Kia ora Koutou,
Here we are, November, and the last Busk for the year 2022.
Mask wearing is a choice and we can go anywhere. Covid is still here and still infecting people but we seem to have lost our fear of it, or at least we have if it hasn’t happened to us. I guess this is what happened with influenza once that first terrible swathe had ebbed and vaccines arrived.
Spring in Otaki is beautiful. Blossoms everywhere, knobby little fruits starting to appear if you have early peaches or plums, early tomatoes are planted and plans for the main crop in a week or so, underway. Asparagus has had its first flush, you are picking broad beans, indeed everything green is shiny with rich growth. Looks like a good season coming up. My strawberry plants are lush green in their bins of new potting mix.
Walking, though not as easy as it was, is much better in the morning sun than under a grey sky. The security guy standing at the door of the bank still smiles good morning. I see the Council (or someone) has put an extra seat on the footpath so if needed, you can have a rest or just a pause while you look around.
So a lot of good things are happening and one of them is that my second crime novel, Blood Matters has been published. Questions are being asked based around age and how we reach that age and I suppose how well (or not) we function at such an age.
I have no secret diet or exercise routine, no mysterious gift or even a special sign. I have had a serious illness or two and recovered, I have Macular Degeneration which is a grief but hardly new and not confined to old people anyway.
I could say my old age is due to clean living and constant prayer but you probably wouldn’t believe me. However, you will be happy to know that there is an idea bubbling away for another novel. I’ll let that happen and see whether it takes me anywhere.
In the meantime I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a great 2023 with lots of fun and singing (we have to keep singing) coming your way.
Kia ora Koutou,
I have rediscovered the delight of hot cocoa.
At some stage during the night I always have to get up and go to the bathroom so after washing my hands, instead of being irritated that I’ve had to wake up, its much easier to make cocoa, maybe grab a couple of biscuits while you’re at it, go back to the bedroom, sip and munch.
I turn the lights out early at the end of the day partly because my eyes are sore but partly because all my life (that I can remember) I’ve liked to lie awake in the dark for a little while before going to sleep — time to mull over the day’s events, think about some of them, plan others … nowadays think about my progress (or not) with an idea for writing … go over various scenarios, possibilities, whether to introduce a new character or to save them for another time, whether to get rid of a character entirely. If I have health or other anxieties I use other times to think about them.
I never actually planned this pattern, it just happened and it works.
After this review of my life at that time, unless I was sick or worried or unhappy, I used to sleep right through the night and always got irritated when that didn’t happen but now I more or less expect it so if I add a little treat into the mix it becomes enjoyable. If you can’t beat ‘em, have a party is a good rule and the irritations of having to get up in the middle of the night vanish immediately. It becomes more of a lead into a treat rather than a nuisance.
So now, when I go to sleep and then wake up because nature calls, the thought of a nice hot cup of cocoa is very appealing. A treat in fact — a little party for me and whoever else I want to join me in my head, fictional or real. It’s a time for changing things too. If you haven’t liked the outcome of a story in someone else’s book you can just change it, they will never know and besides, nothing is set in stone, you can play around with ‘what if?’ as much as you like. You can plan a treat, you can go shopping and the assistant will be pleased to see you even though he has to move from his position and show you something over in the far corner.
You can be anyone you like, slip into anyone’s story, change it, make them happy. You can turn the radio on and know someone else in the world is awake and working to inform, interest, amuse or please you.
When you return the empty mug to the sink, run some water in it, visit the bathroom again, wash your hands, go back to bed, you’ve had your bedtime story so you put the light out and go back to sleep smiling.
Kia ora Koutou,
Do we have to continue to celebrate Guy Fawkes? It’s a bizarre idea isn’t it? Teaching kids to celebrate the grisly day someone was burned to death because…?
Do we really have to frighten animals with all the banging, shouting, plus the garish lights of fireworks?
Do we have to put up with someone lighting fireworks every night after the fifth? Because they always do. Someone who waits till kids are asleep and then starts lighting bangers? Isn’t it enough that in many places in the world kids try to sleep through actual gunfire?
Maybe we could find something else to celebrate, something more inspiring? Maybe even celebrate the work of Rescue Teams in the mountains or bush perhaps? Maybe a Thank you to Nurses Day? Celebrate some action that enhances human life? Not an occasion when someone was killed for public enjoyment. Can you imagine laughing and cheering while watching someone burn to death in a fire? Maybe those who spend money on fireworks could give it to a charity that feeds kids who’ve been forced to run from their homes because of terrorist attacks?
Sometimes we inherit these celebrations and carry them on without much thought as to what we’re actually celebrating. Guy Fawkes planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament — he was caught and burned alive while people watched, sang, cheered. Other people this century have blown up buildings, killed, injured people peacefully going about their business — are we celebrating that? Do we light fireworks and sing songs and cheer to celebrate those who initiated 9/11? Of course not.
So why do we celebrate and burn fireworks in 2022 because someone was burned to death in 1605?
Maybe someone can enlighten me?
There’s a fair bit of talk about getting old, usually in tones of horror and fear. It seemed to be called the ‘other side of the hill’ and I assumed this meant the not so good side eg the slow downhill slide into the dark. As you probably all know, I thought I would die at 42 like my mother — or at the latest, 50, because that’s round about the age most of my grandmothers, aunts, cousins etc, died — and by the way, I refuse to say ‘passed on’ because they didn’t pass anywhere, they stopped doing anything, they died.
I don’t have any religious beliefs, so while it might be nice to think my dead whanau were smiling at me and sending me race tips or saying that tomorrow I’m going to win Lotto, Rose, my mother, is the only one whose words still sit in my brain — there are no voices from outer space at all. And what Rose says are only echoes of things she said in the past which pop into my head at various times and in various circumstances.
No-one told me what getting old would mean. Oh there was plenty of advice from much younger people, exercise, walk, eat this or don’t eat that, sit and contemplate but its very easy to advise 70, 80, 90 year-olds from the lofty heights of 40. No-one said it would be fun some days and not so amusing on others. No-one said you might not be able to walk as far as you do now, no-one said that the medical profession had a ‘one decision/attitude/approach’ when it comes to patients who are old and definitely no-one said there’s a chance you’ll retain your brain and still be able to work so if you’re lucky enough to do that, you have to realise doctors tend to dismiss it as not worthy of consideration and besides even if true, it couldn’t possibly compare with a day’s work by someone younger. There’s a mindset which dictates what everyone does at certain ages. Generally speaking I suppose they’re right, but there are exceptions and just because you’re a certain age and your body’s creaky, doesn’t mean you’ve lost your mind. When I was diagnosed with macular degeneration no doctor or specialist gave me any advice on how I might cope when I began losing my sight — no telephone numbers I might ring for advice, nothing. Naturally they charged like wounded Rhino.
I can only hope that when these doctors and eye specialists and front of house people are old they get someone just like themselves to deal with their ailments.
Old age is not like you pass from one room into another so you’re suddenly in the Old Persons’ Room. Growing old is sometimes slow, sometimes fast. It has its annoying side because you become invisible but your sense of humour doesn’t fade and you can always come home and write out a description of the event, get it out of your system, have a laugh, play some Sarah Vaughan or Willie Nelson, maybe Pixie Williams singing Blue Smoke.
And there’s technology. A huge boon. You can keep reading books on an iPad, change to audio when it becomes impossible to read the words, get a voiced unseen assistant on the computer but its perfectly okay to just use a computer for online banking and emails. Those of us who use it every day for other things do not think you should be a whizz on the computers. A computer is a wonderful aid when you’re old but how much someone uses it is dictated by their need or by the pleasure they get from it. If you have a computer you use only for emails to children or grandchildren that’s your choice and no–one else’s business.
Sometimes eating becomes a problem. I mean sometimes I lose interest in food. I don’t stop eating but I have no interest in what I eat, I’m eating because I know I have to. I get various gut upsets, I get irritable but so do lots of people both young and old. I like listening to music, to various podcasts, most of all I like reading and alas that is going to go sooner than later.
Old age is inevitable for most of us. There is no one right way for dealing with it, no clear pathway to walk but hey, Spring still comes and you can still plant tomatoes (or ask/pay someone else to do it for you), you can still look at a line of washing flapping in the breeze on this sunny morning and think yes, it made my shoulder gyp when I hung it out but it still makes me smile and then you come inside, stick on East Coast Moon, listen to Maisy Rika while you make coffee.
So — and I speak for myself only — old age seems to be different for everyone and each one of us walks our particular pathway alone but whether we’re physically disabled, nearly blind or deaf as a post without hearing aids, and if we’re lucky enough to retain our brains, we can choose how we do it. We can sing (albeit only in the privacy of our own home) in between sipping the coffee or we can drink it in gloomy silence.
I vote for singing.
I think of the morning we came home from school
You did not understand, school lasted till three.
I was more scared of Mum than the teacher but I came home with you.
You were only five, I thought, forgetting I had been five two years ago and had stayed when I wanted to go because I would get the strap.
My heart was beating like that tap dance I made you do
at the concerts I organised at the river when you giggled
and couldn’t stop and wet your pants in front of everyone
seven kids and a dog.
I did not feel very loving then.
And then and then － you are dead, my sister, my sister is dead －
I want to run through the streets crying.
Last week your daughter and I remembered, ‘Thirty years,’
she said, ‘I can’t believe it. Thirty years.’
‘Yesterday,’ I said, ‘yesterday. We can run through the streets together －
‘although,’ I added, ‘I’ll have to take my stick…’
I think of all those words, the tellings, the books, the dancing, the day I threw your teddy bear, Edward B Jones, up on the roof…
How could I have done that?
The slow awakenings － the realisation － this is forever
these ongoing lessons －
how hard it is to love, how vulnerable we make ourselves.
Easy targets － we run and sing and dance towards these lessons
and as we stumble, recover, keep walking, one foot in front of the other,
falling, smiling, failing, crying, laughing, hugging, falling again
that forever mixed-up lesson － how easy, how hard, oh how bloody hard
it is to love.
Kia ora Koutou,
in 2006 I was a student in a Whitireia poetry class taught by Lynn Davidson. Sarah Delahunty, another playwright, also attended. We both agreed that playwrights (or anyone wanting to write good dialogue), could gain a lot from studying and writing poems.
I was remembering that year and its benefits, recalling that Lynne decreed that we had to write a poem a week and bring it to the weekly class and there were many such days when some frantic writing and rewriting would be done, lines crossed and recrossed while eating a hurriedly made piece of toast and marmite or peanut butter before, with one last scribble and the certainty that this was probably the worst poem ever written (was it even a poem?) I walked out the door and along Courtenay Place to that classroom on the second floor.
I remembered Sarah’s poem, written for one such class and which I always loved because the theme is universal and it seemed appropriate for this present time (or any time perhaps?) so I asked her for permission to publish it on the Busk and she said yes, so here it is… many thanks Sarah.
If there was somewhere to be safe
If there was somewhere to be safe
I would have found it long ago
made up my fire and crouched there
My head would bow down
thank gods for mercy
ask only to remain beyond their furies.
If there was somewhere to be safe
you would be there with me
the air between us warm with breath
Our eyes would flicker at each other
through the firelight, our whispers
would be wilder than the wind
If there was somewhere to be safe and be with you
I would have found it long before tonight.