Preparing for what?


I think that at the moment my reflections are in a sense and evaluation of how I got to where I am now and in a sense planning. Planning for what? The bus is to represent the journey and I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I turn 50 this year. So planning for what? Well planning to finally be a grown up…surely you  must be grown up by the time you are 50? I just don’t know how I got to be here so fast.

It is as if I am only just coming of age, only just becoming a legitimate adult only just passing for good enough or accepting that I am worthy of the title of fully qualified adult human being, almost like somehow up until now I have been some kind of imposter, faking it until you make it and yet somewhere between 40 and 50 it happened without me knowing it or planning it or preparing for it.

I can now say that I don’t need your acceptance to justify my life, my actions my beliefs my intentions. Your judgement is exactly what it is – your judgement. I am worthy -I am who I am. It doesn’t matter what you make of me.

I used to look at other people and wonder how they did it so well, they were already grown up, already experts at being themselves, they already had that air that indicated they knew what they were doing and they were doing a darned good job of it, whereas I was always a little bit scruffy and unkempt, giving off the air that maybe I didn’t really have the foggiest. I just wasn’t polished enough. I was somehow always the reserve waiting on the sidelines to be good enough to play. Always striving to achieve success at something to validate my worth and existence in the eyes of others having to prove my capabilities. Perhaps it is because I got asked to mime in choir at primary school, perhaps it’s because I got asked to cut up oranges for the netball team instead of play, perhaps it’s because my job was filling up the tampax shelves on a Saturday and only getting to be on the beauty counter when someone was off sick, but even then being assured that I really wasn’t the ideal face of Lancome.

Somewhere though it happened, perhaps not in the way that I had envisaged and often through circumstances that weren’t part of any grand plan and just a little bit accidentally. I grew up and now I am planning to enjoy what I have become. I think I am planning to make 2016 the year of being 50 and the year of being me, the real me, the person that I am.

You don’t know what you don’t know

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This picture was taken at Senior prize giving, one of the few occasions where we still wear academic dress. The hood isn’t actually in my university colours as I did my degree and Post-Grad in England. Staff in NZ school are very particular about their hoods. They have to have the right one and this brings me to exactly what I am talking about- you don’t know what you don’t know. This was the very first and most important life lesson I learned on my arrival here.

I graduated from Leicester University in 1988, for some reason the ceremony wasn’t in the summer, and it was all a bit rushed and as a consequence I never even got an official photograph of me in my official gown hood and hat. They were hired not purchased and it never really occurred to me that I would ever need or desire to own my own. You don’t know what you don’t know. The photograph thing appears to be a key feature of my life, when my husband and I married 22 years ago in 1994 we didn’t get official photos then either we didn’t have enough money and I didn’t think I would ever want or need them. Again you don’t know what you don’t know. I seem to spend a lot of my time not knowing things that I should know.

I earned my Post graduate certificate in Education fromManchester Polytechnic- school of education in 1993, for some reason the graduation ceremony was in the October and I had already embarked on my teaching career and my principal wouldn’t allow me to take the day off to attend my graduation. I have no idea whatsoever what the colour or style of the hood is or was, and once again have no official recollection or photograph of the said event.

My next foray into education was at St Martins College Lancaster where I studied for a graduate certificate in counselling, I don’t even remember if there was a graduation let alone if there were caps and gowns and hoods, I had just discovered I was expecting my daughters so perhaps this accounts for the lack of any  memory.

And this brings me to my new adventure this week- I am just embarking on a new study with Massey university where I will work towards a Post Graduate Diploma in e Learning. I have had to try to explain what I hope to achieve in my studies and quite frankly I have no idea other than it seemed a superb opportunity not to be missed. I don’t know what I don’t know so I don’t reeally know what I hope or will achieve in the process but one thing I do know- if I get to graduate this time- I shall be wearing the full regalia and having my photograph taken properly and officially this time.

Knickerbocker glory’s in tiger country.

knickerbocker glory

So you might not know what a knickerbocker glory is, I never had one but always coveted one…in every cafe we ever went in as a child I watched enviously as other children were given these beautiful treats by doting grandparents. I wasn’t the only deprived child, my husband also coveted a knickerbocker glory and never got one. This current generation with mcflurries and kiwiyo will never understand our loss, I suspect there must be something they covet…maybe it is cabbage or tapioca..or semolina…

Anyway I had to have surgery this week and it was classed as high risk and I am classed as high risk. I don’t have cancer, I have chronic diseases which is exactly like it sounds..chronic kind of slow and lingering. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative colitis and a bit of Sjogren’s, I also bleed in surgery for no known reason and have allergies to a fair few antibiotics including penicillin and also a latex allergy, add in steroid dependency immunosuppressant drugs and I am quickly becoming the last person you want in your operating theatre we can now add in difficult intubation on more than one occasion and to be fair you wouldn’t touch me with a barge pole if you could help it.

It was my sixteenth surgery. That is my sixteenth surgery done with anaesthetic and cutting in Theatre, not including those other procedures like the colonoscopies, endoscopies, flexi-sigmoidoscopies, IVF procedures, MRI’s CT’s and minor intrusions.

There will be many of you out there that have been through more and many that have been through less but all I can tell you is that despite everything, which included losing 3 litres of blood in 2 minutes in my last surgery and nearly not surviving this one had terrified me the most. The sixteenth.

The sixteenth surgery was in tiger country. Not in my belly or my abdomen or some big roomy cavern but up my nose and into my head to the deep space beneath the brain that is called the sphenoid sinus. Tiger country because the membranes are all that stands between the scalpel and the brain, Tiger country because the membranes are all that stands between the scalpel and those major blood vessels and arteries. Tiger country because that is how Dr Shetty described it and that is how I found my peace on the afternoon of my surgery, he was going to be slow and careful and exercise stealth to remove the disease and infection from the tiger country.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

William Blake.
The team were meticulous in their preparation, no sign of latex, blood products on standby and two full anesthetists as well as an anaesthetic technician and I was swallowed in the most wonderful blanket of fentanyl to wander through the forests in the thick of night to hide from the shadows of the tigers burning bright. It was so warm and I was in a cafe and I was going to be getting my first ever knickerbocker glory, it had been ordered and it was taking such a long time to come. My mouth watered at the thought of the coolness of the ice cream and the lusciousness of the fruit. It was so hot in the cafe and I needed air, so I sat on the step in the doorway to feel the breeze across my face, and there it was on its way out to me when they called me back. They were calling my name rousing me from my sleep and it was so warm and I wanted to wait and get my ice cream- my knickerbocker glory, but the calling wouldn’t let me stay and I had to waken.
It was over. Job done. Temperature had dropped to 35.8 so I was laden with heated blankets and on oxygen, despite their best efforts I had been a “challenging” intubation and my throat was raw and sore, and my right eye was watering from the sticky gel they had used to protect my eyes from being shut so tightly. I looked at the clock and checked the time. it was 15.45 and I was alive. 15.45 and I had survived and Dr Shetty had removed the disease and brought me safely back from the Tiger Country.
I cannot thank them enough.

Pug Love

So we have become temporary pug sitters or pug parents. It seemed a good way of helping out a friend in need and this is a pug of princess proportions who has appeared in high fashion namely an edition of vogue.

She is like a food vacuum cleaner and any food that is on the floor for more than a matter of seconds is fair game and so far she has hoovered up several cat dinners as well as her own. I have learned to be vigilent and move the cat bowls as soon as the cats lose interest but to no avail- I fail on  a regular basis only to hear the snuffling and shuffling that indicates the cat dinner is lost forever. I have googled this phenomena and apparently it is a pug trait. Pugs do food. It’s not their fault. It is like scorpions do sting…well pugs do food.

So have we found our inner pug…do we feel the pug love.

I have to say she has won us over she might be the ugliest cat that our cats have ever seen, and she might not do long walks in leafy suburbs, she fell off the laundry doorstep the first night and now refuses to use that doorstep…but she is very endearing in an under the skin kind of way. She misses her real mum on a regular basis and is sometimes very very sad and then at other she is is playful as a puppy and excitedd to be in the world.

I hope her time with us is leaving a good impression I get the impression that in her sphere of experience we are probably the equivalent of hillbilly rednecks, but yes we have found some of our pug love. XXXX





My own flock of birds….

The trip of a lifetime

We left on December 10th to visit our families in England and to spend a little over a month reconnecting with people and places treasured and valued from our varied and various pasts.

I suspect there is more that this trip will be the basis of more than one blogpost.

I am scared of flying, well to be a little more precise I am terrified of take-off, very uncomfortable at the thought of being in the air, petrified of turbulence and I always pray to God and anything else when landing…so the thought of three take offs, three landings and one leg of the journey being approx 16 hours in the air- it was actually a major mission for me, that I can only liken in terms of dread to the equivalent of facing fairly major traumatic surgery. (something that I also seem to do quite often…) On the plus side- at least you don’t have to recover quite the same following a flight.. well hopefully not.

Anyway off we went…on our awfully big adventure…excited and wary…especially of the transit through Dubai where I did actually get stopped and drug tested….and I attempted to use logic to over come my fears.

Take-offs were remarkeably unremarkeable…quite an oxymoron, I can only say that the A380 is smooth was hard to really tell that you were taking off, but my nose started to bleed just before we landed in Australia only about 3 hours into our flight schedule and I have come to the conclusion that landings are landings, the only way to survive them is to pray repetititively- something I don’t normally do in my everyday life, close your eyes tight shut and grip something rather tightly like you supposedly do when in labour…and pray..pray for loved ones, pray for those with you, and pray some more..

Turbulence was another issue… I tried to rationalise it. I decided if the plane was travelling at however many miles an hour that on the whole most patches of turbulence should only realistically last for  minutes rather than hours whilst we travelled thought the offending weather system. I also looked at the cabin crew and decided that if turbulence was always a major issue it probably wouldn’t be a career of choice for so many people and that people wouldn’t then have long careers. One of my schoolfriends became an airhostess….cabin crew and she has been doing the job now for maybe 25 or more years which would suggest that most of my worries about take off landing and turbulence are not warranted as she is still flying regularly.

My nose continued to bleed on and off all the way to Dubai- and we all wonder if this is why I got hauled out for drugs testing…it was actually over and done with in a few minutes but was a little terrifying, especially as a number of drugs that I use for my Rheumatoid Arthritis are not widely tolerated/accepted in the UAE.

Anyway the final leg of our journey was Dubai to Manchester and I felt at ease with in minutes, as I could hear the change in the voices of the people around me. Suddenly the tone and the words and the accents were familiar to me. The language was the same, there was a common and shared understanding and I knew almost instantly what it was like to rejoin my own flock of birds. I was one of them, I could hear it in their voice and my own, I fitted in- I belonged.

My own flock of birds.


The stuff we are supposed to leave at the door.

My mad life. The stuff we are supposed to leave at the door. With humour.

In the last 8 weeks I have discovered I am in the menopause, I have cysts in my breast, infection under my brain and a myriad of highly inconvenient other infections and no immune system to fight them- so I have had to stop most of my meds and I am shit scared of the fact that they are operating in my head next year, not worried about dying…I wouldn’t really know any better, but shit scared that they might accidentally mash something that will mean I spend the rest of my life with a pudding bowl haircut and needing someone to wipe my arse. So I have perhaps been a tad highly strung.

Factor into this ISIS and the blowing up of all manner of things that aren’t remotely political and need to spend many hours in the sky on planes in the next two months- pass me the wine…. And having a husband who served in an active theatre of war in 2003- Iraq -who wants to don camoflauge pants and equip himself with a Kalashnikov and solve the entire worlds problems with terrorism…on the days where he isn’t in denial about PTSD…

I went to pick Ellen up from work at 10pm on Tuesday night and parked in the light near the door- the car next to me contained a rather large burly man with a rather interesting display of tatts and many had gang affiliations. He got out of his car and seemed to be taking a rather uneccessary interest in mine, I didn’t want to be obvious and drive off…so I merely put the automatic lock on, and then made a complete show of myself trying to get it unlocked when Ellen arrived at the passenger door. I now realise he wasn’t after my cellphone, purse…etc etc he was merely admiring the art work on my bonnet. A creative student had drawn a two foot penis on it.

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A nice piece of art…

I try my best to turn up to work with matching shoes, a bit of lippy now and then and a smile, but last week I had run out of spoons. In an ideal world I should have taken a day off and read a book in the sunshine.

it’s all in the genes

celebrating my birthright
celebrating my birthright

Or is it? It is that time of year where we are recruiting staff to replace those that have moved on or those like me who are managing a small but triumphant escape to do something different. Today I tried to contact a former colleaugue and co worker whom would be a more than suitable and savvy replacement for half of me. Not that I only do half a job, but someone else is also going to be half of me. She had contacted me and I had my phone on silent- happens accidentally regularly- I had been doing the first part of my community netball coach certificate training last night and had thought it might be a trifle rude to have my phone on loudly…and then promptly forgot all about it unitl I realised I had missed more than a handful of calls this morning…anyway getting sidetracked there…

So I decided to phone this person after dinner tonight and the person who answered the phone sounded so unbelievably like the person that it was of absolutely no surprise whatsoever to be told that this was the said person’s mother. A lady I have never met before but had conversations about. The voices and intonation were so alike and the phrases that it was like seeing a perfect digital image of them sitting side by side and I could almost trace the contours of their faces the lines of their nose and cheekbones…just from hearing the voice. So is our voice genetic…is this what creates the symmetry or is it in the upbringing do we learn to speak exactly as our mothers speak do we learn their pattern of tone and verbosity and vernacular. In truth I suspect the latter, does this then mean that I too sound like my mother. Would you be able to trace a picture of her from my prose and laughter and inntonation. How totally curious. How insanely beautiful.

tall poppies

Thought this was a suitable title and even play on words. It was a week of tall poppies. I have been working with

A summer poppy...
A summer poppy…

students on a project about tear off packaging wiht Dr Shane Reti who is our local MP. It has beena  really good experience for the students to have had so much input from someone in the national political arena and also the industry links that Shane brought with him. We worked with two local industries- Comer engineering and Busck concrete and they made us a machine to test our packaets and fine out what the tear force needed was. We are trying to advocate and gather public backing for  a code of practice for industry that recommends a tear force of 30N, we are calling the campaign can you 51 it? this is the strength of 30N which is the equivalent of a pinky and thumb, the same force an elderly person can tear at.

It was in the local newspaper’s all last week and tracked as far as the South Island through the smaller press, it was also on Breakfast TV although a little second place to the return of the All blacks.. We even got phonecalls from important people in the packaging industry- so for many of my students it was something that represented a different approach, for once they were in fact the movers and shakers and people listened and took notice. Some of them are going to be tall poppies.

see the moment for what it is…

I have been telling myself this all day and yet I am still not quite there.

Today was the last day of school for the seniors. It was always going to be a difficult day for me. The current year 13 who finish school today forever…well I have watched over them for 4 long years. I taught five of the eight classes when they were in year 10, and it was a year beyond difficult. Two of our students took their own life, and the aftershcoks resonated through the whole year group and for more than the whole year. Today they had survived and succeeded and it was a proud but sad  moment watching them leave.

I wanted to give them something of value and I hope that my last lesson with them even if it was a little unusual will be there for all time. Walk forwards in to your futures and realise your dreams hopes and aspirations. If you need to stop a while to enjoy the view then do so, if you need a shoulder to cry on then tell someone and see the moment for what it is.

Custodian of the baskets of knowledge and other thoughts

alison 006These are the birds that come each morning. The Quails are wild and have brought so much pleasure to our family. They live somewhere around and have realised that the seed is put out daily. It is the moments like these that reminds me that my place here is as of great and as little significance as theirs. I foolishly think I own the land as it is my house that sits here, but they all lived here before me and will probably continue to live here after me. There are all manner of creatures on our small patch of land, there are possums and rabbits, pheasants, quail, rosellas, yellowtails, kerereu, and skinks, along with hedehogs, honey bees, praying mantis and this reminds me that we are merely custodians of the land.

In my other world of school I am the custodian of the baskets of knowledge and it is my duty to pass on the enthusiasm and motivation and skills needed for our young people to walk forward in our world with the dreams and desires and care to preserve it and enhance it for future generations. Our time here is so short and our value so fickle, it is like the wind it can change in a moment and lose or gain in strength and relevance. We must protect it and hold it close to our hearts.

“tread softly because you tread on my dreams”- YEATS