The Closest Thing to Crazy

Life is busy at the moment, that could be a small understatement. I’m writing, gardening, electioneering, volunteering, going to church and eating, sleeping, doing housework (the last one could be an overstatement)

Last week I visited the Rest homes in Cambridge to make sure they were supplied with Special Votes and to let them know that there was help available for residents who wanted to go to the polling booths on Election Day. That meant I went back to Resthaven for the first time in seven months. The rest home Mum was in. It felt strange to pull into the car park and park a different car. It felt strange to walk in and see faces I knew and not sign-in the book, not go down the corridor. I had my “Both Sides Now” CD playing so as I drove out Michael Ball was serenading me with The Closest Thing to Crazy and then I saw my old car in the car park. Someone who works at Resthaven bought the wreck that was my old car.

Yesterday I did a stint at the monthly Trash and Treasure market. I had information on the National Party, blue sweets, free pens and a great big bear with a sparkly blue hat, blue bow tie and “I’m a Key Person” T-shirt. And for 90 minutes or so I had Louise there too before she had to go to Wellington. It was a blast. People came up and chatted away, no-one asked any curly questions and most made a comment about Kim Dotcom. One woman asked for a pen so she could write Louise (my local MP) a message “Get rid of the German!” I’m a writer and I don’t have adequate words to express my disgust at that man and his antics. Still, six weeks and it will all be over. All I can do is do all I can to help.

This morning I was listening to “Sunday Night with Michael Ball” on BBC Radio2, it plays from 6am Monday morning here for two hours and the music is simply superb. Sinatra, the Carpenters, Simply Red and he played a song I’ve never heard before. It was a request and I was so moved by the lyrics I looked it up on You Tube. It is sung by Jenn Bostic. Have a listen, it is a gorgeous ode to anyone you’ve ever loved and lost and miss and know you will see again. I suspect it is going to become a favourite.

My politics

I’ve been gardening and as I pulled weeds, I’ve been thinking about my politics.

I grew up in a household of National party activists and I remember politicians sitting around our dining room table planning campaigns with my Dad and in later years, Mum. I remember going to meetings with them, being in the car when they picked up voters and delivered them to the polls, in later years scrutineering and going to election night parties.

A couple of weeks ago I was stopped by a Labour party supporter who was campaigning on our main street during the monthly Trash and Treasure market. When she learned I was a National voter she said, “why?” I replied, “why not?”

She accused me of voting the way I had learned as a child and not thinking about it. Actually the opposite is true, I think deeply about my vote and I treasure it. She said, “I can guarantee you’ve never voted for anyone other than National your whole life.” “Not true either, I voted for Act once.”

Now I know not to give my party vote to anyone other than the party I want to govern. The party with the leader I want to be Prime Minister. It’s a personal thing, politics. It’s about your philosophy, your values, the country you want to live in. But it also about personal experiences, policies that affect you and people you encounter. I have no children and that colours my views but I have had up close and personal experience of the public health system and as a cardiac patient, and the caregiver of an elderly woman, I can say it has never ever failed me. I did work in the film industry and I joined many of my colleagues and cried with happiness when The Hobbit movies were saved, some of us sent John Key a collective email to tell him how much he ‘rocked.’ I did some television work that overlapped with the Tourism department and encountered him again, his positivity was critical to our success. So many of the National party ministers really impress me and our local MP is so hard working and so dedicated to her constituents.

So I bleed BLUE, it’s in my genes, but it is also my choice.

Of Mothers, cars and elections

Ah, so many things are afoot in my busy life, it is hard to keep up. Today I have pruned large trees and small shrubs and prepared for a Japanese pebble garden…long story, but I think it will look cool and I’ll take a pic of it when it is done.

Last week I went up to Auckland in my new little blue car (of which I am inordinately fond). I had lunch with my fantastic publisher, Finlay Macdonald at Skycity. We discussed the cover of my next book and how to make it sexy and clever and blood thirsty. I will be intrigued to see what they come back with, given the ideas we had! Then I went and stayed with my Aunt who had turned 91 on Wednesday. It was her first birthday without her sister and my first ‘Mum’s birthday’ without Mum. We had some great catch ups and watched some gold medals at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. We were both rather reluctant to part company.

I found this little poem the other day and I put it here in honour of my dear old Mum.

mother poem

The writing is going well and I’m combining it with regular gym and aqua-aerobics, church and preparations for the upcoming election. Those who have subscribed to my blog since 2011 will know that I am a ‘political animal’ and I love being involved in an election campaign. Our local MP, Louise Upston, is superb, one of the best MPs I’ve ever had and it is a pleasure to work for her. On a broader note I am a ‘Key person’, I think John Key rocks and I admire what the National party have achieved during the last six years. So, counting down to the scrap!!

There is some great TV on at the moment, real quality writing and it is maintaining the pressure as the series progress. “Resurrection”, “Under the Dome”, “The White Queen” and of course one day my very favourite, “Scandal” will return. Happy Days.

Cyber Bullying and Depression

With the death over the weekend of well-known social media commentator, broadcaster and former model, Charlotte Dawson, in Sydney, there has been much commentary about cyber bullying and depression.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be bullied on the internet. People say why didn’t she just stop reading her Twitter feed? Is it that easy? If people are talking about you, or to you, there is a strong compulsion to read it. I always marvel at actors or authors who say they ‘don’t read reviews.’ Really?? I love reading what people say about my writing and I learn far more from the criticism than I do from the raves. I have a special place in my heart for the reader who read 100 pages of “The Keeper of Secrets” and then threw it across the room because nothing happened. Dachau starts on page 109. But I DO agree that it is a bit slow to start and I have remedied that in the next book where there is death aplenty from early on.

Still, back to the subject. Social Media is a two-edged sword. Where else could I learn that Thomas Edison proposed to his wife using Morse code? Or read about President Obama’s favourite salted caramel chocolates? My Twitter feed is full of fascinating morsels of information that I didn’t know I needed to hear. And Facebook is a fairly innocuous place for me. People don’t react to what I write, but then it isn’t of an inflammatory nature. But I do read some pretty nasty stuff on other feeds at times. I follow John Key’s Facebook page. He is our Prime Minister and I happen to think he is a fine fellow and is, by and large, doing a very good job. But there are posters who react to everything he says with a barrage of personal insults that have nothing to do with the subject. In my humble opinion the only person who looks like ‘all those adjectives they use’ is themselves. Key is a public figure, as Dawson was, and unfortunately, if you lift your head above the parapet some uneducated idiot will take a shot at it.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE informed, robust political debate. I am a political animal. My favourite TV programmes (by a country mile) are the American political dramas and I love election year. But for goodness sake, debate the issues, use intelligent opinion not expletives which just make you look inarticulate, and stand for something. No-one should waste a second reading the opinions of people who just knock for the sake of knocking. Tell me you have an answer to our problems and I will listen to you all day.

The other subject that Dawson’s death raises is depression. What a massive word that is. What a world of emotion and pain and despair it represents. People who have never battled it, or watched someone they love battle it, have no idea what it means. Seventeen years ago I was diagnosed with a falling oestrogen level and a hormonally induced problem. Instead of being given anti-depressants, I was prescribed Oestrogen tablets. The only thing that caused was fibroids and unbelievable pain and a period that lasted twenty-five days every month. Several months later, at the age of 40, I had a hysterectomy and my life was transformed.

However, I continued to suffer from black ‘clouds.’ They would descend, I could literally feel them coming. There was nothing I could do about them and I would cry quietly and miserably until they lifted. Several times a day I would consider how best to kill myself and yet I had no real desire nor reason to. It was out of my control. For the most part I hid it well and got on with my every day life. Then in 2009 it would stay buried no longer. The tears were almost a constant companion. I would sit and watch TV, often with Mum in the room, and the tears would run out my eyes and into my hair as I lay on the sofa. I actually wrote suicide notes although I knew I could never do that to her.

One day, in desperation, I searched for Sir John Kirwan’s website. For those who don’t know John Kirwan was an All Black. He played rugby for New Zealand. He was a national hero. He also suffered from depression and some years ago he went public and worked with the health authorities to set up a website. There’s a questionnaire and I took it. I answered ‘yes’ to every question and the site told me to go to my GP. So I did and instead of saying, “I’m upset all the time” I could tell him that I had taken the survey on John Kirwan’s depression website. He whipped out a form and made me take it again. Then he looked at me in wonder because I’d never told him this before and he’d been my GP for years. He prescribed a low dose anti-depressant that I take every day. It took a little while to work. The black ‘cloud’ has never been back. If I cry it is because I have a reason to, something has moved me or upset me. I appreciate each day and never consider harming myself. I am a completely different person.

It is not a sign of weakness to seek help, to seek an answer. It takes courage and determination and an urge to make your life better. One visit to this website changed my life. If one person reads this blog and goes to the site as a result and it helps them, then the circle of support is continuing. It’s not a weakness, it’s just an illness.

A Winston Fly

So it is a lovely, sunny Sunday morning in Cambridge and we have a National government. Almost a ‘govern on your own’ government in an MMP environment. Yesterday was interesting, I sat and watched as the general populace of Leamington came out and voted. Old and young, men and women, wearing blue and wearing red. We were the only party with scrutineers out and, mostly, people were happy to see us. One man in a red T-shirt, red jacket and red woolly hat glared at me the whole time he was in the booth. Fab!

The day before we’d gone to the town square to meet the campaign bus and John Key. There was a bit of bedlam but on the whole it seemed very well organised and I got to shake his hand and tell him I was proud to work for the re-election of a National government. He looked right at me and thanked me. I also told him what a great job Louise is doing and he agreed with me. He remembered Mum and meeting her before. They had a joke about never being too old for politics. He seemed sincere and to be enjoying himself, he also looked very tired, which was to be expected.

My MP Louise Upston increased her majority dramatically and that is a personal endorsement for her. She has a long electorate geographically, it takes her over two hours to drive from one end to the other. She works extremely hard and is a well-known and a well-liked presence in the whole electorate. She is one of the talented, intelligent, down-to-earth, personable MPs coming up in the National Party. And she has a fantastic support staff around her.

SO…Greens did well, Act and United Future hung on with one pseudo-National MP each, Labour failed miserably, Maori party lost some seats and New Zealand First, well that’s almost beyond belief. Then I hear him spouting his racial hatred on the radio this morning and Mum says, “well I agree with that.” So that’s how he does it, he appeals to the inherently racist older voter. Charming.

The tea tape gave Winston traction and it lost Goff traction when he was trying to talk about policy. So I have a question. I wonder what was the political persuasion of the cameraman who left his device on the table in Epsom. I wonder if the outcome he was intending included the dramatic resurgence of New Zealand First at the expense of Labour?

It’s over and another three years beckon. They will be an extremely hard three years and who knows what other curve balls nature will throw at this wonderful country. But we have stable, intelligent and moderate government.  The only thing that depresses me today is that I will have to hear the buzzing of a really annoying fly in my ear on the TV, a negative fly called Winston.

That thing that cannot be mentioned

Today is election day and you are not allowed to make political statements. So I shall tell you that yesterday I went to Cambridge Town Square and met the man who is our Prime Minister, with many other of his supporters. I had made delicious shortbread to feed the scrutineers, and being me, I had made a dozen chocolate-chip shortbread cookies and iced them with a blue “N” in writing gel (photos coming) for the campaign bus. They were much appreciated. More about this tomorrow.

Today we are scrutineering and we aren’t allowed to talk to the voters but we can smile at them. I am doing a split shift 9 am till 1pm and then 4pm until the votes are counted. The booths are quite small here so it should be over by 8 or 8.30pm. I would urge you, if you live in New Zealand and you are enrolled, to go out and VOTE. And I do this for two reasons:

If you don’t vote, you forfeit your right to criticise the outcome and the government that is elected. This is your chance to have a say, why would you not take it? And secondly, think about all the places in the world where people would love to vote but don’t have the chance. Think about the people who have died protesting for the right to exercise a democratic right and experience freedom. Voting is one of the precious things we take for granted.

And another dilemma yesterday. Lucas and I were driving from school to home and discussing Christmas. We covered decorations and gingerbread cookies and the fact that Santa prefers cider to milk and Rudolph and waking up early and having presents under the tree. I thought the conversation was going quite well until the voice from the backseat said:  “So, is Santa real? Because I never see him.” Hhhmmm. Not my place. I said he was very busy visiting everyone and he manages it with magic. He seemed quite happy with that and went on to tell me his sweet tooth was wiggly and the tooth fairy would come and leave him 20cents! Ever since the dental nurse told him he has a sweet tooth, he’s been desperate to work out which tooth it is and whether it will be worth more money.

So off for an interesting day, I shall tell you all about it tomorrow, when there are no restrictions that my blog could break and the men in the white coats would come…some would say it was about time…

Occupying Campaign Buses and Wall Street

I like policy politics, I dislike personality politics. Yesterday we went on a cavalcade for the National Party. We decorated our car with blue and white ribbons and blue and silver tinsel and we joined our local MP, Louise Upston, her husband and two of her three kids and some other supporters. We drove around Cambridge and we stopped and became what is affectionately referred to as “Human Hordings.” We held up signs and waved to the passing traffic. We got lots of toots on car horns and waves and even some shouts of “go Louise!” Then  we got on this huge beautiful coach. It is blue and covered in slogans and pictures of John Key. We drove through gorgeous countryside to Putaruru and got off and did some more sign waving. Then we went on to Tokoroa and did some more. Then we came back with one of the lovely ladies involved in the campaign and chatted all the way home. She is doing the food for the workers on election day and I have the job of baking shortbread! Fab. Am already thinking of whether I shall do “N” shapes or ice them blue. Would you eat a shortbread with blue icing?

Anyway, Louise posted a lovely photo of herself with Jessica, her eight year old, on the bus, on her Facebook page last night. I saw how much the kids loved waving signs and how proud they are of their Mum. They were having an absolute blast all day. People started commenting on the photo and accusing her of using her kids to win votes etc. It got really nasty. And that is true of many posts on Facebook at the moment. People don’t comment on the merits, or otherwise, of party policy, they simply rip into anyone with different views. I find that very disheartening. I try not to criticise people I don’t know, particularly on a public forum. I think the way Winston Peters reappears at election time and fools people with his oratory and thinks he’ll hold the balance of power is odious, but I don’t make a personal comment on him, he might be very nice for all I know. I have no intention of ever finding out.

I did enjoy being a human hording. I waved a sign at people in cars and they tooted and waved back. I told the others I may continue to do it for the next six months and change my signs on a regular basis, just for fun.

Do you understand what the Occupy Wall Street protestors want? Any of the sit-in protests around the world? I don’t mean what they are protesting against. They don’t like corporates and bankers making all the money. They think the wealth of the world should be more evenly distributed. I’m sure the refugees in the Sudan would agree with them. But what do they want? For us not to use McDonald’s, Coke, Microsoft, Apple, Nike etc. ever again? Do they ever use iphones to take pictures of themselves ‘sitting in?’ Do the poor not eat McDonald’s or drink Coke? Should we take our money out of banks and put it under our mattresses? It is my understanding that the people at the top of the immense corporations do give away a huge amount of money, they just give to the very poor and the very sick, not the very lazy. I don’t see many lists of goals and positive ways to change the imbalance coming from the tents. No “be the change you want to see in the world” philosophy. If we fire all the CEOs of the banks and the corporations who will make the money to keep the economies of the world ticking over? If these companies collapsed what would happen to all the ordinary workers they employ?

Surely the difference between the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street is that the people who were willing to die for their cause knew what they wanted. They had a dream of what would replace what they despised. Perhaps I’m too much of a conservative to understand, or maybe I am just too old, maybe it is all a reaction to years of financial and political mayhem and everyone is frightened and bitter. Debate the policy, the problem, don’t attack the person. And learn to listen.

Clothes, tea cups and scandals

This morning, over breakfast, we were discussing shopping. Clothes shopping to be more precise. Mum said she can’t remember ever taking us shopping for clothes when we were kids. So maybe we wore newspapers? Maybe I grew up wearing the Auckland Star or the Eight O’Clock and for scandalous days, The Truth. She can’t remember us ever growing out of clothes, and yet we, obviously, did. She does remember when she was pregnant with me someone gave her a little dress and she hung it up on the mirror so she could see it every day. I wonder if science is aware of this method of influencing the sex of your unborn child?

I’ve never been a great one for clothes shopping, at times I would rather go to the dentist. In fact, she said, “you never shop for clothes.” That’s not true. I bought a T Shirt at Eddie Bauer’s in New York in 1995. I still wear it. It has no hem around the neck any more so it has become a boat neck, off the shoulder number. It’s a dark orange/burnt umber colour and it’s my “writing T shirt”, which means I wear it more than any other garment. I had two Club Med T Shirts in the 1990’s and I wore those until the holes were bigger than the material.

In London in 2009 I discovered the vintage shops on Brick Lane. Fantastic! Clothes that are old already and supposed to look like that. I got a pair of very high black and white shoes for £5 and when I want some danger in my life, I wear them out of the house. I have two pairs of jeans and one good black skirt and two jackets. What more does one woman need?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done the ‘dressing up and putting on makeup and going on parade in the office’ thing in my time but, fortunately, the industry in which I spent most of my working life was more used to jeans, sweatshirts and trainers. At home I sometimes write in my pyjamas and my writing T shirt. Lucas couldn’t care less what I wear as long as I can get down on the floor and play dinosaurs and he gets to climb all over me.

So maybe she didn’t buy us clothes and maybe we never learned to love clothes shopping. I can spend hours in book shops, the gift shops of museums and art galleries and at markets. I am renowned for my ability to buy well matched, thoughtful presents, but the key to that is more about buying in op shops and markets and squirreling it away for the right recipient. I’m not a retarded shopper, just a shocking clothes shopper.

Oh God, am I sick of this “Epsom tea-cup” saga? So John Key had a cup of tea with John Banks and some idiot cameraman “accidentally” left his radio mic on the table. Now the cameraman says his reputation has been tarnished, his reputation was tarnished the moment he didn’t erase the contents of the tape. Media outlets have shown their true colours and tried to ‘leak’ the contents. If it was explosive they would’ve published first and paid the fine later. It appears they said Brash is a bit of a fuddy-duddy and Winston Peters’s supporters are ancient, who knew??? What a revelation. Something that is said in private should stay private. End of story. I guess you can say it has sucked oxygen out of the campaign when Labour was trying desperately to look like it had policies worth voting for. But it has also given that odious man, Peters, a boost in the ratings and it has made Key look flustered and annoyed. Maybe it has made the election a little closer and little more colourful. At the end of the day does it matter whether National won by a landslide or merely a whole lot? We won the Rugby World Cup, we don’t say “We won the Rugby World Cup by a point.” The proof will be at the only poll that matters on November 26th and we will be celebrating.

John Key, National and the election

Hold on to your seats, peoples, today I am being political. Today I feel moved to blog about the election.

I grew up in a political household, as far back as I can remember my parents helped their local MP and were active on election day. Jim McClay, Don McKinnon, Paul East, Maurice Williamson. In the dim recesses of my memory I remember meeting Jack Marshall with Dad and I must have been very young. And Muldoon, back in the days when we all liked Muldoon. I remember being in Australia and it was my birthday and someone told us that Norm Kirk had died. So politics are kind of in my blood. When I read the letters Dad wrote home during the war, he expresses his desire to be involved, to create a better place, to make sure this never happens again. He would have made a good politician.

But on to the present. We moved to Cambridge and found it was in the Taupo electorate and our sitting MP is Louise Upston. We offered to help and we are. She’s a warm, intelligent, perceptive woman, with a quick wit and a strong interest in education. She has young children and works for a better country for them. I like her. People like her are the backbone of this country.

In my opinion the decision of the Labour party to leave Phil Goff off the billboards is a mistake. Yes, we vote on policy, but we need a face to that policy. We need to know the leadership will stand up and be counted when things get rough. And BOY have they been rough over recent months. We judge our leaders at election time. They need to be in front, leading by example, being Captain Courageous. We need to know that when our men die in a mine, our homes are shattered by earthquakes, our economy is buffeted by global thunderstorms and our men die serving their country, our leader will be there and will reassure us.

In past years I’ve struggled with my support of the party because I have struggled to connect with the leadership. Not any more. John Key rocks. IMHO. I like the man, the image he projects, his self-deprecating sense of humour and I like the way he connects with people. As I say, this is my opinion. I don’t expect you to necessarily agree with me.

 When I’ve seen him at crucial times in our damn difficult last 12 months as a country, I’ve seen sincerity and genuine emotion. The service for the Pike River miners made me cry, he lead us all in our grief. Then the February earthquake hit Christchurch and he spoke with calm confidence and reassurance but he felt it, as we all did. When I look at the world financial situation and the way it’s played out, some could call it a hospital pass. But on the whole we are doing OK. Our major trading partners are doing OK and I believe we have a steady hand, one with practical experience. And then of course, we became the Champions of the World at rugby and for one brief, shinning moment we could all relax and cheer.

There are other things he did which directly related to the industry I worked in, he saved The Hobbit. Sorry, but that made me very happy. Our incredibly talented film industry needed that series of films to be made here.

Yes, MMP does cause the Government to be hamstrung by the need to be in coalition and I do hope that people see it for what it is and vote against it next month. I think Supplementary Membership would be good. It would mean that the percentage of party vote a party gets will decide the percentage of list seats and a fewer number of list seats in the overall makeup of the parliament. List seats worry me, who do they represent? When there is a conscience vote who do they go back to and poll for opinions?

So I hope National get enough party votes to govern alone. I hope the faith that they place in us is repaid. I am proud to say I am a New Zealander, my country rocks at rugby and my Prime Minister is John Key.


Maurice Williamson, John Key and Christopher Doig

Another update about Mother’s dinner. It has been ‘suggested’ to me that I tell you about last night’s dinner, lamb shoulder chops cooked in a tin of tomato soup, lovely creamy mashed potatoes and peas with mint from our garden. Why? Because she cooked it. So she does cook dinner sometimes. Glad we cleared that one up.

Today we are going out to lunch. This is an unusual thing in our house and worth mentioning. We’re in the run-up to the general election and one of the National Ministers is visiting our electorate and it happens to be the Minister for Building, Maurice Williamson. So we’re going to lunch at a local cafe to have a chat to him. Which will be mildly amusing because he represents Pakuranga and that’s where we used to live and we used to be on his electorate committee a long time ago. So it’ll be a bit of a catch-up, which may impress the other members of Louise’s re-election committee. He used to be Transport Minister so it will be interesting to get his take on the Rena.  He’s a consummate politician and he was a good and helpful electorate MP.

Speaking of the election, I like John Key. I haven’t been tremendously inspired by any of the recent National leaders. I didn’t agree with Helen Clarke’s policies, but I did like what she did for the arts in New Zealand. Some of her decisions directly impacted on my life as a TV producer. But I was very glad when her government was defeated. As a rule I do not agree with ‘nanny state’. John Key is extraordinarily popular in this country and no matter what natural disasters and economic pitfalls we go through, he just keeps on standing with us and reassuring us that he “has this.” I trust him, I believe in his genuine sincerity and I understand that he’s had to make difficult policy compromises because that is the nature of MMP.  When he saved The Hobbit movie I felt moved to email him and tell him that it was a great day for the film industry (I was a part of it at the time) and that he “rocked” and his private secretary replied and said he liked that comment. We ‘follow’ each other on twitter. I am happy that he is my PM and I hope, very much, that National will get enough votes to govern in their own right. THEN we will see some policies pushed through to make this country strong.

Chris Doig was farewelled yesterday and I saw some of the service on the news. Over 1000 people attended. If I’d been in Christchurch I would have gone, as it was all I could do was pause and remember him. It looked like it was a service that did justice to the man he was. His granddaughter and daughter sang an operatic duet, his son played guitar and sang. Another son spoke about sitting wide-eyed in the audience of opera houses around the world as a child. Barry Maister talked about the unusual combination of artistic genius and exceptional business man who was Chris Doig. The photo on the screen behind them was one of him sitting in the audience and applauding Placido Domingo the week before his death. Beautiful picture, beautiful man.

Haven’t heard from anyone about trialling and reviewing a tablet device, just saying. Downloads of “Our Father’s War” up to 219. And the Big Blanket Project is growing at the rate of about three squares a day. Got about 20 balls of wool for $10 the other day, all different shades and textures. I will post a picture tomorrow. Got a hair cut, what can I say, my hair is shorter, I no longer look like an Old English sheepdog. Not that that was a bad thing.

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