Sunday, December 21, 2008

over 600 responses to this blog in new york times

The New York Times December 8, 2008, 10:00 pm

It’s the Holidays. How About Just One?

I had my last drink nearly 16 years ago, so you’d think I would have assimilated pretty much every bit of unpleasantness associated with clean and sober life in a society that remains thoroughly sodden with alcohol. But I still can’t quite handle the holidays.

It’s not that I’m driven to drink; just to a certain uncomfortable distraction that doesn’t leave until the holiday season thankfully does. And it’s not just that the holidays seem to have been invented for the express purpose of promoting — no, necessitating — irresponsible alcoholic consumption.

There’s something in the alone-in-the-crowdness of the holiday party circuit, the forced pleasantries and laughter, the charge to be friendly and engaging — but only in a trivial and superficial way — that is very much like the existential condition of the alcoholic psyche. So the holidays not only remind me of drink; they remind me of how it felt to be a drunk.

In fact, I have frequently been overheard to explain to the sort of person who still finds it good sport to ask me how I came to be addicted to alcohol and what it’s like now to be stone cold sober, “You know how you feel at Christmas at the umpteenth family gathering or company cocktail party. You really need that drink, right? That’s the way I used to feel all the time.”

And as with one’s first adolescent love, a certain euphoric recall about the drinking life remains lodged in the psyche of any drunk no matter how many years he has remained sober. Even after 16 years, especially at holiday time, a tiny voice still occasionally visits, asking, “Why can’t you just have one?”

Addiction scientists have puzzled over what distinguishes the alcoholic psyche from the “normal” one, or even, the mentally ill one. While some association between abusive drinking and both bipolar disorder and depression has been found, your garden-variety drunk does not go on manic flights of fancy or hear voices or hallucinate; he isn’t even all that prone to clinical depression. The best I can say from personal experience is that we all tend to be afflicted by a low-grade dysphoria, a sort of constant melancholy that causes feelings of unease, isolation and dissatisfaction with life — an “inexplicable ache,” I once heard it called.

But is this nature or nurture? I personally READ MORE OF THIS BLOG

beekeepers win award

As someone who lives in a country (New Zealand) whose - arguably - most admired person, was a bee-keeper before mountain climbing, Mt Everest, and world fame meant he no longer tended them, its good to see the bee-keepers win the World Challenge 08.

Plan Bee has won the World Challenge 08. The Pakistani project helps female beekeepers boost their income by selling high quality honey. The northern areas of Pakistan are among the poorest and most isolated regions in the country. Effective development assistance has yet to reach these hilly, remote areas and it is the women and children who are most affected. The only workable and sustainable solution is to capitalise on local resources, building on what is achievable as well as culturally acceptable. read more

Congratualions from me! I'm sure our Sir Ed would be pleased too.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I love cheese!

I love food and New Zealand has great food - including our cheese ( photo taken at Lyttelton Farmers market)

Living alone, I whip up few culinary delights: this is despite watching the occasional TV chef, attending a cooking school in Thailand, managing a cafe in Athens, and working as an entree chef in an Italian restaurant, under a temperamental French Chef in Wales!

However this experience has qualified me, like people at an art gallery, to know what I like - and what I miss when I travel. So if it’s cheese you miss, or you want to know more about New Zealand cheese’s here are some ideas from Christchurch, Canterbury.

Right in Christchurch is a wonderful specialist cheese shop – Canterbury Cheesemongers. I used to buy cheese from their cute little refrigerated van when I was at the Christchurch Arts Centre Market each weekend. Since then they have opened an independent shop at 44 Salisbury St only minutes from Cathedral Square - and moments from my apartment: they tell me ‘the van is now selling fresh salmon in Fairlie’.

With an aim to not only sell cheese from people, who care about what they are making, but also to stock foods that go well with cheese, their shop is well worth a visit for nibbles or to stock your campervan for you travels. They also bake bread and other sweet things so pop in for a coffee and enjoy the smells of home cooking while you buy your cheese (or free range eggs, yummy fig and walnut roll or Hazelwood dukkah – all food I can recommend).

Most are of their cheeses are hand made by people who are both skilled and passionate and who thrive on the satisfaction of producing great cheese.

They take on the job of ripening these cheeses by providing perfect conditions for them to develop their potential flavour. They say “We don't suffocate a cheese in plastic or wax but allow it to develop a natural rind of mould and bacteria. This is what people have done since cheese making started - this is how you get better, more interesting and delicious cheese.”

So eschew international fast food places and any restaurants that will deliver just the same meals you can get at home, and visit the local farmers markets and cheese factories and give your taste buds a simple but scrumptious surprise with our tasty local foods.

POST EARTHQUAKE UPDATE (4th Sept 2010) from the Canterbury Cheesemongers ... "If there is something I have learnt over the last couple of weeks it's that Canterbury Cheesemongers is much more than bricks and mortar. It's all about people, cheese and good food.  Since the finality of seeing the old building truly flattened, we have been keeping ourselves busy this week getting our little old yellow van up and running and looking at possible new premises. 
and .. January 2011 .. 
New shop - The Arts Centre, Old Registry Building, 301 Montreal St, Christchurch.  Entrance from the Market Square.Open Tuesday to Friday 10am-6pm and Saturday 10am – 5pm.  Closed Sunday, Monday and public holidays.

We are pretty happy with the end result of the last couple months hard work...  who knows, maybe in a little while, we’ll be pleased that the Earthquake shook us into our new and better shop

Thursday, December 18, 2008

new cheap-chic in Singapore

I have have been sent infomation about the new ibis that is to set the standard for chic-economy hotel accommodation in Singapore - which is set to get its first internationally branded economy hotel when the ibis Singapore on Bencoolen opens for business on February 24, 2009.

Famed food celebrity and renowned father of Singapores food culture KF Seetoh will be on board for the hotel’s restaurant TASTE.

the press release says

The hotel will debut with an opening rate of S$148 per room including complimentary Wi-Fi access.

The ibis is ideally located on Bencoolen Street in the heart of the Bugis - cultural and art district - and within easy reach of the popular Orchard Road shopping district. The hotel is also ideally situated for business travellers, with some of Singapore’s largest corporate offices and the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre close by.

The street was named after Sir Stamford Raffles, who came to Singapore after being Governor of Bencoolen (now Bengkulu) in Sumatra.

The S$145 million 538 room hotel is the largest ibis outside Europe and is being developed by LaSalle Investment Management. It will be managed by Accor, who earlier this year re-located its Asia Pacific headquarters to Singapore.

All rooms boast contemporary, stylish design and furnishings, with high ceilings and large bay windows. Full communications services are available including broadband internet and flat-screen TVs with cable channels. Rooms also offer an in-room safe, tea/coffee making facilities and en-suite bathroom facilities.

General Manager of the hotel, Puneet Dhawan, said: “The opening of the ibis will herald in a new era of international-quality economy hotel accommodation for Singapore.

“Singaporean tourism authorities are predicting 17 million tourists arrivals by 2017, and with the destination’s growing status as Asia Pacific’s tourism hub there has been an urgent need for quality, affordable accommodation in the heart of the city.

“While there are a number of hotel projects under way in Singapore, the vast majority are in the upscale or luxury sectors when the largest growth market is actually the economy sector – as with airlines. Singapore now has its own budget airlines terminal and is increasingly attracting low-cost air carriers to hub via Singapore, so there is a definite need for more internationally-branded economy accommodation. Existing hotels in the 3-star market are notoriously variable in standards, but the ibis Singapore brings with it the guarantee of one of the world’s largest economy hotel brands.

“We will be opening with a rate of S$148, which – given the hotel’s location and international branding – will make the ibis a very attractive base for both business and leisure travellers, and will help dispel the idea that Singapore is an expensive destination.”

The opening of the first ibis hotel in Singapore is part of the rapid expansion of the brand in the Asia Pacific region. It will be the 60th ibis to open in the region. ibis has a significant presence, and is rapidly growing, in all of Singapore’s top six inbound markets – Indonesia, China, India, Australia, UK and South Korea.

Bookings for the hotel can be made +65 800 61 61 367 or via

ibis, the worldwide economy hotel brand of the Accor group, offers consistent quality accommodation and services in all its hotels, for the best local value: a well-designed and fully-equipped en-suite bedroom, major hotel services available 24/7 and a wide choice of on-site food and beverage options. The quality of the ibis standard has been recognised by the International Organization for Standardization certification ISO 9001 since 1997. ibis is also the world’s first hotel chain to demonstrate its environmental commitment through securing the ISO 14001 certification, which has already been awarded to nearly one third of its hotels.
Established in 1974, ibis is the European leader and one of the first economy hotel chains in the world, with nearly 90,000 rooms and 800 hotels in 40 countries, including ibis Singapore on Bencoolen.
For additional information, please visit

Accor, a major global group and the European leader in hotels, as well as the global leader in services to corporate clients and public institutions, operates in nearly 100 countries with 150,000 employees. It offers to its clients over 40 years of expertise in two core businesses:
• Hotels, with the Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Novotel, Mercure, Suitehotel, ibis, all seasons, Etap Hotel, Formule 1 and Motel 6 brands, representing 4,000 hotels and nearly 500,000 rooms in 90 countries, as well as strategically related activities, such as LenĂ´tre;
• Services, with 30 million people in 40 countries benefiting from Accor Services products in employee and public benefits, rewards and loyalty, and expense management.

check out my web page for more infomation about travel ... and come back here to see more about Singapore very soon

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wolf whistles? Do you love or hate them?

Do you love wolf whistles? A hearing aid company seems to think so!

According to Wikipedia the term "wolf-whistle" developed around the slang use of the word "wolf" meaning a man who gives unwanted sexual attention to women.

Now, Bay Audiology is presenting that ‘unwanted sexual attention’ to us as one of the ‘sounds you love’ in their advert for the latest in hearing-aids. This misses the mark by a country mile.

I wrote to them complaining about the term and received a condescending response, including telling me “A big part of the campaign is a move to grow our audience group beyond the traditional seniors market to include a younger group: specifically, baby boomers.”

So baby boomers, do you want sexist advertising being used to buy products? I don’t.

It seems the marketing team that decided to use this particular term does not realise it was us baby boomers (and I’m the eldest of the baby boomer generation) that led the charge against sexism in behaviour and language in the late sixties and seventies.

So what’s happening now? A quick Google search throws up these:

§ In March 2008 an Israeli tourist – to NZ – striped off in Keri Keri as she was ‘fed up with wolf whistles’

§ The Telegraph reports that earlier this year a British building firm had banned workers from wolf-whistling: they have issued a directive that the practice would no longer be tolerated saying “in the 21st century the wolf whistle is out of place”

I agree - the days of the blatantly sexist and misogynist from construction site workers do belong to decades past.

Thankfully it seems that in NZ the lurid leering and sleazy comments have mostly gone but one site on u tube says ‘if I was a construction worker I’d still do a sleazy wolf whistle.’ (November 2006) Interesting that a male calls them sleazy – yet apparently it’s a sound ‘you love to hear’? Really?

However on a NZ site (authors Eliana Dorroch & MZ ) that asks what is sexism, suggesting it’s still a global problem.

“1.1.1 Examples of harassment can include but is not limited to:
§ displaying offensive picture, image
§ making racist, disablist or sexist jokes or comments
§ belittling religious or cultural beliefs
§ continuing to invite someone out socially who has clearly said no
§ hostile remarks about a person’s sexual orientation or disability
§ unwanted and deliberate physical contact
§ swearing, leering, wolf whistles, obscene gesture
§ unwelcome comments about someone’s appearance or body
§ negative comments about a person’s accent or the way they speak”

Given all this, how can a big company be so out of touch that that they believe people would think a wolf-whistle is ‘a sound you love to hear’?
To quote another NZ advert – yeah right.

To read more on the above quotes:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Re published. First in CHCH Press 22 October 2008

Walking through the Square, I come face to face with the giant purple sperm, Darwin, now with my mind fertilised, I am ready to continue exploring all that SCAPE has to offer.
Over six-weeks, the sailing-in-the-sky boat, sharing intimate moments with Captain Cook, cycling in the Art Gallery, or pondering on any of the other exhibits, will surely revitalise not only me, but the public art debate we often have in Christchurch. Many laugh at our passionate pleas for or against various art-works, but at least we are engaged: a sign of a healthy city I suggest.
However, temporary installations provide something very different to permanent pieces. Who decides what should be commissioned for our permanent public art collection and where is it to be placed? What is the value of outdoor art, and what part do the public have in this process?
Christchurch has a rich heritage of public art – dating back to the Godley statue in 1867 – and includes fountains, murals, statues and sculpture. As an inner-city resident I value them all. Naturally, being a Cantabrian with an opinion, I think some are in the wrong place.
A recent example is the newest piece of permanent art in Christchurch (cnr High, Colombo and Hereford Streets). Flour Power is a fine piece of work but what is a bunch of tall wheat stalks doing on a site that was once a swamp? How is that relevant to Christchurch? It’s the plains that grow the grain not here on our old wetlands and it’s on the edge of the city that I suggest is where it belongs: then put a colourful pukeko in Stewart Plaza. I wonder at the silence: no cries of glee or disapproval. Surely good art creates conversations. Have we stoped debating our public spaces?
Our Chalice is a great piece of work although I, and many others, thought it too was in the wrong place. However I’m revising my condemnation now because that at least has relevance to the site: depicting leaves of plants that once grew in the area: relevance to an area and site is surely the essence of permanent pieces. An example is The Fool outside the Court Theatre, a fitting combination of great public art with its site.
According to Wikipedia ‘the term public art refers to works of art (in any media) that have been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the public domain, usually outside and accessible to all. The term is especially significant within the art world, amongst curators, commissioning bodies and practitioners of public art, to whom it signifies a particular working practice, often with implications of site specificity, community involvement and collaboration.’
Public art pieces are also indicators of cultural vigour and show visitors, as well as us, about the level of our artistic and cultural excellence – or otherwise. If this is so, should we give precedence to local (or locally born) artists? What are the benefits and detriments of this?
What about the different cultures in the city? How do they participate in this artistic conversation? Where is their art?
Christchurch is enriched by the variety of the works of art in public spaces and as a child I recall fondly my parents spending a quiet evening driving us around the inner city to look at the art – our favourite was the colourful fountain in Victoria Square, when it was still a street leading to Papanui – and because of those memories I still enjoy my just-about-daily walk through the area.
It’s now time to use my SCAPE map, check-out the temporary installations, contemplate what they mean to me, and which I believe could become permanent public art in our outdoor, city-wide gallery. Captain Cook, here I come.
©Heather Hapeta 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brain power via the web?

"Internet use 'good for the brain'

Areas activated by reading a book in the brain of an experienced web user
For middle aged and older people at least, using the internet helps boost brain power, research suggests.
A University of California Los Angeles team found searching the web stimulates centres in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning."

That’s great for me …. Its hard to believe its less than twenty years ago that I first touched a computer, that I was then 51 when I got my first email address, using libraries computers and then a year later my first laptop! Now I find at 63 I often am the person to help others sort out issues or functions on their computer and have my own website. (

Read more about the study -

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sharing intimate moments with a famous man!

Sure he’s really, really old, and sure he seems hard and cold – almost as if he’s made from marble. But I have to tell you - and I’m not normally a girl who kisses and tells but . . . this afternoon I stood by and watched – even photographed – one of the worlds’ well known, famous men as he had a shower.

From the living room, (with its interesting books on the bookshelf) and with the door wide open I could see his toilet (well bathroom if you are Nth American) as well as the bath with a shower overhead, and a bathmat hanging over the edge of the bath.

He took no notice of me or my camera – perhaps he really does have an alabaster heart, but up close he seems a fine figure of a man. Usually I have to gaze upwards as he balanced on a plinth and I liked getting up close and personal – I even noticed a crack in his crotch. (This seems somewhat appropriate!)

Unfortunately, if you too want to spend time in such intimate surroundings with Captain James Cook, explorer extraordinaire, you need to rush to Victoria Square, Christchurch, New Zealand in the next month.

This installation art – Endeavour by Tatzu Oozu, Japan – is part of the 5th SCAPE Christchurch Biennial of Art in Public Space.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

POSTCROSSING - heard of this?

The goal of this project is to allow people to receive postcards (and stamps for some) from all over the world, for free. Well, almost free! The main idea is that: if you send a postcard, you'll receive at least one back, from a random Postcrosser from somewhere in the world.

Why? Because there are lots of people who like to receive real mail. The element of surprise of receiving postcards from different places in the world (many of which you'd probably never have heard of) can turn your mailbox into a box of surprises - and who wouldn't like that?

Check it out at

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Emotional danger of travel

Once again I see the dangers of travel. Not the rare physical danger of airline or vehicle crashes; not the occasional danger of being robbed or becoming sick, but the every-day common danger of your heart getting to know people and places. People we would not usually met. Each week, hearing of train accidents, deaths in the Middle East, and riots in India, bombs, wars, earthquakes, or floods I am very conscious of that emotional danger.

Geography was of more interest than history at school. One could have a stab at answering questions if I knew a couple of other facts. Distance from the equator could give clues to temperatures and climate. Mountains, plains, rivers all added up to some understanding of a place that dates and historical facts didn’t - well for me as a teenager.

Now travel has given me a different perspective. Geography remains important, history helps with understanding people and the two, combined with travel experience, gives me a sense of, not exactly ownership or belonging, but something rather like kinship, I’m attached - I leave a bit of me in every place, and take some of the place away with me

To me this feeling of human-oneness is particularly acute at times of high emotions; small countries achieve a goal; overcome an obstacle; a national team wins; and in particular, really acute in times of national pain.

My first real experience of this came after I’d been to Ireland when shortly afterwards ‘the troubles’ began again. I was devastated that the wonderful little city of Londonderry (or Derry, depending on the map consulted) was yet again the centre of violence. Streets I’d walked down were now dangerous. That people I had maybe spoken to or walked past were now dead or injured had me crying in front of the TV or newspaper.

Turkey and Greece had earthquakes, people in Israel and Palestine killing each other, years ago London had rubbish bins removed from the street for fear of terrorism, New York and the New Yorkers I love were devastated and traumatised, monsoon floods happen in Asia, and in Egypt, fabulous country and generous people, is grief stricken with deaths from buildings collapsing, and Indian pilgrims die during a festival.

What ever the cause, I think of the diverse people whom I have come to know, love, judge and compare and empathise with their pain. Yet what can we do to ease that pain? Nothing. The one thing that would help - having loved ones live again - is way beyond anything we can do.

However maybe travel-writing that gives the texture, flavour and smells of a place helps bridge that gap between us and them. After all scenery and monuments are the same on everyone’s photos. It’s our experiences that provide the difference.

Travelling, or reading about travelling, help us realise people are not like those presented in the headlines of our papers or in the sound-bites of radio or television. Young or old, male, female, Christian, Pagan, Muslin, or freethinker as a Japanese friend describes herself, we’re all part of the human family and when a family member is in pain we feel it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Capitalism on its death-bed? Breath of life revives it!

As the financial tornado sweeps through Wall Street – and Main Street – we all sit and watch, wondering how far its ill-winds will reach.

If I lived in the USA, which I don’t, and had bought a home, which I haven’t, and which was now repossessed by the bank, I’d be pretty angry. Angry that those at the top of the financial food chain were now being bailed out by – me – and every other taxpayer in the USA: what happened to capitalist markets finding their own level? Perform or die? Eat or be eaten?

Has this Govt. bail-out, sorry, ‘rescue package’, changed the financial rules?

Is it now ... when we profit we grow bigger, when we loose you pay, with your house and your taxes – heads I win, tails you lose?

All this adds to the interest of the USA elections … makes our local concerns seem small in the scale of things … and once again makes us in the rest of the western world wishing we had a vote too – after all, we have to live with the results so it only seems fair.

Black Swans fail nesting

I feel sad. For the past few weeks I have been watching a pair of black swans nesting on the edge of Lake Victoria in Hagley Park (Christchurch, New Zealand). Not knowing how long the gestation period is, I’ve been surprised each time I walk past and find no chicks had hatched.
Today, as I walked towards the lake I saw the pair on the lake. No chicks following behind. How sad to have put in all that effort and have nothing to show for it. Sure they are non-native pests, but even the local council had erected a protective netting fence around the nest to help keep dogs (and kids) away. Better luck next year.

The Press Christchurch Writers Festival

It’s not as big as those in the United Kingdom, the USA, or even our down-under neighbour, five-times-bigger-than us, Australia: but we love it.
What is it we love? It’s our book festival.

Fiona Farrell, Steven Eldred-Grigg, Gavin Bishop, Keri Hulme and Margaret Mahy, Bernadette Hall, – just some of our current local writers – add these very early Cantabrian writers; Charlotte Godley, James FitzGerald, Sarah Courage, Lady Barker, and Samuel Butler, and it’s obvious we have a long legacy of literary tradition in Christchurch.

Gordon Ogilvie says our earliest colonists carried libraries, instruments and paints, along with plans for a school and university, over the Port Hills and started a newspaper and library within a decade of arriving. He also says our forbears “established a robust literary tradition in Canterbury, particularly in non-fiction and poetry. From the 1930s to the early 1950s, during Denis Glover's association with The Caxton Press, Christchurch was indisputably the focal point of New Zealand's artistic life. The town's cultural and literary importance continues to this day.”

After the last festival (06) the media said the programme was superb: the NZ Listener’s Arts Editor Phillip Mathews commended the range and composition of the panel sessions while the Sunday Star Times published a full feature on Poetry Idol, a first-of-its-kind competition in NZ; and Radio NZ recorded sessions for National Radio, saying ‘the Christchurch festival is now firmly on the nations literary map.’

Originally an annual event, this festival is now split with a major spring festival on even years, and on odd years, Christchurch Writers Day.
Both these events fit perfectly with the annual New Zealand Book Month whose website says ‘Kiwis are highly literate and recent surveys show that many of us wouldn’t think about relaxing without a good book. But we want more of those books to be ones that have been written by New Zealand writers. We want to celebrate and showcase the brilliant writing talent we have, to support new and upcoming writers in our country, to tap into the pride we feel in our literary landscape and show you that whatever your taste, there’s a fantastic New Zealand book for you.’

Our Christchurch Writers Day (next one 2009) and the Christchurch Press Writers Festival (2010) supports not only the fabulous international writers who attend the festival but also the many fantastic, internationally acclaimed, writers we have in our region.
Check out re Grahams views on the festival.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New Zealand women get the vote in1893

Women’s suffrage 1893 – New Zealand first in the world to give women the vote.

Yesterday, 19th September 2008 women in New Zealand celebrated, and remembered with gratitude, the struggle for the right to vote. (For detailed information of this see NZs online encyclopaedia )

Here in Christchurch we are proud of the fact that Kate Shephard was a prime organiser of the 31,872-signature petition (collected over seven years) and every year we gather at the memorial (cnr Worcester Boulevard & Cambridge Terrace) which depicts the women and the wheelbarrow in which the petition was taken to Parliament in Wellington. (see photo)

Suffrage day is often also called White Camellia day, as women who supported enfranchisement wore a white camellia, yesterday women both wore the flowers and lay them at the wonderful memorial. The memorial was unveiled at the 100 year anniversary and a new camellia verity was also created then and named ‘Kate Sheppard’. Yesterday we celebrated 115 years of all NZ women being able to vote.

So far, from my research, it seems only one of my ancestors, great-grandmother Elizabeth Rowe, (married Herbert Bunny) signed the petition and during that same year, 1893, her daughter, Mabel, my maternal grandmother was born.

One of the great things about the 1893 Electoral Bill was passed was that Maori women were given the vote too … not just women with land. Unfortunately Chinese women, in fact all Chinese people, did not get the vote until the early 1950s.

With our MMP method of voting however, New Zealand now has Asian members of parliament and look to have more elected during the next elections ( 8th November 2008).

Don’t waste the courage and strength of those 19th century women – make sure you vote.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Writers write don't they?

With travel pages shrinking and newspapers amalgamating, it’s getting harder to place travel pieces. So what is a travel writer to do when the numbers of places to publish are diminishing, and the money they send, dries up?
This writer has been beating herself up, saying ‘real writers’ write fiction anyway – so that’s what she ‘should’ do.

However, after attending a workshop on Writing Family History today, (by New Zealand Society of Author member Joan Curry), then a one-on-one mentoring session over coffee I am revitalised. Ready to gird my loins and go forth and write.

First a couple of stories on New Zealands’ Molesworth Station and Tekapo and its’ night sky, then a six month sabbatical from the pressure of ‘having to write for money’.

Back to writing daily ‘morning pages’ (Julia Cameron), back to ‘shitty first drafts’ (Ann Lamott) and back to writing because I want to. Writing non fiction, writing from where my heart is, and enjoying the freedom of not making myself write because I need the money or because I ‘should’.

Making this public is my commitment to myself, so watch my progress and send me words of encouragement, as I check into these pages to report on the journey. No more beating up on myself with those dreaded words from old school reports‘ should try harder’ or ‘could do better’.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Public art? Flour power?

Christchurch is passionate about our public art. We all seem to have strong opinions, loving or hating each piece. We moan, celebrate or write letters to the editor about new pieces that are planned or installed.
In recent years a planned foot bridge was stopped because of the cries of complaint. (However our current City Council seems bent on rushing things through and ignoring the ratepayers’ voice.)

Yesterday I went to see the newest piece of art (above right) in Christchurch erected on the corner of High, Colombo and Hereford Streets. Called Flour Power it’s a fine piece of work but … what on earth is a bunch of tall wheat stalks doing on a site that was once a swamp? How is that relevant to Christchurch city? It was the plains that grew the grain, not the very wet site of the British-planned town that was plonked down in the middle of a swamp.

The Chalice (pictured above also) in the city’s square is a great piece of work although I have never thought it was in the right position. I’m revising my condemnation today because at least that has relevance to the site: depicting leaves of plants that once grew in the area.

I note that Stuff ( ) questions Flour Power. Asking if it is a plant form, a techno-tepee or a towering contemporary icon? What do you think?

Death, funerals and grief

Are people who do it control freaks or are they just susceptible to the marketing practices of some funeral directors?

Do what? Arrange their funeral that’s what. A few generations ago grandma lay in the front room, someone washed the body, friends and neighbours paid their respects and supported the grieving. There was little planning as funerals were similar, the minister knew the deceased and cemeteries were often beside the church.

Funeral directors, as with all commercial enterprises, look for new ways to increase their profit and many years ago they convinced us, for ease and hygiene, to take grandma out of the family parlour. Be modern they told us, bring her to our parlour, save all the worry and show your friends and neighbours how sophisticated you are.

Well, maybe not those exact words, but the result was the same and grandma was taken off our hands and another layer separated us from death: they are doing it again.

As a result of suggestions, adverts, and free books for funeral planning, it seems already 5% of Kiwis are arranging their own funerals. Adverts tell us how helpful it will be for our grieving and stressed family. Nonsense. Funeral rituals are for the living, a vital part of our grieving process.

Planning the funeral helps us move through the beginnings of grieving healthily. Getting in touch with the all the feelings that such planning exposes is painful but helpful – it also gives us another chance to express love. Conversely, it allows us to work through feelings that are not so love-based. After all not all funerals we are involved with will be for people we love absolutely. Working through those so-called negative feelings is important too: relief, guilt and anger are just a few we may have.

Children also benefit by being involved. As a bereavement counsellor, I was often told how younger members of a family came up with a suggestion that really struck a chord and the adults grasped it with appreciation. As with the adult’s grief, children too are helped by being involved, so don’t remove them from the rituals. Reading a poem about grandma at her service not only involves the child but also allows the expression of their grief.

Sitting beside my husband’s coffin I was horrified at the sight of my daughter walking back into Rehua Marae with her beautiful long, blonde hair gone. Her gift to her stepfather was to place her hair in his coffin. Where, at twelve, she found that idea I have no idea but she's still happy with her gesture of love.

‘They’ say time heals. Not true: it’s what we do with the time that does the healing, and working through the funeral planning is just part of the doing.

The amount of money spent on a funeral does not equate with love, however the appropriateness of the funeral rites, showing we have really thought about the person does equate with love. It’s also possible to have an economical funeral that is sensitive to our needs so get quotes for all or parts of the funeral: in fact the funeral process and service or ceremony can be undertaken by anybody. A funeral director, undertaker, or minister of religion is not required by law at any stage: nor is embalming.

Despite simple legal requirements, they can appear overwhelming, especially when we add our perceptions about what’s required. We must have:
· a death certificate, issued by a Doctor, showing the cause of death or, a coroners burial certificate
· the body must be contained in a coffin or other suitable container – solid enough to be handled by the pall bearers
· burial must be in an area permitted by law or cremated in an approved crematorium

Then, within three days of the burial or cremation, the following forms must be lodged with the Register of Births and Deaths.
· death registration form
· medical certificate as to cause of death, or the coroner's burial order

And that’s all. A helpful friend can be delegated, or may offer, to get these certificates and take them to the Register of Births Deaths and Marriages.

So if you think you will help your family by planning your funeral, think again – you may be delaying their grief process just as pills, or alcohol, do.

To help, leave money to pay for the rituals if you can, and make sure you have talked about death, and organ donation, with your family then leave it up to them. After all, our bodies belong to our next of kin when we’re dead: don’t try to control them – they don’t have to do what you planned!

I look forward to a conversation with you about this blog!

©Heather Hapeta 2008

Heather, previously an alcohol and drug therapist, studied bereavement counselling under Mel McKissock at the Bereavement CARE Centre in Sydney Australia. She then worked for the Canterbury Bereaved by Suicide Society for four years, had a private practise in Napier, and was a founder member of NALAG NZ (National Association of Loss and Grief).

She is currently working on a book about suicide grief, continues to write travel pieces, and her book, Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad, was published in 2007

What do kiwis think about?

Well, I guess the birds think pretty much the same as kiwi humans do in some areas. What's for dinner? Who to vote for? And, why write a blog?

I've already had dinner so don't have to answer that question today; who to vote for - well with all the drama in politics right now, I would like everyone to vote GREEN and keep our smaller parties in the beehive. Everyone under 35 or so will not remeber what its like to have the terrible left/ right swings at every election ... and what was even worse, we were governed ( controled?) by mostly white men over 50.

Now we have all our views being heard in the house on that Wellington hill - there are women, and gays, and Maori, and Asians, and consertivate, and liberals, all having to work things out between them - slowing the process down and stopping laws being foisted on us by parties that didn't have a marjoity .

I'm happy no one party has a majority, but with a cloition of varous groups at lest most of us get the people we voted for representing us. Keep MMP. Vote Green, and pick up plastic off the beaches wherever in the world you happen to be. (this I have discovered is the secret of happiness).

So thats what kiwis think ... well, to be truthful, its what this Kiwi thinks right now. What are you thinking about MMP? Greens? Add your comment.