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.