Day 2 of the 'Boris-bikes' adventure








We still haven't quite cracked a seemless Borisbike dispensing process!!!! - but we did gather solace from the fact that it isn't just us!!!!

Plenty of puzzled tourists were patiently mystified today, some clutching 'borisbike' keys and others credit cards, & plenty of Borisbike machines were either without the paper, necessary for issuing the docking release code, or patently disliked Australian plastic money! - groan!

Notwithstanding, our party was the patiently determined type and we eventually got the five bikes we needed to transport us from Hyde Park Corner to Euston Station, Tottenham Court Road and the 'Northumberland Arms' - well worth it!!!...& the following pub grub was even more worth it...

...ahhhh London! - you're where it's all happening!!

Need a boost

I'm flying down to Wellington for my interview tomorrow. You're supposed to be determined to succeed at job interviews, they're supposed to matter, but I'm really struggling to motivate myself. Today I had a look at the long list of questions that I made for my successful interview seven years ago. I got Mum to be interviewer and to randomly ask me questions from my list until we were both exhausted. I must have really wanted that job. Now I wonder where all that determination came from. I saw the doctor last week and we agreed to increase my dose of Efexor to 225 mg to hopefully put some much-needed oomph back into my life.

This afternoon I went into town to meet up with Richard and some of the others from the Asperger's group. It was a bit windy out there but it good to see everyone again. In fact it was good to see anyone. There was some sort of regatta on the water today for Auckland Anniversary Day as well as a display of aerobatics.

Last night I made the 45-minute trip to Papakura (it was quicker coming back) to see Bazza for the first time in several months and watch the tennis. As soon as I walked through the door, he took my blood pressure with his new gadget. Then I had to get on the scales. Thankfully I passed my warrant of fitness. Mr Fish and Chips has turned into a health freak all of a sudden! He took his own blood pressure three times (!) while I was there. I got back home at 1:30am.

Bazza talked quite a lot during the tennis. I didn't expect anything else I guess, and at least he's fairly knowledgeable about the game. Even after the first two games we had a pretty good idea of the likely outcome of the match. It seems to me that Murray works himself into a frenzy before a big final like this, sapping himself of energy before the match has even begun. When you're as emotionally worked up as I sensed he was, it's hard to think straight. Murray has a lot of variety but he kept playing Djokovic's game, trying to outhit his opponent from the baseline. His low first-serve percentage didn't help either. Djokovic in contrast seemed to be enjoying himself. I never knew quite how quick around the court he was; maybe it was his fancy shoes. It would have been nice to see Murray win, but unfortunately it wasn't to be. In the end I picked the winner of both finals even if my score predictions were miles out.

One final thing: I've had to produce five puzzles for an American company on the subject of ice hockey. This wasn't easy - my knowledge of ice hockey is (or was) almost non-existent except for all the fights they have - but it's amazing what you can do with Google.

'Boris-bikes' & funtimes











"Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner
That I love London town!"


Freezing cold London yet 'toasty' funtimes to be had on the Boris bikes!!

Verdict: fabulous - but not enough of them and/or their docking stations for Londoners & tourists today - boy! were we out in droves??!!!!

But even factoring in the little 'supply & demand' hiccough, the London bike-share-scheme is a million times better than the Melbourne one - how can this be so?

Where's Bazza Been?

We got a dog, he's called Frank

Karma, karma, karma

When my dad died in 2002, we discovered that he had set up his will in a way designed to cause pain and stir up strife and dissension among his different sets of offspring. I won't go into the details, but his 5 children from 3 (of 5) marriages got very different (and inequitable) proportions of the estate; his 9 grandsons got nothing, and his 1 granddaughter got as much as I did. However, the bulk of his worth was not in the estate proper, but in his retirement accounts, which were outside the above-mentioned distributions.

Again without going into details, my brother, sister, and I could have made a solid legal case for laying claim to all the retirement money. But, as deeply hurt as we were by the rest of the will, we decided not to, and we proposed that the funds be divided evenly among us and our half-siblings. The rest of the will may have been grossly inequitable, but we did not have to follow in our father's footsteps. Our half-sibs dragged their heels on agreeing to that, because they were still trying to apply the inequitable percentages of the rest of the will to the retirement accounts. Eventually, however, they gave up on that. As it turned out, in addition to the money in the retirement accounts, my brother and sister and I each got 10% of nothing, because my father squandered his money pretty much the same way he squandered his life, and he owed more on the house than he had in assets.

Fast forward to 2011 ...

My mother is making final designations of her belongings. In terms of money and real estate, there is no question: My sister and I each receive 50% of the estate. But over the last 75 years, my mother has acquired quite a collection of beautiful art and jewelry, some of which is quite valuable, a lot of which has strong sentimental value, all of which is good quality and very beautiful (if it's to your taste). As my sister said a few years ago, we both want everything, but we'll each be good and settle for 60%. (You do the math on that one!)

Mother has been agonizing over who gets what, what things to give each of the grandsons, what items have particular significance to whom, how to distribute the things equitably in terms of both financial value and sentimental value. On the one hand, my sister and I don't really CARE about the things; on the other hand, we are both very glad that she is making the decisions (with our input), so that there are no hurt feelings later.

But feelings do get hurt. Over the lifespan of a family, certain items take on stronger significance than others; and certain items acquire more financial value than others. Feelings do get hurt. Tensions and sibling rivalry come into play, with decades-old perceptions of favoritism (on both sides, of course).

Yesterday morning, while indulging in a long hot shower and washing my hair, I extricated myself from the process. I decided that with the exception of a few pieces that I am extremely emotionally attached to, I really didn't care how things get allocated. They are just things. I immediately felt much better.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a phone call out of the blue from my father's attorney. It seems they "found" some money and needed to get Jane and me to sign some papers so it can be distributed. The old anguish immediately came to the surface, the vicious way my father set things up, the bitterness and betrayal. I remembered that one of the things the three of us (my brother and sister and I) said 8 years ago was that we were not going to sign the relevant papers, that we were not going to participate in our own screwing.

I spent the afternoon and evening churning through the cr*p, more than slightly bemused at the "coincidental" timing of it. The pain and inequity of my father's estate versus the judicious care of my mother's planning. The quiet tension between my sister and me versus the greed and scheming of my half-siblings. The phone call from the attorney on the same day I had washed away the desire for my mother's possessions.

Karma karma karma.

When I talked to my sister this morning, I told her I was going to go ahead and sign, that I just didn't need to bring all that ill-will back into my life. She agreed, and we both remarked on the timing of it all. Let our half-siblings have the money: It's poison to us, and we do not need to have any part of their karma stream. And as far as our mother's things go ... they're just things. All is well, and all shall be well.

Wellington and wet & windy Wilma

So I was in Devonport on Thursday, about to pick up my medication and some bananas, wondering whether I should have broken my jack badugi, when my cell phone rang. I'll be flying down to Wellington on Tuesday for a job interview! Oh boy.

A couple of weeks ago I applied for an insurance job I saw on Seek. It was based in Wellington, doing the same sort of thing that I did in Auckland for nearly six years and was so glad to escape from. But what the hell. There's no harm in applying, right? So last Friday I got a call from one of the blokes I'd potentially be working with; we spoke for half an hour. I think I came across well over the phone; I did my best to sound knowledgeable but also as friendly as possible, using some typical Kiwi phrases like "mucking in", but I still thought the odds were against me getting an interview (although when I think about it a bit, it's a fairly specialised line of work).

Finding out that I would be having an interview sent me into a mad panic. Christ, I've been in Auckland for seven years, I've finally got used to the place, finally made some good friends, and now I might have to leave. I can't do that. And I'll have to do all that corporate shit again, and worst of all, exams. Should I even go for the interview?

Since then I've had a haircut and my suit dry-cleaned and have calmed down. In fact now I'm looking forward to the interview. Well not the interview itself if I'm honest, but visiting Wellington. I haven't been there since I drove from South Canterbury to Auckland to start my last big job in March 2004. The company are paying for my flights (good isn't it?); I'll be spending Tuesday night there and will head back the next day. My cousin lives in Wellington with her husband and three boys - I didn't think they'd particularly want a fourth, but apparently I'm OK to spend the night with them. From what I can tell I'll like Wellington - its compactness gives it a soul that Auckland badly lacks. But could I leave everything in Auckland behind? My friends and support networks? Love it or hate it, the tennis club? You can't underestimate how important friends are. Moving away from them would be a big deal.

I'm hopeless at interviews, especially competency-based ones like this will be. And of course they'll want to know about all my stunning achievements in my last job (Richard earlier emailed me with some good ideas for things to say there). The chances that I'll actually be offered the job are therefore pretty slim, so the problem of having to leave Auckland is one I'll face if and when I come to it.

Tomorrow I'll be going to Papakura to drop in on Bazza who I haven't seen in ages. We'll be watching the men's final of the Aussie Open - Djokovic against Murray. What an opportunity this is for Murray. Last night I fell asleep twice while listening to radio commentary of his hard-fought win over Ferrer. The women's final will be starting in a few minutes. Here are my predictions for the two finals:

Kim Clijsters to beat Li Na 6-4 6-4
Novak Djokovic to beat Andy Murray 6-3 7-6 4-6 7-5.

It's just as well those matches are played at night - it's forecast to be 40 degrees in Melbourne tomorrow. On this side of the Tasman we've been feeling the effects of Cyclone Wilma (great name, don't you think?). Water has leaked into my bathroom for the second weekend running, but compared to some people that's nothing.

Art Nouveau c.1890 - 1905




Poster by Alphonse Mucha (http://www.pixelparadox.com/)
The Art Nouveau style flourished around the turn of the twentieth century. It pretty much began with an 'overnight sensation' when Alphonse Mucha designed a poster for the actress Sarah Bernhart in a style that was a reaction (as all new movements in art are) to the strongly academic and classical Victorian style that was prevelant at the time. It is characteriesd by flowing lines, violent curves and use of nature and organic influences.

The architecture of Gaudi and Charles Rennie Mackintosh was very much Art Nouveau in style as was the work of Gustave Klimt.  It was an art 'of the people' using everyday materials and was seen in all aspects of life and design. It's history is often eclipsed by the popularity of Art Deco (which I will be blogging about next month) but it is well-worthy of examining and very rewarding and often very beautiful.

I have shown, below, a selection of Art Nouveau design. Enjoy it!




Blue Flower Bowl (http://www.allcostumejewlery.com/)



Barcelona house by Gaudi (library.thinkquest.org)



Art Nouveau writing desk (http://www.macklowegallery.com/)



Gustave Klimt, sold for more than $100 million! (http://www.qualityjunkyard.com/)



(http://www.fabulousmasterpieces.co.uk/)

Will the 'Bicycle' & 'Australia' be loving partners one day?

(Photos: Photography Studio 33, "Men's Health")


Australia needs to be 'in bed with the bicycle' because not only would we then have healthy content added to our lives, but our desparately impoverished transport needs would get get a boost too!!!

But to do this, we need to rid ourselves of mandatory bicycle helmet laws...

...let's hope the current interest in the helmet debate finally challenges the corporate nature of our current draconian legislation.

It's not All Black

I've just started reading John Kirwan's All Blacks Don't Cry which my parents bought me for Christmas. JK has done an absolutely brilliant job of raising the profile (and reducing the stigma) of depression in New Zealand. I've never particularly liked famous sportsmen using their celebrity status to push products, services or agendas, but in this case all the media exposure is to be applauded. Just as Blam Blam Blam didn't say, there's a lot of depression in this country. If one of the greatest ever All Blacks can have it there's no shame in you or I having it.

So far it's been interesting reading. Playing international rugby, and having mates who are all called by their surnames with a bonus O or Y added to the end, couldn't be further from the sort of life I led at that age. But my experiences of depression and anxiety were very similar. So similar in fact that reading his descriptions of panic attacks brought back memories from ten years ago that sent a shiver down my spine.

I'm quite good at remembering dates (though not as good as one particular member of the Asperger's group) and it was 18th April 2000 when I had my first panic attack, two days before my 20th birthday. It was the Easter holidays at university and I was staying with Gran in Houghton (Mum and Dad were living in Australia at the time). I was walking back to Houghton from St Ives, and about half a mile from Gran's place my heart started racing for no apparent reason and I struggled to breathe. I held onto a gate because I thought I might collapse. It was scary stuff. When I got back to Gran's I really felt knocked for six, but I gradually forgot about the incident. I then spent a few days at my aunt's place in Wales before going back to university. I had exams on my return to Birmingham and I was finding the study a real drag, but for those few days everything felt horrible. Grey, metallic, yuck. It perhaps doesn't help that a lot of Wales is grey: a lot of grey slate is used in buildings and walls, and the sky is grey most of the time. When Gran asked me what was wrong I said I wanted someone to shoot me. She then gave me a pill - Valium I think - which I happily took. At the time I didn't know I was depressed.

Fast forward to 15th March 2001. I was in Lyon for my third year of university and happened to be in the middle of a tennis match - the second round of a tournament. I lost the first set 6-2 but was 5-2 up in the second when - bam! - I was struck down again. My heart raced, I couldn't feel my limbs, I was short of breath and totally disorientated. I hung on grimly to the fence, sat down for a bit, then stupidly carried on playing. I staggered on for a few more games, losing in a tie-break. I've had a bit of a love-hate relationship with tennis ever since. Thinking I had a serious heart problem I called the doctor late that night. She gave me an ECG test and everything was fine. I spoke to Dad on the phone and he suggested panic attacks - I instantly rejected that idea because, well, I wasn't panicking about anything. I spent the next four days in my room, then went to hospital to get more tests done. Blood tests, X-rays and heaven knows what else. Nothing showed up. I had more "episodes" and more of those horrible grey spells that lasted three or four days. I was worried and confused.

In June I moved back to the UK and I'd pretty much forgotten about my weird episodes until they returned with a vengeance. On 9th July 2001 - the day that Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon in that classic Monday final - I had a two-hour panic attack (although I still didn't know that's what it was). I was utterly convinced I was going to die. Unlike my previous shorter attacks which I got over fairly quickly, this one took over my life. For the next few weeks I slept an average of five hours a day, while for the other nineteen I thought of nothing but death. For three weeks I held down a job packing mobile phones into boxes but I never went out of the house for any other reason - I was too scared to. At work I was standing up the whole time and expected to topple over at any moment; eventually I quit.

I was called up to play interclub tennis. In Mum's words, "it'll do you good". Two men's doubles matches. How would I possibly cope? That day it rained. Surely I won't have to play. But the courts dried up just enough and play I did. Nothing seemed real. Was it some strange dream? I'm pretty sure we lost badly in the first match, but all I remember was the very appropriate Slade song Mama Weer All Crazee Now stuck on a loop inside my head. Early in the second match I decided I couldn't go on. Nobody at the club seemed to mind this and I got a lift home. "That was quick," Mum said. "How did it go?" When I told her, she was incredulous. "You what? They'll never invite you to play again." As if I cared about that!

I'll admit that quitting the match was embarrassing though. It's not something I'd ever done before. I soon developed agoraphobia, which meant quitting anything that took place outside the house. I knew I couldn't go on like that. I had to back to university in seven weeks - how could I do that if I couldn't even leave the house by myself? I rang the doctor. I laughed uncontrollably during my appointment (this has happened to me more recently as well). "I'm worried I might lose it," I said. "You're already losing it," was his reply. He diagnosed panic attacks, gave me beta-blockers and some white pills called Citalopram, and said that in seven weeks I'd be fine.

The pills didn't kick in instantly. I started to hallucinate and became very sensitive to light and noise. Supermarkets were a no-go area. But my doctor was right. When it was time to go back to Birmingham, I was fine. OK, I felt tired a lot of the time, and still had the odd panic attack, but crucially I now knew what they were and I wasn't in constant fear of the next one. I actually felt considerably better than I did before I had the panic attacks (John Kirwan said something similar). For the first time in a long time I was happy in my own skin.

For once I wasn't ashamed of just being me. Between September 2001 and June 2002 I can honestly say I was happy. I knuckled down, studied hard, and came out with a good degree, thinking I'd killed off the depression beast for ever. As I was to learn later, perhaps you never quite do.

Isner–Mahut all over again?

Mum said she'll ring me at the end of the match between Kuznetsova and Schiavone at the Aussie Open. When that will be is anyone's guess. They're currently locked at 14-all and deuce in the third set, making this the second longest women's match ever. Schiavone earlier saved a whole bunch of match points.

Update: Schiavone has just broken and will serve for the match. Again. This is crazy stuff.

Update 2: She was love-30 down in that game but Schiavone did it! 16-14. I'm Skyless by the way, so I've just been relying on live scoring and speed-of-serve data. It looked like Schiavone was just popping her second serve in, not that I can blame her after 4½ hours. And if any of you think that was the longest professional women's match ever, you're wrong.

Changed

From time to time over the last 2 years or so, my sister has said something along the lines of how glad she is to see that I'm doing so well. That I'm so much better. My internal response to those statements has been a mixture of bewilderment (What does she see that makes her say that?) and anger (Does she really not see how unhappy I am?). When I've asked what she means -- or said snarkily, I'm glad YOU think so -- she hasn't been able to explain beyond just that I seem happier. Which really brings out my growl, because I am NOT happy about so many parts of my life (which I've droned on and on about elsewhere and will not repeat here).

So yesterday, when my mother said that she and Jane have talked about how different I am, I rolled my eyes and thought, Here we go again. But I was a respectful daughter and asked what she meant.

Well, you're just so different from when you came out here. You aren't the same person at all. You've -- changed.
Ummmmm. Okaaaay??? In a good way? or a bad way?
You're fun! And you're solid. You just have a much stronger sense of your self.  We don't know what happened or HOW this happened, but we see it.

Ohhhhhh ... THAT. Well duhhh.

So I explained to my mother that what they were seeing was the difference between 3 years after Nick's death and nearly 7 years. Oh!  You've both underestimated the effects of grief. Of course we have. The first year was a nightmare of pain and horror and misery. The second year was so much harder in some ways: It wasn't as outright painful, but the weight of loss was overwhelming. The miserable sense of Oh my god. This is My Life now was unbearable. But I bore it, and in the third year, I started to shake myself out of it and say Okay. This is My Life now. What am I going to do with it?

But halfway through that third year came my family's annus horribilis. 2007 was the year my brother died suddenly. It was the year my sister was diagnosed with a malignant tumor and had her entire stomach removed. It was the year my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer and given 12-18 months to live. It was the year I uprooted the boys, packed everything up, and drove across the country to a community where I have no job possibilities, no church, and no network of friends.

So rather than being a year of rebuilding, that third year after Nick's death was a year of undoing.  But now, three years after that, I can see that I have been rebuilding. I have been reclaiming my sense of self. I have been finding my feet and standing strong. And that is the change that my mother and sister see, that is the "happiness" my sister comments on.

I may not be "happy" in the common sense of the word, but I have made the conscious decision to not be awash in "unhappiness." I am not allowing (for the most part) my unhappiness about circumstances I cannot change to cast a pall on the rest of my life ... a life that is immeasurably good. And so, my sister sees that I am happy, and she is glad of that. My mother sees that I am strong and clear, and she is glad of that.

One of the first bits of research I read after Nick died said that it takes about 7 years for a widowed person to return to his or her previous level of contentment with life.  Not happiness: Contentment.  When I told my mother that, she said, You're not going to take that long, are you? Her dismissal of that idea as ridiculous shut down our conversation at that point, but I can tell her now, Yeah, Mom. I think so. At any rate, I seem to be right on track.

Toboggans, horses & helmets - your call!!

(Photos: NYC with 'freedom-to-helmet-or-not' choice in action)






Did you know that in Australia no helmets are required for the horse riding or tobogganing (yet!) - it's still your call even though they can be wild & woolly experiences, albeit funtimes mostly!!!!

What's the go with helmets & bicyclists, Minister Borger?



Why discriminate against us?

Will it be 'Mandatory Padding Laws' next?





Only helmets I saw in NYC today were at Maddison Square Gardens on...

...her team's heads (Toronto Maple Leafs)...


...& his team's heads (New York Rangers)!


...I saw a lot of team 'padding' too!

(Photos: Flickr, Keenan Brown)

Jeez! - fingers crossed we can keep 'Mandatory Bicycle Padding Laws' at bay!!!

NYC & 'freedom-cycling' - c'mon, Sydney, get a wriggle on!

(Photos: 'I ♥ New York City')






It is unacceptably 'cute' of our Australian governments to pretend they care about cycling safety in their bid to continue the 'driving-is-safer-pretence' whilst simultaneously providing motorists 'carte blanche' on our roads .

We all know it's 'risky' driving a car yet we also all know that it's a risk we're all prepared to take. Moreover, and somewhat amazingly really, we factor this in whenever we turn on the ignition, albeit subconsciously.

Car-manufacturers translate this 'risk' into a bottom-line cost and governments allow this commercial reality.

Of course life is about calculated risks & judgment-calls meaning that in this instance every time we strap our babies & ourselves into car-seats we weigh up the pros & cons & then make rational decisions for ourselves & our families - we all know & do this, governments & ministers included:

Therefore, Minister Borger:

* quit being cute

* quit the undiluted discrimination towards cyclists

* quit the 'safety-wash' of helmet laws

* give me back my freedom of expression to dress how I want

* give me the equivalent privileges that motorists & pedestrians get


...basically, GIVE ME BACK MY BICYCLE FREEDOM!!!!

Input ... need input

Like Number 5 in that adorable 1986 comedy Short Circuit, I need input.

I caught an ad for publishing my blog, and I wonder if any of you have done that, if any of my fellow bloggers has used such a service.

No, I don't want to publish my whole blog. But I wrote the sections about Nick, the Terrible Story and the Joyful Story, for the boys to have when they want to know more about him, about what happened. Since the publishing option is available, I thought I'd look into it. And the first part of looking into it is asking around.

So... Input? Anyone?

The Secret Nuclear Bunker




A real road sign, in the County of Essex, UK

The road sign is real and the bunker is real. In the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, several emergency regional seats of government were built in Britain and this was one of them. It is now a tourist attraction, of course - even our government would not be so stupid as to pin-point it's location. I think.
It always makes me smile when I drive past this sign which is not far from where I live. I am still not absolutely certain that the joke was obvious to whoever put the sign there. (Epping Forest District Council I believe).
As an afterthought, I wonder.....if there had been a nuclear war how would they choose who gets a place in the bunker? What's that you say? Politicians? Surely not!

I know: I should say something

Since I live in Tucson, I should say something about the mass shooting that took place in this city last week.
Since I've been in that Safeway a number of times, I should say something.
Since I've driven through the intersection or Oracle and Ina Roads more times than I can count, I should say something.
Since my boys' old school is less than a mile away from that shopping center, I should say something.

But what can I say that has not already been said?

What shock can I express that has not been expressed by those more shocked that this should happen than I?
What anger can I express that has not been expressed by those angrier at the right-wing rhetoric that targeted Congresswoman Giffords than I?
What disgust can I express that has not been expressed by those more disgusted by the posturing of the media (liberal, conservative, mainstream) than I?
What outrage can I express that has not been expressed by those more outraged by how easy it is for a mentally unstable person to obtain firearms than I?
What criticism can I express that has not been expressed by those more critical of our country's dismal mental health system than I?
What fear can I express that has not been expressed by those more afraid of further violence, further erosion of society's fabric, further dissolution of national stability than I?
What sadness can I express that has not been expressed by those whose sadness is more immediate than mine?

Sometimes, there just are no words.

And sometimes, there are. What hope can I express for this country, that has not already been expressed so powerfully by the President himself:   I want us to live up to [Christina Green's] expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.  All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

Real people - not so scary after all

Yesterday I really didn't want to leave the flat. I'd already agreed to play tennis with Andy at 4pm though so I didn't have a lot of choice. I'm so glad I did venture outside - the tennis did both of us good I think, even if we were both sweating like pigs at the end. We might try and fix up another encounter for next weekend. I had a quick dip in the sea after the game and then drove to Remuera to celebrate Richard's birthday. Five of us turned up; this made for quite a relaxing evening. Richard made a pasta dish and the rest of us contributed something for dessert. The second half of yesterday confirmed what I already knew: when you're not feeling great, leaving the house and making contact with other living, breathing humans (even though you really don't want to) can often be the best thing.

On Saturday I attended the monthly autism social group. Due to the time of year only fifteen or so turned up, so for a change we were able to hear ourselves think. The social group is a wonderful way for people with autism to get to know one another, but when attendances are at their normal levels it can become an acoustic nightmare - difficult to contend with even if you don't have the condition. The smaller numbers made the afternoon virtually stress-free for me; as usual there were some interesting topics of conversation. I got a surprise phone call from a recruitment agency in the middle of the session - it seemed unusual to get one in the weekend, so for a few brief seconds I got excited, thinking they might have a job for me (did I use the word excited there?) - sadly it wasn't to be.

My two potential flatmates (Richard and a female member of the autism group) have ramped up their flat-finding efforts. Both of them are currently in less than ideal arrangements and would move into a new flat last Tuesday given the choice. I also want to make the move (I'm paying over the odds for this place and I've lived on my own for too long already) but for me the urgency isn't quite the same. I've lived on the Shore for nearly seven years and have got pretty used to it over that time, so for me it's a case of crossing the Harbour Bridge when I come to it. I spoke to Mum on Friday - she said I need to find a job before I even think about finding a flat, and (how often can I say this?) I wholeheartedly agreed with her. Not many agencies or landlords will take you on if you're not working and I'd rather not have to lie on their forms. Besides, having work gives you many more options.

This morning I went to a WINZ seminar. They're always fun (!) but this time something had changed. Normally the League of Gentlemen job centre sketch (click here for the hilarious and cringeworthy YouTube clip) isn't far from reality, but today you could tell that some of the people in attendance actually wanted work. Three years ago the Devonport-Takapuna-Milford area had an unemployment rate close to zero; that's far from the case now. The bloke running the workshop didn't stop talking; this became annoying but he did make one salient point: you can reply to as many ads and be on the books of as many agencies as you like but unless you know people it'll be tough. An inability to build relationships with people has been my downfall all along.

Comfortably numb

According to Andy, the Pink Floyd song Comfortably Numb is about someone with a mental health problem who sees a psychiatrist, gets put on some medication, and is "fixed" (i.e. isn't depressed any more) but is no longer the same person ("this is not how I am"). I don't know whether his explanation is correct but it fits the lyrics and general feel of the song. I've heard that song - and other Pink Floyd stuff - a lot since I've lived in New Zealand. For some reason they're bigger here than in their homeland - ask a man on the street in a British town to name three Pink Floyd songs and he'll probably say, "Another Brick In The Wall, and, er ... there was more than one? Sorry, I don't know." Another UK group who are more well known here than in their mother country is Supertramp. I bought their greatest hits album last week. For some reason I like all that progressive stuff and I'm not sure why.

Back to the point. Comfortably numb is pretty much what I've become of late. I don't know whether I can totally blame the Efexor but I'm sure it's a factor. I remember when I used to be excited about things, passionate, enthusiastic, but those days are just about gone. Living by myself isn't helping either - more about that in my next post, whenever that is.

And no, the depression hasn't totally gone away either, despite what the subtitle of this blog says. I'm playing tennis with Andy in about an hour and then going over to Remuera to celebrate Richard's birthday. Of course I want to celebrate Richard's birthday but it's stinking hot, I hardly slept last night and I'd be quite happy just staying here and not seeing anybody.

Cryptic crossword

Last month I had a cryptic crossword published in my local mental health service newsletter. I meant to post it a couple of weeks ago but posting files (other than images) on Blogger seems an impossible task. What you can do however is save them in a remote location on the web and post a link to the location here. So if you want to see my cryptic crossword (and who knows, print it out and try it), click here. And here's a sneak peek of what you're letting yourself into:

Have fun!

Crippled by a culture of 'bicycle' fear



We should never blindly place our trust in authoritarian professionals and institutions.

We should always recognise 'capitalist patriachy' for what it is, and speak out against it.

We must say "NO" to the...

* damaging
* blatant
* oppressive
* mysoginistic

...forces at play

Let's resist;

$$ - being blinded by the notion of state protection, and
$$ - being crippled by the current culture of bicycle fear

Bicycle helmet laws - Australia's false solution

(Photos: unfettered Dutch cycling - sigh!)


Without a doubt helmet laws have been & are & always will be a 'false solution' to bicycling safety.

Notwithstanding they make ED doctors and politicians feel better in a 'smug-parental-sort-of-way' as they unwittingly tumble into the arms of 'Big Oil' and 'Big Helma' ('Big Oil's' little sis').

Yet (& I don't need to tell you this) helmet laws have made no difference to cycling safety whatsoever & in fact (as many would argue) have made cycling safety a whole lot worse in a 'red-herring-sort-of-way'!

Could Gustave Le Bon have been more on the money back in 1898?

'The masses never thirsted after the truth.
They turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste, preferring to deify error, if error seduce them;
- whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master;
- whoever attempts to destroy their illusion is always their victim.'

Barnes Wallis and the Bouncing Bomb




Sir Barnes Neville Wallis in 1942. The National Portrait Galleery, London
In May 1943 one of the most daring actions of World War Two took place. The allies (that's us) wanted to destroy the dams on the Ruhr which supplied hydo-electric power to the highly industrialised Ruhr Valley in Germany.

Direct drops onto dams were difficult and they were protected by torpedo nets in the river. The dams were superbly constructed and only very accurately placed depth charges would have any chance of success. What to do?

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Barnes Wallis was a British inventor of aircraft and military weapons who conceived the idea of a 'bouncing bomb' which would skim across the water surface thus avoiding the nets.

On the night of 16th May RAF 617 squadron, led by the heroic figure of Guy Gibson launched the highly risky night-time raids. The mission had to be flown at exceptionally low-level, meaning that, from the outset, it was thought that only half of the aircraft would return.




The Eder Dam on 17th May 1943
It was an audacious mission and, although two of the three target dams were seriously breached, which flooded the Ruhr Vally and disrupted German military production for a while, the raid was on balance probably not worthwhile except in terms of morale.

From that time on 617 Squadron became known as 'The Dam Busters'.

Bubble Wrap Society

(Photos: Village store, Whistler, BC, Canada)


Reading this article in the Canadian "Globe & Mail" made me remember some of our snow practices from previous mountain moments:

1. 'ex-army-boot' skiing (stuffed with socks & tied on with laces!!!)
2. 'bikini' skiing (those were the days, my friend!)
3. 'baby-on-back' skiing (all grown up now - TG!!)
4. 'midnight poubelle-ing' (bin-liner riding in the dark!!)

...but there's one snow practice I plan to hang-on to...

5. helmet-free skiing (if I should so choose, which I do)

...oh dear, methinks, a battle looms on the horizon!!!! -
how long have I got before it all starts again?

Hope (plus update on Sonny, 3)

Hope by Friedrich von Schiller
We speak with the lip, and we dream in the soul,
Of some better and fairer day;

And our days, the meanwhile, to that golden goal

Are gliding and sliding away.

Now the world becomes old, now again it is young,

But "The better" 's forever the word on the tongue.



At the threshold of life hope leads us in--

Hope plays round the mirthful boy;

Though the best of its charms may with youth begin,

Yet for age it reserves its toy
********************************************************************************
Update on Sonny (3)





Sonny on 5th January 2011. He can't always raise a smile like this!
Sonny has had his first course of chemotherapy successfully. He is beginning to loose his lovely thick black hair. He has good days and not-so-good days but the medical staff are pleased with his progress so far. His second round of chemotherapy will begin as soon as he is recovered from the first one. The support of family and friends and various children's charities has been wonderful and we are so thankful and grateful.

The Facebook group has now passed 300 members: Supporting Sonny Through Lymphoma 

Evangelical incoherence always attached to helmet beliefs



There is a certain 'evangelical incoherence' attached to helmet beliefs, and it will remain an 'eternal mystery' to me that we Australians, have allowed ourselves to be so blinded by the aura of respectability that all too often surrounds medical opinion.

* Why is this so?

...'Trust me, I'm a doctor'!!!

...hmmmmn...inexplicably we resolutely refuse to contemplate the evident flaws in current medical opinion on bicyle helmets.

Why?...sigh

Views from the South

I'm back in Auckland now; I flew up on Tuesday. My flight was hassle-free, as was the bus to the ferry terminal which got me there just in time for the 10:30 ferry. Except there was no 10:30 ferry, or any ferry at all for that matter. It never occurred to me that it was a public holiday, and anyway I thought the 10:30 ferry ran every day, public holiday or not. At least that's what my timetable says, but since when could you trust those? I was lucky enough to find a bus to Takapuna, but then I had no choice but to blow $20 on a taxi.

Nothing happened on New Year's Eve - I thought we'd go to the Caroline Bay carnival but we did that on Sunday instead. We watched the concert - the star attraction was Suzanne Prentice, supposedly some world-famous-in-New Zealand country and western singer. She didn't do it for me. The concert was hardly Gorillaz material, but hey it was free. From the concert we had a few goes on the chocolate wheel, paying for the dream of winning a box of chocolate, for we never looked like actually doing so. For some reason, out of all the games and side shows, people tend to gravitate to the chocolate wheel - it's the Texas hold 'em of the carnival. I also tried my hand at the darts game - I did hit one of the potential money-spinning black stars, only to reveal a "sorry mate, you haven't won" ticket. I like the carnival though. This was the 100th edition of it; they continue to make good use of the money people lose chasing chocolate-coated dreams.

On Monday I played nine holes of golf with Mum - this was her first hit-out since her back started giving her trouble. The pain had subsided so she risked a half-round and thankfully the pain didn't come back. Golf differs from most other sports in that (as far as I can see) tactics don't play a huge part. That's not to say I don't think mental strength is important (in fact I think it's vitally important), but it's rare that you say, hmmm, which way should I aim it this time? It seems that all players are trying to do the same thing with the ball, just that some execute it much better than others. I'd also say that natural talent plays a bigger part in golf than it does in, say, tennis. I've had a lot of wins over more naturally gifted opponents in tennis just by chasing down balls and staying in points. Such a concept doesn't exist in golf. Talking of natural talent in that game, I don't think I've got the necessary amount of it. I hit some nice drives and made five semi-respectable double bogeys, but I also ran up a nine on a par-four, not to mention one hole where I got mired in a bunker and gave up.

On the way to the airport on Tuesday we popped in to see one of my cousins (probably my favourite cousin) who lives in Christchurch with her husband and 11-month-old daughter (whom I'd only previously seen in photos). Then I hopped on the plane and it was back up here again to begin the Long Job Search. It was good to see Mum and Dad, and I was sad to leave them behind at the airport. It was also good to see some of my extended family again, even if conversation became hard (or impossible) at times. Much of the conversation was simply gossip about people in the local area, and Dad and I, who haven't lived there since childhood, were automatically excluded. At least I don't live there all the time. Dad, who does, feels understandably left out. In fact he feels totally marooned in Geraldine - he's too far away from everything and has little in common with the people there. I would say in 2005 and '06 this put him on the verge of depression; more recently he's come to (dare I say) accept his fate. With the current economy he's struggling to sell paintings, and although my parents are comfortably off I feel sorry for Dad.

I don't know when I'll be down there next. Hopefully it won't be too long until I am. My brother plans to come over at Easter, so if and when he gets his A into G and books a ticket (you never know with him) I'll grab a seat to Christchurch.

Quiz Questions (13 ): Origin of Book Titles




californiahistorian.com


Name the source of these book titles, firstly two by John Steinbeck and then two by British writers:



1) East of Eden

2) The Grapes of Wrath

3) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

4) Diamonds Are Forever



The answers are now published in the 'comments'. See how well you did (or not!)

STOP PRESS: "A 'no-helmet' saved my life" anecdote



OMG!!! You have to read this!!!!

Baby no. 2 was cycling in Newtown on New Year's eve, and her cardigan slipped out of her front basket and jammed itself in her front wheel. Strangely the back wheel kept going (something to do with science & mechanics, no doubt), and as a result baby no. 2 (wait for it!) was catapulted over the handle bars and onto the ground in a jiffy - there was no time for any contigency plans!!

Poor darling landed on her hands as she stuck them out, and amazingly they were ok - notwithstanding she did end up with 'little-boy' knees though...

...but OMG!...I keep doing the "what-ifs"...

...imagine if she'd been wearing a helmet????????????

Wow! what a 'eureka' moment - in fact, this is the counterpoint to:

- the 'helmet saved my life' andecdote...

...in fact, this is:

- the 'no-helmet saved my life' anecdote!!!

Therefore, if helmet promoters can get away with this standard of proof then so ought I!!!

Yes, dear world, from here on in, my family too is going to utilise 'The Absolute Emperor's New Clothes Standard of Proof' argument:

- a 'no-helmet saved our baby no.2's life'!!!!