May 2022

19 May On Penguins, Buttons and That Parallel Universe We Dream Of

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 23.5.22


There is a job going that caught my eye – they’re looking for staff to run the “Penguin Post Office” in Antarctica and if you’ve seen a more evocative “Situations Vacant” I’d like to hear about it.

I’ve been picturing smartly dinner-suited penguins waddling about under crisp blue skies, some of them (and I know this is not what really happens) wearing leather satchels slung across their little bodies, full of mail to be delivered. I’ve even allowed myself to imagine them wearing deliveryman caps.

Really, the Penguin Post Office in Port Lockroy is run by humans – they need three – and it involves less cute cartoon glamour than the sign over the door suggests. Shared sleeping quarters for the trio, no running water and the average temperature is minus 5 degrees. There is also no internet access or cellphone coverage (so a couple of pluses there, depending on your mood) but it gets a lot of visitors each season of both human and penguin variety.

I mention it because, with autumn reaching its last mellow days, we can find ourselves melancholic and possibly imagining other lives. I’m not wanting to speak for you, but I find it’s A Thing – possibly even more so now. Two years of living with Covid has made us tired, scratchy, bewildered, frustrated, impatient, sad and cross – sometimes by turn, sometimes all of that at once.

We have not only been imagining new lives and jobs, we’ve actually gone and done it – in sufficient numbers for it to be known as, “The Great Resignation”. Having pondered what really matters, and grasped that life is both uncertain and short, we’ve been chucking in jobs we quietly hated and looking for something meaningful.

One of my favourite family dinners was years ago when one of us, no idea who, asked what we might have been if we’d had a parallel life. My mother’s choice – a lexicologist, devoted to studying the meaning and uses of words – was not exactly a surprise, but that the answer came so quickly and was described with such clarity was… interesting. It is always good to be reminded that the people in your life have whole other lives inside them.

Back then, I fancied living my parallel life as a criminal psychologist – a romantic notion based on watching too much TV. But now – pandemic weary – my dream has changed.

I would like to own a button shop. There’d be a bell on the door, and shelves stocked with glass jars of colourful, intricate, surprising, delicate, shiny buttons. All the types – shank, flat, toggle – and all with charm.

There are reasons for my button love. Mountains of shiny buttons at my parents’ clothing factory entranced me as a kid, but there is also a very early, very vivid memory of a set of light blue shank buttons with painted white swans on some childhood ensemble that had me mesmerised. A pretty picture on a button, and look! There were three!

Add to that a lifetime of knowing you can make any garment better by giving it better buttons and why wouldn’t you want to make it your business to help people find something matching, contrasting, subtle, elegant, or playful? To make a tiny change that makes something beautiful.

Which might sound crazy until you think that, right now, there are people actually applying to work at the Penguin Post Office in Antarctica. Dream big, I say.


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19 May Wordle Is A Six Letter Word, But Razor Fits

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 16.5.22


A thousand years ago, when I lived in Wellington and worked out at Avalon studios, I could get up in the morning, dress, catch a bus to the railway station and take the train out to the Hutt Valley before I was entirely awake. I seem to remember the goal was to wake up properly around Naenae. If you left it till the Taita station, it was a long walk back.

Sleepwalking your commute is quite a skill, and I was impressed with myself at the time. This ability to throw myself headfirst into the day and get things done before I was fully conscious was like simultaneously getting up early and sleeping in. Doubt that I could do it now, and honestly don’t want to since I discovered the joy of slow mornings.

Easing into the day is a new favourite thing since the opportunity presented itself. I had to wait, of course, for my early-rising child to become a sleeping-in teen and then fly the nest to try it.

It means I enjoy mornings more than a night owl like me might expect. Even when I need to be somewhere at dawn now, I will set the alarm extra early so I have time to move slowly and give my mind a moment to fully return to my body after a busy night of dreaming.

Everything flows better when you have a ritual. Mine involves grinding beans and letting coffee brew while I read something inspirational, delete unnecessary emails, and slide into the day’s Wordle.

I was late to the word game – my contrarian nature means I resist the thing everyone is bubbling about until it has gone off the boil. (I have yet to see a single episode of Game of Thrones but could start it any day.) I also have an addictive personality and lost some of the 1980s to video games but, with only one Wordle released each day, this felt low risk. (Yes, I’ve found the archives but my will remains strong.)

The best games teach us something about ourselves. Wordle is teaching me – reminding me, really – to embrace the Principle of Parsimony. You know the one – the Occam’s Razor theory which says if there are a range of explanations, go with the simplest one first.

I love words, and I know heaps of them, so if you ask me to think of one, I will go for the prettiest and rarest. Wordle, however, reminds us daily that if there is an animal clopping around in the backyard, it is wiser to assume the 5-letter word you are looking for is ‘horse’, not ‘zebra’.

This is the advice I gave my daughter when I introduced her to the game last week. That it is a game of probabilities and strategy, rather than a test of how many cool words you know. Though every now and then they’ll chuck in a zebra just to keep you on your hooves.

It gave us a chance to talk about how she and I have a tendency to presume things are more complicated than they are, and to worry about worst case scenarios when, more often than not, everything turns out for the best – especially if you can stay relaxed enough to be open to right answer.

Relaxed, or maybe try Wordle while sleepwalking your commute? Assuming you’re on public transport, of course.

Now that we’ve nailed Occam’s Razor, I’m looking forward to watching a movie with her and discussing Chekhov’s Gun.

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18 May Comedy For A Cure

I’m an ambassador for Breast Cancer Cure – a charity that raises funds for research into breast cancer – and for the first time we’re putting on a comedy show (plus dinner) and I get to play with two legends, Justine Smith and Jeremy Elwood. It will be a wild night! Really looking forward to being in a room filled with people who care about boobs as much as I do.

And you can get your tickets here: Comedy For A Cure

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09 May “Future You” Thinks You Look Hot

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 9.5.22


There are some glorious things about this business of getting older. Obviously, there is the satisfaction of Not Being Dead Yet which, looking back on some of the risks and choices you may have made at various points, can come with equal parts surprise and relief.

There is also the letting-go of our youthful anxieties. At some point, we stop worrying about things that really don’t matter and relax into being “who we are”.

Like many women who aren’t Elle Macpherson, I might have had issues once about not being Elle Macpherson. But once you’ve had a baby, collected various surgical scars and read about what’s happening in the Ukraine, being five-foot-two and shaped more like a cello than a flute seems small potatoes. And I like potatoes.

I’m never sure if this eventual self-acceptance is about being a grown-up and achieving genuine satisfaction or whether, after enough years raising kids and making a living, women my age get comfortable with ourselves because we’re just too tired to give a crap anymore. Whichever it is, it’s nice to be here.

Which is not to say I don’t sometimes wake up to a Bad Face Day. This is like a Bad Hair Day except the lack of springiness and volume is to do with stuff like jowls and eye bags, and cannot be easily resolved with a poof of dry shampoo and a hat. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m explaining it – you’ve either woken up to a Bad Face Day or you haven’t, and if it’s the latter I’m sorry to be the one to alert you to the phenomenon. May it never happen to you and I wish you all the best.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, I have a Bad Face Day hack. It occurred to me while looking at old photos from back when I thought I looked haggard and lumpy, but now realise I was, in fact, pretty bloody gorgeous.

There is this remarkable thing we do in the present which is to focus on the things we don’t like about ourselves – early on it might have been pimples, a bad haircut, naff clothes, or not being as fit as we were trying to be. Simultaneously, we forget to be aware of the glorious things we have going for us. We can see this when we look back at old photos and all we can see is the youth and joy, the courage to wear that crazy thing, and the friends and adventures we were having.

In my 40s, I looked at photos taken in my twenties and wondered what on earth Previous Me had been so neurotic about – she looked fabulous! (I mean, with exceptions – there was a metallic bubble skirt we will not speak of.) My 40-something-self wished nostalgically for a little of her smooth skin and verve.

Now I look at the photos from my forties and again wonder what on earth she was worried about. I am surprised at how fit she looks – she often didn’t feel it – but there she is being adventurous and occasionally even a little bit glamorous, and I wonder why I didn’t always feel as good as that looks.

And so this is what I am attempting – to appreciate Current Me the way Future Me will when she looks back at this moment. The eye-twinkle, the wry grin, the great frock I love wearing, and the other people in the frame.


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07 May For Mother’s Day (and those dreams you have after they’re gone)

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 2.5.22


Sometimes I have an overwhelming urge to invite my mother to dinner. It’s a thought that arrives and quite gets away on me – I am planning the menu and making lists of stories I want to tell and questions I want to ask before I remember she’s not with us anymore and hasn’t been for three years.

I say this not to be maudlin, or for sympathy or any of that nonsense. As we reach a certain age (I have reached a certain age) not having your mother still alive is, as my mother often said, the natural way of things. Grieving your mother is part of our own ageing process.

Certainly, no one wants it to be round the other way, to outlive your children – my mother was very firm about that and I find I am equally firm on this point, too.  My preference is for us all to die when it is our turn, in a tidy consecutive order. I appreciate we don’t get to choose but, if we could, let it be known this is how I’d like it arranged.

This thing, though, of continuing for years to forget someone is dead is not something we talk about that much. It is understood and accepted, I think, at the beginning of the grief process. The mind takes ages to adjust. We wake up in the morning and there are a few precious seconds before you remember someone is gone, and you don’t know if you treasure those glorious moments of forgetting more than you hate the next shock of remembering. Helluva trade off.

But I’m not sure anyone warned me I would keep forgetting forever. That I will see something she would love and almost buy it, and pick up the phone because I have a story I know she would love. Though I can still hear her voice (I can hear it in the way I’ve shaped many of these sentences) even if she can no longer hear mine.

I often dream that she is still alive – that both of them are, my mum and my dad – and some of the dreams are like a French farce because in the dream we don’t know we’re dreaming and we’re all a bit shocked they’re suddenly alive again, and there’s a bit of, “Don’t tell your father, he’ll want me to cook,” and we’re embarrassed that we’ve put everyone to the trouble of funerals, and my mother and I dread having to explain.

My favourite dreams are the ones where we all know – me and them, too – that they’re dead, and they’re just visiting my imagination. My father is usually young in these dreams and slower to cotton on but, when he remembers he’s dead, he cheerfully dives deep into a pond and swims off to another world. My mother and I watch him go and smile at each and other and say, “Bless”.

When I get the urge to tell my mother a story, send a photo, or check in to see how she is, I’ve learned to sit with that pang of sadness, and then I turn around and tell the story to my daughter.

Of course, not everyone has a daughter, or a mother to celebrate this Mother’s Day. But we all come after someone, and there is always someone coming next. I hope this Mother’s Day you find yourself happily in the middle with a story you want to tell.


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05 May My Brand New Podcast – Women & Money

I am very excited about hosting a brand new podcast about women and money – how to get some, and what to do with it to make it grow.

Because here’s the thing – women are really good with money once we get our hands on it. Though we are given the impression we aren’t in subtle and unsubtle ways. (See: men “buy” which sounds important, women “shop” which sounds frivolous.)

So in these 5 episodes I talk to a bunch of women and hear their stories about their relationship with money. We talk about how we’re taught not to talk about money, the shame and embarrassment of debt plus how to get out from under it, about how hot compound interest is, how sexy it is to invest, and about how disappointing the patriarchy is.

You can listen to it on a range of platforms and there is a link to them all on my Dates page. Here’s a run down of what is in the episodes with links: PowerMoneySecurity – news story

And here’s some more background to it all: Ensemble Magazine

Let’s all get rich!

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