Friday, September 30, 2011

the cost of ethics

A couple of weeks ago our town centre supermarket closed down. They have built a much larger store, complete with petrol station, a mile or so out of town on the opposite side of town from where I live (which given the small size of Kaitaia doesn't actually add that much distance really!).

Where PaknSave used to be was on my way home from work, I walked past it most days and would pop in for a few things at a time. I don't do the main grocery shopping so seldom need to buy much at once in any case but I also have to walk home with it, I have never gone to buy more than I can carry on a regular basis no matter where I've lived.

Whilst in theory the new supermarket is within walking distance it's not a very practical option for me, certainly not worth the effort involved for half a dozen items as it would require a special trip - I've no other reason to be out that way.

There is a shopper bus service that has been set up twice a week but it doesn't fit in with my work hours. So where does that leave me?

Well many of the things I bought there I can find in other shops in town - at a higher price but some I can't so I'll need to go there occassionally, albeit in someone's car, which therefore means I could buy more at once but bang would go my carefully worked out budgeting strategy...

So.... do I vote with my feet and purse and buy what I can in town each week as before, paying the higher price financially yet supporting those traders who are in the town centre serving those of us who don't have a car? Or do I figure out a weekly or so system for getting out of town, paying less but buying into the car orientated culture that has caused the shift in the first place (parking at the old store was a major problem).

Fortunately my finances can probably cope with a few extra dollars a week to buy most things in town but for many others in town who have walked to PaknSave to do their shopping - including pensioners in the nearby flats - the chances are it starts to create some hard choices over where the money goes, on bills or food?

Will the shift out of town mean people are less likely to shop in the other town centre shops now? Will businesses suffer or benefit? Usually the trend is for them to suffer, another reason to shop locally for me. We have enough empty shop units on the high street as it is, not to mention high unemployment.

Ah well, more incentives to get to the market early on a Saturday before all the veggies have gone and to get some more planted in the garden!

Friday, August 26, 2011

stuff and nonsense

I was reading Kate's blog post the other day about the deliberations of what to do with 'stuff' as you transition from one life to another and it reminded me of various moves in life but particularly as I packed up my life in Scotland and headed down under.

I too was putting stuff in storage, unsure as to when/whether I'd need it again and indeed how long I'd be gone for. I'm a few steps ahead of Kate now having got to the point of shifting all my stuff out of UK storage and shipping it firstly to a storage unit in Auckland and then to various rooms and the shed of the house I lived in for 4 years. However it is transition time again. Yet again the various boxes of possessions are being reassessed. In the interests of freeing up storage space, and indeed the spare bedroom, of a house I no longer live in I'm gradually moving my stuff a few bags and the occassional car load at a time to another house. However this house is full of yet more stuff! So I can only move my stuff in as we declutter the rest of the house to make room for it...

So decluttering and decisions of what to keep/store/take have been very much a part of my life again recently. Previous clear-outs have been bolstered by referring repeatedly to Karen Kingston's book 'Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui'. Regardless of your views on feng shui and its effectiveness I thoroughly recommend reading it if you are needing help clearing stuff out. She goes through all the arguements for keeping stuff and takes them apart piece by piece in a way that helps you let go gracefully of things and let them live a new meaningful life through whichever means of recycling you choose - regifting, donating to charity, recycling, composting etc. but also accepting that some things simply are rubbish and need to go...

This time I don't have a copy to hand, having leant mine out yet again (about my 4th or 5th copy as I keep donating it too!) so I'm having to rely on memory and the website for those tricky 'but I've kept it all these years, stored it and shipped it half way around the world - I can't throw it out now...' moments. Clearing out other people's stuff is sooo much easier as there just isn't that same level of sentimentality attached to things - is it useful? is it beautiful? do I/we/you need it? are criteria enough, especially now we've found that the museum will happily take things off our hands that fall into the 'but that's history, you can't throw that out!' category (which led to much rejoicing all round).

But there are still things, like my assorted good quality kitchen items that I've collected over the years, that fall into that no mans land of not being needed right now, but really are beyond my ability to replace with equivalent items should I find myself needing them again. Given the lack of permanence in my life that could be anything from a few months to a few years away - so back in the box they go, for now.

In general I've got used to living with owning less than most my age do, mainly from having lived in places full of stuff belonging to others for the last 6yrs. It is much easier to live simply with few possessions when someone else provides the white goods, the bed, the sofa etc etc etc! But one thing I have come to realise over a lot longer period of time is that when I've needed things they have usually turned up, as gifts, helping clear a house, as loans, as offers of places to live. So with that lesson behind me it is much easier to let go of stuff that would do far better being used by someone else than stuck in a box and/or being a millstone around my neck that makes being able to go where the spirit blows me next totally impractical.

So, I'll keep plodding through those boxes and cupboards of my stuff and see what still really does need kept and what I can finally accept is a nonsense to continue hanging on to. But I know it won't be easy, any more than it is for the space to be made for what is left over to migrate into.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

a proud proxy parent

I've been thinking for some time now that one of the unexpected spin offs of years of Quaker youthwork is the number of 'proud proxy-parent moments' that come along year after year. In many cases it is long after the YPs (young people - UK) or JYFs (Junior Young Friends - ANZ) have ceased to be teenagers. This week has been particularly exceptional.

On many occasions Facebook has been means by which I've heard of these events - be they climbing Kilimanjaro, running half/marathons or whatever and organising events to raise money for charity (often Cystic Fibrosis - the 'Anders effect' in action yet again!), standing up for those with little or no voice in society, amazing athletic achievements, voluntary work overseas, working in far flung places, making their way up the academia ladder, publishing books, writing and recording music... The list goes on and on and on.

Also I see them going back and being staff at the very events where I first met them, keeping the torch burning, inspiring further generations to 'be patterns, be examples' and walk/climb/swim/cycle/etc cheerfully over the world. I see them also going back to be speakers, I see them taking responsibilities within the Quaker world as well as the 'real world' out there.

It reminds me of the people who inspired me as a Quaker teenager, who made me want to be like them and come back as a 'stu hel', link group leader or staff - some of whom I still manage to connect with, again mostly through Facebook, and I really value having that connection still there. Which is why when I get a 'Facebook friend request' from any of the YPs from over the years I almost always accept. It certainly adds variety to my newsfeed it has to be said given their age range is mid teens to mid 30s!

But more importantly it reminds me that I am part of a continuum; that I've provided some of those 'proud proxy-parent moments' for others who did a pretty good job of training me up as a Quaker teenager/Young Friend and that whilst I am now old enough to be the real parent of any teens I work with, actually age doesn't really come into it - I still feel like a proud mum whether they are 35 or 15, and what's more I'll probably still be collecting Quaker 'children' for a good number of years to come.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

the importance of being Colin

as opposed to Ernest, the Great Uncle I hardly knew.

Colin was Dad's second cousin, Colin's grandma Jessie Farr was sister to my great grandma Kate Farr, who married John Dunford after they'd both emigrated to Christchurch from their homes in Solihul and Somerset. Sadly Durham St Methodist Church where they were married was one of the victims of the Christchurch earthquake, it just about withstood September 2010's big shake but February 2011 tumbled all but the West End doorway to the ground.

I first met Colin when I was aged about 12 when he and his wife Joan visited the UK making connections with the family members his parents had visited when they came over in the 1950s. So when I came over to New Zealand, first to visit and then to live, it was really special to me to be able to reconnect with Colin. I have quite a number of relatives here, but Colin was the only one who had known me as a child, albeit briefly. It was Colin who took me and his older sister Joyce around various family members scattered across the Canterbury Plains helping me fill in the gaps of our family tree and introducing me to the wider Farr family decendents.

Each time I've been down to Christchurch with time to spare I've caught up with Colin and Joyce, they have come to fill the gap in my life where my great aunts and uncles were - not that I ever met any of them that often and it's probably at least 15yrs since the last of them died. Colin and Joyce I've got to know well, with all the advantages of being able to get to know them as an adult.

I spent the majority of the last term break travelling around the 'Mainland' (aka the South Island) visiting F/friends and family - which of course included Joyce and Colin whilst in Christchurch for a couple of days. We had most of an afternoon and into the evening together, the longest length of time since my first visit to them 7yrs ago. Last time I'd seen Colin in late September he'd been tired, was awaiting catarract operations and had other health issues, not long after he'd gone to the Dr and was whisked into respite care which developed into him getting a self contained flat at the rest home complex. This time he was much more cheerful, the catarract operations had been successful and he was driving again. He was reading his father's diary about their trip to Europe in the '50s and was just getting up to the part where they had visited my grandparents and family in Somerset.

As ever it was lovely to catch up, hear about family members I'd met on my travels, and those I've still only heard about, to hear stories of years gone by, of Colin and Joyce's own international travels and their wistful wishes to see those places and people again.

Sadly for Colin at least that was not to be, just 10 days after I saw him Colin passed away, on the day I got back home from my own travels. With the last day of the school holidays getting back down to Christchurch and home again in time for the new term starting wasn't possible as flights were full. It would have been special for me, and my family back home, to be able to be there to say goodbye to Colin. It would have been a fantastic chance to catch up with so many of those we'd been talking about just days before. But if it had had to be one or the other I am so grateful for those hours we had together and that my last memories of Colin are the happy smiling face, albeit accompanied by a wheezy chest, rather than the worried one feeling every one of his 87 years from the year before.

It is going to be strange next time I go south, I'm going miss Colin.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

comings and goings

Well I'm off sick with a tummy bug for the second time in two weeks, well I think it is a tummy bug, it could however be drug side effects hence being booked in to see my GP again next Monday. On the plus side these new drugs don't make me drowsy, I hadn't realised just how big an effect the others were having in that respect until I stopped taking them!

The plus side of being off sick (not that I've actually been sick etc today, just not allowed to go back until tomorrow due to our 'do not return within 24hrs' policy for both staff and kids) is that I've been able to get two loads of washing out on the line - given how much rain we've had lately this is definitely a bonus! I've also done some more of my Ara Reo homework, however having missed class last night it was hardly a case of catching up... a tutorial on Friday should hopefully fill in the gaps. 2nd year is definitely harder than 1st year, but I guess that figures.

Over the last few weeks I've continued to plod along building up my Civil Defence Emergency kit - I scrounged a camping stove off William a few weeks ago when I realised we had nothing to cook on in the event of a power cut (and we'd just had 3 in the previous 48hrs! Thankfully none of them over a meal time). Of course we've had no power cuts since but that stands to reason dunnit. There seems to be a huge drive at the moment to try to get Kiwis more prepared - Countdown have a series of awareness adverts on the tv looking at what to put in your kits (obviously pointing out the things they sell along the way!) and The Warehouse have a stand now labled 'Emergency Kits' with torches, camping stoves, buckets etc on it. I'm not quite at the point of wanting to spend $50 on a 5 gallon bucket complete with a toilet seat and lid though it has to be said ($10 for a lidded nappy bucket is probably a more likely option!) although given friends of mine in Christchurch are still using a portapotty which they empty into a tank down the street after 9 months maybe that loo seat would be worth it. Tummy bugs do focus your attention on issues around being able to go to the loo.

Speaking of Christchurch, I'm off there in a few weeks en route to Hokitika to see Ryan and Sean in the term break (well and the rest of the family obviously but I promised Ryan & Sean I'd visit them, hence the trip). Te Koru roopu iti at kindergarten are rather concerned about this fact and keep telling me that they are worried about me going, just as well kindergarten has a blog site so I can update it to let them know I've safely arrived at 'Sean's house' (Sean was at our kindergarten before they moved) - ash clouds, tornados, earthquakes and any other natural disasters permitting of course!

But there are a few more weeks of term to get through first and who knows what they'll bring.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

there's life Jim, but not as we know it...

Well part of the reason for me coming to live in town a few weeks ago was to see if my energy levels were improved by being within walking distance to/from work. A potential side effect of this as it were was the possibility of extending (ok, getting) a life beyond work and the computer (even if that is mainly both social and Quaker committee work!)

However current medication means that whilst I can indeed move a lot more easily than I could a month or so ago with next to no joint pain I'm only awake/functioning for roughly 12hrs out of 24.

So I'm living with someone more than twice my age who is up before me (not difficult I realise even when I'm in the best of health!), goes to bed after me, has a social calendar that would leave me in a heap in the corner and I'm the one taking all the medication in the house. There is something decidedly wrong with this picture. At least I can read the small print and best before dates, change lightbulbs and tell when the dishes are properly clean, so I don't feel totally inadequate around here!

Next step, try to get the medication regime changed so I can move AND be awake something closer to normal adult hours - surely that isn't asking too much, is it?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

taking stock

Well it has been an eventful few months, 2011 is looking like it is going to give 2010 a run for it's money in the 'interesting times' stakes that is for sure. The idea of having some time where nothing much happened and life just ticked over with no major news, disaster, illness or other upheaval to deal with has a huge appeal! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for some serious down time during the Easter holidays but I'll not bother holding my breath... It has been a time to take stock of life in many ways - and the recent earthquake in Christchurch (and now Japan too) has added a flurry of activity on the practical taking stock front too. How well prepared am I for a major emergency? In the event of having to make a full scale insurance claim rather than just one or two items do I actually know what I've got?

The internet and mobile phone network proved valuable allies over the days after the earthquake as friends and family used text, emails and facebook to pass the word around as to who had been accounted for and the state of them and their houses. It struck me just how used we have become to being able to get instant answers, in some ways it saves a lot of waiting and worrying, but on the other hand when three days (yep, just 3 days) down the line I still hadn't heard from someone I was starting to get really quite worried - thankfully they are all ok, in fact amongst the least affected - they'd just been too busy helping others to think that folk might be worrying about them! How well would my communication technology stand up to being left without a reliable power supply? Not very, I suspect... note to self, research solar powered phone charger options.

Several friends of mine in far more earthquake prone parts of the country started discussing setting up an emergency kit - I couldn't believe they didn't have one already! One of the first things on mine and Marion's 'to do' list when I became Resident Friend was massively upgrade the decidedly sparse and Anna-unfriendly (meatballs and cheesey pasta?!) earthquake kit at the Meeting House. Since moving north I hadn't given it as much thought as we're far safer here, tropical cyclones and tsunami aside, but recent events did mean that I did some rearranging so that anything I might need of my own was all together in the one place and not scattered throughout boxes and cupboards. Plus I finally got around to buying some more batteries for my old kitchen radio and got back into the habit of carrying my pocket one in my bag, something that had lapsed since I'd lost the option of Radio 2 or TMS on the way home from work!

But on a slightly more intangible front - where am I in life? What are my options? My need to be able to get to/from work under my own steam in my own time without knocking me for six has led to rethinking where I live. The amount of Quaker committee work currently seems to excede my energy for it but that is related to the previous issue. Reaching a physical change in life stage brings it's problems but also raises some inevitable questions that most of life's landmarks do.

So a lot of thinking, mulling over and waiting for the universe to reveal it's plans seems to be on the cards... along with making a few lists!