think?

Time when the current Queen has gone
for Aotearoa to move on

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Do you read historical fiction? I’ve always enjoyed it and recently I was e-interviewed by a PhD student from Macquarie University in Sydney. The topic of her research is Historical Fictions and Perceptions of History, and her questions stirred me to think about why I read historical fiction. I had previously thought of this genre as historical romance, with romance meaning a story, not necessarily a love story.

Memoirs and biographies are also historical, and while they’re not usually classed as fiction they may have some fictional elements, as two people writing about the same event will sometimes have quite different perceptions of it. I’m always interested in social history, the stories of people, rather than the larger areas of governments and wars.

Historical fiction helps me to understand my place in the world.  If it’s history I have some familiarity with, it’s affirming of my knowledge.  If it’s new to me, it’s stimulating and educational.  I’ve always enjoyed historical stories, but when I was in the 5th form we had a history teacher who lacked confidence and I’m now ashamed to say we gave her a hard time and she sometimes left the classroom in tears.   My school certificate history exam did not go well and I achieved only a D pass (32%, with higher marks in my other five subjects).  Part of the curriculum covered the 2nd World War which I found boring.  It was just a year or two later I discovered the Gregory Sallust series by Dennis Wheatley and thought how much more I’d have enjoyed the lessons if I’d been told to read these beforehand.

Sometimes I find historical fiction on the Recently Returned shelves at the Library. Once I’ve read and enjoyed one book I usually seek more by the same author. I also get recommendations from friends, and I read reviews.

I’m inclined to believe the historical facts I read. and I’m always pleased to see a bibliography, and maybe an afterword, that indicates the author has done research. I also enjoy historical films and television programmes, such as Downton Abbey and The Crown, but my preference is for novels because they can conveniently be read at any time and place, including in bed. There are so many historical novels, including mysteries, that I wondered whether it might be the most popular genre of fiction, but Google suggests that is Mystery/Crime. I guess historical mysteries are the ideal!

I love a book of history
especially one with mystery

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Mint is a useful herb with properties that aid digestion and relieve headaches. It is a perennial with tiny flowers.

Mint flowers

All the information suggests it should be confined to a container, and we first planted it in a concrete tub, but have since allowed it to grow in other places as well.

Greek mythology traces mint to the story of Pluto/Hades, god of the underworld, who fell in love with a nymph named Mintha. This enraged Pluto’s wife Persephone, who stomped on Mintha. Pluto rescued her by turning her into a plant, one that has a fresh appealing scent when crushed. This story is mentioned in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Mint was used in ancient Greek funeral rites, along with rosemary and myrtle, presumably to mask the smell of the dead, and that may be why it came to be associated with Pluto/Hades.

It’s been around since ancient times
and features in some Latin rhymes

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Covid restrictions may mean we go out less frequently, especially until we’ve had our booster shots which are scheduled for February 15th. This is the date which is now expected to be the Omicron peak. When we booked our boosters I asked if the date could be brought forward if the time between 2nd and 3rd doses was reduced to three months, but was told my date was only three weeks away and they wouldn’t have capacity to re-schedule. While cafés are still open it may be best to avoid anywhere with people except places we absolutely need to go.

I’m lucky because I eat extremely well at home. Planning and preparing meals is something Stephen enjoys doing, and I haven’t cooked dinner for some years. When we were both employed I worked full time while he had a part time role, so it made sense for him to cook the evening meal. When I left paid work I offered to share the cooking and did it a few times, but I’m not a keen cook and Stephen soon said he would prefer to take over, which I happily accepted. I do usually prepare my own breakfast and lunch, although yesterday’s lunch was leftover soup from the evening before.

I hasten to point out that I do the baking, cleaning, and gardening, so I’m not totally a lady of leisure. I do wonder how we would fare if Stephen became ill with Covid, but there are some pre-prepared meals in the freezer, and I am capable of following a recipe if I have to. He has a birthday next week and has expressed a desire for a new cookbook, so we will need to go and browse at Scorpio – socially distanced of course.

There’s an interesting article in the Guardian from an Australian woman warning New Zealanders what we can expect when Omicron surges. She suggests that our social life will change and we may see less of family and friends. Our contact with family is all by Zoom these days anyway, and I expect I’ll still see a few close friends. If the weather is good we can sit outside. It will be interesting to see what happens with the groups I usually go to regularly. Experience has shown me I’m not interested in meeting by Zoom for any group of more than four.

The Red traffic light system is different to the lockdowns we had for previous variants, leaving decisions about socialising more up to the individual. Freedom to go out may also mean freedom for the virus to travel. Apparently it hasn’t got to Christchurch yet, but can’t be far away.

The news this morning says modellers are suggesting there could be 50,000 daily cases within 10 days, and possibly 400 deaths by 1 May. I’ve been repeating the mantra Whatever happens is perfect, and I vacillate between thinking I won’t go out at all, and thinking that if it lasts for the expected three months I will need some outings for my mental health.

Our social life will have to change
and we won’t be so free to range

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Mark Zuckerberg and his minions want us to join the Metaverse – a place where we will all meet through virtual reality.

I experienced this in 2018 when I had the opportunity to row a kayak along the Avon, all while I was sitting in a chair. There was also an occasion when Air NZ celebrated a milestone by providing a virtual reality flying experience at the Canterbury Museum. Both of these were fun to do, but not quite the same as the real thing. Some distant friends have bought a virtual reality headset. They can sit on an exercycle and experience a virtual bike ride. This was useful during lockdown, but still not quite the same. They’ve experimented with Half-Life: Alyx, but the novelty soon wore off.

Ruth rowing a virtual kayak

I believe you can meet up and interact with avatars in the Metaverse, but I can’t see how it could ever be a replacement for going outside and having actual social contact. An article in yesterday’s Press pointed out the dangers of harassment, racism, and porn. What do you think? I have wondered if online shopping might be the thin end of the Metaverse?

Having virtual experiences of art galleries, museums, etc, would be great for those unable to travel, but I’m not sure that’s what Zuckerberg has in mind. It seems he wants to shift our existence from the physical world to an immersive internet, and thereby have even more influence over us. I don’t want to go. do you?

I think I’m bound to get averse
to joining in the Metaverse.

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Keen on Kindness

“Be kind” is an injunction I’m seeing and hearing a great deal lately. It’s a direct quote from our Prime Minister, and sometimes seems like the best action we can take to alleviate the uncertainty and anxiety around Covid at present.

In pre-Covid times we could practise random acts of kindness whenever we felt like it. These acts were good to receive and satisfying to give. Now we’re living under the Red traffic light kindness needs to be more focussed. We need to be kind to our community by ensuring we’re vaccinated, scanning or signing in everywhere, and wearing masks.

Official information tells us to “Wear your mask whenever you leave home”, so yesterday when I went for a walk I took my mask in my pocket which I haven’t done before. No-one walking round the Loop was wearing a mask, except a group gathered under a gazebo on the riverbank. I put my mask on to approach them and ask what they were doing, and learned they were testing a drone which could be used for delivering medical supplies in Africa.

Drone testing shelter

I was overdue for a haircut, so went to have one, thinking it was best to do it before any further restrictions are imposed. While the hairdresser failed to ask to see my Vaccine Pass she did request that I leave my mask on while my hair was being cut. This is different to how it was under the Orange traffic light, and must be awkward to manage. Presumably if you were having your hair washed in a salon the mask would be removed, or maybe wet cuts are not allowed now?

We popped in to the supermarket, deposited our soft plastic, and found they are limiting purchases of toilet paper and baked beans, but there was no queue at the entrance.

Right now it’s important to be kind to oneself. Taking life easy where possible and having little treats. I’d been looking forward to February when groups I belong to are scheduled to meet again, but this is now also uncertain. I’m lucky I have plenty of books to read and social contact online. I expect socialising in person will decrease, although cafés are still open, and I have a date to meet a friend later today.

We need to practise being kind
ensuring none are left behind

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This latest of the Outlander novels is a large book – 888 pages – too large to be read lying in bed, so it had to be rationed into times when I can read sitting in a chair. I’ve enjoyed all the series over a number of years, and it was good to re-immerse myself in the familiar characters. It might have been useful to re-read the earlier volumes first, but the author kindly provided enough past detail to ensure I could fit bits together. This volume seemed to me to have more links between the two time periods than the previous ones.

One snippet that interested me was an explanation of the name of hollyhocks – a flower which blooms prolifically in my garden. Apparently the Crusaders bought the plant back from the Holy Land because you can make a salve from the root that’s particularly good for an injury to a horse’s hocks – hence holyhock.

This story could be categorised under many of my favourite genres: historical romance and family saga, with hints of science fiction and spirituality. The characters are so well drawn that the reader can’t help but empathise with them.

I do think the author could have made this into two volumes of manageable size, but I loved it nevertheless. There were many threads left hanging ready for sequels. Anyone who’s enjoyed previous Outlander novels will relish this one.

They travel back between the stones
surviving wars and broken bones

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