Thursday, 29 November 2012

My World

Newly-planted crop contours and patterns in Te Aute photograph
Crop Contours in Te Aute
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

In a Word

Mike Connell: How you relate to people is the measuring stick of how you are with God.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Quips & Quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson: For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Breaking up?

And so it begins....

The retailers have been playing Christmas music since before Labour weekend, my junk mail has doubled in anticipation of the annual spend-up and I've just spent half a day collating all the various letters and emails re events coming up in the next four weeks.

Like it or not, there are now just 29 sleeps till Christmas - and it seems to me that the break-ups are getting earlier and earlier every year, so as to help people fit them all in.

Not too much of a problem for us, as we've always planned not to make plans in the last term of the year, knowing full well that everyone else will make them for us - the school, the kindy, the work, the church groups, the sports club, the extended family etc etc.

Not that I mind though, the groups we belong to bring a richness we would never have enjoyed had we been the stay-at-home types - and as much as I love my computer, it's not near as much fun as getting together with friends.

But life is getting a bit crazy - Regular readers would have noticed I missed writing my blog post last week partly, I confess, because I've been distracted by the fiasco of the Labour Party conference etc, but also due to my putting in long hours at work and the start of the Christmas rush. I'm gonna have to take the advice of a friend, that when it seems like I've got too many balls in the air, I should just put one in my pocket.

The pressure's on - to spend money. Retail apparently is going through a hard time, and while it's noted that "people are worried about the future and their job security," and "on the one hand debt reduction is a good thing", shoppers have been encouraged to "splash their cash".

I say spend what you've budgeted for - and if you haven't, then don't.

The pressure's on - to make everything just so. But so what? I'm all for making the place look nice, but does it really matter if the trees are untrimmed and the windows are still unwashed when the rellies come to visit?

And sure it helps to have a deadline, but is it worth the stress? So what if the gift arrives in January. Isn't it the thought that counts?

And no, I don't want to take away the joy you find in giving and sharing. But isn't there a balance in giving gifts vs. giving of yourself? I suspect the value others put on you is much higher than you might think.

So here's a thought: If you want to avoid a break-up, don't go to the break-up. And if you want to avoid a melt-down, take some time out to smell the roses. Take a walk in Frimley Park.

And if you haven't made the time throughout the year to put away some emotional capital, don't try and spend it all at once - you can always plan to do it differently next year, can't you...?

Decide what's important to you and don't let anyone tell you different. Since when was Christmas supposed to be a celebration on a treadmill?

And by all means, have a very merry Christmas if that's your style, but my personal wish for you is very simple: in the words of the old Christmas carol, that you also might know Peace on earth.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

My World

A leucistic blackbird photograph
A leucistic blackbird, seen in Hastings
Call me a bird-nut, but I think he's gorgeous!
[ Wikipedia: Unlike albinism, leucism is caused by a reduction in all
types of skin pigment, not just melanin. ]
 A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Monday, 19 November 2012

Quips & Quotes

Anonymous: Discretion is putting two and two together, and keeping your mouth shut.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

My World

Hills or holes? an optical illusion photograph
An optical illusion - Hills or holes? Natural or man-made?
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke’s Bay

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

In a Word

Sajan Easow: In the Kingdom of God, surrender leads to freedom, liberty and power.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Quips & Quotes

L.W. Lynett: The most effective way to cope with change is to help create it.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Did so! Did not!

They say it's the woman who always gets the last word in an argument, because anything a man says after that is the start of a new argument.... Hmm, I'm not sure that I agree, anyone dare to have an opinion on that?

I guess I've always enjoyed a good argument. Not the "Yes, I did"..."No, you didn't" variety, though I'm sure I engaged in many such exchanges as a child...

As a high school student I wasn't very good at sports and was never that involved in inter-house or inter-school competitions - until I discovered debating. It was awesome, legalised arguments! The school library had a huge dictionary, literally 30cm (12-inch) thick, from which I could glean the most obscure definitions, creating arguments that came right out of left-wing.

And it was no problem debating topics or arguing a case when I privately had no opinion at all, or even agreed with the opposition. That was half the fun. Rugby emasculates. And I hope you can forgive my expressing just a little pride in my teams who won 30 of their 33 debates. The good part was, that as first speaker, I always got to speak twice.

I enjoy talking and I enjoy a mature discussion, the mutual expression of ideas, the consideration of questions which probe the exterior to discover the truth, to learn why people think the way they do, to understand why they believe what they believe. What do they really care about? What's important, to them?

They say one should never discuss religion or politics in a social setting. Too bad, I'm gonna break that rule. Religion and politics fascinate me. Maybe that's why I enjoy reading blogs and political commentary, though it does get a bit sad when the bloggers/commentators take on each other rather than the point in question.

I know I approach a lot of things as an idealist, and that's okay, you have to have something to attain to. And I can handle the reality that not everything is black and white. But we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking everything is grey and tolerance is king. I've coined a new word on that one - mediaocre - when the fourth estate tries to have a bob each way, and in trying to please everybody ends up pleasing nobody. Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe.

In contrast, my Dad tells me I was always sure of what I was sure of. Maybe that's why I'm a fan of the letters from the Apostle Paul. He presents a point, throws in a few ifs and buts, and rebuts a couple of possible counter-arguments - but the reader is never left in any doubt as to the point he's trying to make.

There are of course risks in having a strongly-held opinion. I have a friend who plays a superb devil's advocate, but the difficulty is, they often end up believing their own rhetoric. And here's a thought: It's all very well winning an argument, but is it worth it if you lose the relationship?

I've discovered in my household I have to be a good sounding board. After all, a woman has to get through about 17,000 words a day compared to my manly 2,000. Um, wrong again. In checking my facts for this post, I discovered there are those who disagree with that concept, and they've got the research to prove their case. There went another belief...

So perhaps on this occasion the last word should go to my friend, Ian Clayton who says "People only argue when one person is not listening."

I wonder if it was his wife who said it first....

Thursday, 8 November 2012

My World

A tui in a kowhai tree, two New Zealand natives photograph
A tui in a kowhai tree, two New Zealand natives
(photographed from my favourite couch by my favourite window...)
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Monday, 5 November 2012

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Values and valuables

A long time ago, when I was just a boy, I remember reading a book called The Diddakoi, about a young gypsy girl who lived amongst a society that generally distrusted and reviled her fellow-gypsies as rough-living, dirty and dishonest, and to be avoided at all costs. And no doubt some of them were dishonest and thieving crooks to boot.

But from the whole book, there is just one passage that I remember. It was a conversation between two non-gypsies discussing their differences. To paraphrase (from memory):
"Sure, you might think they are dirty, but they would say the same about you."
          "And how might that be," she replied haughtily.
"Well then, they'd think you were dirty cos you use the same bucket for washing clothes as you do for preparing veges. They would never do that, they have different buckets for each task."  
It's a question of culture.

I'm reminded of the true story of the Victorian women who begged to have their babies on the street rather than give birth in the hospitals under the care of surgeons proudly wearing aprons stained with the blood of their previous patients.

It's a question of knowledge.

I was taking photos during a powhiri once when one of the speakers said something in Maori, and they all looked at me and laughed. I felt stink. In contrast, I love visiting Te Aranga Marae in Flaxmere, Hastings, where both Maori and English are allowed during the welcome and people of all races are made to feel at home.

It's a question of respect.

Language has always fascinated me, and the exceptions intrigue me. For instance, why isn't the 'au' in Paraparaumu pronounced 'oh' as in Taupo? I asked a woman that once, and thinking I was criticising her language, she got really offended and stormed out of the interview (much to the dismay of the reporter I was working with.)

Not to be put off, some time later I asked the question again and had it explained to me that the original translators had made a mistake. The city just north of Wellington should be called Parapara Umu - two words - i.e. the 'au' should not be read as one sound. Curiosity satisfied, and I just learnt a bit more about the history of my country. Win-win.

It's a question of tolerance of ignorance and security in ones own identity.

I've got to confess, I don't understand Halloween. Just what is the point of dressing up as characters from The Dark Side and playing Trick or Treat i.e. "Give me something I want or you'll regret it." The cynic in me would say it's just another retailer ruse to sell more stuff at a traditionally quiet time of the retail year.

And yes I know it's just a game, and sure the kids have fun, but do we really want to reinforce the notion that it's okay to beg for stuff without doing anything for it? Maybe my American friends can help me out...

It's a question of understanding.

Just five days later, New Zealand celebrates Guy Fawke's Day, as we have ever since I was a child, with fireworks, bonfires and guy competitions. It's a celebration of the 407 years since a plot to overthrow the King was thwarted. It's rather sad that such a colourful part of our British Heritage is slowly dying because of the minority who light fires irresponsibly and terrorise pets.

It's a question of historical significance.

And then we have the public holidays of Christmas and Easter. I remember being less-than-happy about having to work on a Good Friday, and one of my colleagues wondering what the issue was (after all, I got a day off later in the week didn't I?) until I explained a holiday was originally known as a HolyDay. He hadn't thought of it like that before...

It's a question of the truth behind the tradition.

Just recently a group of my friends were at a pot-luck lunch where, as per our normal custom, the women filled their plates first. The Indian women however would not go to the table until their menfolk had served themselves.

Similarly, some folks think it bad manners to look you in the eye, while others would consider it a bit dodgy were you to look away.

It's a question of custom and etiquette.

I consider myself truly blessed that I have a whole range of nationalities amongst my friends: English, Indian, Australian, Singaporean, Maori, South African, Cook Island, American, Zimbabwean, Canadian, Chinese, Kiwi and probably a good few more.

Invariably, our differences come down to our culture, our history and our beliefs. But we do have a few things in common: We are each unique, we are each extremely valuable and though we can't really know what's going on in each other's mind, and we don't always understand the way they react to various situations, we do at least try.

It's a question of values.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

My World

Poukawa poplars in late afternoon light photograph
Poukawa Poplars in late-afternoon light
A weekly series of photographs from around Hawke's Bay