little red jottings

when a little red pen wanders off the page

Tag: the conversations we need to have

A very bookish sort of Mothers’ Day

I don’t know why I do a Mothers’ Day post every year, but I do. Although this one is so late, it’s sort of morphing into the birthday post and really, it’s just about books.

The Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival was on in mid-May. It was exhausting and wonderful. I went to a creative writing workshop with Glenn Colquhoun and if you ever get the chance to go to any sort of anything with him, do not even blink, just go. It was scary as all get out and then it was affirming and then it gave me what I needed. Dirty up your writing, he said. I ask you, how could you not love a man like that? I heard the lovely Emma Neale and Barbara Brookes read from their new books, discovered Ian Rankin, Victor Rodger, John Lanchester and Stella Duffy, rediscovered Bill Manhire and remembered The Magic Faraway Tree, took Rabbit to hear Selina Tusitala Marsh deliver the keynote address and then learn about making books about bees and monsters, lost it at the circle of laureates when Rob Tuwhare sang his Dad’s poetry, cried again with my sister listening to the marvellous and compassionate Emily Writes, thought about family and memory with Ashleigh Young and Adam Dudding and then crawled home and tried, not very successfully, to reintegrate myself into family and work. I was so happy, thinking and listening, angling towards the light, towards words laid together just so, towards ideas and wairua and the song of it all. I couldn’t be there all the time, attuned like that, but for a few days it fed me.



A little bit more of this

I read an Enid Blyton story to Rabbit last night — a morally saturated tale about a girl who missed a trip to the seaside because she stopped to help a boy who fell off his bike while her friend ran on to get the bus and didn’t tell the teacher to wait, but it all worked out because the boy’s mother was both grateful and had a sports car so she took the girl and the boy to the beach anyway and they got there at the same time as the bus even though they had to stop and clean up the boy’s knee because sports car and morals and then the boy and the girl became friends and played happily together every week because they were both kind.

So, cheers for all that instruction, Enid, but it did lead to a conversation with Rabbit about kindness. First, he declared that he would definitely stop to help the boy and take him to his (the boy’s) house and if they didn’t have any bandaids there, he would bring the boy to our house and one of the adults would fix up his knee. And then he told me about how his friend was riding his bike and the front wheel hit a rock and the friend fell off and got a cut on his knee and Rabbit took him to the sick bay. “How did it work?” I asked. “Could he walk or did you have to help him?” “Oh, we held hands and walked together,” said Rabbit.

And it’s sappy, but I actually think that would be great, if everyone took the time to hold their friend’s hand and walk with them to the sick bay when they fall off their bike.

Telling it like it is

It’s 8.30pm and we’re eating dinner. This is not some sophisticated European thing. This is a long day with too much frazzle, a fishing trip that consisted almost entirely of line disentanglement, the end of a long weekend, dwindling parental energy, the rigours of the supermarket, the complications of catering for one child with allergies, one who has decided he is now a vegetarian who eats seafood and mince, and two parents who want a simple French tart every now and then, and also it’s the sort of late you get when you start behind time and everything goes just enough wrong to really collapse the schedule. Probably, in sum, it’s bad parenting, or maybe it’s just the way life rolls sometimes.

So, here we are, eating our mince, pea, apple and olive pie and our leek, tomato, olive, goats’ cheese tart, relaxed and comfortable with each other at last, some of us playing Uno, some of us with our noses in a book. Ian is trying to convince the Rabbit that it’s time to go to bed, that there will be only a little bit of story time tonight, that a bath is not going to happen. I’ve chipped in a bit but — truth be told — I’m nearing the bottom third of a wine glass and I’m reading essays by Helen Garner and I still have to cook a lasagne tonight before I can go to bed, so now the conversation is swirling in the space around my head, but nothing’s going in my ears.

Until we get to this bit.

Rabbit: “Do you know what I’m doing?”

Ian: “Um …”

Me: “Procrastinating?”

Rabbit: “What I’m doing is I’m not listening to you.”

Arming myself

So, a midlife crisis feels horizon-ish, not alarmingly or urgently so, but just there, hovering on the edge of my vision. At the moment, it’s manifesting itself as three white hairs, a vague restlessness, a niggling frustration at the non-fabulousness of my career, and a big twitching ache when I see anything about Paris, Mediterranean islands, good food or extraordinary writers.

I can cope with all of this, NO PROBLEMS, but in the library today I decided some extra bolstering might be in order. I came out with Peta Mathias, Primo Levi, Gertrude Stein and Anna Wintour. I CANNOT imagine what sort of a time I might construct in my 40s from this lot, but it’s got to be fun trying.

These things we remember

In a week of remembering and celebrating the life of Nelson Mandala, the drive for justice and equality, the long, arduous fight for freedom, we’ve also had to endure the faffing, fumbling foolishness of our Prime Minister, who first couldn’t remember what side he was on during the 1981 Springbok Tour and then couldn’t be bothered going into the details of his “mildly pro-Tour” stance because he was 20 at the time and doing all sorts of other things.

Well, you know what, I don’t remember the 1981 Tour either, although I have friends of a similar age who do. I was six, and I guess I was also doing all sorts of other things at the time.

But I do remember 1985, when the New Zealand Rugby Union wanted to send a team to South Africa and they were stopped by protests from New Zealanders who opposed apartheid and who were also fighting against racism and injustice here. A non-official team did go, and those players remember; some of them hold fast to their reasons for going, some talk about the impact of seeing apartheid up close, some regret  going. But they remember.

I remember it because I had just turned ten, and I was old enough to go to the Senior Youth Group at my church for the first time. The leader asked us all what we thought about the tour, going around the circle, gently probing for our views. I didn’t know what he was talking about — my parents didn’t talk about politics with us and I didn’t read the newspapers.

So, I remember. I remember my confusion and embarrassment, my awkward copying of the view of the boy who spoke before me: “politics and sport don’t mix”, for the record. And I remember the leader questioning me a bit, offering another way of looking at things. I remember hating the feeling of not knowing what people were talking about, and I remember the seriousness in the room, the sense that we had something to grapple with here. And most of all, I remember knowing that this mattered. I didn’t know why it mattered, I didn’t really understand any of it, but I knew that we had to do this thinking and talking. I think I even knew — in a blurred, unsure, ten-year-old way — that in having this conversation we were working out how we wanted the world to be.

How John Key managed to avoid or forget those conversations, I do not understand.

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