Apposite. A shoe story.

When you have lived in different places it is almost as if you can never unlive those experiences and you become almost spiritually homeless. It isn’t so much about not belonging as belonging to more than one place. When we went to New Zealand we suffered huge culture shock at the beginning but then became assimilated and the reverse culture shock when we returned to the UK more than 10 years later which was just as punishing. What was suddenly glaringly apparent was that anyone who had never lived in another country with another culture had no real concept that in other places there might be other ways of doing things that are almost opposite and yet apposite and make perfect sense if you are in the other persons place and shoes.

In fact shoes are a prime example.

We arrived in Whanagrei in the early summer of 2006, and the first thing I noticed as we drove through the centre of town and along the main street was that the children were barefoot, they weren’t wearing any shoes. You have to remember that we had never visited NZ, and I had engineered all of our migration from the living room of our detached house in the Isle of Man with the aid of my trusty computer. All my assumptions about Whangerei were based on what I knew of towns of that size based on my exisitng experience of the UK, US and Europe and a little bit of applied logic. Shoes had never entered my head, I had never studied shoes. My first thought and reaction was- Oh no they must be poor. I have brought my family to a poor place where they can’t afford shoes.

My knowledge of shoe habits was entirely linked to my own poor range of experience and my very working class roots where shoes were actually a symbol of security wealth and status. The wearing of shoes indicated that your family could afford them and they were worn with pride and tended only to come off your feet at bedtime. There were also cultural overtones to shoe wearing, there were new shoes or special shoes for special occasions, in childhood the Whit walks always guaranteed a new pair of shoes, generally white (so very different to school shoes) and obviously the start of a new year at school was always a new pair of appropriate footwear. I also got into very big trouble one year when I was sent out with money to buy my own shoes and came back with an aquarium and two terrapins from the market- no shoes.

In the early 1970’s some family friends of ours emigrated to South Africa, we helped them pack and saw them off and when they came to visit in 1983, they regaled stories of barefoot children, and even though they said they strolled barefoot, to my mind it conjured up images of sand and dirt roads and I wondered how their feet were not cut to ribbons on glass and debris. The stories did little to challenge my clealrly poor understanding of culture geography or shoes.

So here we were in a hire car, all our wordly goods in the car-boot, two children aged 6 in the back, and we had moved half way round the world on a whim to wonderful Whangarei and despite the drizzle and the umbrellas, there was no mistaking that these people were roaming the streets with no footwear. So I had resigned myself to the fact that our new home was a place where there was abject poverty. The truth was and still is, that to some extent Northland and Whangarei could be described as of lower soio-ecomomic status compared to other parts of New Zealand, but what it lacked in economic wealth it more than made up for in culture, compassion and collaboration and the shoe issue was absolutely nothing to do with the economics of the place.

It soon became apparent that in this new place it was more respectful and appropriate to be barefoot and in fact in virtually every Northland place and home there was a cultural expectation that you would remove your shoes and leave them at the entrance/doorway. We learned this very quickly as even when viewing houses this expectation was a non negotiable. We quickly learned that the best and most appropriate footwear was footwear that could be removed quickly and easily and not mourned and grieved for if it was forgotten or left behind.

We soon adopted so many of these unwritten and previously unknown cultural customs and practices. It was apparent that all children under the age of 12 seemed to go everywhere barefoot. The girls would go to school with shoes on and somehow come home without them. Endless visits to the school on Friday afternoons to try to retrieve shoes were largely frutless, there just seemed to be a bagful of totally unrelated shoes in every cloakroom. You would take shoed children to Mcdonalds for a treat and arrive home to find they were shoeless. On May 3rd 2006, shortly after we moved into our own home in Kamo, my husband called me from work before I had taken the children to school, to alert me to the fact that we were on a Tsunami alert following a significant earthquake at sea. My snarling response was related to shoes not impending doom. I have two children to get to school and I can only find one size 8 left shoe and one size 9 right shoe and how am I supposed to get them to school. I gave in, and my children went to school barefoot like everyone elses children. We were officially done with shoes.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Safe anchor…

It is easy to feel adrift when the world is so full of uncertainty.

Hold on to the treasured moments, the significant people, the precious memories and the valued places that have provided you with shelter through life’s storm. Let them be your anchor.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Brighouse Bay

Over the stones

we stumbled

eager to race the tide,

the last rays of summer scorching the sand between our toes.

 

Tiny crab

hermit hides

beneath the sodden shells

tidal drift and rock pool teems with life.

 

Brighouse Bay

Sunset lingers

Last days of summer languish,

this moment frozen forever in time.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Benign banter

It has been a time of renewal, a time of shifts and loss and mourning, a time of giving and holding others, a time of allowing self to be swept aside. My father in law passed away on Dec 1st, one short week earlier we had finally moved house, the nights were long and cold, I packed and unpacked, we haemorraghed money- my husband was a selfless soul endlessly on the road caring for his father and mother, answering endless telephone calls- moments lost, tablets forgotten, repeated conversations, fragments of life recurring then receding, we collected groceries, cooked meals, later we watched as he listlessly slept and shouted and screamed in some other life, some other world crying through pain for help and searching for security and struggling for each long laboured breath until he was gone.

Each day I have gone to work, in my new job, loving the company of my new colleagues, welcoming the benign banter of everyday life, desperate for a smidging of something that resembled a slower pace, a calmer moment, welcoming the newfound calm of our homely little house, genuinely craving the solitude that I know will energise and bring renewal. The moments where the sky in all its splendour is the most treasured and important thing, when the cold chill biting at my fingers and toes reminds me of the joy of life, longing for the frozen earth to yield to spirited snowdrops and there to be enough space for me to savour the solitude that I love so much.

January brings snow

and frozen slivers of ice

Witch Hazel shivers.

© Alison Jean Hankinson.

 

 

This is for D’verse. Love to all and Happy New Year.

Photos Hank Kendal 068

The Ghost of Christmas Past.

The ghost of Christmas past

Came knocking at my door,

He took me to the time

When my little girls were four.

 

We knelt before the Christmas tree

Presents crudely wrapped but there,

A plate by the fireside

With Santa’s festive fayre.

 

We walked into their bedroom

As quietly as you can,

My two small girls were sleeping there

In Ramsey, Isle of Man.

 

In the muted light they seemed peaceful

Asleep and safe and warm

In a home filled with love and family

To keep them safe from harm.

 

The stockings on the bedposts

Were filled with treats and toys

Hung there by their Daddy

To bring them hope and joy.

 

Christmas was extra special

In that one particular year

As Daddy had come home safely

From military conflict fuelled by fear.

 

I thanked the kindly ghost

For reminding me that night

That despite the hours of darkness

Christmas is about recognising the light.

 

May your Christmas time be peaceful

Filled with memories that shine,

To keep your heart warm through the cold

And lonely times.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson.

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In these moments where we live and breathe.

It has been a complex year and all I know is that many of you out there will have faced your own tough challenges, some that have been overcome with grit and determination and others that have almost broken you with the weight and depth of their difficulty.

There were days this year where I genuinely thought that there would be no resolution, that the interminable darkness and despair would swallow me whole, that my worthiness had been buried never to resurface under some massive cumbersome rock that could not be shifted.

I learned that it is important to feel wanted and needed and worthy and that for me these things come from the work that I do and the relationships I build with the people around me.

I learned that I need to feel connected and secure and that for me comes from having a home and a place to be in the world.

I learned that heartache and heartbreak are cruel masters that spare no-one and that all around me there are people whose stories would make my own look like a walk in the park, that we all need kindness and compassion. That a smile and a hug are the simplest gifts that can give someone a brighter moment in their darkened day.

I learned that many of us fear death, and that at the end it is not dignity that matters but the holding of the hand, the soothing of the brow, and just knowing that someone sits beside you.

It is this moment that matters, not the money, or the glamour, or the furnishings, the shadow of our former life or the lure of future success, but this very moment.

It is the simplest action of human understanding that matters, listening carefully to those around us, sharing their journey holding their hand as well as hoping they will hold ours, not the politics, the rhetoric, the arrogance of selfishness but the humility that is born from suffering, enduring and surviving.

I learned that it is important to be kind and compassionate to oneself and that every moment is a taonga to be treasured.

Namaste as the year draws to a close.

May there be moments of peace in our life.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Remembering those who have served.

As Armistice day approaches it seemed right to think about those who have served and it is the centenary of the end of the First World War. My Great grandfather served in the First World War, he was already a veteran and had served in the Boer War and had been injured. (See photo). He served in the First World War alongside friends and neighbours as part of Lancashire Fusiliers often referred to as the Salford Pals. At the age of 40 he joined 15th Battalion (First Salford Pals) and served for the duration of the war from 15-Oct-1914 to 10-Jan-1918.

This website has a wealth of information about the Salford Pals, they were mobilised to France in November 1915 and served in the Somme and were almost wiped out in the summer of 1916 in the conflict at Thiepval. He was awarded the Silver Cross in 1920. He passed away on November 19th 1926 aged 52.

war time memories project

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He was born in 1874 in Sale Cheshire but by the time he was 11 years old had moved to Chief St Salford with his family. He married Frances Taylor on December 14th 1901 and they had 8 children between 1902 and 1915, Frances, John, Henry, Hilda, Ernest, Frank, Arthur and Edith. The photo is of John, Frances and Edith.

 

How little can we live off?

Fragile strands of hope

Adrift at sea, lifeless, mere driftwood in the doldrums,

Dear God deliver us from this desperate dream

Have mercy-throw us a line.

 

Lift us up above the relentless rips that ride us roughshod across the sands.

How little can we live off?

Give us some crumb of comfort

Let us know that tomorrow will bring new hope on the horizon.

 

It is a wild place

No comfort for those who care.

We are foreigners in a flawed landscape

Fettered by our need to belong.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson.

We have been through much this last year, and it seems like each day brings some new horror but we have no choice but to walk forward still. It is wild and a little unkempt and uncaring and I wonder if it can ever be any better, any less wild.

This is for d’Verse poetics.

 

 

Small moments, meaningful memories.

Dad enjoyed a whisky each night

Said it just seemed right

Helped him put the plight of the world to rest

Before eyes-shut, sleep-tight, God-Bless.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

A short sweet contribution for Napowrimo Day 11.

 

 

Wish you were near.

If I could turn back the clock and revisit the years

The worry and fears would feature less in our lives

I would hold your hand tightly and cherish the tears

I would be kinder, argue less, smile more and realise

That the memories and moments and having you near

Are worth more than ever as ever-swiftly time flies.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

This is my contribution to the birthday open link night at d’Verse. I am a November birthday. This is about my children, especially my firstborn twin, who is a long way from home and is bravely making her way in the world with no family at her side. When I look back at all the moments I wish there had been more time not less.