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.