Saturday, December 15, 2007


I've just written my report for STAC (a nice Quaker trust who gave me funding) about the Spiritual Friendships course I went on at Woodbrooke. I know I've been pretty slack at blogging lately (1 phoneline/internet connection between 4 of us with 2 of us also trying to do Summer Gathering planning - yes, I know, again - doesn't make for much internet leisure time!) so this is a bit of a cut and paste job... my apologies to those who've already heard most of this before!

The idea of attending this course originally came up because Sarah wanted to do a Woodbrooke course that would be useful for the YF community here, I was to go with her as a support person/elder. Having looked at the Woodbrooke programme for when we would be in the UK and being mindful of the various current issues this one seemed to fit the bill nicely. Then of course Sarah had the most horrendous first trimester-plus-a-bit I've ever come across and to cut a long story short I ended up going alone!

So I attended the course very mindful that in effect I was there because of the leadings of others. That awareness, I think, changed my approach to the course - instead of just participating for my own benefit I was constantly 'seeing it through many eyes', looking for that something that would translate across the globe and help us work towards us building on our strengths as a YF community and to our place and contribution to the wider YM.

Very quickly, despite my still considerably jetlagged state, I realised that apart from the facilitator I was probably the most experienced member of the group in terms of 'spiritual friendships'. I think I am right in thinking that I was also the only one present who had come to Quakerism as a child and had had the benefit of working my way through many Quaker events for young people and then Young Friends which went a long way to explain the imbalance in experience.

Being with a group of predominantly 'older' Friends (I think about 4 of the 10 of us were under 60 and I was the youngest) gave me an extremely valuable insight into this group which is predominant in Friends both sides of the world. I learned not only from those present but what our facilitator shared of others' similar stories. Those who become convinced Friends at 40-60+ yrs of age are aften 'refugees' from other churches and faiths, there is often a lot of hurt, anger and pain associated with their past associations and an instinctive lack of trust, a sense of vulnerablity and an unwillingness to put themselves in a position where they percieve that they may be hurt again. Many have left their previous churches because of disagreements over doctorine, having been told that they are 'wrong' in their beliefs/opinions/questioning and in some cases that they are damned, condemned to hell etc. Such veherment rejection and condemnation unsurprisingly takes its toll on people.

As a result we spent a lot of time talking about building trust in spiritual relationships, setting boundaries and a 'framework for friendship'. For me this was very familiar as it would be to anyone who has been to Link Groups, Summer School, JYF camp or similar. Concepts such as only sharing what has been said with permission, 'what's said in the group stays in the group', listening attentively rather than thinking about what you wish to say, taking it in turns and not interupting, everyone's contribution being valued and accepted etc, I realised I had come to take for granted over the last 25 years. For several present though they were new, challenging and liberating. At this point I started to understand more what some of the older Friends had meant when they had told YFs at Yearly Meeting that YFs had a lot to offer, and why that was so.

Joycelin Dawes, our facilitator, introduced us to Martin Buber's concept of a 'space that is neither I nor Thou but a place where 'The Other' is present between and amongst I and Thou, there are fluid, and respectful, boundaries and creative possibility.' - ie introducing the 'spiritual' aspect of the friendships. She had started her work some years ago with what she called 'barefoot befriending' - training people going out into the community to be a supportive friendly presence, not counsellors or advisors but simply to befriend, listen to and support those isolated and in need. She realised that whilst this met many needs it was designed to be one way although many befrienders found the experience rewarding it could be draining and something more was needed to support their needs. In exploring this and using similar techniques in other settings she realised there was scope for bringing into her work a spiritual dimension - the 'spiritual friendships' we were building during the course drew on, amongst other things, a combination of 'worship sharing', 'creative listening', co-counselling and of course any other friendship. I think all of us felt throughout the course that there was a sense of 'gatheredness' to our sharing similar to that of a deep Meeting for Worship.

Given that we spent several days on the subject I don't think I can really do it justice in one blog post! Maybe I'll come back to it again some time...

Quite where I take this now I am still unclear about. As far as the YF community itself is concerned I think we need to appreciate more what we already have. Friends on the course were stunned to hear that much of what they were experiencing was a common experience for many young people and YFs around the world.

At the end of the course several spoke of a sense of loss and grief at us parting and wondered how they could possibly convey that to their Meetings let alone build up such friendships again. My Summer School kids back in the UK were faced with that aged 11! My suggestion was to look to the younger members of their Meeting who have been to camps, Junior Yearly Meetings etc as they know only too well the blues of going 'back to reality'. I have heard older Friends within our YM who have spent terms at Pendle Hill and Woodbrooke speak of that same sense of loss and difficulty in building up again the kind of deep spiritual friendships that had become part of their daily life there. YFs are not alone in feeling isolated and not understood within their Meetings!

For our physical YF community at camp perhaps there is more we could do. At JYF camps it is the norm to go over such ground rules like the 'framework to friendship' that we drew up on the course - perhaps there is scope for doing likewise at YF Camp rather than assuming everyone takes it as read, we have far fewer formal sessions outwith our Meeting for Worship for Business which is probably why it currently doesn't happen. Someone on the course wistfully said how they wished all friendships could be on such terms as we'd set out - taking a step towards such a reality at camp is possibly something to consider.

I have come back with far more questions than answers and a much greater appreciation of the experiences I've had.In terms of the YM it is comforting to know that it's never too late to become part of such friendships, one member of our group was in his 80s! (so those 'TOW's have no excuse)

I also know that this is something others have to take a lead on within the YF community rather than me, I really am getting too old to be a YF! I hope that way will open to take this discussion further and bear fruit. Time for those of us with the JYF/YF/etc experience to go out and be patterns and examples again methinks =)

Sunday, November 25, 2007


At 8am this morning the power went off for the day - planned maintenance work was required to the major powerline so the whole area was blacked out (if you can call it a blackout in glorious sunshine!)

The first thing that hit me was how quiet the house suddenly was, no water pump, no fridge humming, no computer fans whirring - all the background noises that are so constant you stop noticing them until they aren't there any more.

Apart from the sudden realisation at 8.05am that I'd not made my toast (but I still got my porridge, thank heavens for gas hobs!) I didn't really find myself that inconvenienced but it did make me realise just how reliant upon electricity we are. It's amazing how many things require it, especially when your water supply is pumped to the house by an electric pump! We could have sat in the car to listen to the radio, or used my dinky radio with earphones (which I only remembered about afterwards) but as Elizabeth had caught enough of the news headlines to hear that John Howard was no the longer Aussie PM (yay!!!) we just cheerfully waited to hear more later.

Later... not just the radio news & the tv news but the washing machine, dishwasher, checking emails, showers, lights, the toilet cisterns refilling instead of using buckets, filling the jug (kettle) from the tap and boiling it, baking potatoes in the oven, the fridge getting back to temperature and the light going on again when the door opened...

Between us we gardened, knitted, sewed, read, made coffee on the stove and boiled water in a pan for tea, we went for a windswept walk/run on the beach and then gradually de-sanded ourselves across the floors and furniture as no matter how hard you try to brush it off it is never quite enough. It wasn't that different from any other Sunday really, we wondered though just how different other people's days might have been from the norm, and maybe it was a good thing to have had no power if it meant children played outside more and people appreciated more what a luxury having electricity on demand is and what alternatives we need in place to get by without it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

home is where my accent is?

okay.... so I'm back in Kaitaia and Mim's playing 'Last of the Summer Wine' on the cello... Mum & Dad are in Scotland looking at my pictures of the Holme & Colne Valleys that I'm slowly uploading from Aotearoa NZ and they reckon they feel disorientated?! At least at kindy today I wasn't the only one jetlagged, one of the staff returned from Europe about 3 weeks ago and two of the kids had their first day back today after a trip to see their grandparents in England. It was somewhat surreal overhearing a conversation in the outdoor play area about John Lewis' in Tooting Beck! (not between the boys I hasten to add, it was their mum and Clare!)

It is good to be home again it must be said - and not least because all the travelling has stopped. Much as it was wonderful to see everyone I'd had enough of traipsing around after about 2 weeks never mind 5! I felt like I was getting information overload, a bit like travelling as a tourist in many ways only instead of learning about places it was catching up on everyone's news and desperately trying to remember who'd moved/got married/had kids/split up before I totally put my foot in it... thanks so much to those who put me up/put up with me, especially when jetlag got the better of me.

For various reasons advanced planning didn't really happen which meant I missed seeing a fair few people I'd've liked to but it also led to a few serendipitous encounters I'd never have thought to add to my itinery had I been a bit more thorough in advance. It did stike me more than once that a decidedly kiwi attitude to travelling did seem to be prevailing - maybe I'm becoming more naturalised to this place than I thought. Bonnie did say she thought I sounded like Elizabeth when I arrived back at Kindy this morning... given the chameleon nature of my accent and the fact that I did a whistlestop tour of all previous major UK influences (Yorkshire, Somerset, Lancashire, Newcastle & Edinburgh - in terms of people if not actual locations this trip) I'm quite impressed with myself for obviously slipping back into my current 'norm' so quickly!

So, it's back to sunhats, sunblock, Ninety Mile Beach, homemade lemonade (fruit from the garden), Whittakers chocolate... and in case anyone is getting too jealous - mozzies and sandfly bites too!

Friday, November 09, 2007

world in pictures

I've been thinking about this one for a while... when I was at Pardshaw and we were walking down from the crags I remembered a conversation I'd had with Derek several years ago doing the same walk.

I was commenting on his lack of camera given that he used to go everywhere with a rather fancy camera and sizeable bag of accessories, his reply was that he realised he felt the need to stop viewing everything through the lens and take part in what was around him more. Recollections came to me of (I assume) Japanese tourists at some beautiful viewpoint in the Highlands of Scotland trooping off their coach videoing everything in sight and then getting straight back on again. They hadn't really taken in anything of the majesty of the place, absorbed the sheer energy of the mountains or even noticed the sparkling dew-laden spiders webs at their feet. Some had posed for photos - but next to the bus!!! Um hello, dramatic scenery as a backdrop or a coach - they chose the coach, whatever. That conversation made me think a lot about my own photography and I found myself taking fewer photos when with people doing things instead putting my energy into being with them and taking part. Exceptions were when lazing around in free time at Summer School - a perfect opportunity to get some sneaky portrait shots.

But more recently I've become aware of how my increasing interest in photography has made me look at the world in a different way. I'm not constantly looking at the world through a viewfinder but I do find I see beauty (and photographic opportunities) in unexpected and everyday places far more often. I've always noticed things like the way light plays on the leaves of trees but I find myself now often struck by the way it hits buildings, I see details I would have previously passed by (often thinking 'Jim could make a picture out of that' and not quite managing to capture what I know he could achieve!). I've become far more aware of the world around me but I've realised as I've come towards the end of my trip back to the UK I've only got people photos where I've consciously made the effort to get them or had more relaxed time in which to do so. So images of most of the more fleeting encounters are recorded solely in my mind - probably not the most reliable of media but at least it won't become technologically obsolete!

Friday, November 02, 2007

the passage of time

I'd forgotten just how early it starts getting dark once the clocks have changed! Ok so I'm now north of the Border (actually in the Borders as it happens) which makes a difference and on the East Coast too... so with two lots of clocks changing (Aotearoa NZ Summer time started a week before I left and the UK's just changed this w/e) on top of jetlag my sleeping pattern still doesn't know if I'm coming or going. Ah well, only another week to go and it all goes topsy turvy again =/

I've spent the entire time I've been over here feeling as though I'd only been gone a couple of months or so rather than two years - I've been able to just pick up where I left off with so many people, but maybe that's got as much to do with the people I've stayed in touch with - those with whom it would be difficult have maybe already fallen by the wayside? Hard to tell... But the passage of time has been somewhat more obvious in the last 24 hours. I was greeted at Dunbar station by my godson Morgan running towards me at full pelt for a big hug as he always used to; however he's now a big tall 6 year old and picking him up and swinging him round wasn't really an option any more - especially carrying a full backpack! Ruaridh is now just about the size Morgan was last time I'd seen them and they now have a little sister I'd never met before... so those of you who keep an eye on Flickr will no doubt be treated to numerous photos of them before long =)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

home and away

Harakeke in Dean House? Cabbage trees in Holmfirth? Palms in Thongsbridge? Ok so pampas grass in Honley is nothing new (oh so 7o's...) but since when did the Holme Valley go sub tropical? Given the icy wind blowing today I remain somewhat homesick and unconvinced.

The sign at the bottom of the road here says 3 1/2 miles to Holmfirth - having taken a somewhat circuitous route I reckon I walked at least 8miles today meandering round the lanes and footpaths between Honley and Holmfirth vaguely following old bus routes (the old 'long way round') and distant memories. I walked paths I've not walked in well over 20 years, lanes that I was reasonably convinced were heading in the right direction but wasn't entirely sure where they came out and followed the old rule of thumb that if you can see either Castle Hill or Holme Moss you can't get lost!

Walking along the footpath from Miry Lane to Station Road I was getting decidedly confused though - a case of not being able to work out where in the wood I was for the trees - and more to the point a new housing estate that I just couldn't figure out the location of. Finally I saw our old house ahead of us... chuffin' 'eck, thinks me, they've built here too? Quickly followed by "chuffin' 'eck????" Blimey probably haven't even thought that since I left school....

Much has changed, and yet some things are surprisingly the same - I don't think Wagstaffs have changed their window dressing style since Mum was buying us childrens shoes there in the 1970's. There seems a certain poetic justice in Nigel Hinchcliffe's old shop now being called 'Your Nuts' but it seems sad that in the home of postcards there was a decidedly limited selection in the Tourist Information Office and many of the images that were there (apart from the historic saucy Bamforth's ones for which fair enough) I remember from the '80's.

It's nice to see it all again but I don't ever miss it.

update - there's a thundering great big harakeke plant outside Huddersfield Bus Station too. Huddersfield Bus Station? Honestly, I ask you.... mind you they haven't half tarted up the inside of it too since I was at Greenhead. And is it me or is the piazza smaller than it used to be, or is it just that the trees have grown in the last um, ah twenty years.... yeah ok, I get it now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

food miles and whatnot

Well the world has gone tospy turvy again - I've been shopping... Nairn's oatcakes! unsweetened soy(a)milk! And wait for it... Oatibix!!! They taste just like I remember Weetabix tasting (and for you Kiwis yes I do mean Weetabix not Weetbix!) but they are wheat-free and thus Anna-friendly, woo hoo! They even look the right shape and colour.

I've had a few food miles/climate change conversations since getting back to the UK; when looking at the wine shelf I automatically looked for New Zealand wine and was feeling a bit disgruntled not to see any when Mike started telling me how they only bought European wines now because of the food miles (or in this case drink miles!) ah yes, hemisphere change.... It was great to be able to pick up a box of oatcakes with a clear conscience - sure they've travelled a bit further than the few miles across town as when I lived in Edinburgh but one heck of a lot less distance than the boxes that sit on New World's shelves in Wellington. Also one heck of a lot less distance than the rice crackers and corn thins I usually eat at home that come across the ditch from Australia - but I've yet to find a locally produced alternative so I've tried to cut down my consumption of them instead!

But when talking about carbon footprints etc it's hard to escape the fact that I have chosen to live not only on the oppposite side of the world to most of my close family but even at the opposite end of the island from many of my friends. Does my relatively low day-to-day carbon footprint balance out flying all the way around the world?

I went back to look at simon's blog post on climate change wondering if I could join his 'chain' but decided as my current living situation isn't exactly standard it would probably stuff up the next person to do it properly... but for what it's worth here is what I can answer! (you'll need to read simon's post for this to make best sense)

1. use public transport - well as a non-driver this has pretty much always been my main mode of transport! I try to avoid situations where people have to make car journeys especially for my benefit and fit in with what they are doing anyway - thus improving their carbon footprint by taking a passenger =) I also try to avoid making domestic flights when I can, which has meant many an hour spent on Intercity Coaches....
2. Food purchasing - well I don't do very much of that to be honest but I do do a lot of the cooking and so try to avoid waste, processed foods and use as much of the fruit and veg from the garden as possible
3. Electricy provider - I don't think we have a choice where we are but at least in NZ you know that it isn't nuclear! I try to remember to switch lights off, use short cold cycles on the washing machine (and avoid half loads), never use the tumble drier, no excessive showering and don't use a haridryer but have a dilema with computers as if they get turned off they sulk so they tend to sit on stand-by thus meaning they still work for longer...
4. Compost and rubbish - well between the compost heap, the dog/chooks, recycling and the woodstove we produce remarkably little rubbish. I filled just one bin bag in the 10 weeks William & Elizabeth were away!
5. Low energy lightbulbs - well we got double vouchers for those recently as I got a set sent too so we now have no excuse! But do you replace straight away or replace when the old ones burn out? After all then you have to dispose of the old ones...
6. Freezer - we've got them, they're running so might as well keep them as full as possible as that way they're more efficient (and it means garden produce etc doesn't got to waste when there's a glut)
7. Buying secondhand etc - been doing that for years! It's not often I buy new clothes (other than underwear!) and things tend to get worn til they fall apart or get sent back to another charity/op shop. I've tried to be really good with not buying books - there are libraries and friends bookshelves after all - and have got reasonably good at it! Lack of funds does help that though...
8. Economy 7 - errr, don't think that's around
9. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings - not within my scope beyond opening and closing windows/doors/curtains!
10. Heating - we have one room that gets heated well in winter, so we all sit in it! Otherwise why do you think NZ developed merino wool and so many polyprops and fleece products...

1. car use - see above, my main ouch is air travel not car travel and I'm trying to keep that down. (once I've got back home that is!)
2. supermarket shopping - we don't have many alternatives to Pak n Save (without driving great distances!) but I do try to get what I can at the health food shop, but that's not much.
3. Heating - as with many NZ houses we just have a woodburning stove, using kindling from the garden and the logs I think come from the farm, it being fast growing wood that needed to be cut back to keep the pastures clear. We probably could burn less at times but the psychological effect of a good blaze vs a smouldering pile of embers is a hard one to overcome!
4. solar power etc - it's on the long term to do list...
5. freezer - see above re efficiency and garden gluts! I was reading the other day about someone building a 'cold store' room which sounded remarkably like my Granny's old pantry with large stone slabs in theory, the thing is in a north facing wooden house in Northland no-where is cold in summer so it would take a lot of energy and effort to build something that stayed cool... unless we used the creek I guess but that seems a little extreme to keep the milk cold!
6. tumble drier - I hate using them, very occassionally used it in Wellington when B&B visitor numbers and bad weather conspired against me but can't even remember last using one for clothes.
7. house - I currently live with others and am quite happy doing so, in fact I don't really like living alone... Space, hmmm... it's remarkable how little personal stuff/space I can get used to living with on a day to day basis but then I do have the luxury of large shared space. Hard one to call for me these days.

So how about you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

a decent cuppa!

Finally a decent cup of tea! This is not a slur on the tea making abilities of anyone I've stayed with since leaving Kaitaia but on the lousy tasting water. I'm now back in the Holme Valley, where I grew up, where water tastes like it ought to and has just come down off the Pennines rather than through several Thames water treatment plants. Nor does it leave a hard water scum on the inside of the cup/kettle/your internal organs! Of course it's great to see Jon & Rachel again as well as drink their tea....

So where've I been since Woodbrooke... a couple more days in Brum catching up with old F/friends then down to Oxfordshire to see family. If it wasn't for the fact that my cousin now has two children aged 6 and 4 that I've never met before I wouldn't really have noticed the passing of the years since I'd seen any of them - more years than others in some cases (um, like 6?). So far with everyone I've caught up with since being back in the UK it's been like I've never been away, they've been the friendships where time doesn't matter and we've just picked up where we left off regardless of how much, or in most cases how little, contact we've had in between. I guess the time when I'll really notice that I've been away will be when I finally reach Edinburgh - a place I saw every day rather than every so often/few years and when I see children I knew well who are now at least two years older.

It's a strange feeling - in some ways I feel very much the visitor passing through but yet it's all so familiar - even the Cotswold villages I'd never been to before that we went for a walk through on Sunday. Of course the trees are in their autumn splendor and what else would you have betwen the fields but ancient hedgerows and dry stone walls? I've got conkers in my pockets again (must remember to leave them here though!) we had ordanance survey maps to follow, Norman churches to visit and Roman roads to drive along. The train north yesterday came over several 19th century high stone viaducts and many a house I've seen has stone rooftiles, rows of terraced houses in brick or stone are commonplace and when I finally get out to find a post office I know I'll see cobbled streets. All so far removed from anything I've lived with for the last two years...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre doing a three day course on Spiritual Friendships - there are 10 of us all together which is a nice sized group as it means there's actually time to get to know everyone in matters both temporal and eternal.

One of the things that has really hit me so far is how much I have come to take for granted the experience of meeting people in that sacred space within their everyday protective boundaries and how scary a prospect it is for some people to make such friendships. Someone expressed a fear of having made such a deep connection how do you get over the loss of it when it ends and how do you find the courage to start again with someone/s new?

I remember crying throughout the Meeting for Worship at the end of my first Questabout weekend wondering how on earth it was that I felt closer to those friends I'd made in a weekend than those I'd been at school with for 10 years. I thought of the time I came home from my first Holiday School aged 16, over tired, distraught at leaving everyone behind and being in a foul mood because I felt my parents just didn't understand the heartwrenching sense of loss when the event came to an end. I remember being asked why on earth I wanted to go to more of these things if they left me feeling like this, I'm not entirely sure I'd make a much better job of explaining it now than I could then but I like to think I'd slam fewer doors in the process! I thought back to the many Summer School kids who've told me they live for that one week in the year and the other 51 are just there to be endured.

I also remembered a conversation with Thomas at the end of WGYF, he'd just come back up to the office after watching many a tearful farewell being made down at the buses. We discussed how for us having been reunited with far flung F/friends at WGYF itself we could more easily accept that no matter far apart we may live in everyday life our paths could and would cross again and that that time would pass far quicker than expected, so whilst our farewells were no less heartfelt there wasn't the devastating grief accompanying it. Mind you I suspect the overwhelming sense of relief that we'd got through it all and it was almost time to go home overrode any sense of loss!

So what happened somewhere along the 20 years between that High Flatts Questabout and WGYF, at what point did that understanding creep in? I have to recognise also that many a tearful last night of an event has been as much about not wanting to return to everyday life as not wanting to leave where I was. How many times has the conversation been had on the way home from an event where someone has said 'ah well, back to normality' and it has been pondered as to which is 'normality' that which we've left or that to which we return? And if it's not that which we've left why isn't it and how can we make the rest of life more like it?

I'm not sure that I have the answers to the fears for whom making these kinds of friendships is something new and scary but what I can tell them is that those in their Meetings most likely to understand any such feelings of loss are those who've been on young peoples and Young Friends events. I'm appreciating more and more what an incredible gift those events are as they make such friendships an integral (even normal?) part of life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

shiny new visa =)

Yay, I'm the very proud and happy possessor of a shiny new visa in my passport. I'd been more than a little apprehensive about whether I was going to be able to return to Aotearoa NZ in November or not given my course doesn't start until January but when I asked the guy at Immigration how soon I could go back his answer was 'Tomorrow if you like!' Well having only just got back to the UK I reckon I'll stay here the planned 5 weeks but it is a huge relief to know for sure - having had conflicting advice given on it before I wasn't 100% convinced it would all work out.

On the train up to Birmingham from London I realised just how much I felt like I'd been holding my breath waiting, how much else had taken a back seat emotionally and mentally - I 've felt like I just haven't had the head space to deal with anything much else for a while now. So I arrived at Woodbrooke feeling decidedly unprepared for the Spiritual Friendships course I'm on and yet that seems to be turning into a blessing as I've arrived with no preconceptions of what we'd be doing and a 'clean sheet' to work on. I came a different train route than I've done in the past so the countryside was unfamiliar territory, but yet familiar. The course so far feels a bit like that too - so much so far is similar to things I've done before yet from a slightly different persepective, a different view of the spiritual landscape and ways of exploring it.

The train came in to Birmingham through Solihull - the place my great great grandparents and family emigrated to Aotearoa New Zealand from in 1879 - it felt somewhat appropriate to be going through there the day I got my visa! So I said a quiet kia ora to the place of my tupuna (ancestors) and reminded myself that no matter how long and tedious my 33hr journey from Sarah's to Sam's had been it knocked the socks off however many weeks the Hereford had taken to get them from Tilsbury to Lyttleton.


As we were coming into Auckland Airport I commented on having noticed some time ago their logo bearing a remarkable similarity to the Royal Bank of Scotland one. It has always struck me as being a bit surreal - the whole where am I? thing, especially when arriving from the UK.

So you can imagine why I laughed and pulled out my camera when I arrived at Hong Kong Airport to RBS insignia being plastered all over the airbridges and being greeted by a sign saying 'The Royal Bank of Scotland welcomes you to Hong Kong airport'!

Next stop Heathrow... more than a little closer to Scotland and yet what insignia and adverts adorned their airbridges and walkways? HSBC, ie Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.

Go figure that one out!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

getting there...

All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go... well as ready as I'll ever be! For the first night since Ryan got here (Friday) someone other than me is on bedtime story duty so I've been busy putting pictures onto a flashstick to bring with me having managed to pack whilst William & Elizabeth took him (and Cammi!) for a walk on the beach.

Am I really ready to go? I don't know - I suspect getting on a plane will be just has hard this time as before although at least I don't have to wait as long to come back. I've packed plenty tissues in my hand luggage anyway just in case!

Unlike the previous two occasions when I've left this country I'm going much further than Oz and I'm leaving in the middle of the night not the morning so I've no idea how much that will help alleviate the jet-lag, but I've got tablets packed for that too... Somehow I need to stay awake in Meeting on Sunday at Friends House London - the presence of sharp elbowed Friends has been requested!

At least when I get there I'm staying with Sam - as Simon said on the phone going straight to another Tailby should lessen the shock to the system. But before I can leave the country I've uni fees to pay and other paperwork to sort out not to mention several other Tailbys to catch up with and a fleece to retrieve in Auckland!

Monday, October 01, 2007

to pack and not to pack

Aaaarrrrgghhh, where has the time gone???? I've got 2 1/2 days left to sort my stuff out and pack before we head down to Auckland...

Well I've got as much paperwork done as I can and Ryan has gone off to a birthday party with a tub of fudge still cooling and a plate full of pancakes (dropscones/pikelets) so I've the afternoon free to catch up on some headspace, odd jobs around the house and start sorting out clothes into piles of what to wash, take and what to shove back in the drawers... It's great having Ryan to stay but my world starts revolving around Lego, pirates and the 'Grandpa's Slippers/Cardigan/Shorts/Shed' books (in the right order of course!) which is not conducive to packing!

My cunning plan of take a little and bring back a lot is all very well but I seem to be taking over a fair amount not destined to return so it's hard to get my head around what is and what isn't - more piles methinks. Just as well Mim isn't here, her bedroom is going to come in mighty handy =)

It's hard to believe it's two years since I was packing up in Edinburgh - life has changed so much in so many ways since then and in some cases several times! There is absolutely no way in the world that I could have predicted then what I'd be doing in life now (other than perhaps the packing to fly back over to the UK bit!) and similarly I have no real concept as to where I might be in life another two years down the road. I'm presuming I'll be working in an Early Childhood Centre of some description somewhere as I'll need to do at least two years teaching before I can get full registration but that's as far as it goes - altho' I guess that's further than usual!

The last two years have been an amazing adventure full of incredible people and beautiful scenery. My love for this place has deepened beyond measure and I have found friends and whānau in abundance. I feel very blessed to have had this time here and to know I can return - I'm still not entirely sure exactly when until I've got my visa sorted in London but return I can.

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone back in the UK altho' it will be strange to be there as a visitor. Travelling around will no doubt be very much a flashback to my first trip here making my way around f/Friends and family. In two years a lot will have changed - I've missed births, deaths and marriages, no doubt plenty physical changes to places I knew well and I'll be visiting friends in new homes I've never seen before. I wonder how just disconnected I'll feel.

Anyways plenty time to ponder that on the plane journey. For now I'd better go and start sorting my stuff out before my 4 year old friend returns!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

zippedee doo dah

zippedee ay, my oh my what a wonderful day, plenty of sunshine comin' my way, zippedee do dah, zippedy ay =)

No Mr Blue Bird on my shoulder though, just Cammi at my feet, but more importantly an email in my inbox from the University of Auckland offering me a place on their Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood Education) starting in January - woo hoo!

Now I need to get all the money and paperwork sorted so I can get a visa to come back here in November, and only a fortnight to go before I pack my bags and head back to the UK for a month, gulp....

It feels like I can finally start getting my head around my trip back to the UK now though, so much of my energy has been going into working out how/when I could come back here that it's very much taken a back seat. I can also now allow myself to get excited about things like having the whole of our family (the grand sum of four of us) together in the same place at the same time for the first time in over 5 years (and I've only been overseas for two of them!), catching up with F/friends and other family, seeing my godson again (who will hopefully still recognise me even is his little brother is unlikely to), meeting various babies born since I left, going on the Spiritual Friendships course at Woodbrooke, going on trains that go faster than buses, having soy milk that doesn't have sugar in it, Provomel chocolate pudding, Engine Shed smoked tofu, being able to stock up on decent sized jars of Marmite (the real thing, not the kiwi version), warm flat beer being normal (and better for being that way)... sadly I won't be able to get a dose of TMS but I dare say I'll survive.

So to anyone I haven't been in touch with yet if you want to see me do get in touch, I've been totally crap and haven't got very organised yet but I do have vague plans and a route northwards worked out! I'll be at Meeting for Worship somewhere in London on Sunday 7th October - any suggestions of where in order to catch up with folk much appreciated! Given I'll be jetlagged having arrived the day before I'm hoping to have to organise as little as possible but would love to catch up with as many folk there as I can =)

Right, what's next on the 'to do' list?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

hand of fate?

I hate having to try to sell myself; please employ me, please give/lend me money, please take me on your course... but right now I'm trying to figure out how to persuade someone to employ someone else and that's even harder! What if I don't make a good enough job of the reference? I've been given no questions to answer just 'he's applied for this job, here's the job description' - gulp.... I'm not sure that me knowing at least one of the decision makers is an advantage here!

I know that I think he'd be great at the job, that it seems tailor made for him and brings together many strands of his life in a way that is reminiscent for me of applying for the WGYF and Resident Friend posts. Maybe there's my answer - those felt very much like spirit-led moves in life, that they were 'meant to be'. If this is the case here it shouldn't matter what I write should it? Or is that a cop out theory?

Ok, I'll go back and have another go at it but this time feeling that god willing he'll get it anyway as his own life can speak for him far better than I can.

But if anyone has any prayers to spare whilst he has his interview on the 27th I'm sure Mike would be grateful!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ngati Wikitoria

As has been said many times, especially by us Brits for for whom it is still somewhat of a novelty - even to those of us used to the small world of Quakerdom - Aotearoa New Zealand is a small country. I don't mean in the geographical sense but in terms of people. It is hardly surprising then that the traditional Maori way of greeting involves stating where you are from and who are are related to so that kinship ties and mutual friendships etc can be established. There is a distinct sense of everyone being related to everyone somehow within the Maori community (for better or worse...), the use of aunty, uncle and cousin is a tad different to the European conventions - it's much broader - altho' having not quite got my head around it I'll not try explaining it here!

The tradition of establishing where you connect to has become incorporated to a large extent into Pakeha (non-Maori) culture too - unlike parts of Britain where being asked where you are from, or even 'belong', is usually a sign of you being considered an outsider or comer-in any questioning along such lines here is usually followed by an abridged version of the questioners (British) heritage. Same with many Maori too due to the extent of cross-cultural marriages, a guy I met at the marae down the road is quite proud of his Hebridean ancestry. But as was pointed out on the news lately amidst Nationalists concerns over the number of immigrants - we're all immigrants here, some are just more established than others.

When I lived in Britain not really coming from one place tended to be a disadvantage when such things mattered - there was always too much of somewhere else in me either by parentage or place of birth regardless of where I lived and where I called 'home'. However here I'm starting to realise that it's a bonus. Folk here don't care what other places I may link to, they are more interested in what I have in common with them than what I don't. So my widely spread family have unknowingly aided and abetted me in establishing links to many more places in common with people here - the latest being Yeovil, ok so I can only actually remember having been there once to see Great Uncle Percy and G. Aunty Gwen and it was probably about 25 years ago but what the heck! It's kind of like having three extra bingo cards to play with.

When I joined the school group at the Marae I made sure I'd got my mihi (greeting) brushed up as I knew doing the rounds of those was part of the evenings programme. As it happens the teachers somehow got let off the hook and me with them, part of me was a bit miffed as I'm quite proud of being able to recite my mihi in Te Reo rather than English but I'm still not 100% happy with it so maybe not giving a work in progress wasn't such a bad thing.

Part of my problem goes back to being from 'everywhere and nowhere' - so just which is my mountain? my river? who are my tribe? which is my marae? For the last two I'd borrowed someone elses answer which was Te Haahi Tuuhauwiri (Quakers) and Quaker Acres - the Settlement at W(h)anganui. But having listened to Bruce at the marae and then being back at Te Papa recently I've decided to change that - Ngati Wikitoria, the tribe of Queen Victoria are in effect all those she ruled over (and their descendants) which as Bruce pointed out included them too once the Treaty was signed. Now given my longstanding decidedly republican politics (as in ditch the monarchy as head of state not the USA version!) it does feel a little odd to be aligning myself with Queen Vic but the Treaty was with the crown, not the government, nor the country - no monarch and technically the Treaty becomes invalid. Rats. Ho hum... so until a legal loophole has been discovered I'll shut up and make do with the status quo, sigh.... but Scotland gaining her independance wouldn't muck it up so all is not lost! Anyway, I digress...

So yes, I'm part of Ngati Wikitoria. When in Wellington a couple of weeks ago I took Wee John to see the modern marae at Te Papa, I love that place and took everyone who came to visit me in Welly there. I always rub away at the same point on the Pounamu kaitiaki, one day it'll be all shiny and green! When we were there a guided tour was getting the spiel and something the guide said sank in - the marae at Te Papa Tongawera is for all people, tangata whenua - the people of the land ie Maori, tangata tiriti - the people of the treaty, and all those who have come since... so, I have a marae!

My mountain and river still raise issues for me - at the moment I've plumped for Castle Hill as it rather ambiguously covers both the landmark I grew up with in the Holme Valley and that in Edinburgh on which sits the Quaker Meeting House (oh and the castle!). My river is more tricky - I still dither between the Holme and the Firth of Forth, I can't bring myself to call the cold, grey, uninviting North Sea my moana (sea/ocean) instead and I reckon I'd be pushing it still to say Ahipara Bay, but maybe one day...

Monday, September 03, 2007

in the lap of the gods...

Well, the interview has been had and it seemed to go ok, not sure what else I could have said to make it go better anyroad... now I wait... hopefully just until the predicticted 'sometime next week' however that relies on the International Office processing the decision a bit quicker than they have everything else so far!

It's been an odd week and a long one - I'm glad to be going home tomorrow, it feels like ages since I left. Wellington felt as though I'd never left in many ways but then the presence or absence of a person or building would throw me (what no Alex?). I'm gradually getting to know my way around Auckland by bus and have had several lightbulb moments where different parts of the city finally click into place as to how they join up. Superb aerial views leaving Welly meant I also got a chance to get my head around just how the land lay beyond the Orongaronga's too having never really explored the Wairarapa. Cool views right up into the Tararua range but best of all stunning views of Ruapehu poking above the clouds all covered in snow (Ruapehu that is, not the clouds) - if you get to see her face you can stay here (allegedly, although I don't think there's a ticky box for that on the Immigration forms) so some gods seem to be on my side at least.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

global village

Last week I had Wee John from NYFSG (a UK Quaker Camp for 11-16yr olds) staying with me, he'd been to Sydney to see Helen (also from NYFSG but her family emigrated to Aussie a few years ago) and had come across to see Aotearoa NZ whilst 'down under' (and whilst Helen had exams or something).

So during the week I took him (ahem, got us a lift...) to the farm where I'd 'taken' Ann & Colin a few months ago as they travelled around after their stint as Resident Friends in Auckland before they returned to Aberdeen.... which is John's 'home' Meeting.

John went from us to Simon (whose parents I live with) in Christchurch - I know they survived the Undy 500 to Dunedin cos I was with Sarah (sister of Simon) in Auckland when she got a text to say they were now in Queenstown presumably in search of snowboarding, and then he was off to Ben & Charlotte's in Wellington... Charlotte stayed with Si & Susie in 2005 just before WGYF, they stayed over here at her parents bach in 2006 and got engaged there (awwww...), Wee John was at their wedding in Edinburgh in September and at NYFSG with them a few weeks ago. As John was arriving at Ben & Charlotte's place last night Ben was on the phone to his mum in Auckland who I'm staying with on my way to Welly - the reason I'm still in Auckland 2 days later than originally planned is I'm meeting Marie tonight at Auckland airport, Marie was staff with me, Susie and Si at NYFSG in 2002, when Wee John was Wee and John R-M was Big!

Got all that??!

Now in October Sarah will be at YFGM in the UK with Alex who was over here for a 15 month long '6mth stay', as will Wee John be and so it goes on.... all interlinked and intertwined like Celtic knotwork. And believe me there's plenty more like that, I haven't even started on who was all at Summer Gathering here this year!

As I've said before and will no doubt say plenty of times again - 6 degrees of separation? Huh, who are you kidding? Throw a few Quakers into the mix and you're down to 2 at the most... By the way if you follow that link you discover that the answer to it all is, of course, 42. And there lies a whole heap of other synchronicities of the last few days which I won't detail here but link the Far North Christian Revival Centres current poster campaign to a six year old in Christchurch , YF dinners and a conversation with Ruth at the farm when I was there with Wee John...

I may be on the other side of the world from the land of my birth but there are times when it really doesn't feel like it as the strands of who knows who in my life seem to become more tightly woven rather than looser.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

back again

No I haven't abandoned my blog, thanks those who asked! My laptop has been poorly bad and is still seriously sulking despite a new battery (again...).

In addition to having unco-operative technology I've spent the last month filling in forms, well that's what it feel like. I've applied to do a Graduate Diploma in Teaching through the University of Auckland next year - and before anyone takes me to task about all those times I've said I'd never want to (a) teach or (b) live in Auckland I hasten to add it's for Early Childhood Education and studying extramurally (which would mean I'd get to live up in Kaitaia still).

So why? Well funnily enough that's what several of the said forms have been asking (both those applying for the course and grovelling for funding loans and grants). I don't think it would have ever occurred to me as a 'career' option in the UK but the more I've learned about Early Childhood Eduction here the more it appeals. The national curriculum 'Te Whariki' translates as the weaving, it is the weaving together of many strands of a childs life and development in the context of their own community surroundings. It is holistic, it has emphasis on the spiritual development of the child and my pidgin anthroposophy could finally come in handy again (about seven years later how appropriate!). When reading through the curriculum I realised it was covering so many of the issues addressed by the Quaker Youthworker course I worked through in fits and starts, what's more as with Quaker youthwork the children are all there through choice (albeit parental/carers) rather than law so there's often a higher level of commitment and enthusiasm supporting the childs presence.

There are a number of Quakers involved here in ECE, both delivering it at a grassroots level and in the training for it, I guess it's not that surprising really!

So I'm waiting to hear if I've got an interview with the university and if I've got my loan application approved. Probably just as well I'm spending this week running around the country catching up with old F/friends rather than sitting here fretting over it. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter and the Quaker Quote

No spoilers I promise (oh and Lucy I've finished it now!) not even oblique references like Kate put in her post...

As you open Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows you come across a couple of quotes - one of which has meant a lot to me for many years. Here is a longer extract of the text as found in Britain Yearly Meeting's book of Quaker Faith & Practice, thought some of you Potter fans who aren't so well acquainted with William Penn might appreciate it...

The truest end of life, is to know the life that never ends. He that makes this his care, will find it his crown at last. And he that lives to live ever, never fears dying: nor can the means be terrible to him that heartily believes the end.
For though death be a dark passage, it leads to immortality, and that's recompense enough for suffering of it. And yet faith lights us, even through the grave, being the evidence of things not seen.
And this is the comfort of the good, that the grave cannot hold them, and that they live as soon as they die. For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. Death, then, being the way and condition of life, we cannot love to live, if we cannot bear to die.
They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies. Nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle, the root and record of their friendship. If absence be not death, neither is theirs.
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal
William Penn, 1693

(the text in bold is that quoted in HPVII)

What I will say (and no this won't spoil it for anyone) is that Dumbledore's insistance in earlier books that love is stronger than anything else comes through even more strongly in this one which has prompted many thoughts. But right now they are whirling around as if in a penseive (and yes Mum I have spelt that right, you really are going to have to read them you know!) but they haven't quite got themselves in enough order to make sense for a blogpost. But needless to say this has decided to float around along with it all - WGYFers and ANZYFs will probably recognise it better than most =)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

delayed gratification

(hands over ears) I'm not listening.... nobody's hearing nothing.....

ok, so that's from a different cult classic but I don't care - just don't tell me what happens. Given I'm in no state to cycle into town I probably won't get my (reserved!) copy until Monday. Meanwhile I'll go back to re-reading through I-VI and pretend HP VII hasn't come out yet...

I said don't tell me ok... Martin, Lucy, Audra - that means you too! Howlers heading in the direction of anyone who tries to spoil anything.

Lousy timing for dizzy spells I can tell you, and they aren't the magical kind either... law of sod I'm home alone again this weekend. Bah humbug, or should that be Cockroach Clusters?

Chocolate frog anyone?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

raining again

It's raining again, hard, and has been all morning.... the fire station siren went off about half an a hour ago, after all the flooding last week I can't be the only one sitting here wondering how high the waters will get this time and if that was a flooding call rather than a fire.

Metservice is warning we could be in for rain most of the day and it's not so much the amount of rain falling that's the problem but the existing saturation levels of the ground - 'Lake' Tangonge will no doubt be expanding further - usually swamp land yet an ever increasing amount of it has been under water for a while now with the winter rains, it's now extended further than most people I've talked to can remember. I know I'll be fine where I am and that I don't need to go anywhere today if I don't want to - I had planned to go to Phyllis' and sort through a crate in her garage to see if it got water got into it last week but as her garage is also full of a neighbour's belongings from her badly flooded home across the road I need to be able to put stuff outside which would seem somewhat counterproductive right now!

I know I'm one of the lucky ones, not only for being above the flood levels but for having enough faith in the way the world works to know that the whatever happens the important needs in life will be met. That might seem a little naive but despite several occasions in life where I've wondered where I'll be living next somewhere has always come up, I've always had who I needed there - even if they weren't who I expected or perhaps wanted. I know that whilst I'd be sad to lose various possessions with sentimental value there are far more important things in life and life's too short to dwell on things rather than people.

Along with many of those rendered homeless by the floods I don't have a clue where I'll be this time next year. I know where I'd like to be, but as life has a funny habit of giving you what you ask for but not necessarily how you expect it to happen I'll not be making any assumptions!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

swings and roundabouts

I've been housesitting for a F/friend in town for the last few days - kind of handy being 10 minutes walk from the shops and the library (where I volunteer a couple of afternoons a week) and of course from the boys too.

It's nice to feel that I don't have to do everything in one go when I'm in town, I can come back later, or tomorrow... I could collect Liam and Ryan myself when I was spending time with each of them and take them home again, none of us needing lifts or for me to cycle in (which given the changeable weather is a blessing!).


It's just not home. I hadn't realised just how much William and Elizabeth's felt like home until I wasn't there. I also hadn't really appreciated how much company Cammi is - even when she's getting under my feet and driving me bananas - at least when I'm talking to myself there I can at least pretend I'm talking to her!

I miss the view too, just standing on the deck with a cuppa and enjoying the fact that the horizon is, well on the horizon and not across the road. I miss the cows and paddocks (fields!) being over the hedge and there when I draw the curtains each morning. The same things I missed when I started flatting in Newcastle and traded my Castle Leazes Halls room on the 5th floor for a view of the backyard and the rear of Dilston Road in sunny Arthur's Hill - all my childhood homes had had views of fields, trees and usually cows too so that 1st year view had only really lacked the hills. After 18 years of no real view in three cities and two hemispheres it's surprising just how quickly I've got firmly attached to having one again!

It's been nice having a few days in town, but I will be glad to get home again. Even Ryan, when he stayed here with me last night, conceded that I was better off at 'Grandma's'. Given he's often telling me I should get a different house so he'd have another place to go and stay I reckon he's right.

It must be said though, the internet connection is much faster here.... ah well, you can't have everything I guess.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

home and dry

Well for anyone keeping a weather eye on the news around here this is a quick update to let you know we're all ok!

Gales and severe flooding hit Northland yesterday - our only excitement out here was when Elizabeth and I had to go and dig out round the shed so the water went around it rather than through it and into the sleep-out which involved clambering over and relocating half the woodpile not to mention getting rather soggy! (Don't worry Simon, the sleep-out has dried out nicely)

Phyllis (William's mother) got evacuated early evening when the flood banks in town were breached, she's just gone back, sounds like the water only got into the garage not the house. Power and water are off in parts of town but Mathew and Co don't seem to be affected. Like us the Bradleys are high enough up not to be really affected. Ruth and Stephan are stranded in Whangerei at Ruth's mothers so no idea what Diggers Valley is like yet, thankfully it's not calving time. The cows on the flats below us had to be moved up a few paddocks as the one they were in became more of a paddle than a field!

Kaitaia College is being used as a refuge so the phone was busy last night with calls for William as various heaters, mattresses etc were being located and updates given. It sounds like the Far North District Council Emergency Plan that got put into place last year all ran as it should which is good to hear. Our mailout from the Government about Emergency kits was sitting unopened until breakfast this morning - but about the only things we hadn't had to hand were sun hats and sunblock but somehow we managed without them =)

I've taken a few 'after' photos of the creek and the flats which I'll post to Flickr once the camera battery has recharged enough...

Anyway, best stop hogging the phoneline

Friday, July 06, 2007


There's a somewhat contradictory part of my nature that really enjoys being organised, putting things in an orderly fashion, setting up filing systems. My fiction books and cds tend to be arranged alphabetically, aged about 7 or 8 I tried inventing my own version of the library cataloguing system when I realised that non-fiction didn't work so well alphabetised by author. I actually enjoyed pulling everything out of my cupboards and reorganising my toys - even if I did need to be told umpteen times to do it first. You see there is the crunch, the contradiction - I love setting these things up but then I get bored and want to do something else and somehow chaos resumes and returns everything to a more natural state.

Today was a day for sorting - I spent a couple of hours helping Simon sort the Lego out, one of those tasks that once started somehow managed to consume most of his day. Then he dropped me off in town to help Libby in the library where I was shelving returned books - putting books in their proper order and moving strays back to where they belong. And this evening? I sat with the script making sure people read the right lines in the right places and rescuing them from straying.

I enjoy it! There's something really quite satisfying about having put everything where it belongs - so why oh why don't I manage to keep on top of order in my life, doing it the sensible a little bit every day way rather than it gradually slipping until the orderly part of me gets exasperated and blitzes the lot? But that wouldn't be half as much fun....

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Ok so it's been a while since I blogged as one or two of you have pointed out, but there hasn't been anything springing to mind to share, a bit like trying to be creative to timetable in Art class at school I haven't found inspiration when I've been at the computer and by then I've usually forgotten anything that had come to mind when I was away from the keyboard... which probably means it wasn't really worth a post anyway.

The last week of term starts tomorrow then we've two weeks of holidays, it's been a long time since school holidays have had any impact on my daily life! It's going to feel quite odd not going to school each morning - not that I'll be stuck for things to do I'm sure. I seldom am anyway and there'll be extra folk around, the boys to play with and adventures no doubt to be had - it's Simon's turn to lead a Tailby Tour methinks =) Ah, and there's a small matter of the Kaitaia Dramatic Society play to be performed for a 5 night run... So if any of you happen to be passing through Kaitaia (as one does!) on the nights of the 5th-7th, 9th and 10th of July tickets are a meer $10 on the door!

My role in the play a I may have mentioned already is production assistant which in the main means being the prompt - so I've ended up knowing everyone's lines not just one part. It's uncanny just how often in a day someone will say something that reminds me of a line in the play. Liam and I were watching 'The Princess Bride' last night for the umpteenth (and probably heading for umptieth!) time in the last couple of months - between us, and the rest of the family, we could probably quote the entire script - and it doesn't take much to spark us off quoting it either. At least with that though there are a few more people in the world who know what we're talking about =)

So life continues to pootle along quite happily here, I just need to find a way to stay here still. I'm so far escaping the matchmaking antics of the teacher aides next door who are currently determind to find a woman for one of the teachers - any rugby and fishing enthusiasts out there prepared to chauffeur the team around, cook the fish he catches (which reminds me of a line in the play...) but not want children let Bev and Glenys know and they'll vet any applicants for suitability!!! They've decided he needs to stop living off cheese and ham toasties at school... fortunately they've also realised I fail on several accounts! I'd much rather they continued keeping an eye out for possible jobs for me than decide that 'marrying a kiwi' is the way to go... and anyway if I did find a man there would be one very disappointed 4 year old who seems to think he has first claim on my affections... I wouldn't want to let him down now would I?

Sunday, June 10, 2007


'Who's that?' asked Ryan pointing at a statue as he cycled along a path whilst his brother played soccer.

Who indeed! Well given we were in a Catholic school's grounds, and it was a long haired bearded chappie in flowing robes with a flaming heart leaping out of his chest and his hand up to stop the traffic in the neighbouring carpark I hazzarded a guess and said 'It's probably meant to be Jesus'.

'It can't be!' came the reply with a furrowed brow and that look that I know these days means more questions are coming... oh no, I panicked a bit, thinking I'm on dodgy ground here. He's an Anglican churchgoer and really ought to be far better aquainted with christian icons than I am - even if he is only four and a half. Please don't ask about the heart, please don't.... pretty much everything I know about Catholisism has been gained from Maeve Binchy books and those folk I know who've abandoned that faith with vengance, so somewhat patchy and decidedly biased to say the least.

'He's not got any shoes on, it can't be Jesus!' Huh? Now I know we called a certain style of untrendy footwear Jesus Sandals at school but c'mon, this is New Zealand - kids commonly go to school in bare feet or even if they do go to school in shoes they don't always come home with them on. Going bare foot here is normal.

'But you don't always wear shoes, you don't even like wearing shoes - why can't Jesus have bare feet?' was my puzzled reply - but phew looked like I was off the hook about that heart thing, Sacred Heart isn't it? There endeth my knowledge on that particular subject, well that and that it adorns the Baz Luhrman 'Romeo & Juliet' merchandise...

'Cos he can't, that's why. He's got to have shoes on' errr....
'Well maybe he's got sandals on and you just can't see them because of his robes - you can only see his toes really'
'But he's got to have shoes on....'
came the concerned reply. 'You come and play with me now?'

Which I duly did... and several hours later the penny dropped that the above mentioned shoes that he doesn't like wearing had to be worn for church on Sundays. See there was logic in there afterall- if Ryan had to wear shoes for church then Jesus bloomin' well had to wear his too. Fairs fair eh?

Sometimes being a Quaker sets you at a disadvantage in such situations, several of us in Wellington often turned up to Meeting in bare feet (including Ryan's uncle!), or kicked shoes off as soon as arriving which is probably why it took so long for the penny to drop. Dressing up for Meeting isn't really the 'done thing' - after all you are who you are and lets face it it's what you are inside as a person that matters far more than what you look like and then there're all those testimony issues about simplicity, equality, integrity...

I've a sneaking suspicion that Jesus, as depicted with his long hair and beard, flowing robes and bare feet (or maybe sandals you couldn't see...) would feel far more at home coming to join a bunch of Quakers for Meeting for Worship than in a church full of people all dressed up to the nines in their Sunday Best. But if he wants that Sacred Heart thing maybe he'd be better with a Romeo & Juliet t-shirt on, don't want to go frightening anyone now do we?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

story time

Alongside half a dozen kids I got a certificate in assembly today - a 'Principals Award' - mine for helping the children with their reading, theirs for effort and/or achievement in various aspects of their classroom activities. I'm not sure who was most suprised to hear my name being called out, me or the kids! Glenys reckons I should put it on my cv =)

The class the kids come to me from straight after morning tea is probably the largest in the school and getting them organised can be a bit chaotic so I've started popping my head around the door on my way to 'my' room to collect my first reader. Today the teacher wasn't there at the time and the Teachers Aide happily let one of the kids come with me who was jumping up and down with excitement to be able to come first... he had to be retrieved a few minutes later and replaced by the correct child who probably wished the other had been allowed to stay by the time we'd got to the end of her 15mins! She now knows more than she ever wanted to about earthworms... not the most exciting of books and not an easy read for her either.

It's fascinating seeing the differing levels of enthusiasm, learning mechanisms and achievement - especially over time. One wee boy manages to memorise books once they are read to him so when he goes through it he just has to work out the first letter of a word he isn't sure of and can usually then remember what it is - an amazing memory skill but completely hopeless for getting him to learn to work out words for himself. We're trying both covering up the pictures and finding stories he doesn't know - it took the whole 15mins to do 3 sentences today but practically every word had to be broken down and worked out. He was soooo pleased with himself when he'd done it though! It felt like a huge breakthrough.

I was an early and avid reader (still am!) so it still seems somewhat incomprehensible to have one girl come who sees the daily extra reading as something to be endured rather than enjoyed. To me the skill of reading and love of books is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone. Much of my weekend time is spent reading stories to children rather than listening to them - some stories I'm beginning to remember off by heart I've read them that many times lately! So some sneaky putting books from the basket back on the shelves and swapping them for new ones has had to be done for my sanity's sake, if Alfie lends a hand once more I think I'll cry never mind Min... but the Taniwha is safe in her river for a while longer, people say its a log - but we know it's a Taniwha.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


When I came out here to live I made a pact with myself - to say 'yes' to whatever offers and opportunities came my way.

Mostly it's been little things like going to see a film I wouldn't have otherwise, or going to the ballet (which it would never have crossed my mind to have done) but sometimes the little things have led to people and places I would have otherwise missed. I've said yes to one of two offers others would have cautioned me against but each time it's proved to have been the right thing to do.

I was watching a film the other night (that I most certainly wouldn't have seen had I not been invited along, cheers John - and Jo for wanting us all to see it) which talked about the power of positive thought on what happens in our lives amongst other concepts - it showed the Japanese research example of the effects on water of different emotions, a blessing, music etc with the comment that as we're made up of 90% water what effect do our thoughts have on us?

I've spent probably more time than I ought to admit to since I moved up here working my way through the Robert Jordan 'Wheel of Time' series of books in which three of the main characters are ta'veren - ie they shape the pattern of the world around them far more than is considered usual, not even by doing anything in particular but by simply being there - with people finding themselves doing things they'd never have done otherwise just because they are in the ta'veren's presence. I've thought a lot over the last year or so about the effects we have on each others lives - sometimes simply by being there, by being patterns and examples - intentionally or otherwise. I found myself likening certain people in my life to ta'veren and then with a somewhat rueful smile realised they could probably say the same about me!

We all affect each others lives so much more than we think we do. Over the last couple of weeks I've been reminded a lot of Jane and Catherine who I'm pretty sure wouldn't have a clue who I am now (if they ever did). They were two 6th formers who came in each Wednesday afternoon to one of the Primary Schools I went to and helped with craftwork. That was not far off 30 years ago yet I can still picture them sitting there helping us embroider tablemats and needlecases or bake scones and biscuits - knowing the difference their presence made to us is partly why I'm helping out nextdoor with the kids reading.

So given the impact our thoughts and attitudes can have on ourselves and our actions on others I'm sticking to my saying yes, my being positive about things (Pollyanna again!) but one of the other things raised by the film has given me a lot of pause for thought and a sense of need for some worshipful space to work it out in. What do I really want to happen in my life? Not just on the surface, but right down to the core of my being... that one raises far more questions than it does answers. For me it comes back yet again to the concept of what's 'calling'. And other than to be right here, right now I still don't have a clear picture for that one yet. Is simply being here enough?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

lightbulb moments

Ok, so it'll be obvious already to any parents out there but for me it's a recent revelation. Children's TV programmes on a lunchtime and when you get home from school, they're for kids right?

Well, they may be in terms of content but in terms of scheduling they are most definately there for the benefit of whoever is trying to get a meal ready! Obvious really when you think about it but until I was actually the one trying to prepare said meal it's a concept that had never even occurred to me...

I've spent a hefty chunk of most weekends lately looking after an assortment of boys on my own, sometimes just one at a time or up to three (and once four...) together. I've never really had to be the one responsible for so long on my own before, babysitting for a few hours or being with others (be they parents or other relatives) with whom the buck stopped I've done plenty of, but overnight stays and whole days on my own? New territory for me.

Must admit the first time I was faced with three of them overnight I was a bit apprehensive, great as they are and much as I love them to bits I do know that angels they most definately are not - would we all survive intact? Well we did, and the WWIII that errupted over who got to sleep in the 'lego room' ended up with the two opponents curled up in my bed and me in the lego room (having politely but firmly declined the offer to climb in with them! There are only so many sharp elbows and knees I'm prepared to put up with in a confined space...)

The house always feels a bit too quiet and empty once they've left, although the quiet when they've gone to bed is usally far more welcome!

I'm realising just how much 'parenting' skills I've picked up from my friends, the little tricks of the trade and ways of dealing with the thornier situations - the is that your grumpy face? routine works a treat on four year olds this side of the globe too! I'm also realising how lucky these boys and various other children I know are who have very close loving relationships with non-grand/parental adults in their lives. People they know they can got to for a cuddle, to talk to if they are upset, to go and stay with without parents.

I remember someone back in Edinburgh telling me how she used to have that kind of relationship with various children (my peers as it happens) from Meeting but that these days she wouldn't dare have that kind of warm, huggy relationship and to have F/friends children and teenagers over to stay. What would it look like - a single woman having all these children who she wasn't related to around all the time? Times are changing she said, it just can't be done anymore. It felt sad at the time to hear it, and we're talking well over five years ago now. It feels even sadder now having really experienced for myself the joys of doing just that. I know where she's coming from though and I'd probably think a bit differently about it in the UK too. Yet another reason to thank the heavens I'm here...

I've been 'borrowing' other people's children for years now, it used to be adopting little 'brothers and sisters' at Summer School and later becoming a Summer School 'mum' and a (fairy - allegedly) godmother. I've sat through more pregnancy/breastfeeding/nappy conversations than I'd even want to contemplate counting and can hold my own in discussions about the benefits of raspberry leaf tea and the wonders of cabbage leaves - which came in handy yesterday when chatting with three mums at football (sorry - I mean soccer...), two of whom are heavily pregnant again. Someone referred to me yesterday as 'your aunty' when talking to Ryan - a term used here as much as in Yorkshire to mean any adult female in your life, whether it's the nextdoor neighbour, a friend of the parents or a relative (or all three in one!), but in many ways it feels an appropriate term in the family sense. It's very much what my relationship with these three boys has become over the years, as with Summer School kids it's a direct relationship rather than because of their parents yet with the closeness I have say with my godson (or at least did before I abandoned him to move here - I'm sorry Morgan...). And surely not even in Britain could it be frowned on to go and stay at your aunty's?

So where is all this taking me? Dunno; I'm not likely to become a mum in a hurry (let alone the usual 9 months...) and if I did become an actual aunty a small matter of 10,000 or so miles would get in the way somewhat! But it has certainly taken some of the scariness out of the parenting concept, altho I'm still awaiting convincement on the pregnancy front - despite Leith and Avon both positively glowing at YF Camp! So I think I'll just continue to live in the moment, enjoy being the doting 'aunty' for as long as I can and welcome the learning curve as no doubt it'll come in handy one day for something - life's like that.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Ok, haven't been blogging much - so here's a bit if a blether to catch you up with my life...

Various back-up plans were put in place before I came up here to housesit in case I got lonely, bored or whatever and decided that Kaitaia, or more to the point Pukepoto wasn't the place for me (a good half hours cycle from town - remember I don't drive! Oh and I've hardly ridden a bike in the last 20 years). I did try to point out at the time it was unlikely to be necessary...

It's so long now since I've been bored (other than those end of illness days when I'm well enough to want to do something but not actually up to doing most of it) that I've forgotten how to be. Lonely? I haven't been given the chance to be thanks to those I knew up here already making sure I see them regularly - and I like to think it's not just for the supply of fruit I pass in their direction =)

But it's not just those I knew already, what with helping with the Kaitaia Dramatic Society production, volunteering at the primary school next door and being introduced to others by existing friends I'm feeling very much part of the community here. I've said many times being a Quaker makes the world a smaller place - turns out a teacher at the College here who is in the play was mates with Leif in Lancaster! Did I know him? Mike asked not really expecting me to - but I certainly do and last time I saw him he stayed with me for Sally & Luke's wedding! Add to that the usual small town connections and it appears that everyone I meet knows most of the others I know - although knowing the Principal of the College, a Church Minister and two GPs is a pretty good start in any community! As with Wellington I've really landed on my feet in terms of having a solid foundation to build on right from the word go.

Must admit to not having done half the things I intended to yet... (sorry Marion, I will write that RF report eventually, but at least I got the YF newsletter article done...) . I'm getting heaps of time being entertained by 5 boys aged 4-12 - I love it and the novelty most certainly hasn't worn off yet, apparently much to the amazement of both sets of parents ("Are you sure you don't mind having them?"). The one down side of the many trips to the beach is that Cammi seems to bring half of it home with her, usually within hours of me doing the hoovering too :/ At least she's not found a stinky fish head for a few trips now altho' the dead possum from the road that she dragged down the banking and hid somewhere to roll in for about a week certainly left her in the dog house (literally) . I know the only good possum in this country is a dead one but believe me the stench is enough for me to begin to wish they could be left alive.

In case any of the Edinburgh crowd are reading this you'll be pleased to hear I've converted Dylan to The Proclaimers =) We were discussing music and realised that neither of us knew more than one in a dozen of the names of the bands we each listened to (not that I was any better at knowing music a 12 year old would listen to in Britain either despite years of Summer Gathering and Link Group!) so it was time for some education and with his passion for Scotland it seemed an obvious place to start! I just need to teach him to bounce properly during 'I'm Gonna be...' now =) (as I've said before, where's Roz when I need her?!)

In fact when it comes to education I've really been doing my bit - 2 total converts to Ivor the Engine and one to Bagpuss. How cool is it to hear kids going tchoo-ti-cum, tchoo-ti-cum when playing later with lego trains knowing where they've got it from?! Haven't even tried The Clangers yet... More seriously though helping the kids at the school with their reading is just fantastic, in just a week I can see improvement in some of them. There's one wee boy whose reading isn't that great but he just loves the stories and gets sooo excited by them and puts so much expression into any dialogue. Whereas someone I had today who is a far better reader technically yet sounded like an automaton - it was quite sad really cos it was a beautiful story.

Anyway tis bedtime so this will have to do for now - got to get up for school in the morning!

Monday, May 14, 2007

another world

In Britain you need to get Criminal Records disclosures (which can take months to come through and you need a new one for each post/role you take on), a couple of references and fill in various forms to be able to do any work with children, even just looking after them for Childrens' Meeting some Sunday mornings.

Last week I popped round to the local primary school (which is literally next door) and had a short discussion with someone asking if they needed any volunteers to help with reading etc. Today I went back round, met a couple of teachers with the Principal for a couple of minutes at the end of playtime - could I start tomorrow doing 1 to 1 work?!?

No doubt there will be forms etc to follow but the whole attitude to working with children is just so different here. At times it scares the living daylights out of me when I realise the lack of expectation for training for things like outdoor activities, swimming supervision etc, but at others it is refreshing and a breath of fresh air. It's a reminder of what it used to be like before everyone started getting paranoid. Some of it is the lack of blame culture - if a kid gets hurt doing something then the prevailing attitude here seems to be well the kid'll learn not to do that again rather than who was to blame for not stopping it happen.

It's quite sad really to realise just how much blame I expect to have to take when responsible for other people's children - somehow we're expected in Britain to be infailable, to be experts, to have eye's all round our head and to be conscious of what is happening in our sleep. And this is expected as much of the 18 yr old first time staff member of a camp as someone who has brought up four kids who are all now adults and/or who has taught for over 20 years.

Having lived with the British culture of child protection (and studied it at uni during a time of big changes to the law) my brain immediately starts thinking about issues like not being in closed spaces alone with a child, keeping doors open, always making sure people know you are there, not being alone with a child of the opposite sex (which has always seemed crazy as it assumes a certain sexual orientation!) - all the things that have been drummed into me so much that they are second nature now, no matter how overly cautious they seemed when they first came out. Now it's almost unnerving not to be expected to take these things into account as a matter of course! I know only too well how damaging unfounded allegations can be, but also what can and does go on behind closed doors in supposedly safe settings like schools.

It's certainly going to be interesting learning more about what it's like in schools here compared to how it is at Quaker camps, how the attitudes to such things vary and what is expected of me.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

taking the plunge...

I've been to the beach with the Bradleys several times since getting here, in fact usually a couple of times a week. They go for a swim and the closest I get is plodging along the edge with Cammi. She's got a decent excuse, ickle legs and doggy paddle aren't really designed for Ninety Mile Beach surf. me? I'm just a wuss...

I have got a reasonable(ish) excuse in that I grew up well away from the beach, in Britain where holidays by the beach meant building sandcastles, burrying each other and playing cricket, hardly going in the water at all - we're mainly talking the Irish Sea here and Gulf Stream Current or not it certainly isn't the Mediteranean. Also I'm decidedly wary of the surf here having found myself pounded down by it and totally disoriented as to which way was up at the Coromandel 3 years ago.

But it's getting to the point where I really am going to have to go in beyond my knees, even if that does mean leaving Cammi behind. There's only so many times you can be shown up by 9yr olds before you start feeling silly! I guess this means I'll have to open up the last box as I suspect that's where my togs are, not having seen them since Wellington...

It's a bit scary really - but I'll not be on my own and Ann has literally offered to hold my hand if I need it... I can do it, I know I can, I just have to get it over and done with...

The other thing I need to do is book mine and Sarah's tickets - something that is really scary for both of us. The idea of booking a flight way from here literally makes me feel sick, I'll be booking a return trip but with no certainty of being able to come back on the same flight as Sarah as so far Immigration aren't playing ball. Having psyched each other up to do this on the phone the Air New Zealand site decided it was on overload and won't let me book... grrrr. I need to go back now and try again, before I lose my nerve.

Deep breath and go for it.........

Thursday, May 03, 2007

pootling about

It's funny how the days seem to disappear without actually doing very much with them! Well it feels like I don't, altho I have made my way along about a footsworth of Sam's bookshelves which could explain where a lot of the time has gone...

It's quite strange having no pressure to do things, it's a bit like that feeling you get (well I got!) after leaving school or uni when the realisation hits you that there's no outstanding homework to be doing as it's too late now.

Having said that I've got play rehearsals lined up for what looks like 4 nights a week for the rest of the month - I'm the production assistant, which means I get to ding a bell, read out cue lines and prompt when people forget their words. Much better doing that from the sidelines than being on stage I reckon =) It's good fun, a good play and funny too - and getting funnier as the actors get to grips with their roles. Also it's a way of getting to know a few more people here, not that I'm short of company when I want/need it. It's obviously becoming part of my subconcious though as when I got home last night to a pile of clean towels needing folded that had been grabbed in off the line before dashing out, I found myself folding them the 'proper way' instead of how I would normally - the towel folding scene in the play is just priceless!

I'm no closer to working out what comes next in life yet - altho' Sarah and I are busy planning our trip to the UK in October, I'm just hoping I get to come back with her! She says I've got to as she doesn't want to have to fly back on her own... can't see Immigration falling for that one though somehow, methinks they'll need something more than that.

I'm loving it here, even though the various flying bitey things seem to love me being here too - I'm hanging in there for that immunity that eventually comes with time... despite the uncertainty about life I'm finding I've got a sense of calm about it all and am simply enjoying time to just be.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

would you like climate change with that?

what we learned at YF Camp!

Akin to the world's leaders current preoccupation, much of YF Camp was spent discussing climate change, what it means and our response to it. Whilst we can't personally do much about factory or agricultural emissions that doesn't mean we can't lead the way within our own community. We came up with (amongst others) the following Minute:

To Yearly Meeting, we strongly advocate and offer our assistance to the formation of an Aotearoa NZ Testimony to Sustainability and the Earth. We also call for the development of YM policies on sustainable codes and practices in Quaker buildings, gatherings and events. We ask that time be allocated to these issues at Yearly Meeting 2007.

We've also established our own Climate Change group, started work on guidelines towards improving the sustainability of our own YF Camps (both this YF Camp and the last Summer Gathering have been carbon neutralised as best we can), started discussions on possible future sustainable property options and made some headway with an article on the sustainable codes we're asking YM for (working on which is on my 'to do' list...).

Several YFs went away from Camp determind to reduce their carbon footprints by reducing the amount of meat they eat, if not cutting it out altogether. Sarah and Mim decided in the car home to combine the skills learned at Bridget's printing workshop with the climate change message (and Grace's catchy slogan!) - as Cat would say think it do it... the photo is above!

Living here with so much fresh fruit, eggs and veg around plus all the time I need for baking my own bread and making meals from scratch it would be easy to get complacent about my dietary impact on the world. But my ricemilk comes from Australia in unrecyclable tetrapaks, chick peas are from heaven knows where, you can buy NZ grown lentils but I'm not sure if you can in Kaitaia yet, my tea and coffee are imported (albeit organic and fairly traded) and no matter how hard I try I still seem to use a fair number of products in unrecyclable packinging.

I don't drive, and still don't intend to learn (for many reasons including environmental) however there is only so far, and so often, I can get on the bike but I'm trying to keep to a minimum the number of extra journeys others have to make on my behalf - luckily for me the road to Ahipara is commonly used by those happy to give me a ride.

At camp we were urged to 'be patterns, be examples' on this issue, it's not so much a case of 'what canst thou say?' but what canst thou do?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

strange fruit

Apologies to anyone who was getting worried... I'm ok! Just managing to get a few other things ticked off my to do list now I've actually got more hours in the day than things I have to do to fill it rather than visa versa. No chance of me getting bored though - lots to photograph (even though I've yet to figure out how to upload them given this machine sulks and turns off if you use the usb port...), ooodles of great books to read, my quilting stuff arrives tomorrow and there's the garden, chooks and Cammi to look after....

Having lived in this country now for 18 months and been visiting for over 3 years the number of occassions when it hits me hard that I'm a comer-in rather than a local had been gradually diminishing. Until I got here when everything stepped back up a gear. Ok, so how do you know when a tamarillo is ripe? (and then what do you do with them?!), what about figs (I've only ever eaten them dried!), guavas - both red and yellow, persimons (spelling?), and how come limes turn yellow? The apples I can cope with, mandarins I got used to in Wellington but the rest of the fruit I'm far more used to seeing on the greengrocers shelves - if there!

The chickens are having to put up with just getting their coop moved as far as I can pull in one go rather than the distance they should be but that's getting further each day. I've not (yet) fallen off the bike and John fixed it to the right height for me rather than the basketball player height M&Q's spare was set at (my elbow has healed over now, but the bruise on my bum from where the sadle hit me is still a corker!).

YF Camp is already feeling like a distant memory, yet it was only a week ago that we started heading north from Wanganui round the Taranaki coast to Auckland. It's almost two weeks now since I left Wellington behind with GFH now in Alan & John's capable hands. It feels like there ought to be lots of reflection going on about the last 18 months, and the months to come, but right now I'm happily content living in the moment, taking each day as it comes and enjoying simply being here.