June 29, 2010

Storyteller, troublemaker...candelstickmaker (3)

Max's death hit me hard. I'd never known anyone who'd died before. I'd never experienced that 'before' and 'after' thing or that gut-wrenching pull that said, you're really never going to see that person again. I'd always been in the middle, saying goodbye to people I assumed I would never see again but knowing I could - like my family. But Max's death was final. There was no going back on that one.

The family paid my wages for the week - business was business, right? But after that week, I knew I not only had to find another job but I also had to find somewhere else to live. No time to grieve. Time to start moving again. The family eventually offered me board and I applied for local jobs, real ones, ones that start at normal times and last only five days a week. You know, so you can kind of have a life? My first resume was sent out to an insurance company, within walking distance. They needed a PA for the boss. Did I know how to type - answer a phone? How hard could that be, right? 

I took an instant dislike to the bosses 2IC. Her name was Sue and she looked me over as if I was applying for more than just a PA role. The boss considered her actions as "sweet" loyalty. I was soon to learn she had justified reasons - the boundaries between clients and Boss, or PA and Boss were forever being tested and she was the only one that could keep him in line by constantly threatening to leave - she had become, wisely, irreplaceable. 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you see things, Sue was not around on my second interview and the 'boss' set me the task of writing a few letters to clients, that I thought, were imaginary, made up for my benefit - just to see whether I could actually type or not. 

I'll learn him I thought. I was given a file labeled Sarah Fergusson and a tape of a letter that needed to be addressed to her soon-to-be ex-husband - Andrew. It was a boring letter. All about her life insurance policies, how she needs to get the hubby off the policies etc., but I wasn't fooled. I'll add my own bit to this, I thought. At the time, Lady Sarah Fergusson had just separated from Prince Andrew - I remember feeling disappointed they ouldn't have thought up a more imaginative couple. 

Dear Andrew, I started... Sarah thinks you're a real right plonker and she's glad to be rid of you and your small royal willy. Yours sincerely....Triumphant, I placed the finished product in front of boss and waited for him to smile, knowing I had passed the test - figuring out which client was real and which wasn't. 

I had never seen someone nearly die on a mouthful of coffee  but I did that day - it propelling so fiercely out of his mouth that it splattered over all his precious documents scattered over his desk. I knew something was amiss cause he couldn't find a single solitary word to say - his purple face said it all.

Typically English, he regained self control like I've never seen before, looked over the rest of the letter, with the right wording, nodded, closed the file and then sat back in his chair - I swear I saw a wee smile threatening to escape.

"Well, um, thank you for that. We'll be in touch."

I took my leave not thinking for a second that I would get a callback,  let alone from the  boss himself asking for another interview, only this time, could it be at the local French restaurant. "Pick you up, say, around 6ish?"

I nodded. 

I had two more similar interviews in random restaurants. We talked about his business. Well actually, he talked about his business, how he had surpassed all expectations, reaching top sales within three months. How he was divorced, had two sons he saw every weekend and how Sue, his rottweiler secretary, was really nothing more than a pussy cat. "She just looks out for me," he explained, "probably cause I think with the wrong head."

That ought to have been a clue, one of those red light moments, but I was enjoying myself too much. Boss was a wonderful distraction to my lonely existence. Max never infiltrated my head when I was around him. I could eat and forget about the Trans-Siberian railway, the fur coat, the fact that I so needed this job and if having a few dinners was going to secure that, then so be it. 

The shift came when, interview number four, consisted of him collecting me, as usual, from the house around 6pm and then...shock, horror... a quick pick up of some Chinese takeaway and then back to his apartment. I followed him up the five flights of stairs in silence, the Chinese food whiffing out tasty aromas. 

It's amazing what a 'home' will say about a person. His had whitewashed walls, clinical, devoid of character, color, anything really. In the small kitchen he has crystal glasses - a sales reward from work and in the lounge, very expensive tailor-made curtains-from Harrods, he added when I noticed them. There was nothing on the walls, no pictures, no photos. This, I decided was just a place he put his head down on those nights he wasn't sleeping somewhere else. 

Much to the distress of his personal rottweiler, I was offered a job. Not the PA position but as a salesperson, someone he could train to do his job, look after or service some of his mammoth client base and become, like him, someone in their own apartment with no pictures on the wall. 

I spent a lot of time with 'boss' both at work and in the numerous restaurants throughout Bristol. We were yet to become anything more than close friends at that stage, but I was quite happy flirting with the boundaries, just like him. Several people thought we were an "item" including Sue but I had done my homework, knew he was 'seeing' a woman - his Tuesday girl - and, I told myself, I'm not the "type" of woman to steal a man - or was I?

When Tuesday girl found out about me and all the time we were spending together, all hell broke loose. My job should never have been dependent on him retaining his relationship with her but that's life. I moved out of Max's family home, into a shoddy apartment with a super duper flatmate, and got another job. Thankfully, we had an answering machine so I could screen calls but I do remember feeling sad when boss called begging to just meet for coffee. A part of me thought, how harmless is that right? Another part of me remembered how this whole thing started - bloody coffee. 

About a month later, he was knocking on my front door. Some days, my flatmate was home and he would answer the door phone and lie. "Sorry, she's not here." Other times, I had to put my head under a pillow to drown him out. Then, one morning, I opened the door and  let him in. He looked like crap but said nothing, neither did I. We sipped coffee until it was all gone and then he said "I think she's having an affair."

Have you ever noticed that when your brain goes blank your eyes go searching upwards for information? First left - nothing, then right, nothing - your mouth opens and nothing comes out. That was me. I couldn't believe how this man was sitting in my lounge looking all forlorn and not once thinking, hang on a sec, I put this chick out of work without so much as notice or comeback. Then another thought: How desperately sad he has nowhere else to go, no one else to turn to? I was it. 

"You know, last night I was sitting at home, " he paused, "and I thought, if I put a rope around my neck and hung myself off the rooftop of my apartment, who would bloody well notice?"

The vision of his feet dangling from six floors up, for some stupid reason, made me want to laugh. Perhaps it was nerves. Perhaps it was the thought that he would be wearing his designer-made shoes. 

I stayed at his apartment for a week on so-called suicide watch. "But know this," I added, "you so much as come on to me and I will chop your dick off, you hear?" He nodded and stifled a smile. I felt my heart beat furiously both out of anger and hope.

It was like silent pact. I would fill the hole in his life if he filled mine. I met his sons and every weekend, we all trotted off like any other nuclear family and played. We took drives in the country, had Devonshire teas, climbed mountains, and played 'tag' with the kids in the local cemetery. Every Sunday night, he returned the boys to their mother's house. I always knew I was the next to be dropped off - the dream over for another week. I slept alone in my apartment during the week and went to work. I tried not to think what he was doing on Tuesday nights.

My work permit was coming to an end. Usually, I'd have left the country every fortnight and had that time away credited back to my permit. I'd managed to pan out my two years to nearly three but time was closing in on me. One more trip abroad and they'd nab me at customs for sure. The only way around it, I thought, was to either never leave England again, hide out here in Never Never land, or marry an Englishman. The latter, I knew was not an option. I was still married to my estranged Frenchman and I had no idea how to get divorced or where he even was in order to get him to sign papers - which I assumed he'd need to. I was stuffed either way.

I can still his face when he asked me to accompany him to Barbados on a business convention. "I thought you'd be pleased," boss said, "you know, a trip away, just the two of us, oh and, you know," he smiled, "just about everyone else in the company." I knew this was his way of saying, we were coming out - going public. I scoffed. I knew everyone assumed we were seeing each other. We weren't very good at hiding it really and I was, secretly, pleased when we bumped into someone from work, especially if his sons were around. 

I wanted so much to go but I knew. One week in Barbados and then...deportation. 



Storyteller, troublemaker...candelstickmaker (2)

I was relieved to be back in England but only because I could speak the language. Reluctantly, I went back to my temporary work agency and within a day or two, I was assigned to "look after" an elderly lady called Max. That wasn't her real name but it was what she wanted everyone to call her. She was ninety-three years old and had stubbornly refused to move into a Rest Home, at her family's request. As a compromise, I was to live with her, cook dinner, and do the odd job around the house. She didn't mind the intrusion too much especially after she learned that I was from New Zealand and had obviously done some traveling. 

"I did some traveling too," she said one day smiling inwardly at the memories that flashed before her. "I was eighteen and I ran away," she chortled. "Just me and my nanny." 


"Oh I suppose you would call her a governess really. She was nice but quite afraid. We caught the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to China. I don't remember why we were going there but I do remember being a little afraid of the bandits. They were rife throughout Mongolia." 

I fell in love with Max. Every afternoon, we'd settle down in the lounge after "supper" and armed with world maps, pens, and copious amounts of paper, we planned a similar Trans-Siberian railway trip for me. Crosses on the map indicated the likely whereabouts of those pesty bandits. 

Agency assignments like looking after Max were always for a maximum of three weeks. As it was deemed to be 24/7, they transferred you after you did "your time," gave you two weeks off and then looked for another placement. When my three weeks were up with Max, I begged the Agency to reconsider and lengthen my stay. I didn't mind that I had no free time or that I went to bed at 6pm. I enjoyed Max so much, I would have wanted to have stayed forever. The Agency relented but after six weeks, they pulled the plug. 

The morning I was suppose to leave, Max sat in her comfy lounge chair and called me over to her. "How about I go live with my daughter in Bristol?" she asked. This is was bolt out of the blue. I knew Max wanted dearly to remain in the home that she had know all her life, where her children had played, grown up, where her husband slept and , eventually died, and where many nights of entertaining friends had been. I had sat through many family discussions where her daughter had promoted her new home in Bristol - with it's one bedroom apartment downstairs and even an interval elevator in case Max wanted to eat with the family. I watched as Max shook her head every time her daughter tried to persuade her to leave home. 

"And you my dear can come live with me there." 

It was as simple as that. Max and I were off to Bristol. She settled into her little flat downstairs and I had a room at the top of the house. Every morning, I would have breakfast with her and every afternoon, we got the maps out. The only real difference for me was the family were now paying my wage - like for like with the Agency  only I was to finished work at 5pm every night with weekends off. It was a dream come true. 

Three days into our shift and Max was transferred to hospital. She wasn't one to complain but I got scared. She'd refused to let me bathe her and at the same time, I noticed a huge lump protruding from under her ribs and told her daughter - secretly. I felt like the biggest traitor when she was transferred to hospital and could hardly look her in the eye when I went into her room and saw her stubbornly sitting in chair, refusing to lay in what she considered a "death bed." She clutched her handbag to her chest as if those bandits were just around the corner. 

I don't remember the details of the Doctor's conversation but I do remember seeing her daughter sit opposite and nod her head at the inevitable news that Max was dying. The only word that uttered my mouth was "No!" and it came out sounding like someone who'd stood on a cat's tail. "No!" I said it again as if that one word could change everything. 

"How long are we talking?" asked the daughter.

The doctor hesitated. "A week? Maybe a few days?"
I flew out the room and stormed off to Max's room, stealing  an abandoned wheelchair along the way. Her eyes were wide open as I flung open the door. "Come on you, I'm getting you out of here." 

Max's eyes lit up and she lumbered into the wheelchair. "But I only have a nightgown on dear." I rummaged through her overnight bag that still laid unpacked on the bed and grabbed a jumper. Standing over her, with tears threatening to explode, I gingerly draped the jumper around her shoulders and did the first button up, like a cap. 

"Done," I said triumphantly. 

Max was comfortable. Her cap was on. Her handbag strapped to her chest. She started laughing like a youthful child. "I say, this is exciting. Where we going?"

"Dunno Max. I'm just breaking you out of here."

Her daughter met us in the hallway, caught onto the idea, and played along. "I'll get the bags and meet you out front," she said, forcing a smile. Max was...well, Max was delighted. She leaned forward in the wheelchair as we neared corners to check no one was there before giving me the "tally-ho" signal to push her towards the exit. She was beside herself with laughter as the getaway car screeched to a halt and I all but threw Max into the back seat. 

"I knew there were bandits," she said as we drove home.

Max never spoke again. 

On the night she died, I was upstairs in the kitchen. I was preparing one of her favorite dishes. Not much of an effort really - raw, thinly sliced salmon. If I could get her to eat some of it, that is. I was just about to turn around and head for the stairs to her room when something, I don't know what, stopped me and everyone in that room - Max's daughter, all her grandchildren and some friends from decades ago all held their breath. I dropped the plate and fell to my knees. I knew she'd gone. It was less than a week since the shift from her home. 

The day of the funeral, her daughter called me into her room. "Mum left this for you," she said, handing me an original diary of Max's escape on the Trans-Siberian railway. "And she wanted you to have this too."

I opened the big brown bag and pulled out a full length fur coat with a note attached. "Keep warm." 

...to be continued.


June 28, 2010

Storyteller...troublemaker... candlestick maker

Ask anyone in my family and they will say I'm a troublemaker. They'll probably have a wonderfully long list of so-called crimes I've committed and be all too willing to engage in some offenses that I don't even know about. But that's my family for you. That is how I am seen. I don't have a name. I don't have status. I have a rap-sheet. So what has been my worse crime, people ask?

Top of the list would have to be "telling" a friend I was sexually abused back in the god-forsaken 70's. A time when sexual abuse wasn't as prevalently public as it is today but happening none the less. I didn't tell my girlfriend cause I was bored or wanted to be a drama queen or, as has been suggested by family members, just wanting to "be like the others." I told because someone else mentioned it first. And because of the supportive reaction she got, I assumed, perhaps naively, that I would get the same in return.

I've since learned never to assume anything. In fact, my new word when I was in my teens was cynality - a mix of cynicism and reality. To me, they meant the same thing.

In 1984, I did the most heinous thing to my family - I went to the Police and reported my offender. It was like watching a nuclear fallout with family members all trampling over each other to deny my accusations whilst still trying to appear, on the surface at least, supportive of my cause. What they didn't know was that I was privy to all their statements.

I didn't bother to read the ones that I knew were already anti-me. I went straight to my mother's statement because she consistently claimed to support and help me. To this day she still thinks I thought she was "on my side" but her statement said she regarded me as  "an imaginative storyteller." 

Funny how a few words like that can anchor a person in life. I like writing. I'd like to, one day, write about something imaginative and fun, perhaps some thing for kids? But you see, when I saw those words "imaginative" it made me think that meant unreal, made-up, magical. Certainly not truthful. I couldn't afford for people to think I'd made the sexual abuse up so best I stay away from writing like that. From that day on, I refused to accept anything imaginative. Even when I went to University to study English Literature, I struggled with the concept of make-believe, so much so, I was called into the lecturer's office and given a one-on-one about 'magic realism.' I pulled out of that paper and went straight into tackling the contradiction of 'creative non-fiction' instead, claiming there was no such thing. Oddly enough, I passed that paper. 

Not so odd was the outcome of the Police investigation - with no supporting witnesses and lack of any "obvious" physical evidence, the case was dropped. My entire family rejected me from that day on, labeling me 'the troublemaker,' and refusing to even acknowledge my existence. My mother, I dumped. Not in the true sense of the word, but in an emotional one. I kept my guard up around her, never let her in, and certainly never trusted her again. 

In order to distance myself from the constant ridicule, I jumped on a plane and headed for the UK. I told everyone it was just one of those random Kiwi OE things that just needed to be done when in reality, it was an escape. I was running away. I am not unlike most people. I wanted a family, a group of blood related people that loved me but I just didn't fit in. I was an outsider looking in and the only way I could stop punishing myself for creating a wedge was to leave the country and go as far away as possible. I never told anyone where I was going or where I was staying. That way, if I never heard from them I could tell myself it was because they didn't know where I was. Better that than have them know where I was and never bother to write or ring, which I was sure would happen - self preservation.

I went to England on a one-way ticket and six hundred pounds cash. I knew no one, had no idea where I'd stay or what I would do. All I knew was that I couldn't come back. I didn't have enough funds. I made sure of that. I must have been desperate. I couldn't imagine doing that now.  Within a week of arriving, I called my ex-boyfriend in New Zealand and promised to return home, marry him like a good girl, and give him the babies he wanted if he would just send me money to fly home. Bless his heart, he said he would but only if I called him in a month's time with the same request. I never did. I'd found my feet by then and recovered from the fear of being incredible alone in a big wide world. 

I'd found a job and a place to live and every two weeks, I'd jump on a plane to some island and have a holiday. On the surface of it, I was doing what everyone dreamed of - tiki touring around the world but I was really just moving out of fear of staying still. 

My desire to belong to a family (any family) grew so much that I ended up marrying a French guy and for a while (about a year), it really looked as though I'd "pulled it off." Everything I did always had another motive, always seemed "unreal", always appeared to be false - this marriage, in my mind's eye, was no different - a means to an end; security. We were semi-happy. We moved to Paris, lived with his mother for a while until we set up 'home' in Strasbourg. Unable to speak the language or get a job while he worked, I became increasingly isolated and more dependent on hubby until I'd squeezed the life out of him and he all but dried up. Our marriage, to this day, remains secret to his family. We never told anyone. He had his reasons, I swallowed mine. I so wanted to be a part of his family, a daughter in law to some of the nicest people I'd met, but I went along with hiding our marriage knowing his family would never have approved. It's one thing to like me, it's quite another to accept me as a family member. I, on the other hand, always sold myself short - happy enough to just "belong" to/with him and not be seen as "ungrateful" or wanting more. A family trait I'd learned over the years. Unsurprisingly, it didn't last. We split on a return trip to England and never saw each other again. 

... to be continued. 

June 25, 2010

To my friends...

At some point in life, you just sit down and take a long hard look at where you are and if you're lucky, you either don't feel the need to do this or you like where things are heading. Other times, like for me right now, you look and look and look and nothing is right. Nothing is where it should be. This is about the time depression could seep in. Especially if you keep looking back in life and seeing those crossroads in life where you know, you just know, you made the wrong turn. I've seen a lot of those crossroads lately and I've made a conscious decision to look at them, honor them for that they are, and then... move on.
Moving on is not as easy as people think. I think we're all inherently stubborn when it comes to change. I don't think it's because we don't like adventure. I think it's because, with change, we know some things in life and, yes, some people in our lives, will need to be left behind. The decision to move, to alter the pathway we're on is made a lot easier however, when you sit back and see that those you leave behind weren't really in your life anyhow. Sad but true. If nothing else, they have become anchors, something to hold onto as you drift on a current going nowhere. 

Strength comes from letting go.  

This has to be one of the most scariest things in life - letting go. In my mind's eye, I see it as opening up your hands and loosening that grip on a life raft that's kept your head above water. Why on earth would someone want to do that- wouldn't that mean you'd just be left flaying around out in the deep sea, lost forevermore? That is the fear of change talking, the sound of doubt. Better to be safe than sorry, as they say - keep holding on. 
I've learned this... letting go does not mean drowning. It doesn't even mean exhaustion at keeping afloat. It doesn't mean your heading off to nowhere in particular without a plan or a clue because even nowhere is somewhere. Moving away from one thing also means moving towards another, towards something quite different - a change, and with that, opportunity and a new, fresh, look at what things might become.
And the true beauty of change is friends, real friends, the ones that open up their hearts and homes, allowing you to come aboard their raft for a while so you can catch your breath before moving on. Isolation is the killer these days - not change, not moving - but the fear of being alone. 

So, if, like me, you have sat back and taken stock of your life and realised that it just isn't going the way you expected, accept some things have to change and move on. Only, arm yourself with a boat load of real friends because then, and only then, will your trip be richly rewarded. Reach out because you will always find a friend disguised as a hand, a smile, even a wink. And never...never look back.

June 19, 2010

Sesame Street - New Age Style

Does anyone remember that song they sung? "...It's the people that you meet, when you're walking down the street, it's the people that you meet each day..."  I ask this because recently, I feel like I've meet similar looking people in that picture and not on the street as such but on the Internet. 

Never ceases to amaze me who you bump into on the Net. I'm not on commission so I can safely say, most have been through the social media site, Facebook. Okay, so once you've set all your security options to "No Freaks Allowed," it's a pretty safe place to catch up with old friends and new family. To date, I have hooked up with an old college mate and have since met up again, laughing our heads off at your rebellious times - when we got "done" for wagging school and where Miss Brown caught us having a sneaky cig up the field. Sorry Miss Brown. Or the time I got marched out of class for sneezing by Mr Turnbull and  stood in silent protest claiming he was "discriminating." No one even knew what that word meant, least of all me, but it gained me a few brownie points with the kids in the class and I'm pretty sure it scores high in Scrabble. But oh how we laughed over the end of year school programme books with pictures of us, taken without our knowing, so that, yes, they weren't that flattering and lusted (again) over those boys we lusted after some quarter of a century beforehand. Odd cause so much time had passed and yet everything remained the same. We were both still idiots, cracking up at all things considered socially unacceptable, only now we could smoke a cigarette pretty much wherever we wanted and I know what discrimination means now. 

I've also managed to reconnect (yes, I think that's the correct term) with past lovers who have gone on to marry the most insanely beautiful women. I'd like to think I set the benchmark for that one even if it's an opinion not shared by many, and again, nothing much seems to have changed there as well. They're still of the opinion that separating was a life saving event for them and I'm still stalking them to ensure they get blamed for any self medicating issues I might like to have. Once again, they too have gone on to produce offspring which is an odd concept when you still think they're too young to vote or you remember them getting asked for ID at a local bar. And yes, of course, they have their wee horror stories about me only, this time when they talk about it, I seem to come off better than when the event took place. Either that or it's really taken them 25 years to get over something I embarrassed them about and only now feel safe enough to laugh. Times like when I stood, as a guest visitor in some (shall remain anonymous) New Zealand Air Force barracks and thought it would be real darn clever if I just whipped over there, yanked their fully decorated Christmas tree and flung it out the window... only to be, rightfully, chased by men in uniform and then getting all uppity that none of them would help me lug this thing in the back of me car. Oh what fun I must have been. Yeah and okay, there was that time I dive bombed fully dressed into a spa pool while everyone else was busy munching on BBQ sausages. Forget whose place that was. Now though, now I am an adult. Well, actually, it's more about not being agile enough to dive bomb into a paddling pool let alone something above ground that requires the lifting of any bodily bits. But still. Let's call it maturity, you know, just for argument's sake. For old times. 

More recently, I've joined a wee group of like-minded crack pots who have me constantly in stitches over their comments, their mishaps in life, and just how much complete strangers can actually have in common. We called the group, Half Baked Cookies. It helps that we're all nuts but even still, some of the similarities are uncanny. Like (mutter mutter, cough...anon person) who ran over a lady last year. She only mentioned this cause I said I wrapped my car around a power pole and she suggested  I get out the car next time I attempt pole dancing. But what she said was true. She did run over some chick. Well actually, the lady in question ran out from behind a bush and threw herself at her car. That's more like the truth. Still, funny as, especially when she said her daughter, who was sitting in the back seat all buckled up and safe like, propelled out the car and went screaming up the road "My Mum's killed someone!" Turns out the woman survived, even if it meant she tried to do it again only this time with a neck brace and in a wheelchair. Some people just don't learn. 

I guess when you think about it, our wee group is pretty much like those Sesame Street characters - a bunch of colourful misfits that... "It's the people that you meet when you're walking down the street, they're the people that you meet each day." 

SOSA Summit

Hundreds of people will be starting their decent on Auckland later today to attend the first national summit for 'Survivors of Sexual Abuse.' The aim is to bring survivors together for networking, inspiration, and alternative recovery pathways as a result of the New Zealand government changing the conditions under which survivors were able to receive counselling, leaving up to 95% of survivors unable to access skilled professional help. 

In short and for those not in the know, sexual abuse survivors access counselling through what is called Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). It's a government organisation and funded by levies paid by tax payers. In other words, it's an insurance company where levies replace premiums but a company none the less with customer care policies and legislation ensuring the minimum standard of care is afforded clients. Now, it's that last bit of that sentence that has caused a major uproar in New Zealand because, quite frankly, there is no standard of care or due diligence any longer - as a result, thousands of claims have been rejected and several sexual abuse victims have taken their own lives, some remain on suicide watch. 

The irony is, if ACC was a private company even the Government would have come down hard on them for the "inhumane" changes made to their claims department. Sadly, it's the Government itself that is pushing those "money saving" changes through and, as with any issue even mildly connected to anything political, any policy reversal is demeaning, time-consuming, and painstakingly slow.

Last year, people took to the streets - the clever ones. The ones that actually understood the changes before the general public even knew they were being enforced. As a result, the Media portrayed the protesters as a small bunch of disgruntled diehards that had nothing better to do with their lives. What we didn't know and would never know unless you walked through the valley of ACC's grim claim's department was women, men, and even children (who are supposed to be top priority) were being turned away from even the basic forms of counselling. The unbelievable drop in approved claims (95%) is irrefutable proof that someone's not playing ball. 

Not wanting to ruin public opinion at the next general election, ACC Minister Nick Smith, stood like a Medusa in headlights and fronted up to Media to announce an immediate review of the current policy, so as to look like some belated hero. This "immediate" action came in the form of supporting an independent review panel to look over what he already knew was crap and it came as immediate as six months down the track.

The deadline for submissions - letters from victims, advice and suggestions from some of New Zealand's leading psychotherapists, counsellors, clinical psychologists, nurses, and Mental Health officials - was June 18th. I don't envy the review panel who have to sift through all these submissions especially as they really only had about a month to get their act together. I know. I said they had six months right? Wrong. It was only about a month ago that Nick Smith even thought that perhaps an address or even an email might assist with people wanting to submit a grievance and/or suggestion. He pussy-footed around so much that the review panel and some of the members of SOSA decided, to hell with it, we'll start our own email address and then we'll spam the world if need be to get those victims heard. 

The summit is timely. It comes the day after the submissions deadline. Hopefully, it will be a time for all those attending to sit back, relax, network, and pat themselves on the back for having achieved the impossible. There is a review panel. They have numerous submissions from all walks of life and now they have a gathering of like minded people who will, no doubt, add the finishing touches to any 'suggestions' recommended. 

With any luck, Nick Smith might actually take these recommendations seriously. With any luck, he won't repeat the "inhumane" pilfering of their report like ACC did to the initial Government funded research conducted by Massey University. With any luck and unlike ACC, he will look through the whole review panel's suggestions as a complete document, a complete proposal and conclude, like we have already done, that the changes made to ACC's sexual abuse claims procedures were and are, grossly negligent. With any luck, he will thank his lucky stars that ACC is a Government organisation and as such, cannot be sued. And, with any luck, he will make an effort to humbly visit the graves of those re-traumatised victims that never made it and apologise to those who still hold on by the skin of their teeth. That is the least he could do. 

June 18, 2010

Ta Da!

It's been a long three weeks since I blogged. I was doing well, some even suggested I was prolific (had to look that one up) and then, well then I poured myself a glass of wine, sat down at the computer, and within seconds everything changed. My hand went one way, the wine went the other, and the laptop screen went white. For two days, I remained in a state of acute denial, turning the laptop on, waiting for it to fire up, after having dried out, and to no avail. Finally, I had to admit - you've gone fried your laptop dolls.

The call went out to friends - I needed help to resurrect my old laptop, the one that I'd shoved unceremoniously under my bed when the new latest fandangle machine appeared. I pulled it out, wiped off the dust and made a list of things I needed to make this thing come alive. First things first, I needed a power adapter. Don't ask me where the other one went to, I have no idea but it soon became the most asked question in the weeks to come. I naively thought that all that was required from me was a make and laptop model number - surely finding a power cable would be easy peasy, surely! No. Two people hooked up with a computer company in Auckland who supply people like me who loose vital pieces of computer equipment and they promised to send an adapter that would work. A week later, and without any access to my "cyber world" I almost jumped into the lap of the poor unsuspecting courier man when he delivered my wee parcel.

I ripped at the plastic courier bag and spent approximately 20 nerve shattering seconds trying to jam the damn thing into the back of my laptop - a bit like trying to shaft a really agile weasel really. Nothing doing. I then spent the next day on the phone with said computer company skirting around serial numbers and product key codes and even placed a call into NEC where the computer was initially purchased. I'd have had more luck breaking into the Pentagon. They were not "at liberty" to tell me the voltage, amp thing, or any other detail of the adapter I required unless, of course, I was intending on purchasing it through them - which, of course, I wasn't and only because it was three times the price and needed to be shipped over from Australia, at my expense. So much for that.

In the end, said computer company in Auckland sent a replacement for the replacement and that too was the wrong adapter. Now I had two wrong adapters and was no further in my quest to get back online. Then a friend of mine mentioned, in hushed tones, that he might know of a guy who might be able to help me out. Dodgy Chinese dude was his name. We exchanged information, money, and he dispatched from his dodgy homebased warehouse an adapter. However, impatience had set in by this stage as well as severe doubt - I mean, if a reputable computer company can't send the right adapter with the same information given to Dodgy Chinese Dude then what were the chances that he'd get it right, right? So now that I'd justified my position, I set off on a quest of my own, down to the local computer store, armed with laptop, and purchased a universal power plug adapter thing. Cost $95.

Impatient to get home and feeling like I was about to conquer Mount Everest, I raced home with my prized possession, walked in the door, and was greeted by Dodgy Chinese Dude's package. For a laugh, I told myself, just a laugh, I'd see if his adapter, his dodgy synthetic clone of an adapter would work...um, it did. I was so pleased that I quickly neglected the fact that I now had four bloody adapters sitting on my desk. I'm now in the process of returning the two wrong ones to the said reputable computer company and the other one, not even 24 hours old is non-refundable but hey, I get $95 credit in their store - a computer store that sells things like adapters and plugs and all sorts of other shit I hopefully will never need again.

In any event, my laptop was starting to come alive. I had power. Firing this old thing up, I tried to remember why I needed to replace it in the first place and before anything surfaced in my brain, up popped half a screen. Now I remember....

Stage 3.5 of this Frankenstein project was to get it to a stage where I could actually see things on the screen and preferably without having to look around a ruddy big black line right through the centre of anything I wrote. I know, I said to myself. "Just get a new monitor, plug it in the back of this thing and voila, Bob's ya uncle." I followed my instructions to the core and so now I have two screens. One with a ruddy big black line through the centre of every thing  write and another...not doing much at all really except take space on my fast becoming cramped desk. Another call into a friend who is super intelligent about all things wise, saw me flipping through control panel options, pushing buttons, sitting back and swiftly placing any of his profound knowledge in my "too hard basket" where it remains to this day.

So it is that I now write with my hybrid machine, a concoction of all sorts of brands and models, a laptop used purely for it's CPU usage, another monitor, separate keyboard, a wireless mouse, some other company's modem and a black wireless box, here somewhere, transmitting data from me to you and it only took three weeks.

I love the Internet. I love the concept of reaching people without moving a single butt muscle but I loathe technology, the preciseness of it all, the fact that computer models don't like each other, the snobby nature of monitors that don't like laptops, keyboards that aren't wine proof and wireless mice that get lost under piles of rubble. But I'm here now. I'm back. Well, I'm back for as long as this little Frankenstein can keep it together. Fingers crossed.

June 1, 2010


Woundology. Interesting word isn't it? Even my computerised dictionary doesn't like much and no doubt, some people won't either.  There's scrolls of literature about this 'term' but suffice to say, it's a reference to people defining themselves by whatever is "wrong" with them. Sometimes these people don't even have names or jobs or even family. They are just labels - alcoholics, manic depressive etc., - and while there is a growing group of people resisting those labels, there is an equal amount of people insisting on hiding behind them. 

There is nothing wrong in having issues or problems - who on Earth doesn't - but I do question those who think there is nothing more to them than what hinders them from moving forward like that in itself (yes I will say it) is the excuse for everything going wrong in their life. 

Some people just aren't happy unless they're bloody miserable.  

Christine Myss PhD, claims "Today people wear their deepest wounds on their sleeve like a red badge of courage." It's not as callous as it sounds. She does go on to say, "The sharing of wounds had become the new language of intimacy, a shortcut to developing trust and understanding." Now I don't think there is anything wrong with this at all; sharing stories that you can relate to does make you feel closer to that person but, and yes, there is a but... there is more to all of us than what may or may not have happened "to" us - surely. 

I have friends whose stories are eerily similar to mine but I also know they have kids, jobs, interests in life, have plans, hopes, dreams, and fears.  Very rarely will we discuss our wounds. When and if we do, it is heartfelt respect, and all their hopes and prayers I take on board graciously. Then I move on. They do too.

However, more recently, I have cut a few people out of my life and purely on the basis that they were, what I call, a brain drain. I consider myself an understanding person. I am by no means callous or heartless and I know for a fact that I have sometimes gone above the call of duty to help some people with their struggles. But even I have limits. We all do. 

Christine says that in every personal relationship there is always an exchange of energy. Well at least there should be. However, there are those that only interested in stealing your energy. You all know at least someone like this, when no matter what you do or say, they will never be happy. They don't want solutions to problems, they want sympathy and whilst there is nothing wrong in giving that every now and then, the energy stealers know no bounds. They take and take until there is nothing left to give.

It's a dangerous situation for the person who is drained as it is for person who sucks the energy out of you because that person will "eventually become addicted to it and grow more needy and helpless by the day." These are the same people, who like drug addicts, go in search for others to "boost their self esteem or give ideas on how they should live or act, or think" because they "do not have the energy to create a life of their own." 

When someone you feel just zaps the living energy from your being, you know that's an unhealthy relationship but the fact of the matter is, there are people like that. My solution is to just take a break from them. If they come crawling back to suck some more juice out of your life, then use whatever energy you have left to fight for yourself, your own self esteem, and your own vital energy bank account. 

No one was put on this earth to make things right for everyone else. You were put on this earth to make things right for you... just not at the expense of others. 

When a Donation becomes a Demand Notice

A southerly swept through new Zealand this afternoon which meant the curtains were ceremoniously pulled shut, the heaters flicked on and, even thought I was still shivering, something made my blood boil. It was a demand notice from my daughter's school. There was no mistaking it as a demand. My poor kid handed the envelope to me this afternoon, all frazzled and uptight: "This is serious Mum, real serious." Now I knew it was before she even said anything cause I usually get school notices months after the fact or they're found during one of those rare times I clean her room/

Not this one. This was hand delivered by a child who'd been told, in no uncertain terms, to hand this to me the minute she got home, and she knew what it was even though the contents had been  tightly concealed with about a tonne of glue and three staples. And just in case there was any mistake, a bright red rubber stamp was thumped in the middle of this 'statement' saying THIS ACCOUNT IS NOW OVERDUE. 

Account? It's a bloody donation! Says it, right there, under 'item.' Well, all I have to say is, at least they didn't add GST to this 'donation.' Look, I know schools are underfunded by Government and that if any of those endless chocolate bar fund raising schemes are anything to go by, they really do need to find another way to finance the education of New Zealand's children. So why not call it what it is - a bloody bill? Why stand under that glorious umbrella, skiting to the world that we, here in New Zealand, provide free education when, in fact, that's a big fat lie. 

Now that my daughter is at Intermediate, (Middle school) she also has to choose options to study. It's a step up from Primary. An opportunity for kids to start experimenting with their individuality and, with any luck, find something that inspires them enough to see that subject through to a professional accreditation and become one of those tax payers we're all suppose to aspire towards. 

But here's the catch. Not one of those options were free. They were additional costs to that wee donation we've already talked about. So what happens to the family struggling to pay the donation and then, what?, have to tell their kid they can't afford any of the subjects offered to other students? What happens to those children? Do they just get told to sit in some classroom with a book while others feed their passions? And how is that suppose to ensure these kids grow up to find careers as opposed to low paying jobs where they too, in the future, will sweat bricks over their own inability to finance even the basic educational costs for their kids? What a vicious circle. 

What infuriates me is the imposition this puts on the kids. It goes without saying that the parents are stressed over this but what does that segregation, that financial discrimination, do a child's self esteem? 

Now thanks to Mike on my Facebook (bless his cotton socks) he looked into this wee matter and came across the following "interesting facts:" 
  • Section 3 of the Education Act 1989 states that;
  • ... every person who is not a foreign student is entitled to free enrolment and free education at any state school during the period beginning on the person's 5th birthday and ending on the 1st day of January after the person's 19th birthday.
  • This means that parents do not have to pay for things such as the cost of tuition or materials used in the provision of the curriculum, the cost of heat, lighting or water, the cost of providing information about enrolling at the school, interviews when parents are seeking to enrol students at a school.
  • The Government provides funding in the form of operational grants and supplementary grants to pay for the running of schools and the delivery of the curriculum, so schools may only charge parents for things that fall outside of the curriculum. 
Well now that's interesting. Check out the curriculum because even the school camp can be covered albeit there may be an additional cost for food and transport, it's a lot less than that initial "fee," and for those who are struggling and might have to take their child out of the camp (or any other fee paying activity) the school must provide an "appropriate alternative." 


Imitation, someone once told me, was the best form of flattery. You buy an outfit, they buy the same outfit. You buy a certain car and they are right behind you holding up their new set of car keys...tinkle tinkle. After a while though, doesn't that sort of stuff become, I dunno...illegal or something? I mean where do you draw the line between flattery ... tip toe through the tulips music... to downright creepy stalking stuff? ...Twilight Zone music... Is there such a line or do we have to wait for 'inside head' music to tip us off?  

Of course I am using the Universal "we" here caused I'm pained to admit I got me some creepy crawly music playing on in my head at the minute or moment - depending on which part of the UK you're from, or not as the case may be. Um, where was I? Ah yes, creepy shit. 

No link, well there is one but anyhow, my old Collage music teacher, who shall remain anon but to whom I shall refer to as Mr Gordon, asked the class one morning, what would we do if we wrote one of the most famous masterpieces of all time and someone else not only nicked it but made out it was theirs? (You can see that imitation link thing now can't you?) Well this caused a major debate. Some kids said they'd head straight to the Police while others resorted to the all time favorite and highly popular option of beating the crap out of the person but here's the thing - Mr Gordon (whom I never liked) said he would do nothing (oh, and he never liked me either). 


Someone in the class yelled out "Crap!" which was okay cause it wasn't me and Mr Gordon (who wasn't too fond of girls) swayed magnificently around the classroom waiting for the debate to subside a little (not too much) before rendering his verdict.  

"That poor person who steals your creativity is but a fool," he said, stammering a little to the left and then to the right - his perplexed hand positioned on his forehead. I know he was probably trying to imitate some Shakespeare thing cause music teachers do that sort of stuff but really, he just came across as a very bad John Wayne who'd been, I dunno, shot in the leg or something. (I mentioned that he didn't like me, didn't I?) 

Well Mr Gordon's theory was to pity those who steal from you - a totally wild concept to those in the class who had previously opted for a public hanging. "Yes, you heard right. Pity!,"he continued, "Because you my lovelies (except you over there! He doesn't say this but I know he wants to!) because you can always, no matter what  happens, you can write another masterpiece whereas that buffoon (he looks right at me saying this!) he or she will never be able to steal from you again." 

I guess what Mr Gordon was really saying was no one can actually become the person you are. They might follow you around, start doing the same things you do, start getting 'all up in ya business and all' but they will only ever be a shadow of the person you are. Gee, guess that's why its called imitate huh? You know, as opposed to a bodily invasion kind of thing, in which case, that's just like so wrong. 

I started out writing this, this evening, thinking I was going to go all "ape" about imitation and how someone is so wrong to invade your sense of identity by copying everything  you do and oddly enough, I've gone changed my mind - cause I can. I've come to really realise that I can't control what other people do so sure, they can schmooze up to my friends, start a blog, dye their hair pink (mine's a wig by the way - mum's the word yeah?) and they can stalk me on Facebook and other social media sites but they cannot, will not.... Oh no, Mel Gibbons has just popped into my head. He's riding a horse, banishing a stick and wearing a tartin skirt (oh dear, not a good look).. he's ranting and raving about "Ya canna take me freedom!" Bless, don't ya love it when actors like that just take some time out of their busy little day to go popping into your head like that?

But Mel has a point and so too does Mr Gordon - people can try to imitate us, scratch at the surface of who they think we really are but at the end of the day, they'll only get crap under their fingernails. Mr Gordon would be ever so pleased with that analogy I am sure.