Two Kinds of People

Alas, I didn't win Susan Bearman's writing challenge, the one that inspired me to run my own contest. (This fine entry was her winner.  I have to admit that I am "the same kind" as the writer.) I wasn't really expecting to win, because Susan is a talented essayist, and while I am a good writer, the classic essay is not my strong suit. My best writing tends to be more visceral and more poetic than the typical essay. Oh, well: Maybe next year.

Nonetheless, I am very pleased with my entry to her contest, and I am proud to publish it myself.

There are two kinds of people in this world: Widows and those who don't know what to say.

Yes, there are two kinds of people in this world.
  • Those who say, "He's in a better place now," and those who know that there could be no better place than snuggled up together on the sofa.
  • Those who say, "It's all part of God's plan," and those who want nothing to do with a God who plans senseless deaths at the wheel of a drunk driver.
  • Those who say, "You're young; you'll find someone else," and those who know that nobody else could ever fill the huge hole in their heart.
  • Those who say, "She fought the good fight," and those who know that there is no such thing as a good fight against cancer.
  • Those who say, "At least you have the kids," and those who can't bear the thought of the 2-year-old boy who will never know his daddy.
  • Those who say, "At least you don't have kids," and those who can't believe they never had the chance to create life with the love of their lives.
  • Those who say, "God needed another angel," and those who think their children need their mom a hell of a lot more than God could ever need another member of the celestial choir.
  • Those who say, "He wouldn't want you to be crying every day," and those who want to say, "He wouldn't want to be dead, either."
Yes, there are two kinds of people in this world.
  • Those who say, "You're so strong," and those who are curled in a ball whimpering where the kids won't hear them.
  • Those who say, "You're so brave," and those for whom getting out of bed is an act of sheer will.
  • Those who say, "You're such an inspiration," and those who stare blankly at the wall wondering what on earth they're supposed to do now.
Yes, there are two kinds of people in this world:
  • Those who don't think they could ever handle such a tragedy, and those who know that every successful marriage ends in death.

Truth in advertising: This isn't exactly what I submitted to the contest. Every time I looked at it, I tweaked a word here and a word there. In fact, I just now -- 20 minutes after posting it on my blog -- rewrote the first line completely. Oh, well. I am a work in progress, and so is my writing.

I also feel like I should add a personal note: My head isn't all-widowhood-all-the-time, but I needed to write about what I know. I actually don't think I could have written this piece when I was feeling it most acutely; if I'd tried, it would have come out with a lot of anger and bitterness ... and those feelings would have poisoned the writing.

Public transport & energy policies go hand-in-hand

All too often these are replaced with...

...these with scant apology for routine inconvenience exacted on railway passengers

All too often we depart from the wrong side of railway stations...

...leaving stations via their streetscapes

The way our state of New South Wales treats us is indeed a parlous 'state' of affairs...

Today I sampled a menu of their public transport options as I embarked upon (what ought to have been) an uneventful journey from Scone to Sydney.

Oh boy!, you know things are grim when you automatically check the internet for trackwork rather than automatically rely up on the much vaunted train timetable!

...and so it was that today was a 'trackwork-by-the-bucketful' day with a quick little trip on the Countrylink train to Muswellbrook first up followed by 'motion-sickness-inducing' buses to Sydney

There is no escaping the fact that our public transport is tokenistic & badly managed, and that little has been done over the past 16 years to redress grievances...

...but what really annoyed me whilst reading their website was how far into the future their projections of trackwork had been estimated...

* how is this possible?

* why are our tracks so fragile?

* why are corporate coal-train timetables never disrupted?

* why are corporate coal-trains never shunted like our passenger trains?

* why are our railway passengers so inferior to corporate coal?

...and you know what caps it all off? - there are no provisions for bicycles in this menu of public transport options unless they are dismantled and boxed-up - nope, I'm not kidding!!!!! - this is Australia.

The interminable trackwork & incessant marginalisation of railway passengers clearly demonstrates that a broad comprehensive energy policy is all talk & very little else... wonder Australia has dropped off the global tourist's radar; unless you hire a car, there's no way of getting round this great big sunburnt country of ours...

Where the bloody hell are you, Tourism Australia?

- there's a role here for you in this quest - join us today!!

Snow! In Tucson!

Now here's something you don't see every day. In fact, this is the first time I've seen it in the three years I've lived here. It was gone by 10:30 a.m., but how otherworldly it was!

There's still time

to enter the Forever Changed writing contest. The deadline isn't until this evening, and rumor has it that if you let the judge know an entry is on its way, she'll hold the door open for you.

'Punk Commute' update

(Photos: Paul Martin & Mike Rubbo)

Date for your diary:

Punk Commute...
Friday 20th May 2011 at 12 noon

Join us on your bicycles at Sydney Town Hall steps before we 'mosey-on down' to Parliament House (details on Facebook)

...our rules, our democracy

Everyone welcome, whatever your...

* bike choice

* headwear choice

* clothing choice

...the more of us the merrier as we enjoy our roads to cycling freedom!!!

Our darkest day

I was in Devonport library just after 2pm on Tuesday when I heard someone say "six point three". That's pretty big I thought, but even when I saw pictures of the half-destroyed cathedral I had no idea of the scale of the disaster. Then I got home and switched on the TV and could hardly believe my eyes. It can't be New Zealand. This doesn't happen here.

Shortly before 4pm the phone rang. Suddenly I had work again, at the same insurance brokers that gave me a job following the September quake. I was very grateful to be back at work, even if I seem unable to get work without a major natural disaster occurring. It was only when I turned up for work the next morning that I knew the company had suffered in the worst possible way from the quake. Their Christchurch offices were based on the top floor of the Pyne Gould Guinness Building; they lost three people.

I'm in an internet café and have to go.

change, v.

transitive --
  1. to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone: to change one's name; to change one's opinion; to change the course of history. 
  2. to transform or convert (usually followed by into ): The witch changed the prince into a toad. 
  3. to substitute another or others for; exchange  for something else, usually of the same kind: She changed her shoes when she got home from the office.
  4.  to give and take reciprocally; interchange: to change places with someone.
  5.  to transfer from one (conveyance) to another: You'll have to change planes in Chicago.
  6.  to give or get smaller money in exchange  for: to change a five-dollar bill.
  7.  to give or get foreign money in exchange  for: to change dollars into francs.
  8.  to remove and replace the covering or coverings of: to change a bed; to change a baby.
intransitive --
  1.  to become different: Overnight the nation's mood changed.
  2.  to become altered or modified: Colors change if they are exposed to the sun.
  3.  to become transformed or converted (usually followed by into ): The toad changed into a prince again.
  4.  to pass gradually into (usually followed by to  or into ): Summer changed to autumn.
  5.  to make a change or an exchange: If you want to sit next to the window, I'll change with you.
  6.  to transfer between trains or other conveyances: We can take the local and change to an express at the next stop.
  7.  to change one's clothes: She changed into jeans.
  8.  (of the moon) to pass from one phase to another.
  9.  (of the voice) to become deeper in tone; come to have a lower register: The boy's voice began to change when he was thirteen. 

With all these meanings and nuances, it's no surprise that there was an interesting conversation in the comments section of my post soliciting entries for my writers contest, a conversation that started me thinking about the nature of change. A few of my worthy adversaries dear friends posit that we do not really change, that events might shape our lives without really changing who we are, and after such an event our tendency is to revert to who we were before anyway.

On the one hand, I wholeheartedly agree with them: I am, always have been, and ever shall be -- Alicia. There is an essential Alicia, who is found nowhere else in the world, whose unfailing light will never be quenched, whose truest self it is my lifelong mission and privilege to honor and to cherish.

On the other hand, I profoundly disagree: What a sad state of affairs it would be if people couldn't change!  That is fatalism at its worst: "This is who you are, this is your state of being in this world. Do with it what you will, but you will never change."  Really? Just kill me now.

I would be so disappointed in myself if I thought I hadn't changed over the years -- and not just in terms of maturing and growing up.  Sure, we make many changes that are just window-dressing, cosmetic adjustments to make ourselves more appealing to others and to ourselves. But other changes run deep and are long-lasting, what Emily Dickinson calls "internal difference, where the meanings are." I have to believe in such change, in the potential for such change.  For if true, internal change is not possible, most of us would not have much room for hope.

I think my understanding of "change" is shaped by my faith. I'm not a Calvinist: I don't believe in predestination, and I don't believe in the essential depravity of humanity. I am an Orthodox Christian: I believe in theosis and in the call to become ever more who God created us to be.

Which leads me back to the first hand: I once said that because I see the world differently since Nick's death -- since I have a different perspective on what does and does not matter -- I feel freer to be more truly myself.  Other people might see this as a dramatic change -- it can certainly look that way. But in a way, it's not a change per se, but a shuffling off of external expectations and an internal embracing of who I have been all along, of the woman God would have me be.

Change. What is it?  What does it mean?  I still aver that I am Forever Changed. But am I truly different from who I once was, or am I more truly myself than I was before? And if it's "only" the latter, isn't that a change most profound, most worthy of celebrating?

The deadline approaches, but there's still plenty of time to accept the challenge:  Tell me how you have been Forever Changed, however you understand the word.

The Good-Ship BicycleHelmetLaw

Classic...just a matter of time before Aussie politicians cease straightening deck-chairs here!


Lord Reith 1889 - 1971


John Reith is regarded as the founding father of the BBC. This is not because he conceived or pushed for the idea but because he single-handedly was responsible for it's early success and many innovations and 'firsts'.

Reith was a dour puritanical Scotsman of a 'high moral standard', (his words!) Early announcers on the radio had to wear full evening dress and adhere to an extremely strict code of practice. His methods were to become imbued within the ethos of the BBC and, to this day, it is a by-word for unbiased straight reporting. It carries no paid advertisements on any of it's TV or radio stations.  
Although it is a public body, financed mainly by a license which British television viewers must purchase at a cost of £145 (about $234) per annum, it is independent of the government. This had led to conflict on several occasions notably during the General Strike of 1926 and again during the Falklands War in 1982.

Alexandra Palace overlooking  north London

In 1936 regular TV programmes began to be broadcast from Alexandra Palace set in Alexandra Park high above north London, but they were interupted by the Second World War and resumed afterwards. It is now the world's largest broadcasting company employing 23,000 people. It's original aim was to "inform, educate and entertain" and that aim has not changed to this day.
It has been responsible for many breakthroughs in broadcasting and it's doubtful that anything so 'off the wall' as Monty Python's Flying Circus would have been made by any other TV company in the world. At present it's website gets 3.6 billion hits per month! In the UK the organisation is affectionately known as the 'Beeb'. Millions of people around the world depend on it's broadcasts, in many languages, to learn what their governments deem not to tell them.
The BBC's motto is "Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation".

The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

As a resident of New South Wales and a citizen of Australia, it is my responsibility to participate fully in our democracy.

Since the laws of Australia are made in my name, it's absolutely essential that I hold my government to account in a bid to protect my freedoms and liberties, (and yours as well).

So when they are abused, with-held and/or removed, I will always petition my government for a 'redress of a grievance' - and I ought to be allowed to do this.

Notwithstanding how it all 'ought to be', I am deeply disappointed by my government's inaction in relation to mandatory bicycle helmet laws and I am equally disappointed at their lame attempts to dodge my engagement in acts of good citizenship.

But I will never give up or ever let anything through to the keeper because I know, as we all do, that 'eternal vigilance' is the price we pay for liberty...

...and Former Ambassador Joe Wilson, you're my hero.

What's going on with the Herculoids?

The Sitemeter app allows me to track visitors to my blog by all kinds of variables, including what link brought them here, how they found me. Fifty visitors show on a page; this morning, 21 of those 50 visitors came by way of a Google Image search for the Herculoids. When I track those visitors by location, I can see that they are from all over the country, so I know it's not one person coming repeatedly.  So ...

Why this sudden interest in the Herculoids, an obscure cartoon show from my childhood?  And what do these visitors think when they come to my blog and discover that my favorite characters are Gleep and Gloop?  And how disappointed they must be to discover that I have only a link to an image of the Herculoids on my page, not the image itself!

Such are the weighty things on my mind this Tuesday morning.

Don't forget: There's still lots of time to enter my Forever Changed contest.


I'm enveloped in an aura somewhat reminiscent of Groundhog Day!!

According to phone call I have just retrieved from my mobile, the gorgeous police from yesterday have decided to book me after all - & to that effect, my infringement ticket is in the post & winging its way to my 'daisy-painted' post box at the top of the drive!

'Whoop-de-do', 'here we go again', let the 'hustle & bustle' begin!!


1. dust off old subs
2. find some new ones for curial interest!
3. write to:
- (i) ACCC & complain about 'safety-washing'
- (ii) Minister Borger, transport 'pooh-bah' till March, & complain about 'state negligence'
- (iii) The Hon. George Souris, my local member, & check what he's going to do for me
4. ring ABC & chat to Mike Pritchard (he's been busting to know how everything's progressing - now's the time to tell him!!!)
5. dry-clean suit

...and last but not least, logistically speaking, keep you all constantly posted!!

'POST-REASON' - what makes Australians think we're so right?

You have to feel sorry for our 'Aussie' police who are at the coal-face of our ridiculous bicycle helmet laws!

I certainly did today when 2 extremely polite policemen stopped me in relation to my helmetless state on my bicycle whilst I was cycling home with the groceries.

The 3 of us conducted an in-depth conversation on the side of the road which evolved into a really useful 'round-table-brain-storming' discussion as to what we all could do to help me with my quest for freedom of choice. 'Booking me' was a suggestion which we were all agreed upon, but in the end we finally left it that they'll be back in touch after they get some legal advice...

...and on that note, we shook hands amicably and went our separate ways, with me promising to give them a couple of secs before hopping back on my bike in order for them to do a U-turn and disappear.

Yet again it struck me how ridiculous & costly this unsubstantiated law has been, and yet again it struck me how irresponsible our politicians have been to leave their flawed & contradictory mess to these overworked guys.

When will this nation grow up?

When will Australians take responsibility for ourselves?

Heading downhill

After my last blog post, which followed my last ever actuarial interview, I slid rapidly downhill. In the last few days I've had this real end-of-the-world feeling. I might have a big decision to make in the next 48 hours, and I don't like any of my options. The phone went on Thursday (I let it ring six times before daring to pick it up); it was someone from the Wellington company wanting to touch bloody base with me. They have had difficulties contacting one of my references and now want me to contact this person. That's a decidedly awkward prospect. Possibly having to move out of my flat when the new owners move in is an extra complication.

If I'm offered the job, my parents want me to take it. Mum said, "everyone I've spoken to has said it's easy to make friends in Wellington." You've known me for nearly 31 years and you still have no bloody idea. It isn't easy for me to make friends anywhere. Of course she does realise that; I think she was just encouraging me to take the job. She worries a lot about me and if I take the job everything will be sorted and she'll have nothing to worry about any more.

My cousin in Wellington thinks I should seriously think about going full-time with my puzzles instead of taking the job down there or applying for any other jobs. On Friday I spent some time trying to come up with an algorithm for making and solving a certain type of puzzle. I might as well have been in Bletchley Park trying to decipher the Enigma machine. If I do make my puzzles a full-time job, how will I move into a flat? I'm reminded of Danny Bhoy's attempts to find a flat. "So what do you do for a living?" I'm a comedian. "You must be joking."

On Saturday I attended the monthly Asperger's group. More than thirty turned up. On the whole they are such a good bunch of people. I have definitely made some connections with a few of them - losing them would be a big deal. Dad said I'd be earning good money in that job so I could just fly to Auckland whenever I felt like it. There was one bloke I'd never met before who had many of the traits of Asperger's. He was clever but could appear quite arrogant at times: "I like to play chess but can't find anyone good enough to play against." He was a mathematician who worked at home as a computer programmer. He was also interested in puzzles and games; we spoke at length about my puzzle and he could be a useful guy to have on board. People like him must struggle in relationships, or so I thought - I was surprised to learn that he's got five kids from two marriages.

My depressive symptoms have returned with a vengeance. Everything has slowed down and become a chore, I've been unable to concentrate on anything, and I've felt tired a lot. I slept for nearly nine hours on Saturday night but yesterday I couldn't stop yawning.

Last night I went with Julie to see The King's Speech, with Colin Firth playing the part of the king. I thought it was very good. Speech defects are common but they don't get a lot of media coverage. My grandmother, if she was still with it, would have enjoyed it immensely I'm sure.

My computer died on Thursday - it will need a new motherboard which won't be cheap. It's been a hassle not having a computer, but at least I can't play poker. What a distraction that can be.

Emma – one year on

One year ago today, Emma passed away. She was a special person and an inspiration to us all. We must never forget.

A writing challenge -- and contest

I've been reading Susan Bearman's blog, Two Kinds of People, for a while now. The theme of her entries is that there are (surprise, surprise) two kinds of people -- for example, those who play a musical instrument and those who wish they did, or those who believe in public education and those who think it's a failure, or those who try to write a novel in a month (NaNoWriMo) and those who don't. I think her writing is interesting and thought-provoking.

She's currently running a contest in which she invited readers to submit their own "two kinds of people." I entered with little hope of winning, but happy to have risen to the challenge. The contest is closed now, but I keep thinking about it, and I have decided to issue my own challenge and run my own contest.

My blog is about how being widowed forever changed me. I want to hear from you.

How have you been Forever Changed?

I know, I know ... most of my readers are widows, so you think your answer is the same as mine. Except it's not, because my journey is not yours.  My whole blog is about being changed.  If you want to tell me that widowhood changed you, tell me how. Be specific. Choose one aspect of widowhood, one moment of it, one slice of it.  You know what else? Widowhood isn't the only thing that changed me forever, so I know it's not the only thing that forever changed you.

And all you non-widows out there (yes, I know you're out there), tell me about a life-changing experience, moment, realization.

Your entries can be as long or as short as you want.  Send your entry in an email to me by midnight next Sunday, February 27.  I will choose the winner and publish it here, with all sorts of accolades. And yes, there will be a prize -- I just haven't decided what it will be yet.


"Punk Commute" - our democracy, our rules!

Always love watching this study (thank you, LSS! x)

- in fact so much so I think I'll send it to my local member, the Hon. George Souris MP, to assist him with the collection of necessary data to enable him to take a political stand to oversee the abandonment of mandatory bicycle helmet laws - actually, come to think of it, maybe I have already, can't remember - no matter! you can never watch this clip too much anyway! - chillingly & hilariously your heart out, Alfred Hitchcock!!!

Oh! & just before you go...

...keep the 20th May free for the "Punk Commute" in Sydney - more 'detailed' details to come over the next few weeks!!!

Remember: - our democracy, our rules; so join us on the "Punk Commute" if you can - funtimes ha! ha! ha!

Cars no longer vehicle of choice for young Australians

Out of the mouths of babes...

...according to the Fairfax press today, a significant proportion of young Australians have acknowledged that using the road with a motor vehicle has significant and detrimental effects upon the environment so much so that they would prefer to use the road in an alternative manner and are actively doing so already.

Unsurprisingly, the car companies are having kittens!!!!!

"But wait-up there, Mr & Mrs Motor-Vehicle execs, it doesn't make sense for anyone whether they be car companies or politicians to spend millions of dollars trying to get ‘creative to win back the younger generation’"

Not for the first time, the ‘young’ are showing us the way forward in true leadership fashion.

Let's take a leaf out of their book and follow it...

...our true leaders - love it & love them!!!!

Amy Winehouse where are you?


I don't know how well-known Amy Winehouse is around the world. She is an English singer of bluesy rock and pop music and one of the great talents of her generation. She has had severe personal problems in her life with drink,  drugs and boyfriends.
Her songs are often personal and sometimes x-rated and can be very funny (see 'Fuck Me Pumps'). Fittingly, her biggest hit was called 'Rehab'. There was a CD called Frank released in 2003 and Back to Black in 2006 and the only thing since then is a boxed-set of those two albums although she was the featured vocalist on Mark Ronson's 'Valerie'. There have been rumours for sometime that she is 'turning her life around' and about to launch a new recording. Nothing has happened yet but I hope it's true; her kind of talent is in short supply.
For an up tempo reggae beat try 'You're Wondering Now'.
And, finally, if you are in a mellow mood try 'Love is a Losing Game'.

Photo credt:

Watch out! Watch out! - there's a bicycle helmet law about!

'Danger-mongering' equates to 'disease-mongering', and you can always count on there being a gullible politician to ensure safe passage of your ludicrously revenue-raising initiative, that’s for sure!!...

...but for those of us who don't subscribe to the 'necessity-of-helmet-law' mantra, the ever-broadening parameters & tentacles of helmet manufacturers underpinned by their modus operandi should concern us all.

Meanwhile back in the land of ‘Helmet-law’, I continue to float after Saskia in an arty bubble of bicycles & paintings – bliss! x

A line in the sand

Yesterday I had my last ever actuarial interview. That's a promise. On the ferry into the city, I thought about all kinds of stuff, but mostly I thought about why I wasn't thinking about the interview. I felt a real sense of déjà vu; I'd been there before, several times. For no apparent reason the Pet Shop Boys song Let's Make Lots of Money was going round and round in my head. Outside the tower block was a 15-foot-tall snake-like sculpture made out of hollow metal. I got this sudden urge to want to climb it. If I had climbed it, what would anyone have done? I don't remember much about the interview, except that it couldn't end fast enough. Thankfully it was all over in forty minutes. I ran down Queen Street and caught the ferry with a minute to spare - normally I'd have happily waited half an hour for the next one, but I was desperate to get the hell out of the city. It felt good to have drawn a line in the sand.

The good news (potentially) is that an agency rang me this morning about a possible temp job with Auckland Council where I'd be working with large spreadsheets and databases. I'd be delighted if they gave me the job. If last year's earthquake work is anything to go by, getting the Council job would benefit me enormously. My mental health (which as I write is some way short of perfect) would likely improve, and a lot of other doors would open up for me. For one it'll make moving out of this flat easier (and now that it's been sold, I might have to).

Last week I read Simon Baron-Cohen's Autism and Asperger Syndrome - the Facts. There's a lot to take in; the brain is one hell of a complicated piece of kit. The link between Asperger's and depression is hardly a surprise. A recurring thought whenever I'm depressed is I don't fit in. People with Asperger's face a daily struggle to fit in. I answered the Autism Quotient (AQ) questionnaire at the back of the book, scoring 28 out of a possible 50 (the average bloke scores 17 while 80% of people on the autism spectrum score 32 or above). A high but not autistically high score is just about what I expected. I dislike (and am very bad at) planning and organising; that took a few points off my total. But maybe because I was never diagnosed as a kid, I came into contact with mainly neurotypical people so some of their traits might have rubbed off on me.

On Monday I spoke to Gran in her home, although she no longer knows where she is. She lives in a dreamworld. Since she went to hospital at the end of last year she's been in rapid decline. It's sad for someone who had such a brilliant mind to deteriorate like this, but that's old age I guess. I'm so glad I was able to see her last year; she might not have known whether it was New York or New Year, but she was still very much Gran as I remembered her. My dad flies out to the UK next Monday - I don't envy him one bit.

I've felt things get on top of me today. I really just need a good sleep.

Cycling - all the way to GBK

I've 'touched-down' in Sydney; and not a moment too soon...I'm just in time for a 'touch of art'!!

FUNTIMES!! - always a pleasure following Saskia around, and lovely to meet Gilbert of ARTcycle fame - so make sure you check for a gallery near you - they're 'popping-up' all over the place!!!

However notwithstanding the beauty & serenity that is evident across Sydney as a result, arriving back in 'Helmet-law land' has reminded me yet again that mandatory standards for bicycle helmets make no sense - in part due to two elements:

1st element - a cyclist must exhibit compliance by wearing a helmet

2nd element - a helmet must exhibit compliance by complying with the standard

...therefore anyone riding a bicycle ought to be stopped in order for their helmet to be inspected - after all just because you're wearing a helmet doesn't automatically make you compliant & law abiding...

...imagine - there could be dozens of law-breakers out there!!!

'Checkpoint Helmet' would be just the ticket; literally!!!

The Bazza aftershave saga

Following on from that tennis match: there were creepy-crawlies of various kinds all over the court, totally oblivious to the fact that their lives depended on the duration of our match. I struggle to sleep after a long match; I must have finally dropped off at around one o'clock. I played this afternoon too - nothing remotely serious which was just as well; it was baking out there.

On a not totally unrelated topic, Bazza has been in the news again. Alison (a member of the tennis club who has been very good to Bazza over the years) had bought him some aftershave for Christmas. The real reason for the present was Bazza's tendency to pong; unpleasant odours emanating from him had been a talking point at the club. I'm not sure he's used aftershave before, but since Christmas he's been lathering the stuff on. Alison rang me on Friday - evidently Bazza had got the wrong end of the stick about the present. He sensed a whiff of romance in the air (my initial reaction when she told me this was to burst out laughing) and invited her to spend the weekend at his place in Papakura. When she said no, followed by "sorry mate, I think you've got the wrong idea," he completely lost the plot, subjecting her to a barrage of shouting and swearing. Alison was quite upset when she spoke to me. This morning I called Bazza (I'd given him time to cool off) and he surprised me a little by admitting he was totally out of line. Tomorrow he'll be coming over to Belmont to give Alison a bottle of wine and a letter of apology (the round-trip will take him roughly half a day). Hopefully he won't lose a friend over this.

Talking of friends, Bazza doesn't have many, not that it seems to bother him. People have said he's got Asperger's - he certainly has a lot of its traits - but how could I discuss this with him? I think he could really benefit by going to the Auckland Asperger group.

When Alison phoned on Friday I thought it would be the people from Wellington. I imagine they aren't going to offer me the job now, but stranger things have happened. If they do still offer me the position, I've pretty much decided not to take it. It took me a long time to make that decision - I'm an indecisive person. I remember a couple of years ago having to fill in a form about how depression affects me. One of the statements on the form was "I have difficulty making decisions". It gave me about seven options along the lines of "strongly agree" and "slightly disagree". I remember thinking, am I very indecisive? Moderately indecisive? Just a little indecisive? There were so many options that I just couldn't decide.

I've got another actuarial interview on Tuesday. So far I've hardly given it a moment's thought. I'll do some research tomorrow but I know my heart won't really be in it.

Last weekend I met up with a few of the Asperger's guys at Cornwall Park. I should invite them over to Devonport in a couple of weeks.

Karmic goo

As much as I don't want to be part of my half-sibs' karmic mess, it seems like it's going to be hard to avoid.

It turns out that the money they "found" is in an investment account. Anyone who has ever opened such an account knows that when you do so, you have to designate beneficiaries of that account. If you do not specify percentages in the designations, the money gets divided equally among the designees. Therefore, the terms of my father's will have no bearing on the distribution of the money in the account.

Even so, my half-sibs are expecting my sister, and me, and my brother's sons to sign away our rights to equal shares of the money and to accept only half that amount. Unbelievable.

On the one hand, I really don't want to be poisoned by their greed. On the other hand, I don't think that means I should lie down and let them walk all over me. On the one hand, the amount of money they are trying to cheat me out of isn't that much in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, it is enough to make a difference in my nephew's lives and enough to make a nice addition to my boys' college funds.

I've had this weird little chain of thought in my head. By hurting me they hurt themselves. If I allow them to hurt me, then I am allowing them to hurt themselves. Therefore, I cannot allow them to hurt me. Is that line of thinking valid? Or is it just a way to rationalize not relinquishing my legitimate claim to the money?

I hate this. I hate what money can do to people. I hate that my half-sibs are the kind of people who would pull this kind of stunt. I hate that my father's malice continues, nearly 9 years after his death. I hate the way he set things up. I hate that he was the kind of person who would set things up this way. I hate the way I hate all this stuff.

Karmic goo seems pretty unavoidable.

The Sonny Report (5)

Laura and Sonny
At last some good news! Sonny is in remission. Halfway through his chemo they did a scan and there were zero cancer cells found. He has to continue the treatment, of course, to ensure it doesn't return and there are complications which are temporary and minor by comparison. We are not getting carried way but are causitiously optimistic for his future.

Oh sod it, we're bloody ecstatic!

The Facebook Support Group now has over 360 members and the benefit of that and other support has been invaluable. Thanks to everyone who gave support!

Don't give up

On Monday I got a last-minute call-up to play tennis that evening. We played the doubles first - we were well beaten, 6-3 6-2, by a pairing who (unlike us) were competent at the net. I don't know what we could have done differently. While the doubles was a straightforward match, my singles was anything but. The very first game had nine deuces and pretty much set the scene for the rest of the match. I led 3-0 in the first set but really it was a much harder contest than that and it wasn't going to get any easier. The frame of my racket, which had a hairline fracture after coming into contact with various non-ball objects in the last two years, suddenly went "CRACK!" and I had no choice but to bring out the spare.

Changing rackets threw me a bit and I lost four games on the spin. I recovered to move within two points of the set at 5-4, 30-15 on my serve but my opponent played some excellent points to break me and I surrendered the set in a tight 12th game after nearly an hour. In the second set we carried on where we left off: long rallies, long games, my opponent hitting most of the winners while I tried desperately to hang in there. The winners I hit were generally on the run when he'd earlier dominated the rally. I won most of the big points in that set to win it 6-2, but it took a much greater physical toll on me than that score might suggest.

In the third set I was struggling. "Come on legs, move," but they wouldn't. From 1-1 I lost the next four games in ten minutes and it was surely all over. I then seemed to get a second wind, hit a couple of winners, and suddenly the match took on a different complexion. I still had a mountain to climb though and I had to rely on luck to some extent. He possessed most of the big shots and I sensed that if he really wanted to go for the jugular there was little I could have done to stop him. My legs were moving now, a lot, mostly a few feet behind the baseline, as I tried to chase down every ball. At least I was giving myself a chance. By 10:45 I was the winner, 7-5 in the final set. I never faced a match point although I was two points from defeat. I'm still not sure quite how I did it (I'm sure it involved a healthy portion of luck) but it goes to show that you should never give up.

Painting of the Month (14) February 2011. Severini (and update on Sonny!)

The Dance of the Pan-Pan at the “Monico” 1909-1911
 The Futurists were directly inspired by Cubism. It was primarily but not exclusively an Italian movement that pervaded all parts of life from architecture, music and politics to painting and design. They loathed all forms of previous expression and the movement's manifesto is a bit scarey and pre-echoes sentimments of Fascism. However, not withstanding that, a lot of the painting is very attractive and beatifully designed.

This picture reveals more the longer you look at it and takes obvious influence from Cubism. Gino Severini knew Pablo Picasso and was a link between the French and Italian avante garde.

The surface of the picture almost resembles an abstraction but of course to be truly abstract a painting must be representative of nothing!

The size of the work is monumental (roughly 9 by 13 feet!) and it dominated the Futurists' 1912 exhibition. The idea was that the viewer would feel as though they were in the scene themself as the foreground characters were life-sized


Update on Sonny (4)

He is losing his lovely thick black hair but it will soon grow back

To prove he hasn't lost his sense of humour, he is quick to point out that mine won't!
I am happy to say that Sonny is now at the halfway point of his chemotherapy and it's going well. There have been one or two complications and setbacks but generally it's going in the right direction. He, and the family, continue to recieve the most amazing support from charities, friends, other family members, strangers and, most importantly, the nursing and medical staff of Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Quiz question (14): Name the play/film/group

 The origin of this title is inspired by Cervantes' Don Quixote. You may be familar with the passage where DQ challenges a windmill to a fight when mistaking it for something other. When his lance gets caught in the sails of the windmill he is tossed aside and thinks he has been beaten by his 'foe'.

The phrase which forms the answer to this question was first used as the title of a play performed in London but never in the US. It later became a successful film starring Joanne Woodward and George C. Scott. Scott's character believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes. Woodward is a psychiatrist who becomes his 'Dr Watson'.

Now the name is known as an American alternative rock group formed in 1982 and still around. Name that play, film and group! (It's the same answer of course).

Oh no (continued)

So on Tuesday I flew down to Wellington for my interview. I'd done some preparation, but not much. The interview, near the top of one of Wellington's swankiest high-rise buildings, lasted almost an hour and a half. I was interrogated by a panel of three, so they were certainly taking the process seriously. It wasn't easy - in an interview that long, it's hard to disguise the fact that in nearly six years I did very little work of any substance. It's also hard to pretend that I want to do that line of work as a career, above anything else (in fact I didn't even try to pretend that). Most of my answers were pretty woolly. On balance I didn't perform badly, but I put my chances of being offered a job at about 10%. It would all depend on how desperate they were - if they were really desperate and the other applicants were really bad, I might have a chance. That's where the 10% came from.

I like Wellington. The city centre has a nice feel about it, in contrast to central Auckland which has very little feel at all, nice or otherwise. Tuesday was a lovely sunny day; that of course enhanced my impression of the place. After the interview I caught the bus to my cousin's house. It was good to see her - I've always got on pretty well with her. She and her husband have three boys, eight, six and two - they're all such good kids. During the night a storm sprung up. The house shook; sleep was decidedly difficult. The gale continued the next morning and it became very apparent why people joke about Wellington's inclement weather. About 300,000 people live there and they must all be nuts. In all seriousness, coming from the UK, the weather would be the least of my troubles. My biggest challenge would be lack of familiarity. I said Auckland doesn't have much "feel", but I've been here for seven years, know my way around (kind of!) and most importantly I've made some good friends in the last year or two. A couple of years ago moving would have been easier, but now could I possibly face having to start all over again?

I visited Te Papa on Wednesday morning - mostly the natural history section - and spent some time on Cuba Street, one of Wellington's more colourful areas. My cousin (who works from home as a patent attorney and earns roughly 5.4 squillion dollars a year) kindly took me to the airport and I arrived home around five.

On Thursday morning the company rang me. I fully expected (and, if I'm honest, hoped for) the big fat no. But no, it wasn't the big fat no. They wanted to check references and to see my degree certificate and exam results letters. Suddenly my chances had shot up to something like fifty-fifty. Could I really face actuarial work again, especially in a city I don't know? Later that morning I got another phone call, this time from a recruitment agency in Auckland who might have a temporary job for me, and then on Friday morning I got a call about another actuarial job that I'd basically forgotten I'd even applied for - I've got an interview (near the top of some big tower in Auckland I expect) scheduled for Tuesday week.

Applying for that job wasn't a pleasant experience. For a start they're a big company and they're Australian. I had to fill in this online application form but first I had to register with their site, or whatever, and pick a password. This was a reminder of everything I wanted to get away from when I left my last big job. The passwords for this site had to have three vowels, four consonants, two digits and a currency symbol, and at least two letters from each row of the keyboard. You couldn't use any letters from your name, your parents' names or your pets' names. Think these companies don't know your dog's name? Think again. They know everything about you. Worst of all, you had to change your password pretty much every time you logged in, and you couldn't use any of your last 48 passwords. Have I used dvu8a7$!Mkiq yet? Buggered if I know. Is it just me or are endless impossible-to-remember passwords a defining feature of the start of the third millennium?

Yesterday I played tennis. A lot of tennis. I turned up in time for a 1pm start but I had to wait nearly two hours to get on court: there were so many matches to finish, and they seemed destined never to finish. My partner in the men's match is getting on a bit (to put it mildly) but played at a very high standard back in the day. His name is on the honours board several times. He won his first club championship in (I think) 1961! The thing that really got me was how quick his thought processes were on the doubles court, especially at the net (where my thought processes are usually "oh shit"). It went without saying that I did most of the running. The very first game was an 18-point, one-ace, three-double-fault affair on my serve. We lost it from 40-love up and it seemed to confirm some of my feelings about tennis in recent times: that it's like pulling teeth, only not as quick, more painful and far less fun. That reminds me, I have to see the dentist on Tuesday. Bazza was watching our game from the sidelines. When we nosed in front for the first time, he said "if you stay ahead you'll be fine." Yes Bazza. If we never relinquish our lead at any stage, we'll probably win. But it wasn't to be. What made the difference in the end was the serve of one of our opponents. He was just warming up in the first set, but in the last two sets he was on fire. A dodgy line call at 3-all and deuce in the third set didn't help our cause, and at 5-4 we had to break Mr Impossible to stay in the match. They quickly moved to double match point, but he double-faulted, I got one of his big serves back and we somehow had a break point on his serve for the only time since the first set. We can still do this! Hmmm. Bam-bam-bam, we didn't get another return in, and it was all over, 4-6 6-4 6-4. A very good match though, I must say.

On to the mixed. Another match that could have gone either way. I'd never played with my partner before but she was a very consistent player. We just got there in the first set, 7-5 after falling behind early, but in the second set I got more and more frustrated with my inability to hold serve. "We go up 40-frigging-15 but every time I still lose my serve. What the *beep* am I supposed to do?!" At 4-5 down in the second it was my serve. I was still yet to win a service game; it was pretty remarkable that we still had a chance to win. Again we get to 40-frigging-15. Inevitably they get back to deuce. But, shock horror, we win the next two points for 5-5. We broke in the next game, and then my partner (who never lost a service game all match) staved off three break points and we won the match. It was a hot afternoon (and early evening - we finished at 6:45). The tennis was very attritional by doubles standards, but it felt quite satisfying when it was all over.

I'm about to meet up with some of the Asperger's group at Cornwall Park to celebrate Bob Marley's birthday, which is a national holiday here in New Zealand. Although this year it falls on a Sunday and people don't get a day off work for it. I'm sure there will still be that debate about whether the official Bob Marley flag (the name of which I can't pronounce) should fly on the Harbour Bridge. I'll be crossing that bridge very shortly so I'll find out whether that flag got the thumbs up.

Oh no

When I gave up actuarial work at the end of 2009 I really wanted to do something else with my life. Now it seems I'm being dragged back in that direction whether I like it or not. And I don't like it.

Equity must prevail - cease persecution of cyclists

My mind has been doing 'overtime' since (& whilst) I've been away, and when I get back to Australia we really have to get rid of 'mandatory helmet laws' once and for all!!! - no kidding, we just have to!

"How to address the problem and put it to bed?"
* get booked again
* write to the ACCC as the 'misled & deceived' consumer that I am
* check implications for SAI as manufacturer of unsubstantiated helmet standard
* fight 'Corporate-land' on safety-washing tactics similar to 'green-washing' ones
* research any assistance 'Tort Law' might offer me
* ie...does NSW government have a duty of care to me?
* revisit 'Criminal Law'
* maybe start organising a few fruit parcels!!!

2011 has to be the year - this madness cannot continue...