Wednesday, December 04, 2013

strengthening our constitution

On Saturday Friends in the Far North hosted a workshop in Kerikeri looking at the 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Treaty of Waitangi (there being two versions, one in each language - and they don't match), our country's unwritten constitution and He Whakaputanga, the 1835 Declaration of Independence.

There were twelve of us participating - half Quakers, half interested locals attracted by an short plug in the local newspaper. So with David James of the Rowan Partnership being our Quaker facilitator we just outnumbered the visitors! Some Friends had expressed trepidation about advertising locally, worried that those who just wanted to rant would come along, but those fears were unfounded. Our visitors included Tangata Whenua (local Māori), New Zealanders of European descent and, like many of the Quakers present, someone who had emigrated to this country.

Much of the benefit of the day was gaining a better understanding of why the constitutional system we have doesn't work, but aside from that the things that really touched my heart rather than my head were comments made by two of our visitors.

One, who had said in the introductions that he'd 'come to be a Quaker for the day' shared at lunchtime how he had been to a Quaker Meeting once before down in Palmerston North out of curiosity as he'd been staying along the road from the Meeting House. Like many people on their first encounter with silent/waiting worship he sat there for a while wondering 'when it was going to start', and it was only when Friends shared afterwards their 'almost ministry' or thoughts during Meeting that he realised that they'd 'all been connecting with their wairua together, and that was really neat' (wairua being spirit). He put it so simply, yet really encapsulated what it is we do in Meeting for Worship - I've heard it said by several people in the past, the Māori language has a way for describing the spiritual, and Quakerly concepts, that leaves English looking clumsy. As a Yearly Meeting this really is something we should make better use of!

Another of the visitors was a local kaumatua, a Māori elder, he described the values he sees as enshrined in He Whakaputanga.

Tapu - respecting that which is sacred in the places and people involved; in doing so you acknowledge and uphold their mana, their self-worth and status (a poor translation, but English doesn't really have an equivalent concept). Tika, doing things right shows pono, integrity or faith in what is being said and done; sharing aroha, love, between all of us as we work towards hohourongo which (again poorly) translates as reconciliation between us, or forgiveness.

It was a priviledge to have him with us, and even more so to hear him at the end of the day checking he had contact details for the local Quakers sorted as 'our people need to meet with you people more often like this and see how it is done'. I felt that we really had been able to meet together in the spirit of He Whakaputanga, and had at least done something to help uphold our YMs commitment to honouring our Te Tiriti obligations and the constitutional review process.

As goodbyes were being said we felt like there had been some connections made that would hopefully lead to our paths crossing again, but even if not our wairua had become entwined and would travel on within each other regardless.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Remembering Natalie

Last week I got to meet up with Richard, Matthew and Caleb for a few hours and hand over a community quilt I'd co-ordinated, from our ECE Grad Dip class to them in memory of Natalie. It was so good to get to hang out with them and catch up on each others lives again.

Back in May 2012 I'd been wishing that there was something more I could do for Natalie as she braved the cancer that was taking over her life. Sending cards and chocolate just didn't seem to be enough. With Natalie and I both being quilters a quilt seemed like an obvious choice. Natalie was one of those people who naturally brought people together and created communities of love around her, so a community quilt felt like the obvious thing to do.

I contacted Natalie's friend Charlotte through facebook as I knew she had been the inspiration for Natalie's quilting and asked if she'd help me organise one. I had no idea really where to start but Charlotte got drafting some lovely words and instructions to be sent out and I started contacting some of our fellow classmates asking if they'd be interested in contributing. But just after I'd got her first draft we learned of the quilt their local church had made for Natalie and it took the wind out of our sails a bit – was doing another quilt really the right thing to do now?

Then of course events over took us as the cancer overtook Natalie and grief took precedence as we all tried to get to grips with losing what felt like the glue that had held our mostly online community together. Ange being able to get to the funeral was really important to us and whilst I wish she were nearer I'm so grateful that life had taken her and her family to live in Australia too. But as the weeks went on I got asked by fellow classmates 'What's happening about the quilt? Are we still going to do it?' The fact that they had asked proved to me that we still needed to, as much for ourselves as for anyone else.

After some discussion the quilt went forward as a 'Class of 2008' project rather than a wider community quilt. One of our lecturers, Helen Hedges who had become a good friend of Natalie's, arranged for a slightly re-worded version of Charlotte's letter to be sent out via the University Alumni office and she made contact with Natalie's practicum placements for me.

Natalie's memorial came and went, I'm so glad I was able to be part of that – for myself and again representing our class. I really wanted to say something alongside the other tributes but all I could find were tears rather than words and folk had enough of those of their own!

The squares started coming in late January 2013, originally the hope had been to have a weekend in Wellington pulling it all together around Waitangi Day, but for various reasons that wasn't practical, which is just as well as the squares were still drifting in well after then!

Eventually, after chasing down a couple I knew 'were coming honest', I had 12 squares – these were photographed and laid out as a grid in a document and emailed to what had become the main decision/support group. I needed help – how should they be arranged? Did we need additional squares to make the quilt bigger? What colour/s should be used between the squares etc etc etc... several emails later the decisions were made – more squares as the quilt needed to be big enough for the boys and Richard to be able to snuggle under together, not just one of them on their own, and the hatching between the squares would represent the colours of Papatuanuku and Ranginui – going from brown, through green to blue.

The colour scheme helped decide the layout of the contributed squares which fell naturally into the three bands. I don't know how Karyn came up with the rainbows but they were just perfect after the 'Somewhere over the rainbow' song that had been played at the memorial. I really wanted to use some of the material that I had been given by Nora, Natalie's nana, when Natalie and I visited her the last time I saw her, just before Christmas 2011, when both of us left with an enormous stash to work our way through. I'd already identified some for the backing and was trying to figure out which to use to fill in some extra squares to fill out the quilt to a larger size when I came across a bag of hearts pinned on to calico squares.

These hearts had been cut out in 2010, Natalie had sent me a link to a blog post by a woman in Canterbury who felt called to make 'healing heart quilts' for the families of the 29 Pike River Miners who lost their lives. Both of us made a bundle and sent them off. I'd not known how many to make so had decided well I'll cut out 29 and see how far I get! I posted off 15 and then heard that more than enough hearts had been received and any surplus were going to be made into quilts for those affected by the Christchurch earthquakes in September that year. So as other projects were waiting, the other hearts ended up stuck in a bag and put to one side.... until now. It seemed really appropriate to use them given that making them had been Natalie's idea in the first place. The calico squares were smaller than the other squares so bordering them, mostly with Nora's stash, solved that problem.

I had hoped to get it all together and done by the first anniversary of Natalie's death, but as with making the squares, it all took a lot longer than anticipated. Partly because it was a really emotional process. It was almost like I didn't want to finish it at times, as that would be letting go, and I wasn't sure I was ready for that yet. Several people commented on how much harder it had been than they had expected to make the squares, not challenging in terms of skills, but choosing what to do, and then actually doing it. It really was part of our grieving process. Several others didn't feel their sewing skills were up to the task but remembered Natalie with much affection and admiration, the squares completed may be fairly small in number but they represent a much greater memory of Natalie and gratitude for us having her in our lives.

Apart from the grieving process having the responsibility for other peoples' work felt like a huge responsibility! I was worrying about not being able to make it perfect, and had been putting things off for weeks as a result. Then one day when I was thinking about it I heard Natalie's voice in my head saying 'Cs make degrees, it'll have to do, it's good enough!' Her usual refrain come each assignment deadline! I realised that yes, it just has to be 'good enough' or it will never get handed in at all, let alone 'on time'! That helped, it didn't speed things up that much but it did get them going again.

Well my second 'deadline' of Natalie and Matthew's July birthday also came and went, and I knew it was time to ask for help again – Ange came to the rescue by offering to do the dedication square for the back; knowing what to put, let alone feeling able to do it had been beyond me. I'm so glad Ange stepped in, her embroidery skills are far superior to mine. I'm just annoyed that what looked like straight when it was sewn on now looks crooked, but as it is quilted through as well taking it off and rearranging it just wasn't really an option. Hey ho, Cs make degrees....

Anyway, about a week after the anniversary of Natalie's memorial in September the quilt was finished at last, all I needed was to figure out how to deliver it...various plans to get it through to Natalie's mum in Kerikeri were formed and fell through. I kept hanging on to the thought though that the right opportunity would turn up, and it did - a text came from Richard saying they were over here and a friend was heading in the right direction for a work meeting and was able to drop me off and pick me up a few hours later. Just like that it all fell into place.

The universe works to its own timescale, that can be hard to handle at times, but that is life.


Monday, November 18, 2013

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” Rabbi Hillel

One of the great things about being involved with Quakers internationally is that you have F/friends all around the world. One side effect of this though is that every time a major disaster happens there's a mad scramble for address lists and googling of maps desperately hoping that everyone you know is safe... it puts a far more personal face on the suffering and makes the news that bit harder to watch. What with the shootings in Nairobi (I'm fairly sure we went past that mall last year, if not it looked very similar but then I guess one shopping mall does look much like another!), bush fires in Australia, the earthquake and now the super typhoon in the Philippines and major tornadoes in the USA it has been a worrying time of late.

Yet again though the wonders of the internet come to the rescue as it is easy for reassurances to be passed along and news shared. So far on all fronts everyone I know directly is at least alive, however several Friends churches are on one of the islands badly hit and without communication so it is a difficult time for those in Manila trying to get news of them. Friends in Bohol have limited electricity, the storms just adding to the chaos of the earthquakes and aftershocks. How much more can their nerves take let alone the infrastructure? My heart goes out to them as they do their bit for the relief work there.

Whilst many of these disasters are caused by the elements and seismic activity the human element in the extent of their damage is frightening. I'm not suggesting human activity is responsible for earthquakes but we are responsible for the buildings and infrastructure we create and how well it withstands the impact, or more to the point doesn't and the resulting loss of life and limb. I don't think anything short of an underground bunker would've survived the typhoons and tornadoes though and living in those permanently would be pretty grim, however there is plenty of evidence around to suggest that our activities are exacerbating changes to our climate. Gareth Morgan has some interesting views on this and backs up Green Party co-leader Russell Norman's speech in parliament which our Govt MPs booed, Yeb Sano himself however put them in their place when he tweeted his thanks to Russell Norman for making the point. As far as Gareth Morgan goes I'm sure plenty C/christians will object to being tarred with the same brush and rightly so, I just hope they speak up and make sure that it is clear that not all people of that faith have their heads in the sand. Given the  recent commitment of five Anglican diocese to divest themselves of self of fossile fuel investments there is hope!

Saturday, October 26, 2013


We've got glorious sunshine and blue skies out there today, but I'm doing the sun-smart thing and hiding indoors for a while before heading back out into the garden.

Actually I'm not that long back from a trip to the park at the end of the street with neighbour Emma (aged 7) and her friend Chloe who I also know from their kindergarten days, but we'd stuck to the shade of the big puriri trees they were climbing most of the time, it was too hot not to! Last week we had Charlotte with us (another kindergarten alumni!) and did much the same. It is good keeping up contact with children after they've headed off to school. Watching their transformation as the years pass often causes me to reflect on the paths that my friends of that age and I have taken. Thanks to facebook I know something about quite a few of them these days, people I'd otherwise lost track of 25yrs or more ago.

Last weekend also saw a trip to Opua in the Bay of Islands with Eleanor to see the Tall Ships and catch up with Tasha who was on the Lord Nelson as Cook's Assistant. Tasha and I hadn't seen each other for 10yrs, but it felt like no more than 10mths at most, the years that had passed since we saw each other regularly at YF events and served on committees together in the late 80s and early 90s just melted away. Despite both of us having had some pretty life changing experiences in the intervening period they obviously hadn't changed us that much! Or maybe they had but it simply didn't matter?

We discussed, amidst other things, how we'd reconnected with so many parts of our past through facebook, and probably knew far more about the day to day lives of our (F)friends now than we did when the main form of communication over distance was handwritten letters! Both of us had quickly lost track of most people we'd been at school with from having moved away etc but had been finding all sorts of people online lately (including each other!).

It's interesting seeing where in life my old school friends have got to. I wonder if someone had asked us 30yrs ago where did we think we'd be in life by 2013 I'm not sure how many would've got it right! I certainly wouldn't have, nor do I think anyone else would've guessed my future either. But that is probably as much a comment on the changing world we live in as anything else - emigrating then was a far bigger deal. The world these days is a much smaller place - the fact that Tasha can turn up on the opposite side of the world and find half a dozen people here she saw regularly 20yrs ago proving the point! Plus finding this out and tracking them down now is a doddle compared to writing a letter and waiting weeks for a reply, assuming you ever got one...

There was a rather cynical article shared on facebook recently about status updates and how the author reckonned most of them were fairly egotistical and that only a tiny percentage of your 'friends' really cared about the majority of what you shared. I think the article was a little tongue in cheek, but it generated an interesting response from one group of F/friends of mine who disagreed strongly. My take on it was that yes for those who amass 'friends' like collector cards and 'friend' everyone in sight then yes the author probably has a fairly valid point, but for those of us who have friends scattered around the world, and whose lives have physically crossed with so many others in a way that connects them deeply if briefly then no! the percentages are more likely reversed and we do want to read all the news about the majority of our friends, otherwise why be 'friends' on facebook? It is sooooo much easier to post an update every so often than write a dozen letters, or even emails, especially when you don't have homework to avoid any more! I love the fact that even just a month or so of updates and comments mean you can hit the ground running with conversation and get past a lot of the basic small talk that can take up far too much precious kanoi ki te kanoi, face to face, time!

In an international group skype call yesterday I made reference to the concept of having different threads connecting people, sometimes there is just the one point of connection - work, church, family etc but the more threads you have in common, shared interests and hobbies, life experiences, beliefs, political opinions, activities etc and the more ways in which you communicate the stronger the bond can become. So when one thread is stretched, perhaps to breaking point, the rest can hold things together and provide some continuity, some safe ground. And so even when there are years apart those threads can be picked up and woven back into the tapestry of our lives without batting an eyelid.

Anyway, 'tis time to get back out into the garden again and reconnect with my weeding!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

pootling along

How come it is October already? In fact how come it is Term 4??? That means it is (dare I say it?) nearly the C word... (yeah okay so I wussed out). It also means the best part of a year has gone by since my redundancy kicked in late November last year. Whilst back then I had no idea quite what I'd be doing by now, I certainly wasn't expecting life to look like it does!

I had the feeling back then that big changes were in the offing, and I still have that feeling that they are still around the corner, it is just turning out to be a much bigger corner than I had originally anticipated. On Monday I started doing the lunch cover post at the other kindergarten in town. My contract is just for the term which suits me. It means I get to top the bank account back up a bit ready for the summer which amongst other things includes my parents coming over from the UK to visit - 7yrs after their previous trip out here. But it doesn't tie me down long term which feels right. The kids are great and I've already got two who greet me with big hugs and smiles each day and it is only 5mins walk away which are definite pluses but I've got used to having a lot more flexibility in my week and I'd like to find a way to keep that longer term.

I was reading Eleanor's post the other day which resonated strongly in terms of wondering what the 'next big thing' is and whether actually the big thing isn't and that the little things right here and now are what I'm supposed to be doing and life isn't actually in some kind of holding pattern waiting for the runway to clear after all. Which is what Kate in her wisdom pointed out to me when we were chatting online last week 'pootling along' is life!

In some ways this year has been reminiscent of being a student back in my late teens/early twenties. Okay so in theory I was supposed to be studying full time but instead I was more of a full time Young Friend who went to lectures rather than a full time student who went to YF events! As it turned out this stood me in far better stead in life than studying harder would have so I can feel justifiably vindicated in my decision making. The analogy with this year is that I've only really been making a token effort to 'earn a living' and meanwhile have had time and energy to put into not just Quaker things, but also my local community by volunteering at the library again and getting involved with Time Bank.

On top of this the house and garden are in good shape, my pile of sewing UFOs* (or from a more positive perspective PHDs**) that have been hanging around for some time has almost been got through (although there are plenty new ones in the pipeline!), I've actually managed to do some Family History research rather than just turning up at the Genealogy meetings once a month full of good intentions and I feel like I've made some more progress towards living a more sustainable life, like Aletia it is something I've been consciously working on for years (another blog post methinks!).

I've even had enough spare brain capacity to start thinking about other ways in which I can serve Quakers as I've found myself increasingly drawn back to Outreach since the World Conference in Kenya last year, especially reading about Quaker Week in Britain. Oh and then there is the not so small matter of looking after Phyllis whilst she recouperated from her fall and hip replacement and the lesser level of ongoing care and support!

So whilst it has felt like I've just been pootling along I guess I have actually achieved quite a bit this year. It just takes some adjusting of the the mind to acknowledge things I do for pleasure as currently being the major tasks in life for me right now rather than being things that get fitted in around paid work. If only it were financially sustainable long term I could happily get quite used to it!

* UnFinished Objects
** Projects Half Done

Thursday, September 26, 2013

don't worry, be happy...

I was reading a post about 'the habits of supremely happy people' several people I know had shared on facebook and it made me think about a the power of positive thinking. Over the last few years various friends of mine realised that many of their facebook updates were moans and groans - mostly probably around the time the 'word clouds' of your most common status words became a popular widget to play with - and decided to make an effort to post positive updates, or at least see the silver lining in the bad times. From what I can gather it has made a difference to how they see their lives, I know it certainly makes a difference to how I feel reading my newsfeed!

Whilst I don't do anything like the 'find one thing every day to be grateful for' and post it online challenge I did have a gratitude journal a few years ago when I was going through a rough time. Each night as I went to bed I wrote down five things to be grateful for that day. Some days it was easy and I could've filled the page, others it was tough going even to get started. I spotted the book that had set me off on this journey on the library shelves this week when shelving and almost borrowed it thinking that maybe I should revisit it and see what other changes I could now bring into my life. The only reason I didn't was the pile of books I already have waiting to be read - some of which need to go back to the library! But it is good to know it is there.

I realised whilst keeping the journal that half the time what got me down was the negative attitudes of those around me. When all you hear are complaints about yourself and other people it is hard to keep positive - the old adage of 'if you can't say something nice say nothing at all' is one that could do with being put into practice more often! It is especially hard if you never or rarely hear the good things about yourself and others, trying to figure out what is expected of you from what isn't appreciated about others is a pretty soul destroying method which also leaves you wondering what complaints are made about you that you don't hear!

Focusing on the good things that happen, especially in times of adversity, certainly makes life more bearable. I've also found that it has made me realise that sometimes the best things that happen seem to occur at the darkest of times. Maybe it is just like a drink when you're parched tasting better than one you didn't really need and it is the adversity that makes it seem better than it would otherwise, but the reason why it feels so good doesn't take away from the pleasure.

When I was in Melborne earlier this year I was trying to remember the name of a film I had watched which featured the work of Masaru Emoto who showed quite graphically the effect of negative images and sounds on water - thankfully Jo could remember it was 'What the bleep do we know?' so I could track it down again. Given how much of our bodies is made up of water is it any wonder that being surrounded by negativity has an impact on us physically, mentally and emotionally?

I do wonder sometimes if the things people do (or don't do!) that seem to cause so much stress for others are often done (or not done...) in ignorance of the impact on others. We're not all mind readers (probably a good thing really) so rather than complain, maybe we just need to be more upfront about asking for what it is that we need in order to have a happier life, not just for ourselves but those around us too.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

below the line

As various people are gearing up to do the 'Live below the line' challenge links to the TEAR Fund's Live Below the Line cookbook have been popping up around the place. I can't quite see Countdown's Feed Four for $15 being all that helpful for the challenge, but at least it is addressing the issue of eating well on a budget and making it normal to cook to a budget - and with careful shopping locally at Bin Inns etc and markets you could probably cook those same meals for less.

As I've said before it is all very well being able to cook a cheap meal, but it isn't always cheap to buy the ingredients if that makes sense. For example recipe might call for 1/4tsp of cayenne pepper which would cost very little, but generally you have to buy at least 50g at a time at around $2-$3. If your food budget is $2.25 a day then buying a box of spices costing a full days allocation probably isn't even on your radar.

The recommendation in the TEAR fund cookbook is to club together with others and pool your money to make it go further - brilliant suggestion, but why only do it for one week of the year? Cooking for one is not a very good economical model - three people cooking for themselves uses far more power than one person cooking for three! (three lots of cooking, three lots of washing up, three people's time...) Plus many folk are like me and don't really enjoy just cooking for themselves but are more than happy to make the effort for others.

It makes sense to share meals, it is more sociable too. In Otago Presbyterian Support do a lot to support those in poverty, one of the community schemes we heard about at the Peace in Education conference in Dunedin last year was where local groups of single parents of young children were enabled to get to know each other and have shared meals together once a week in each others homes. This way the kids got to make friends and have someone to play with, the adults had other adults to talk to and the support that this can provide, and by having a pot luck meal everyone contributed something simple but together it made a really good meal for everyone. This struck me as such a fantastic idea, and one that would work with all sorts of people, not just single parents.

We've just had our two monthly shared meal for the local TimeBank, one of the co-ordinators was suggesting it goes back to being quarterly as only a fraction of the membership turn up each time, her thinking being more people would make the effort if it were less frequent. But I'll be arguing against that - I've only been involved for two so far, but each time I've met new people, and other people new to TimeBank so the networking which is a key part of how TimeBank works can happen at these meals and get things going far faster than if we had to wait for a quarterly get-together. But more critically I heard a few people say how they appreciate getting together for shared meals as they live alone. Poverty can be a poverty of social life, or company as well as, or instead of, financial.

I don't know exactly how much the food contributions I took cost (it would be interesting to work it out) but I do know it wasn't a lot - especially the rice dish (cheers Audra, I'm still using your Indian cookery course recipes!), yet the meal we all just had was a good spread and certainly filling enough to count as our main meal of the day (and I have brough home some left-overs!). I feel well fed physically and socially.

Whilst I'm living on a budget at least it isn't as bad as $2.25 a day for food (more like $6) and I have the luxury of being able to buy in bulk and average out my budget over months. But one thing I have found since I've been working far fewer hours in a week is how much richer my life feels, and if I have to live with a paucity of anything, I'd far rather it was money than heath, happiness or a sense of fullfilment.

Friday, August 30, 2013

needs must

Tomorrow I have to facilitate a workshop at our MM Regional Gathering. It is a follow up to a national series of workshops run mostly last year looking at our spiritual educational and nurture needs (the report of which is here). We had hoped to get one or two of the original facilitating team up to do this, but it turned into a case of 'if you want something done, do it yourself'- although thankfully one of them did design the workshop for me!

I'd really hoped not to have to facilitate as I've learned from experience that as a facilitator you don't really get to participate, plus I've been trying to shake off the assumption that 'Anna will do it' every time anything needs run north of the Gateway tunnel. Not very successfully obviously... Although at the moment I've probably got more time and energy for this sort of thing than I've had for a while, but it is nice not to feel responsible for how something goes occassionally!

So as I gather together my big pieces of paper, pens, post-it notes ready in their bundles of five, faciliator's notes and contribution for the shared meal it is with a mixture of 'here we go again...' but also a hopefulness that some energy will be created for future ways and means of working together as a MM. We're still in our first year as a new entity and it has taken time for things to take on the required new shape as we discover that square pegs don't fit in round holes and what 'worked' (to varying degrees) before doesn't always transition very well unchanged into this new era.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

condensing months into minutes

I bumped into a friend today in town who I haven't seen since late last year. Depsite living only a few miles apart we seem to fail abysmally when it comes to keeping in touch, yet thankfully it is one of those friendships where the months having gone by mean so little and we pick up as if we'd seen each other last week.

During the ten minute 'so what have you been doing since November?' conversation (periodically interupted by a reasonably patient 6yr old who thought we'd been chatting quite long enough already thank you and can we go now Mum?) we covered our respective ECE lives - or mostly lack of it in my case, although I had just come from kindergarten when we bumped into each other albeit not for work purposes. As we chatted I repeated something I'd said recently on another ECE friend's facebook update when she commented on how sick she was yet again - so far this year I have had one three day cold. And that is it. Not two or more week-long minimum colds per term (there being four terms in a year), no 4-6 week bout of bronchitis (although I did have a few days of a tickly throat I suppose), no tummy bugs, no migraines. Basically I've been healthier this year than I have in years, so many years in fact that I can't actually remember one where I've had so few bugs and viruses (as opposed to ongoing chronic conditions that are just part of life). The moral of the story being? Keep away from the germ factories that are Early Childhood Centres perchance?

Keeping away from the coughs and colds has no doubt helped no end, but also being away from the stresses of the job has probably had a huge impact too. I still really enjoy popping in to kindergarten, I really appreciate time spent with the children and I loved spending a couple of days observing them and taking photos of their learning journeys. But it has to be said I really appreciated being able to walk away again and know that the extent of the follow-up work for me at present was editing +150 photographs and tracking down parental consent for potential publication rather than feeling the pressure to produce the quality documentation that I know I am capable of, if only I had an extra 24hrs in each week with no other demands...

As the friend I bumped into is halfway through her ECE degree I felt a bit bad about pointing out the difference being out of ECE had made to my health - especially as I'd encouraged her to study in the first place! But it isn't like she went into it blind to such issues, and in anycase her health is far more robust than mine has been in decades. It was great to talk about it all though, one of those conversations where even in just a few minutes you realise in sharing you've clarified a lot of things in your own head. We used to have lots of conversations like this, usually sitting in the car chatting for ages as she dropped me off from our evening class. All the more reason really why we ought to be better at keeping in touch - I miss those conversations, the ability we seem to have helping each other see things more clearly is something we both value. I definitely intend to make sure we see each other before another 9 months has gone past!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

unconditional basic income

The concept of an unconditional basic income is one that I've only come across recently, but since I have it seems to be popping up all over the place! In a nutshell the theory is everyone gets enough money to get by on, not with a lavish lifestyle but with all the necessities met. Obviously people can earn more by working but if they can't work say for health reasons, caring for someone else etc or don't want to as they have far too much else they want to do with their life, including being useful to society as volunteers etc then they can still get by. The fact that most people want to work/earn more money means the required labour force is still there. It makes being an artist, crafts person, actor, musician for a living all the more achievable as you can focus on your art for its own sake rather than the balance sheet. For inventors and dreamers of all persuasions it gives a place of security from which to persue your goals and dreams - how much more could we achieve if energy was put into that rather than simply covering the bills? This has to be a good thing for the world as a whole.

The economics of it stack up pretty well. For a start you can scrap all the assessment bureaucracy around entitlement to benefits! There may still be a need for additional help for those with severe health issues as many of the services, medications, therapies and transport etc don't come cheaply, but generally most benefits would be come uneccessary, likewise state pensions. Administering a system where the vast majority of people get exactly the same would be far cheaper to run. Then of course you free up people to care, volunteer etc which generally reduces the financial costs to society.... you can see now why I've become quite keen on the idea! And then when I think of Jimmy and co at Generation Zero working crazy hours, to both earn a living and campaign, the unconditional basic income makes more and more sense.

I'm basically a stay-at-home carer who gets paid for an hour a day but does the rest for love. I have time to do a lot of gardening which reduces the cost to the taxpayer as fewer hours are claimed for paid gardening help via WINZ (I am boarding with a supergold/community services card holder!). I do a lot of voluntary work - helping out at the local under-funded council library for a start - if it wasn't for their volunteers they couldn't provide the services they do. I also volunteer for our local TimeBank (a local community service) as well as being a member of it and of course there's the usual portfolio of Quaker responsibilities at local, national and international levels. I am on the relievers list (supply teachers) for the local kindergartens but that work is sporadic and unreliable. I'm busy filling what time is left with a variety of crafts, homeskills etc which whilst not contributing to the economy particularly, are generally environmentally friendly.

Financially I'm okay for now, due to careful stewardship of my redundancy money, a couple of windfalls and some savings but it won't last forever, in fact realistically it won't last beyond this year. But I feel like I don't have time for a job! Every day is busy, full, meaningful and useful to society. I don't want to get a job for the sake of simply getting a job. If I'm going to be tied to being somewhere else for X number of hours a week I want it to be as meaningful (to me) as what I'd otherwise be doing in that same time. I love having the flexibility of being able to take on challenges such as take photographs for an early childhood journal; do an extra few hours at the library because they are short staffed that week; know I can accompany Phyllis to someone's house for an afternoon meeting as she's worried about negotiating some steps she hasn't had to face since her fall, without it complicating my day - and those are just a few recent examples.

Having worked with a strong sense of calling before, and known what is like when leadings carry you to where everything just falls into place it is both a blessing and a burden. It is hard to settle for second best! But it also gives me the faith to wait and keep seeking for what feels right rather than get trapped in the monotony of applying for jobs I don't especially want and probably aren't suited for just so I can say I've tried. I'm extremely grateful for the fact that I have a grace period in which to let life settle and there be time for the universe to unfold, no doubt exactly as it should. I just wish someone would drop me a line soon to let me know which direction it is going in as somehow I can't see the universal basic income being a reality before the year is out!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

herd mentality

Okay so it has been a while, which inevitably leads to the 'where do I start?' feeling that in turn means more procrastination and not getting a 'to it'....

A while back I had a half written post in my head inspired by the line in Ice Age - after Manfred save Diego's life Diego asks 'Why did you do that? You could've died trying to save me' to which Manfred replies 'That's what you do in a herd: you look out for each other.' The fact that the 'herd' in question was a woolly mamoth, a sloth, a human baby and a sabre tooth tiger proving the point that the 'herd' is what you make it. I'd been watching the Ice Age films with my self-appointed nephews whilst visiting them on the South Island. From there I went to see F/friends in Christchurch and one of my elderly relatives (2nd cousin once removed if we're going to get pedantic about this!). The concept of family, and who you can turn to, rely on etc - especially when you're an ex-pat - was a recurring theme of conversations the whole trip.

Before I set off a friend had sent me some audio books which were great for travelling as I get travel sick if I read when things get bumpy which summed up most of the flights and bus journeys! I got stuck into Nathan Lowell's Trader Tales series where again the prevailing sense of family is being something you make out of those around - in this case (space)shipmates. Not the whole crew necessarily, but those, who when push comes to shove, have got your back.

I've been doing some family history research and it never ceases to amaze me just how big our extended family is. I joke about being related to half the Canterbury Plains which at first glance seems something of an exageration, until you think about how few people live down there and how many I'm related to one way or another! Even if it is at 2nd, 3rd, 4th cousin level etc. Yet despite all these relatives (many of whom I've never met admittedly) my Kiwi 'family' bears far more resemblance to the Ice Age herd or the Solar Clipper crews - people who life has thrown me in with one way or another, whom when push comes to shove are the ones I turn to, and its those self-appointed 'nephews' who I miss the most.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Seeing as I have a bit more time on my hands at the moment than I have had for some years I've been trying to get into the habit of using my camera more (photos here). Several of my friends have done the 365 challenge, ie a photo a day for the whole year - some have even done it more than once! I've been intrigued particularly by the variety and ingenuity of images posted on those days when it gets to almost bedtime and you realise you haven't taken one yet, as well as the wide range of day to day photos.

The first few months aren't quite such a challenge, but to keep finding new things around you on the days when you don't really go anywhere or do anything 'interesting' requires a whole different mindset as you walk around. I'm used to keeping my 'photographer's eye' open when travelling etc, but to do so day after day within the same environment is a challenge - especially when the day looks all set to be grey, dark and miserable! One recent photo published was all (unintentionally) blurry, but it had been the only photo taken that day, the photographer said ''s terrible. But also not terrible, because that's the glowing white face of a girl I love a lot'. This reminded me of a bunch of photographs a child took with my camera one time at kindy - odd angles, half faces etc yet the child was delighted with them as they didn't just see the photos, but the associations and stories that went with them - which begs the question of priorities, who do we take photos for? Ourselves to keep memories alive, or for others to understand and/or appreciate too?

I've started taking more photos in the garden, partly to record the progress made as I try to get it back in to shape, but also because I want to capture something of the beauty I see in it. However with a camera that is starting to sulk I'm finding close-up work a challenge as it really doesn't want to focus there. This has led to some interesting results at times, where the original object of the photo is blurry but what is just behind it is crystal clear and often quite striking - just a pity that that glimpse isn't usually enough to make a decent picture in itself. I'm sure there is (yet) another metaphor for life here, about allowing yourself to see past the obvious to what is just beyond it but getting only a tantalising glimpse rather than the whole picture - is it enough to work with? Or do you need to go back and revisit it, and hope that this time you'll see more? Do we keep the blurry reminder as well as the new insight? As usual, far more questions than answers...

Saturday, July 06, 2013

....but what has FWCC ever done for us?

A bit like the Romans, the Trade Unions and every other version of the original Monty Python sketch there are those in our YM who see FWCC as something that we give money to but seem to see very little from in return. Thankfully they are few in number and less and less vociferous these days, not sure if that is due to the amount of legwork done by various Friends over recent years on behalf of FWCC or if it is a case of a few Quaker funerals solving the problem (as sometimes that is the only way certain 'problems' are solved!), a change of heart or other concerns taking over. However, I can appreciate that sometimes it is hard for those who don't get involved beyond their own Meeting or Worship Group to appreciate what we get for the fifth of our annual YM budget that gets spent one way or another on FWCC in terms of donations, funding our own reps to attend events, bringing visitors to YM etc.

But without FWCC there would be no Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) and without QUNO the world would be a poorer place, it is official! Andrew Tomlinson and Jonathan Woolley being the names on there that you're looking for, who make it clear they are named on behalf of their teams.

I've known a few interns and board members of QUNO over the years and met one or two of their long term staff. The Geneva Summer School used to be on my 'to do one day' list, but other things got in the way (mainly other more local Quaker events!) and like inter-railing it never quite happened, but I've long held an admiration for the work they do. When I was 17 on the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage I heard Duncan and Katharine Wood talk about their time at QUNO Geneva during the fairly early days of the Cold War, bringing diplomats from both sides together to simply get to know each other and discover that the 'others' were people too, with families, and hobbies etc not some demons as their respective media portrayed them. Whilst serving afternoon tea in the garden may not seem world changing, in its way it was as important as the more official work done. The research that comes out of QUNO these days and the briefing papers they provide which not only help NGOs and lobbyists but those UN offices who don't have the resources to fund their own research staff, has been invaluable and shifted world opions on such issues as child soldiers and landmines.

QUNO is one of those things I always feel I ought to know more about, but despite the fact that I'd have to check their website to see what the current list of concerns being worked on is I remain extremely grateful for its existance, for the endless work done in our name and for the changes this work brings - even if at times it may feel like John Woolman's campaign against slavery, ie long, slow and amidst a lot of ignorance about the details, but hopefully whilst not necessarily well informed I hope we're a bit quicker to support them as they speak truth to power.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

chocolate pud

I found alpro soya chocolate desserts in PaknSave the other day, the first time I've ever found them in this country - they've always been on my list of 'things I miss' from the UK, so out the window went all my resolutions about foodmiles and processed food and I treated myself to a pack. Only to discover that actually, my homemade avocado chocolate mousse is far richer and more satisfying - and given how cheap avos are around here, decidedly less expensive! 

Avocado Chocolate Mousse:
1/2 cup honey (preferably runny)
1/2 cup water
2 medium avocadoes (about 300g flesh, needs to be smushable not firm!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cocoa powder
juice of half a small lemon

put everything into a food processor and blend (or use a electric cake beater), chill and eat. Apparently it keeps well for up to 10 days but I've never managed to make it last that long to test the theory!

It was both something of a disappointment, and a relief that the bought stuff didn't live up to expectations - maybe the recipe has changed? It seemed more watery than I remember. But realising I could create something more satisfying out of predominantly local ingredients (the avos, lemon and honey, I don't think we grow any cocoa in this country... yet!) was definitely a bonus. 

 I'd been reviewing my budget lately and seeing how it was shaping up given how pared back it had been in the light of my reduced income, and I was pleased that my purchasing of processed foods had plummeted - partly as I have more time to make more things from scratch, I didn't really want to have to force myself to walk past the chocolate puds each time I went to PaknSave to keep on budget! I've only so much will power to go around when it comes to chocolate I can eat... 

Each week I'm now making my own bread, milk (from almonds), oatcakes (yay for my bargain mouli grater and restored cast iron pan! Another thing you don't seem to be able to buy here is oatmeal - hence the need to grind oats finer), fruit & nut chocolate slice (gluten and added sugar free) and more often than not a date and walnut loaf, although that is because I'm trying to adapt an old favourite recipe to make a decent gluten free version - not that I need it to be GF, but friends do and it is nice to have something else to take to pot luck meals that they can eat too (thankfully they aren't allergic to nuts as well!). It still keeps coming out too dry... going to try adding some oil next time. 

I rarely used tinned food, not even tinned tomatoes which used to be a staple ingredient for me! Admittedly that is usually because we have tomatoes from the garden on the plant or in the freezer, or locally grown ones from the market around the house, not that I've learned to cook without them altogether! I have time to soak batches of chickpeas and dried beans, cook up a pot full and freeze them in portions. I use the nuts left from my milk making to make rissoles and nut loaf etc and haven't bought ready made veggie sausages etc for use at home in ages although they sure come in handy when I'm staying at someone else's house for a while.

I used to cook most meals from scratch with extremely little processed food when I was a student, but that was due to a combination of one of my flatmates dietary restrictions and limited budgets. These days whilst the budget is still tight, I have far less desire to use them even when I can afford them, having got used to cooking without them I notice the 'bought' taste in a way that no longer appeals. I suppose it is similar to milk chocolate and cows milk cheeses etc no longer having any appeal, whereas I never thought that day would come when I first started to cut them out - although those do make me sick which is an added incentive to do without! 

I'm still working on decent replacements for Engine Shed smoked tofu and Macsween's Veggie Haggis though...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


goes by so slowly, and time can do so much' is how the song goes. In general I haven't seen much evidence of time going slowly for some years now, in fact quite the opposite. I mean, how did it get to the end of June 2013 already??? I was reading someone refer to something as being 10yrs ago the other day and thought 'surely not?' but one quick count on the fingers later... gulp.

But yes, time can do so much, that I have no issue with at all. Time does indeed heal, although at varying speeds. But what prompted this post originally was a graphic going around on facebook saying that the most precious gift we can give children is our time. I think that goes for anyone really, not just children. There have been a few postings on facebook recently that tie in with this, one is about the time spent interacting via technology and the isolation that can create and how that may be changing society by shortening many interactions and making them more impersonal and functional. A line that stood out for me was "Simone Weil wrote, 'Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity'" which echoes the thought of time given, but takes it a step further -as people need you to not only be there but to be truly present for them, a theme developed in this post, again I believe it is not just the case with children, but with anyone in your life. However I've often found that technology has increased the amount of time I have to interact with a lot of people, not diminish it, but that is because I use it to keep in touch with people well beyond cooeee and a cuppa distance.

These writings build up a picture of time being a precious resource, so with writings like these spinning around in my head it struck a chord with me when Rebecca came to explain the local TimeBank and how it works after I'd (finally, after 6mths of sitting on the paperwork...) signed up to join. With TimeBank everyone's time is considered to have equal value, regardless of the skill involved for the task done. I like that concept, especially as with TimeBank people are either doing things for those who can't do a specific task or who don't have time to get around to it. There does however seem to be a certain irony with the not getting around to it jobs, as in some cases those tasks aren't getting done because folk are busy doing jobs for other people... but as many of us know only too well it is much easier to do someone elses' household tasks than your own! Not, of course that TimeBank is restricted to household chores by a long way, but we all have the jobs we enjoy and those we procrastinate over, so why not let someone else deal with your bugbears? Especially if all it costs you is time spent doing something you enjoy, or at least don't mind as much!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

text talk

As various friends will happily point out on a regular basis I have certain luddite tendancies when it comes to IT. My 'if it still works, keep using it' attitude baffling those eagerly awaiting the next model before the wrapping is off the last. I'm on my fourth personal mobile phone in about 15yrs, none of which I've bought - and all have been either bottom of the range (my choice!) and/or well behind the leading edge of technology in terms of functionality.

Usually this really isn't an issue. I don't use my phone much. It is useful when I go away but otherwise it's most frequent use is as an alarm clock. However right now my reliable chunky nokia (thanks Jon for the hand-me-down!) is proving something of a challenge. As part of the Woodbrooke Global Learning Forum I'm in a small group of three discussing Quaker worship and how it affects our life - via text messaging! We're spread between Sweden, Kenya and Aotearoa NZ which has obvious implications in terms of timezones, but thankfully we've figured out the timings and as far as I'm aware no-one (yet!) has been woken from their slumber by the latest installment.

Those on the course with smart phones have been able to use the whatsapp to message each other internationally for free, great! Except I don't have a smart phone. What is more, for some reason we can't fathom, texts I send to Sweden don't arrive! So.... I send sms messages to Cornelius in Kenya, where they then get forwarded by whatsapp to Julia in Sweden. Cornilius sends his messages via whatsapp to Julia who forwards them by sms to me along with her own messages that she texts to me and apps to Cornelius. Confused yet? Then of course most of the messages that come to me are longer than the 160 character maximum of an sms message so they get split in two... so I get about half dozen texts or more at a time in a manner that would amuse Eric Morcombe no end as they are not necessarily in the right order!

So I can get my head around them, I type them all out into a document, along with my own messages (as of course you can't follow sent and received conversations on an old phone the way you can on a smart phone as they are stored in seperate places, and in any case I'm sending to one person and receiving from another!). Usually I can eventually do the jigsaw and figure out who said what when in reply to whom but occassionally an email is needed to sort it all out.

I was trying to explain this process during a three way facebook chat conversation with two non-Quaker friends (yes I do have such things honest!) - why not use facebook/skype chat? they very reasonably asked. Well.... this assignment was to use text messaging, no doubt future ones will use other means. Text messaging ensures you at least try to keep things succinct (yup, you've spotted the challenge for me already!), especially when you're paying for international text messages! In being succinct you rather obviously have to cut out the waffle, which for liberal Quakers of the unprogrammed tradition can be a real challenge when discussing such issues. 'What do you mean by deep worship?' I got asked having said I wished I got more of it. All of a sudden a monologue on some random topic for 'one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition starting from, now...' suddenly seemed like the easier option. No space for anecdotal description, no vague waving of hands and well, you know.... because of course I can't assume that both of those I'm talking to do know. Oh the joys of coming from different Quaker backgrounds, worship styles and theologies!

The three of us did have the advantage of actually having all met each other previously, and only last year at that (although I first met Julia nine years ago I hadn't seen her inbetween times although our work kept us in email contact for about a year). So that helped with the diving in at the deep end, for me at least. I had some sense of the people at the other end. Obviously by being part of the course it is safe to assume that anyone in the group has a fairly open mind to the 'rainbow of Quaker grey' in all it's various shades, but text messaging is a hard medium with which to get to know a stranger, no matter how F/friendly they are. It is going to be interesting to hear how the other groups have got on.

Despite the challenges I'm loving the conversation. Typing everything out makes me really focus on every word said. Skim reading and thinking I've got the gist of it (and thus maybe missing the point) isn't an option. Sometimes I take a day to reply, I know what it is I want to say in my head, but how to put it in a text so the others understand it too is the biggest challenge. And much to my amazement clarity, and brevity, do come!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

plastic not-so-fantastic

I was reading this article via an ECE Sustainability group on facebook about cutting plastic out of life. Much as I admire the dedication of those who attempt it to prove a point I can't see me every achieving the same - for a start metal typewriters don't pick up the internet very well...

For me plastic is one of those necessary evils in life that I've yet to come to easy terms with. Technology aside though it is one of the many considerations I take into account when shopping. For example I'll buy my porridge oats in a paper bag rather than a plastic one (yay for Pams and Harraways!), but I gave up getting Ryvita (packaged in cardboard and paper) once I could get Healtheries grainwafers which are produced this side of the world, and even if they are wrapped in plastic it is only one layer not two like Corn Thins. Mind you I don't get through half as many now I'm not taking packed lunches 4 days a week anyway.

I've got one of those metal drinks bottles, but have never been one for buying bottled water if I could avoid it - however there is a plastic container full of bought water in bottles out in the garage in the Civil Defence Emergency kit (not that ours is as comprehensive as the link suggests!) - when we don't get through many bottles of pop (soda etc) etc it is hard to build up a big enough collection otherwise! And whilst on that subject I realise that context/location makes a big difference to the use of plastic - having seen photos of the mess various Christchurch friends' kitchens were in after the earthquakes I can't imagine anyone there choosing to store kitchen ingredients in glass jars rather than plastic again in a hurry, generally plastic tends to bounce better.

But whilst I (in my tsunami rather than earthquake risk area) can try to limit the amount of plastic I buy especially connected with food there are times when I really don't know what else to use - what do you freeze things in for example?! I've just discovered our local wholesaler has white basmati rice in 5kg cloth bags which is great, except mostly I use brown rice...I take my cloth shopping bag to the market each week when I go to buy our veggies, one of the stall holders commented on how unusual that was for Kaitaia - normal for Kerikeri and Paihia markets but not Kaitaia where he reckoned supplying a plastic bag is seen as a insentive to shop at his stall. I muttered something about trying not to use plastic bags and scuttled off as I couldn't think how to say that was probably because more people shopping at Kerkeri and Paihia markets do so because they are conscious about the environmental impact of food miles etc and thus the environment in general rather than because it is cheaper, without that sounding as though I was belittling Kaitaia. I'd far rather folk shopped at the market, no matter what their reason for doing so. I just wish fewer of the stall holders pre-packaged their goods in plastic bags, but I can totally appreciate why they do.

Whilst I can't see me ever managing to live without plastic (and would I want to?) the article certainly prompted me to think again each time I reached for some - what could I use instead? Sometimes I've had an answer but not the means to avoid it, sometimes I've been able to use something different - greaseproof paper instead of clingwrap for example. A provocation to re-evaluate my impact on the environment from a different angle that is for sure. And rather than beat myself up about what I do use I take comfort in the words of George Fox to William Penn 'wear it as long as thou canst', or in this case mostly that would mean use it - I'll know if and when the day comes that the day is right to cut it out completely. Until then, refill, reuse, and recycle is still a pretty good fallback position.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

back to e-learning

Realising that half the year had slipped by already and I was no nearer clarifying any longer term plans I'd vaguely been looking at the list of courses that NorthTec run next door. This was mostly because various people had been asking me if I was going to study again - once I'd got over the mild sense of panic at the prospect of returning to uni (yet again) I figured out that actually I might qualify for some funding now and whilst nothing was crying out for my attention maybe it would be something to do in the meantime. I'd been toying with the idea of doing something practical rather than academic, mainly as I'd passed the harakeke weaving group doing work outside a few times lately, but also I'd wondered about their horticultural classes given that I'm sure my 'make it up as I go along' strategy will only get me so far in the garden.

However before I got any further down that track I got an email asking if I'd be interested in joining a group working on developing an international online course for Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre that would explore different Quaker traditions through sharing and reflecting on our own traditions. Well it seemed like an offer I couldn't refuse, and I'm very glad I didn't as once I was signed up and could see who all else was involved there was a bunch of very familiar looking names! Okay so this will come of absolutely no suprise to Dawn and Graham, but the majority of the international group were people I already knew, or had met, or at least knew of through the World Conference in Kenya last year or the World Gathering of Young Friends 2005. However there is only one person in the group I know reasonably well and she's the one who recruited me!

We've only got to the stage of introducing ourselves and familiarising ourselves with Moodle so far but I'm getting quite excited about the idea of not only developing a future course but in the process going through the learning and sharing journey with such a wonderful group of people. Whether I'll still try to find something local as well I'm not so sure, I've just signed up for the local Timebank and gone back to volunteering at our local library after a break of several years so maybe I should just taihoa for now on that front and see how things go.

Monday, June 03, 2013

to buy or not to buy... a regular question for me, and I sometimes surprise myself with my own will power not to buy something because I didn't really need it.

Anyway, I was finally catching up with the Quaker Settlement's new(ish!) blogsite and this post about their purchasing guidelines stood out as a great practical example, so I thought I'd share it!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

eco/ethical living

I found this post half written in my 'drafts' dating back to when I was in Wellington, but it is just as relevant today so I figured I'd finish it off! Over the last few months I've been doing the bulk of the shopping so I've been 'greening' the household - I'm not sure I'll ever convert the homehelp away from using Jif (yes it is still called that here!) but at least she's using it for fewer things these days and there are some more environmentally friendly alternatives around.

Our news this week has been full of the controversy around Dole bananas and their self appointed 'ethical choice' sticker despite child labour and spraying crops whilst workers are still in the fields etc. They have now removed the labels, whether their practice will improve remains to be seen. I was very glad to know that in recent months our banana consumption had been of organic bananas from Ecuador, high in food miles, but you can't win on all fronts.

Living in as ethically and environmentally friendly manner as I can is important to me and is partly why I board, alongside financial reasons and not actually liking living alone. Two of us sharing a house has a far smaller environmental footprint than two people living alone in separate dwellings.

I've been trying to remember where it started and have decided I can't. Having been brought up vegetarian and a member of the Vegetarian Society (who for some reason still send membership cards for my brother and I as part of our parents 'family membership' - you'd think their database might have twigged after 40 or so years...) it meant I had an awareness of ethical living issues fairly early on from discussions at home and reading the Vegetarian magazines (me being the kind of child that read anything left lying around).

I can't underestimate either the influence of growing up through British Young Friends - being a large, strong group with a fairly broad age range (then 16-30's, plus the likes of Dave and Horace...) it meant that I was socialising with people who had salaries and mortgages as well as students and so on in shared housing living off grants, unemployment benefit (in the days when students could sign on through the summer so that they could study rather than work) or low income jobs like clowning, peacework, or whatever gave them time and energy to be active YFs! Not only did ethical issues of daily living come up in conversation they were on our business agendas at YFCC (now YFGM) - ethical banking is one I remember clearly - moving our banking away from the originally Quaker Barclays Bank because of their involvement in apartheid South Africa to the Co-operative Bank.

Flatting with Quakers (as they say here! Sharing a flat with...) and like minded folk meant it was easy enough in principle to have a fairly ethical household, our restriction was financial but we did what we could, always aware that there was more to be done. Recycled loo roll was a given - Andrex was a no no, no matter how cute the puppy or any appeal to send in wrappers for guide dogs. Going to the 'Scoop Shop' was not only avoiding heavily packaged goods, it was cheaper as was going to the local veg shop rather than buying at the Supermarket. A flatmates diet for medical reasons which avoided all tinned foods did wonders for our collective cooking skills.

Seven years of working for a Steiner organisation and getting the task of the bulk shopping without having to worry too much about budgeting meant I became used to automatically selecting environmentally friendly products, organic food and drinks. I'd always been used to preparing meals from raw ingredients rather than living off pre-packaged foods and buying them always felt wrong, like cheating. Sensitive skin has meant that I can't use cheap toiletries anyway and an abhorance of the thought of animal testing for beauty products had me at the Body Shop's door as soon as I was buying my own (in those days of course it wasn't owned by L'oreal!). These days I either buy ecostore or make my own.

Being on a much tighter budget these days often means bulk buying from the local wholesaler wins over organic but it is still something I try to do as much as possible, I console myself with the thought that the 1kg snaplock bags (which get reused) use less packaging than smaller quantities from the supermarket! The Rainbow Falls organic cows have been dried off for the winter so I'm making my own almond milk, the liquid goes on my porridge and in my bread etc and the left over nut pulp gets turned into nut loaves, fruit and nut slice etc.

As ever there is always more that could be done, but with almost all the lightbulbs now being energy saving, a bigger and more productive veggie garden and various other minor changes around here at least I feel like progress is being made.

Friday, May 24, 2013

rescue mission

Having 'liked' various urban homesteading pages on facebook I've come across all sorts of 'useful' information I'll probably never need (and when I do I doubt if I'll remember where I saw it... but then that is what Google is for!) but one post caught my eye last year which was restoring rusty cast iron frying pans/skillets to their former glory. Having wanted such a pan for about two decades but never really been in a position to buy a new one I read with interest thinking well one day I might spot a rusty one at the market (Kaitaia having that sort of market!), as I was impressed as to how achievable it was.

The months went by and whilst I kept an eye out I was never looking particularly hard for one so it wasn't really surprising I didn't find one. But then during our Great Garage Clear Out a couple of months ago I found one! A bit rusty, covered in cobwebs, dust and full of flakes of burnt paper from the fire (which was about 5yrs ago!). I carefully dusted it off and put it where I knew I'd find it again and hoped no-one else would spot it and claim it meanwhile.

I'm not quite sure what happened to the intervening two months in terms of getting around to the next step but today after a quick Google search to remind myself what to do (having long since lost track of the orginal info...) I armed myself with oven cleaner (a bad idea - that stuff is foul), baking soda, salt and vinegar and a metal scourer, and in way less time than I expected I had a clean pan rubbed with oil heating up gently in the oven to season and seal it.

I decided I couldn't wait for tea time to use it so made some drop scones/pikelets for afternoon tea instead. What a delight to use - I'm so pleased with the result, and totally understand now why people get excited about cast iron. Weight alone would deter me from using big pots of it but that pan is such a great size - big enough to be really useful but not too heavy to be unwieldy.

The best part of it all though is rescuing something and getting back in use again. There must be decades, generations, of use still to be had out of that pan. I get so fed up with the throw-away culture that predominates these days. Jeanette Fitzsimon's Quaker Lecture on the economy of 'enough' put into words far more eloquently than I ever could (not to mention better researched and argued!) the importance of changing the mindset that measures success by growth, when actually usually what is needed is not more but better quality - of life, of goods, health, etc. We don't always need a new..... the old one is perfectly adequate, does the job, but one small part may be worn out. However the economics of today drives towards buying a new model rather than fix the old, or worse upgrade to the newer model when the old one still does the job just fine. If I'd known years ago how easy it was to restore an old cast iron pan I wouldn't have assumed they were out of my league financially for so long, mind you then I would've probably had to lug one half way around the world...

I read lots of self sufficiency style books in my teens/early twenties, both practical and autobiographical, but it seemed a lifestyle beyond my abilities and way too time consuming to fit in alongside an active Quaker one etc. But through blogs and facebook I'm finding an increasing number of people seeking a way not so much going back to the 'olden days' way of living but incorporating some of the ideals and practices of self sufficiency into modern urban life. Somewhere there needs to be a happy medium between modern excessive living and the deprevation of the Great Depression which prompted so much household ingenuity to make do and mend. Finding that balance is a skill in itself, such as crafting rag rugs because they can be beautiful and practical rather than because it is the only floor covering you can afford, or baking your own bread because it tastes nicer and is better for you.

Someone said at YM that her generation (she is well into her 70s) has an opportunity now to pass on such skills and knowledge to the younger generations who can use them because they want to, because they want to be part of a world with less waste, to lower our carbon emissions and environmental footprint. And we have the advantage of being able to do so in conjunction with the advantages of C21st living - we can share via the internet what we are doing so others can learn too, we have instant access to a far wider pool of knowledge and ideas than our grandparents and great grandparents did. There are materials available they never had and advances in technology that make more things achievable. One of the other finds in the big clear out was a bean slicer - imagine needing to thinly slice bucketfuls of beans to salt down to preserve for winter? Thank heavens for freezers.

One other find I also want to clean up properly to use is the antiquated hand mincer, we don't have a (functioning) food processor and it will be far more effective than me chopping stuff up for my fruit and nut chocolate slice! Maybe that is a job for the rather wet day forecast for tomorrow...

Monday, May 20, 2013

rewind, repeat...

Occassionally I look at the statistics that blogger provides so I can see which posts have been read most often recently, a bit like with looking at similar stats on Flickr, it is more out of curiosity than anything else - I know what I read/look at of other peoples', what do they find interesting that I have to say/show? It is probably an insight into search engine results too as no doubt that is how most people find them beyond the few regular readers/viewers. Sometimes the results make me curious enough to go back and re-read a post as often I can't remember from just a title what it was I was blogging about - this time it was the post I wrote seven years ago called 'serenity'.

Reading the post, and the one I'd linked to that had originally prompted me to write it, I was struck by the resonance again for me of  the seven year cycles of life theory. I already knew that in some ways I was revisiting life seven years ago, in fact quite uncannily so on some fronts, and there I was, just home from Meeting for Worship, reading something that followed on from what had been going on in my head during the silence.

So have I made any progress in the last seven years or am I destined to go through it all again at some point? Well sort of. I've got better at deciding that in some situations the only thing to do is stick it in the 'wait and see' box and await further instructions. Although having come to the conclusion today that the answer is just see what happens and pray god has a plan about something because I certainly don't (and not for lack of trying), has taken me rather longer than it ought.

Envisioning my future has never been my strong point, and given how many twists and turns my life has taken that is really no surprise, I'd never have predicted emigrating for a start. But here I am, hopefully a little more serene, definitely just as clueless as to what the future holds but with the wisdom of hindsight and ability to recognise patterns in life that hopefully mean that this time around I'll get the things I can and can't change the right way around.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


I'm not sure if that is a real word or not, but it will do!

I was asked if I'd be on our Epistle committee at YM last weekend, along with two other Friends. Knowing I had quite a heavy workload on already whilst there I was hesitant, but knew I had to do it. I've moaned often enough about epistles turning into reports in the past so felt obliged to 'be the change you want to see'.

It was an interesting experience trying to take useful notes in session, and I found I was writing down expressions and quotes voiced by Friends rather than the facts and details that were shared. Many of those voices found their way into the finished epistle and I'm grateful for the spirit moving through them.

There were several times when we had to discern which were 'newsletter moments' and which were epistle ones - the 'tuis outside the window and the 2Es at the desk' being one of the easier ones (and yes I know that really the plural of tui is ngā tui not tuis but I'm afraid the anglicised version tends to predominate). In jokes take a bit more explaining than a glossary footnote allows!

One very affirming experience was that each of the suggestions we received in the basket from Friends turned out to be something we'd already included, indicative perhaps of how gathered and cohesive YM felt this year.

It was still too long really in the end, but honouring our bi-cultural commitment doesn't make for a low word count when you meet in the rohe of three iwi and include both names of our YM! Hopefully though we've done better than a well known character of a previous Meeting of mine who after 5 minutes or more of vocal ministry would say "and I've said too much already, but..." and then proceed to double the length of his ministry without actually adding to the message.

Being active in the worldwide family of Friends certainly made me more mindful of maintaining a balance between being true to ourselves and the character of our YM, and ensuring that we didn't put out what to many might feel like a secular statement. Our first drafting certainly felt it was leaning towards the latter and I went into Meeting for Worship on the Sunday morning holding that concern and wondering where I'd find the words we needed given that none of the committee leaned to naturally talking in a more religious framework. As we went into worship someone said 'well at least you will get a rest now and won't have to take notes for an hour!', to quote another kind of tui - yeah right... we got gifted with so much inspiration during that hour from the vocal ministry given that the rest of the epistle just flowed from there. Ask and it shall be given, seek and ye may find!

I'm still not sure I'd volunteer to be on an epistle committee again, but I'm grateful for the opportunity this gave me, for having two wonderful women, Valerie and Carril, to work with and for it making me see YM through a different lens as I tried to focus on the spirit and message we had for the world, rather than the nitty gritty of business to report back to my Worship Group later.

Epistle from the Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand

Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand, Te Haahi Tuuhauwiri,
held at El Rancho Christian Camp, Waikanae, Kāpiti Coast 10-13 May 2013

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa, greetings to Friends everywhere,

Over eighty Friends gathered from te hau e whā, the four winds of our country and around the world to the homeland of Te Āti Awa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Raukawa, and Ngāti Toa Rangatira to meet amidst the trees and constant ministry of birdsong.

Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.” These words of Isaac Pennington (1667) quoted in advance documents and shared in song and spoken in session, set the tone for our gathering where the presence of the Spirit has been strongly with us.

We were reminded by our co-clerks that in mechanically clinging to our structures in detail “they become a box to imprison us, rather than a trellis on which we can grow, flower and fruit”. As we looked at respectful relationships, Treaty commitments and constitutional reform, and meeting our educational and spritual needs that sense of reaping the harvest of earlier struggles and hard work, sometimes over many many years, was indeed blossoming and fruitful. We look forward to future positive developments with a sense of excitement and anticipation.
The importance of inclusion, drawing on the roots of our many layered communities, recognising our interdependence, and the need for respectful participation has been a recurring theme.

That we are part of the worldwide community of Friends was recognised in many ways, we welcomed the presence of our invited representatives from Japan and Australia Yearly Meetings as well as our current Wellington and Auckland Resident Friends from Britain YM. The FWCC Asia West Pacific Section AGM was held during our time together giving us a greater opportunity to participate.

There have been12,400 quakes and aftershocks in and around Christchurch since September 2010. We heard personal testimonies from Friends as they face their third winter of physically broken homes, dealing with the 'new normal'. Friends are repeatedly speaking truth to a power that doesn't hear, a bureaucracy which lacks consistency, transparency and integrity. They are weary and stressed, we grieve with them and hold them in the Light.

We were challenged by the words of Micah (6:8) 'And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.'

How can we each be more effectively a 'publisher of the Truth'?

We recognise the need to let our light shine as Quakers, and not hide it under a bushel. To avoid growth simply for growths' sake we have to support and nurture those we have as well as look for and welcome newcomers. We need to enrich our worshipping communities by getting to know one another in that which is trivial as well as the eternal. Our worship underpins and supports our communities' spiritual and educational development.

Our newly revised Advices and Queries was launched within a period of worship, this reflects not just the work of the committee but the spiritual discernment of our whole Yearly Meeting. Making this freely available for Friends and enquirers is a step towards honouring our renewed commitment to our spiritual nurture and outreach.

The Quaker Lecture by Jeanette Fitzsimons (former co-leader of the Green Party) on planning for an economy of 'enough' reminded us that humans have outgrown our habitat. The holy grail of economic growth as a mark of success is not a sustainable one and instead we should be seeking to increase the level of human wellbeing. Generation Zero and have taken up the challenge of being patterns and examples as they work towards shifting political opinion. Ways of supporting our younger Friends to more fully partake in this work and similar concerns, through internships, grants etc. are being explored. We enter this process in faith and trust that a suitable way will open.

Despite the difficult times we live in, we affirm that we are all loved and worthwhile, we're in this for the long haul and together we have a tremendous collective power.

Signed in an on behalf of the Meeting

Elizabeth Duke & Elizabeth Thompson, co-clerks

Glossary & pronunciation guide: [purists don't be too harsh on us!]

Te Haahi Tuuhauwiri – Teh Hah-he Too-ho-wi-ri – the faith community that stands shaking in the wind of the Spirit, the Māori Language Commission gifted us this name

Waikanae – why-can-i

Kāpiti – Kar-pi-ti

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa – Teh-nah ko-toe, teh-nah ko-toe, teh-nah
tah-toe ka-toe-a

Te hau e whā  – Teh ho eh far  – the four winds

Te Āti Awa ki Whakarongotai - Teh Ah-ti Ah-wah key Fark-a-rong-o-tye
Ngāti Raukawa - Ngah-ti Row-ka-wa (row rhyming with now)
Ngāti Toa Rangatira – Ngah-ti Toh-a Rang-a-teera.

These are the three local iwi (tribes) of the area.

Ng is pronounced like the ng in song