Sunday, 14 December 2008

Diary of a Rent-a-Mob Junkie

It's a ridiculous time of the year, by any standards, but I've outdone even myself this year. Not only has the amount of Poetry Society work expanded beyond anything I dreamed it would be when I accepted the job, but the time that goes into 'networking' is insane. It was dear Vivienne Plumb who finally got it into my thick head that it's who you know that counts in The Arts, so I allowed myself to join the rent-a-mob crowd. Who knew it was virtually a full-time job on its own? As an audiologist, all I had to do was turn up 2 and a half days a week, see the patients, write the reports and go home again.

Now and again there'd be a social club do at Puketiro Centre, the Capital Coast Health facility at which Wally and I worked, plus a local Christmas get-together, and maybe a festive lunch for all the Wellington Audiologists. Quite manageable, really. And still time for a personal social life, such as it was (I've never been particularly good at friendships.) One thing about the public health service - we never had to tout for work. There's always more where the last patient came from. And in between there was the garden to tend to, in my own good time.

However, since the beginning of November, I've attended: our own anthology launch; the Katherine Mansfield award presentation (Jenny Patrick - great choice); a funding forum with Creative New Zealand (invaluable - I actually met an Arts Advisor, and had a subsequent meeting with her about our funding situation); an extra NZPS poetry reading to christen our new home, the Thistle Inn; the Bruce Mason award (scriptwriter Paul Rothwell won it); the Wellington Sonnet Competition award (Michelle Amas, with a brilliant poem); lunch with the family of Christchurch poet Charlotte Trevella, who looks certain to go on winning poetry competitions well into the forseeable future; the Christmas meeting of the Wellington Arts Partnership group; drinks and nibbles for NZ Books and Peppercorn Press; and the Christmas party of the the Wellington branch of the NZSA. I've hosted an NZPS committee meeting and a meeting of the Friends of the Lauris Edmond Award for Significant Contribution to Poetry, and next week I'll be at the Christmas event of the Writers' Guild (as the guest of a member).

In between, I've squeezed in the ballet (Don Quixote, undeservedly under-subscribed), 2 pub quizzes, Stagecraft (Cold Comfort Farm - very entertaining), 2 Academy meetings (my poetry group, now gone public), BATS (Lynda Chanwai-Earle's Heat - fantastic), Christmas dinner with Age Concern (courtesy of my Dad), a rather ghastly film called The Tao of the Traveller, which set the cause of Taoism back a couple of hundred years, a 21st birthday party, a reunion of the young people from Onslow College (including my Sylvia) who went to Greece and Italy in April, and several Mensa events involving food.

I was without my car for two and half weeks of that time, so was forced to walk and use public transport, which I enjoyed, but I'm over it now. My Snapper card failed and had to be replaced and I had to pay cash (ie full price) on the bus while I waited for the new one.

Oh, and I bought an apartment, and my duck died. (I took her to the vet - and back again after the sad deed was done - by bus.)

I have just slept for 2 days.

This week I need to do something about enrolling at Vic for the Iowa Summer Poetry Course. I would have done it ages ago, but I haven't yet found my student ID card from the last time (2002), and haven't got around to having a new passport photo taken. It's Dad's 85th birthday on Wednesday, so there's lunch with him and my sister in Paraparaumu with another organisation for the elderly and then a family afternoon tea at his place on Sunday.

I've done some Christmas shopping, mostly by accident. The Personal Banker who was supposed to be at the bank on Saturday so Wally and I could both sign the loan papers forgot he was working, and we had to wait for him to come in. The Johnsonville Parade was on so the mall was empty and we went shopping to fill in the time. It also meant that the traffic was diverted, which didn't help our Personal Banker get there any faster.

The apartment was fully furnished, down to the last teaspoon, so I spent Friday afternoon packing everything I could into boxes for removal, so that Ursula and Nelly could move in over the weekend. We removed everything we could on Friday night, and on Saturday Wally borrowed a trailer and moved all the big stuff - beds out, beds in! By the time they were done I was asleep, so I haven't seen the jumble they're living in yet.

And here's a funny story. I had an email to say that a trader I was watching on Trade Me had a new listing. It turned out to be fertile Khaki Campbell duck eggs - the breed of my late lamented Clayton. Our chook, Tui, is broody so the timing was perfect. I hit Buy Now and went and took Tui off the washing line, where she was hanging in a pillowcase to cool her off. Then I realised I had committed myself to 12 fertile duck eggs! Tui is in for a very big surprise. She's completely blobbed out on the nest, and I'll just put the eggs under her when they come, and see what happens. Would I have done such a thing if I hadn't been so exhausted? Probably not. We had already agreed we wouldn't go looking for a duck, but we have a way of attracting lost and abandoned animals so one would have turned up eventually anyway.

Anyone want a duckling? They're excellent layers, and their eggs make the best cakes.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


The NZ Poetry Society is no longer meeting Creative New Zealand's "strategic priorities".

Creative New Zealand has turned down the NZPS's grant application for the 2009-2010 financial year. After being supported for many years by CNZ, the NZPS has been let loose to stand or fall on its own merits. With the recent decision by the Arts Editor of The Listener to stop publishing poetry (a decision that is now being revisited, thanks to the volume of responses to the decision), there seems to be a belief by the holders of the purse strings that poetry is somehow not a part of New Zealand culture that warrants public financial support. Given that writing is an equal opportunity art, requiring the minimum of materials and available to anyone, this seems a strange attitude. It's long been said that there's no money in poetry, though many of us work hard at it in spite of that prejudice. It seems CNZ is determined to prove it's true.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Ask a busy person...

Things are going crazy round here! The magazine should have gone to the printer 2 days ago, but I didn't have enough copy for 16 pages, and I was emailing people like mad to produce stuff at the last minute.Sending it off is today's job. I promised the printer I'd figure out how to use the Open Office database before this issue, for the mailing addresses, and I haven't been able to - my self-teaching skills have deserted me on that one - so the mailing list will have to go in Excel again. I've got extra people for dinner tonight, and we're all going to BATS to see Apollo 13, so I've got dough in the breadmaker for French rolls, and kidney beans boiling their butts off on the stove. I've got David Geary to introduce tomorrow night, so there's his introduction to research and write. I have to do it today, or tomorrow morning at the absolute latest, as I've got an Arts Partnership lunch to go tomorrow at 12.30, followed by free attendance at an NZSO rehearsal, followed by picking up the grandchildren from school while their mother does something I can't remember. And the Poetry Society meeting at night. There's an extra PoSoc meeting next month (the anthology launch is under control, thank goodness!) and I haven't advertised it yet. And I thought I was too busy to blog last week! lol.

Plus I hope to go and visit my Dad on Friday, as I haven't seen him for a couple of weeks, and driving to Waikanae at the weekends is not one of my favoured things to do. And the Air New Zealand Cup final is on Saturday night. Go Wellington Lions! We gave up our Stadium tickets when my income dropped to less than the dole, but curling up on the couch with a glass of my choice of wine (currently Jackman Ridge Muller-Thurgau), a bowl of bhuja mix and a pinapple lump (or 3) for each try scored is adequate and affordable compensation.

I went to to Karori library yesterday to change my books. The library (any library) is probably my favourite place in the entire world. In 2006 I went to the one in New York that holds and displays the toys that were the inspiration for AA Milne's characters, and that confirmed my feeling that libraries are almost all you need in life to be happy. Full of infinite possibilities, and quiet enough to absorb their intent.

The books I returned after a month were:
Apartment 255, Bunty Avieson. Awful awful awful. Promised much, delivered nothing. I abandoned it before I finished Chapter 1.
Another World, Pat Barker. I love her work. She's spare but absorbing, and this was an almost-ghost story, Nothing much happened, in that it was an interior rather than plot-driven story, but the characters all mattered.
The Stone Monkey, Jefferey Deaver. Currently my favourite author, and this was yet another masterly written thriller with sympathetic characters and a satisfyingly convoluted plot. Wally read it after me, and didn't get anything done last weekend .
Last Man Standing, David Baldacci. Another favourite author, and an even more convoluted plot. The characters a bit thinner, but nonetheless a gripping story that had me on the edge of my bed (when else would I read?) right to the end. I didn't get much done last weekend either.

So now I'm looking forward to a whole new set of books. I mainly source them from the Large Print section these days. It makes them easier to read in bed, though they tend to be hardback and a bit heavy to hang on to as I'm dropping off. Which I didn't do much of in that last batch (except the 1st one). I also check the trolley of returned books that haven't been shelved yet. It's a useful shortcut, and I got a couple from there too - Stephen Fry and Terry Jones. More about them next month.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Having a slow day - think I'll blog

I've been working my butt off for the last couple of weeks, and I haven't had much energy for working today, so I've essentially taken it off. I did some emails first, just so they don't overwhelm me, and then I spent time in the garden with my animals. We've recently moved the rabbit, Robbie, outside. He used to be in the living room, and pretty much had free run of the house, apart from being locked up at night. That was fine until he decided there were more interesting places to poo than in his litter box. Now he's on the lowest of our lawns (this being Wellington, our garden spaces are all at different heights).

The biggest risk to his being free-range, as our last bunnies were, is the neighbour's cat, Murphy, a giant of a boy who deliberately and with malice aforethought terrorises our tortoiseshell, Scarlett O'Hara. (I can't take credit for the honourable literary provenance of her name - she came from the Cats' Protection League already labelled.) But as it's the school holidays, and Murphy's away boarding somewhere, I'm taking advantage of his absence to get Robbie used to running around the lawn and bolting for his cage when startled. He's so far spent most of his free periods sniffing everything he touches (and in my garden there's a lot to touch) and generally exploring.

Athens, our black and white smoosh of a cat, loves playing chasing with Robbie, so they both got plenty of exercise. Scarlett, who proudly lives up to the reputation of the "naughty tortie" has recently been trying to play as well, but she's really not very good at it. She doesn't like to be touched, so when Robbie comes up and puts his nose against hers she takes offence and bats at him with a paw. He doesn't care - he hops away and finds something else to do.

Which should mean that he's at risk of being mauled by Murphy. However, the one time Robbie was running around when Murphy came inside, as he does, to steal food if I've forgotten to cover it up, Robbie wasted no time getting to know the new guy, and took off. So I think he'll be ok by the time Murphy gets back. He'll know his way around, and be able to hide in his house.

So there I am, out in the garden, pulling out onion weed and Japanese anemone (a noxious weed I was persuaded to allow to grow when it introduced itself because I was assured it was pretty when in flower, but which could easily take over the world long before climate change kills us all) and I've got two cats hurtling around, the duck and the chicken pottering about, and the rabbit coming over for a cuddle. I decided I can stand to continue working for next to nothing for a bit longer, because this life-style is basically awesome. Capital Coast Health might have paid (a lot) better, but clearly money isn't everything, and the Poetry Society is a lot more fun.

Speaking of which, we've found a new permanent home for our monthly meetings. Yippee! From February next year we'll be meeting in the upstairs function room of the Thistle Inn, in Mulgrave St, and better still it won't cost us anything. This is a huge load off, and means one less job I have to do every month, trying to find somewhere pleasant and cheap. And best of all, the refreshments are taken care of - something else I won't have to worry about. I'm very happy.

What I'm not so happy about is Jenny Bornholdt's latest offering, The Rocky Shore. Being JB shouldn't be an excuse for publishing poor work. I'm sure she worked very hard on it, but there is very little in it that's memorable, and I was most of the way through it before I had my familiar tingle of, "Aah, this is what Jenny's good at." And then it was over. I tried reading some of it aloud, a good alternative Harvey Molloy reminded me about last week, but it only made it worse. The occasional half rhyme (and at one stage she points them out, in case you've missed them) isn't really enough to hold together prosy couplets that have no discernible reason to be laid out on the page like that.

Maybe I'm getting old and cynical, but I don't want to read any poet blathering on about the poem while she's writing it, as though stream of consciousness can replace real thought. Or maybe I'm just being harsh because I was disappointed. The cover's the best thing about it - up to Sarah Maxey's usual standards. Shame about the poetry.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Life has an expiry date - what are you doing about it?

My latest motto. To remind me that the inclusion of my own poetry life in my daily work schedule is not self-indulgence, except in the most positive way.

I'm enjoying judging the online poetry competition is running. Not as many audio/visual entries as expected, given how popular YouTube is, but they've increased in Week 2, so perhaps word is getting out. Many thanks to Neil Furby for actively promoting it. I entered some poems in the first week (with permission from Clare, the organiser) to boost the numbers and to see how they were judged by my fellow judges, and they all made it through, which is encouraging. I'll disqualify myself and withdraw them from Round 3, but in the meantime, I'll be interested to see how the website visitors rate them.

I've been a busy little submitter - I've currently got poems with the Bravado competitition (9), the Wellington Sonnet Competition (2), the Takahe competition (6), Brand (a UK journal, 3) and I've sorted out a selection for Turbine as well, which I'll send off next week. Fingers crossed.

I plan to do some more writing over the weekend. My poetry group is meeting at my place next Wednesday and in my typical over-achieving way, I'm not satisfied with having written just one poem since the last meeting. Our theme is 'riposte', so I need something to [whatever the verb for riposte is] to. Sounds like a good reason to read (as if a reason is ever needed). I'll read something new, so that it's a fresh approach, and not something I've had too much time to think about previously. I do so enjoy a challenge.

Saw "WALL*E" last night - what an awesome movie! Disney does it again. I know I'm a sook, but even I was surprised that I cried at the end. I'm really good at suspending disbelief in animated movies! It was totally absorbing and I was really glad the family had the theatre almost to ourselves. We're very loud laughers and not at all self-conscious about enjoying ourselves, but it's still good not to have too many other people about to bother when we do it.

It was supposed to be a Mensa event, but no other Mensans came, which is not unusual. That's why I scheduled it for a time when my family was available to accompany me. It was Ursula's half-birthday, so our treat. My sister Bev came too. She arrived from England last Friday to look after Dad in Waikanae for a month, and is planning to come in to Wellington for all the Mensa events she can. She's not a member, but she's been to events before while in New Zealand and fits in very well.

Good to see that 597 New Zealanders have voted in the unofficial world vote for the US President (and Obama is winning). See top link, and pass it on.


Friday, 26 September 2008


Hey folks. I've added a link to the right there, where you can vote for the next President of the USA. Not really, of course, but it's a place you can go to see who would win if the whole world really could vote. Take a look. And cast your vote. And spread the word.

And while I'm here: despite working my butt off all week, I actually managed to write a new poem last night. I rock.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Thursday morning

I'm feeling productive and virtuous this week. I've managed to do quite a lot of work (though still a long way to go before I feel in control of the emails) and had some much-needed leisure time as well. Last night I walked into town to attend the launch of Harvey Molloy's Moonshot (Steele Roberts). Harvey's a top bloke, with a diverse and interesting background that is reflected in the poems. He's an active reader (by which I mean he performs, rather than just reading, though I wouldn't call him a 'performance poet') and his poems are entertaining, even the serious ones.

While I was there I caught up with Clare Tanner, Managing Director of, with whom the Poetry Society is collaborating to run an online poetry competition. ($US1000 first prize!). She and I talked to Neil Furby, who used to be involved in Porirua's Poetry Cafe, sadly now defunct. However, Neil tells me the cafe Aunt Daisy's, in Titahi Bay, now has an open mic night on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Hoorah! I will get out there one month - though I can't say which one - when I can gather a friend or two to accompany me. I am so over going to things alone.

Anyhoo, I was lucky enough to be given tickets to the dress rehearsal of the World of Wearable Arts, so after the launch I headed for the TSB Arena (or whatever it's called at the moment) and met Wally and another audiologist and her receptionist who were also given tickets. It was a magnificent occasion and a spectacular production. It deserves all the positive publicity it gets. I couldn't believe it when the finale occurred and the lights came up - two and a half hours passed like blinking. My favourite moment? When Wally pointed out a particularly lavish construction and said, "That could have come from our house". I had just been thinking the same thing myself, and was working out how I could make the garment of mine it most resembled, even more interesting. I have some bling lying around somewhere...

Today should be just another working day, but I've got to pick Sylvia up from Onslow College (bus strike) at 3pm, and she has a doctor's appointment, so that'll be another hour. I'll take my book. I'm reading a Pat Barker (though the title eludes me for the moment), an English lit. fic. writer who always manages to put a psychological spin on her books. She's a favourite, and I'm reading her between indulging in what I confess is my current obsession - psychological thrillers of the Jeffery Dreaver and Michael Connolly nature. I stayed in bed until noon on Tuesday morning to finish The Vanished Man (Dreaver) because it was due back at the library that day. In the last month I've read 3 Dreavers, 1 Connolly, a Frederick Forsyth (the original master), and, for light entertainment, Jasper Fforde (The Fourth Bear) and Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors, short fiction and poems. Gaiman is a genius, but he can't write poetry to save himself.

Well, that's me more or less up to date. I'm enjoying judging the online poetry competition, and I get pleasure from hitting the no button for some of the awfulness that some people try to pass off as poetry, but even more pleasure when I read something I say yes to. If only because it's a far less common experience. Any halfway decent poet of my acquaintance could win this competition!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Mensa Annual Gathering & AGM

I planned to start early this morning, but when I opened my account, there were the postings from Tim, Helen, and Harvey for the last few weeks. Quick read-through, and now I'm up-to-date again.

Last weekend's Mensa Annual Gathering was fun. Interesting people to talk to and argue with, although there wasn't as much socialising as I'm accustomed to. The cocktail party on Friday night was highlighted by the making (by my dear pal Devon) of Long Island Iced Tea. If I have to confess to any failings, it would have to be a fanatical liking for this particularly alcoholic miracle. I made the second one myself - a cap of each liquor directly into my cocktail glass. Surprisingly, given that I hadn't eaten, this wasn't a seriously socially embarrassing mistake!

On Saturday we had the guest speakers I organised: Wally gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation on Alpine Hunting. Unfortunately there wasn't a proper screen available and we had to use a thin white sheet nailed to the (green) wall, so his gorgeous photos of the Southern Alps, including the fauna and flora, weren't shown to their best advantage. He was followed by Colin Craigie, who taught us some techniques to decode Cryptograms. These take up a large amount of space in our monthly newsletter, and I don't do them. Our third speaker was Simon Faulkner (spouse of my friend Anne), who is a Wind Engineer. He talked to us about the design and functions of wind turbines, with lots of lovely pictures. It was fascinating.

After lunch was free time, and lots of out-of-towners went off to see the sights - Te Papa was particularly popular. I stayed behind (I've been to Te Papa) and played a new game on PSP (that's Portable PlayStation, for those who, like me, are not into such things). We had 2 units supplied to us by Sony for trying out 'Echochrome', on the basis that we normally have a few teenagers at our annual gatherings. That wasn't so this year, and Sony had to make do with a few middle-aged women - not their target demographic, I'm sure! It took me about half an hour to figure out how to get the game loaded and started (opening the cassette door to put the game in was a particular challenge in itself). I never did work out how to choose which game I wanted to play, but I managed to stumble upon the tutorial, by pushing buttons at random, and then I sort of knew what I was trying to achieve. (I later brought the game home to let my 11-year-old grandson, Zac, have a go, but he found it too hard.) It was fun for a while, but I eventually got bored. Not addictive enough - I can spend hours playing online if I find something that grabs me.

We had a communal dinner on Saturday night, which was adequate, if not flash, and our AGM on Sunday morning. I had 2 reports to present: National Enquiries Officer (I answer the Mensaphone and emails from the website) and Wellington Area Coordinator. Some of us went out for lunch at the Silverspoon, Silverstream, afterwards, and that was it for another year. Roll on Summer Gathering 2009. The restaurant was great - fabulous food, and we got to sit outside without freezing or getting wet. I recommend it.

I also recommend the Silverstream pub, Hardware, as somewhere to go to watch the All Blacks stomp all over the Wallabies. It wasn't overly busy, but the crowd was there for the same reason as us - to cheer and whoop. A great evening by any standards.

Today I'm going to another meeting with Doug Wilkins, who is setting up the Pohutukawa Garret, a writing colony. It's an exciting concept, and I'd very much like the opportunity to have a Poetry Society presence in the complex. It's going to cost, in terms of a weekly rent, but it may be possible to get a grant for premises, if only I can figure out who to apply to.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Wellington City Council Literary Hui

Wow - 2 posts in one week. Dangerously like regularity.

I spent yesterday participating in a consultative arts hui run by a very experienced facilitator, Lawrence Green, for the Wellington City Council. Most of the time I felt completely out of my depth (nothing new), but my skills at creative mind-mapping came in useful, and I'm pretty good at putting things up on walls with drawing pins, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. The day essentially resulted in reminding Wellington writers of how hard it is to get the resourcing and information we need in order to thrive. There was a variety of suggestions for actions that could be taken to assist writers, and some of them were quite exciting (literary tourism, for example). Overall it was interesting to take part, but it was probably significant that a day that started with about 50 participants ended with around 20. Does this indicate that it wasn't interesting enough to stay till the end? That those who left had more important things to do? That those who left have no confidence in the possibility of an improvement of the artist's lot? I don't know. I stayed because I'm a persistent little devil, and I can't bear not to see how things turn out. In the event, I can't really remember what if anything I learned from the day, other than that others seem so much more in touch with things than I am.

So this weekend I'm off to the Mensa Annual Gathering and AGM, being held in the exciting city of Lower Hutt. The benefit of hosting this event is supposed to be that you get to attend without having to miss the comfort of your own bed, but as the venue is near Silverstream, and there's a bit of drinking involved on both Friday (cocktails) and Saturday (dinner and wine) nights, I'm biting the bullet and doing the sensible thing of living in. Sylvia will take care of the animals, and Wally and I won't have to fight over who gets to drink and who gets to drive. And, much more importantly, I won't have to get up early on Saturday morning to get there for Wally's talk at 10am. (Who was the idiot who scheduled such an early start? Oh, that's right - it was I.) Should be a fun weekend; it usually is.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Holy Moly! I've got a reader!

The lovely and talented Helen Rickerby has found my blog. That means I actually need to post on it occasionally. I went to Helen's book launch on Friday night (My Iron Spine, HeadworX), and bought my first book of poetry in a year (the last one was Sue Wootton's hourglass). I get sent heaps of poetry books, in my role as Editor of the NZ Poetry Society's bimonthly magazine a fine line. I usually skim through them before I send them out to reviewers, though I don't have time to read them all. For the most part I find them unmemorable, but a few have caught my attention. This is, of course, a very personal appraisal. I like poetry that I can read and enjoy the first time I read it, then come back and read it again and feel like I'm having a cup of tea with an old friend. I don't mind the currently fashionable way of approaching poetry as a multi-layered text with meanings that don't jump up and hit you in the face until after several readings. I just think that some poets make it possible to see in new ways without making you have to work for the privilege. And they are still poetic in their use of language and structure. In that list I include Billy Collins, Glenn Colquhoun, Sue Wootton, Claire Beynon, Lewis Scott and now Helen Rickerby. Jenny Bornholdt has very strong moments, but isn't consistenly accessible. I've heard Richard Langston read only once, at this year's Winter Readings at the Wellington City Gallery, and I think he might be in that list as well. They are all what I would describe as lyrical story-tellers: amazing choice of words and arrangements thereof in a narrative that leaves enough to the reader's imagination to be interactive, but not so much as to be better told as a prose story. I guess I'm not a fan of the Poem as Mystery. I like surrealism better in real life than in literature. So I'm probably out of step with current practice. Too bad.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

How to be a blogger

I've been chatting to Tim Jones, whose blog I read from time to time. He sets aside 2 specified times each week to post, and keep it all up to date. Great idea. And that's as far as I'm taking it.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Intercostal myalgia

That's what I've got. It means pain in the rib muscles, and it'll go away eventually. It's already not as bad as it's been for the last week, and I won't mention it again.

I had an interview on Radio New Zealand Concert last week. I thought I was going to be talking about the Poetry Society, but apparently I was interesting enough in my own right. I managed to read a couple of poems out all the same: Billy Collins' "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House", and Jenny Bornholdt's "Make Sure". Two all-time favourites. I'm buying the CD from Replay Radio because my Dad forgot to listen, after I rang and told him when I'd be on, and because I forgot to tell anyone else about it!

I'm working my guts out here, with Wally away hunting. I started on stuff for our AGM today and realised I don't have the minutes of last year's on record, because of the Great Computer Crash of 07. Fortunately I'd put them on the Members' pages of the website. Goodness knows why I didn't print them out at the time and file the hard copy. Next job is to list all the emails from committee members authorising expenditure. That used to be in meeting minutes, but we don't have meetings any more, so I've got to collate all the emails instead.

I fed the quails (22 of them) late this morning, as I get up quite a lot later than Wally, who normally feeds them, and they were all waiting for me. I got mobbed as soon as I walked in the aviary. Cute.

So that's all for now. I can't see a blog detailing the minutiae of my daily work as particularly interesting so I'll come back when I've got something to say.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Good news

I went to my hospital appointment this morning. My test results weren't on file, proving (as if I needed it) that the situation hasn't improved since I left there 21 months ago. The examination was straightforward and found nothing, as I expected, and we (including husband and daughter number 1) were sent out to the waiting room with a cup of tea (!) while the reports were "frantically" being typed up. In the end, only the ultrasound report was forthcoming - the one I had concerns about. it was normal - woo hoo. I need to ring next week to find out the mammogram result, but since the ultrasound is a better test than the mammogram anyway, that's no big deal.

So I've been given the all-clear and discharged, the best result of all.

Now the husband has gone hunting, number 4 daughter is in Rome, the tenant has deposited a month's rent, and I'm on my own for a week so I can get down to some writing, if I can drag myself away from work. I'm seeing number 3 daughter tomorrow, as the buses are on strike and she needs a lift to the College of Education for a 10.30am class. I've emailed number 2 daughter, who left here last week after her three week stay, but I haven't heard back from her yet.

All is right with the world, and I've got the bed to myself! Tomorrow I'll see the doctor about the pain in my abdomen, which is still much the same - no better, no worse. I suspect it's a result of my sedentary lifestyle, actually.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Trials and Tribulations

Cliches abound - if it's not one thing it's another. My income dropped by 50% at the beginning of April, because the government grants organisation that has traditionally supported us awarded slightly more than half of what I applied for in order to run the organisation. Printing and other costs haven't gone down - there's only my honorarium available to cut. On top of that, my tenant (I know - I've got an investment property, so sue me, but not until you read what comes next) broke up with her partner and hasn't paid the rent for four months. So why haven't I evicted her? I hear you ask. Because she's got 2 children, is my very simple answer.

Do you know what happens to the children of broken relationships who get thrown out on the street? I do, and I refuse to be responsible for that, so I've carried the loss. Besides, she's been in the house for 7 years, and I know her pretty well. Not necessarily as a friend, but well enough to know that when she gets back on her feet the rent will slowly be paid back. It's my mortgage after all, and if I choose to pay it out of my retirement savings in the short term, confident that it's not money down the drain, that's my (non-professional, if you like) business - pun intended.

She rang me earlier this week to let me know WINZ has finally come through with her benefit (did I mention it's been four months? Shame on you, Johnsonville branch!) and her automatic payment will start next week. I believe her. And if it takes her a week or two to get to it, that's ok too. Her children will grow up with the consistency of staying in their home when everything else is going wrong.

So what else? Well, earlier this year I noticed I have a wonky nipple: it's decided to go against the general run of nipples and be an innie instead of an outie. Google soon proved that medical knowledge websites are created by either doctors who want you to pay their colleagues, or patients who have the rarest diseases and want to warn you not to let your physician ignore your symptoms. In other words, the information ranged from "there are lots of things this could be other than cancer, but we're not going to tell you what they are", to "my doctor missed this because he didn't listen to me, and now I'm going to die".

I went to my doctor, who agreed that it needed looking into (ha ha) and asked me whether I have medical insurance for a private specialist. After working in the public health system for 26 years I have a fairly robust opinion about the relative merits of public vs private, and I opted for referral to the local hospital. See, I've been to private specialists from time to time, and have never found paying a rhino-like medical "expert" to diagnose and/or treat me a very satisfactory experience. At least at a hospital out-patients department I can feel confident (having met the people who work in such places) that their interest is about more than the income. So the referral was faxed off the same day, and then I got on with my life while I waited for an appointment.

It took a while, but I expected that. I wasn't worried, having believed the bit about there being other causes than cancer for a rebellious nipple. Eventually a letter came from the hospital suggesting I turn up at Radiology for a mammogram at a time of the day that I stopped waking up for when I retired from a job that determined when I should be somewhere. So I changed the appointment, no worries. Then I received another letter suggesting I turn up at the Breast Clinic at another one of those silly times. Changed that too. Letter number three asked me to have an ultrasound, again at a time of morning that no respectable person should be on the streets. What, everyone in the department wants to be home by 10am? Changed that.

Had the mammogram - it's a doddle. Why does it have such a bad rep? I've had screenings for a few years, and I have yet to figure out why people don't like it. The next appointment would be at the Breast Clinic, but the Nurse for that clinic said there was no point in my going there without all the tests done, and re-scheduled me for another one of those ridiculous times, after the date of the ultrasound. Changed it again, but at least she let me change it to a later time on the same day, so no time lost.

Two days ago I had the ultrasound, and for the first time I'm actually nervous. The technician didn't say anything - they're not allowed to - but I've worked in health, remember? I know all the ways there are not to tell someone something while making sure they go and see the person who can tell them,. It's all in the body language, and I'm very sensitive to that (I also read Tarot Cards - useful skill). My Breast Clinic appointment is next Tuesday. I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I've developed a pain in my upper left abdomen, just below my rib cage, that I thought was a muscle pull, but which is not only not going away, but is spreading laterally. The skin surface around it is starting to feel vaguely numb. That can't be good. I've had it now for 4 days, and I haven't taken anything, because I thought it would just go away in its own time. No such luck. If it still hurts on Monday, I'll see my doctor again.

The husband and number 1 daughter are coming with me to the hospital on Tuesday, for emotional support, and so I don't have to drive myself home if I get news I don't like.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

I'm ba-a-ack

It's been 9 months since I last posted. In September 2007 my computer hard drive crashed, and I lost everything. It's taken a long time to get myself up and running again to my own satisfaction, and it's only been this week that I even remembered I had a blog. I've just spent over half an hour finding it, because I wasn't even entirely sure what I'd called it. So. Let's catch up.

I'm still working for the New Zealand Poetry Society, still the Area Coordinator for Mensa in Wellington, and still have my delightful youngest daughter living at home, though she has been entirely engrossed by the lovely Johno for the last 6 months or so. It's a record for her, and I hope it lasts for a lot longer, as they are really cool together.

The second youngest daughter is in her last year at university, and still lives with Penelope. They've been together for over 3 years, and look like lasting a long long time.

Daughter number 2 is still in England, and no longer talking about coming home to live (though she will be here for the first three weeks of April - yayyyy). She has a French boyfriend she recently moved in with, after going out with him for a year or so, and he's not keen to move to New Zealand as he can't make enough money here. He's an accountant, but we'll try not to hold that against him. They're talking about having children, and might move as close as Sydney, which is tolerable.

Oldest daughter split from her partner of 8 years last November, and has just had her work hours cut, so she is very poor (still waiting for her benefit to start!) but considerably happier. They have stayed friends, which is what they both wanted, and the children spend considerable time with the ex. Until either of them meets someone else, this is a good arrangement.

Writing poetry has taken a back seat for a while, though I am managing to get some done. The Academy, my support and cheer leading group, is now meeting on the second Wednesday of every month, so that's a good incentive to knuckle down. I came fourth in an international poetry competition, based in the UK, over the summer, and had a poem accepted for an anthology about parenting. So I'm feeling very encouraged.

One thing I turned out to be very bad at is fund-raising, and our grant for the next financial year is half what we need to operate at, if I am to continue to be paid. So after the end of March my income drops below subsistence level. I have started selling things on Trade Me, and although it's hardly a living at this stage, it's a start.

I have found it very difficult to keep up a twenty hour week this year - my mental energy has been pretty ineffectual. I just keep sitting at the computer every afternoon, hoping to find the strength and discipline to actually get a decent amount of work done. Not always successfully. The basics are getting covered, but I have a huge number of emails that I have to make myself respond to, and I am simply mot enthusiastic about giving my all to a job that doesn't look like lasting. So I'm going back to my motivational books - the ones I read when I was dysthymic for all those years - in an attempt to convince myself it's all worth doing, even with minimal financial reward. Trouble is, I haven't succeeded in believing that poetry matters enough to enough people to spend my time/life on it.

When I started, I imagined building the Society into this big national organisation that actually had some credibility. For a while it looked like that was going to be possible, but then Creative New Zealand gave us half what I asked for, and I got discouraged. I'm easily discouraged, and I wish I wasn't.

So far I've sold 2 books and a bag of stock food on Trade Me. Watch this space!