September 2022

22 Sep Why You Should Borrow NZ Books at Your Library…

Yesterday I did a really lovely interview with Kate Hursthouse of the Creative Mother podcast (have a look here – my episode will be up later but there is plenty to keep you happy there already The Creative Mother podcast) and Kate mentioned she was reading my book, “Stuff I Forgot To Tell My Daughter” – and then went on to remind me what was in it because it is 7 years since I wrote it and I needed a nudge.


It also reminded me that, while the book isn’t it stores anymore, it is in libraries all over New Zealand and every time someone checks it out, I get a little bit of money. It is this wonderful thing we do here – it’s called the Public Lending Right for New Zealand Authors scheme – which is a pot of money shared amongst writers according to how often their books are checked out of libraries. We get a bank deposit each December and somehow it is always a surprise, and it always arrives at just the right time. (I mean, there isn’t a wrong time to get free money, but Christmas is good.)


So this is a little note that a thing you can do to support writers in Aotearoa is to borrow their books at the library. Read them, too, obviously. But just checking them out helps us, too.

Stuff I Forgot to Tell My Daughter 

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18 Sep Waiting For The Queen

Published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 3.10.22


There is a photo I love of the Queen’s visit to New Zealand in 1954. The Queen is not in the photo. It is a picture of my parents waiting to see her outside the Wellington Town Hall. This was before they were married, before they were even engaged. You can look at this photo and know without being told that they are courting. You’d be hard pressed to find a two pairs of eyes with more sparkle…

John and Donna must have arrived early – there is only one person visible behind them on the temporary seating which would be crowded soon. My mother is 19, cute as a button, short black hair in waves, sophisticated earrings, a good coat (even in January the Wellington wind can be chilly), and a smile definitely not just for the photo, though she knows the camera is there because she is looking right into the lens.

My father is 24, and dressed immaculately in a double-breasted suit with a perfectly knotted tie – doubtless silk since at this point he is working for the Sander Tie Company and suits, shirts and silk ties are things he takes very seriously, and would continue to for the rest of his life. Even in this black and white photo you can tell his eyes are blue. His shoulder is touching my mother’s and she is leaning into him a little. They are both eating plums which I know are in a paper bag on her lap out of frame because she would tell me that each time I pulled this picture out of the box of family photos when I was growing up and we had those sorts of afternoons.

The Queen and Prince Philip had spent Christmas 1953 and the New Year in New Zealand, travelling to 46 towns and cities, visiting Waitangi, and opening Parliament in January which is probably when my parents waited for them with their plums.

Elizabeth was 27 years old and had been Queen only a short time – a job she had not expected, but which became hers after the abdication of her uncle and the early death of her father. When they talked about her – my grandmother, my great-aunt and my mother – they spoke admiringly of the way she had risen to the occasion. This aspect of life – playing the hand you are dealt with grace – was not unknown to these women either.

My parents would see the Queen again in 1974, this time up close. To thank them for their voluntary work when New Zealand hosted the Commonwealth Games there was an invitation to a royal garden party. No actual introductions were made but it was reported the fare was fancier than plums out of a paper bag.

I have a King George V Coronation mug from 1911, given to my grandmother in Oldham – every kid got one filled with sweets – and there’s another celebrating his Sliver Jubilee 25 years later. That’s it for royal memorabilia, though I have vivid recall of a book my grandmother gave me about the Royal Family – colour photographs of golden carriages and crowns, with Charles and Anne as children.

Later, my mother and I would become Team Diana, and later still would watch “The Crown” as though it were a documentary, and discuss the international politics and family dynamics, and I loved these spirited chats near the end of my mother’s life.

Still now, my favourite photo of my parents is the moment they are waiting for the Queen, eating plums.




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11 Sep Old Dog Learns New Trick

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 19.9.22


One of the great things about getting older is that you’ve been around long enough to know a lot of things. Mostly what you know is there’s a lot you still don’t know. This is delightful.

I am also learning new things about myself. I had thought I was a visual rather an aural person which makes sense for someone who has been hearing impaired since childhood – my eyes were always more reliable than my ears and have done a top job of lip-reading my way through life.

Certainly when it comes to understanding ideas and retaining them, I have always been the kind of person who absorbed information best by seeing it written down. Show me, my brain says, don’t tell me.

And for committing it to memory I’ve always handwritten lists of anything from the shopping to what I am going to talk about on stage because something in the act of getting my hand and eyes involved in the process of planning and remembering helps commit it to memory.

But now it seems I am not an either/or on the visual/oral spreadsheet, but a little of Column A with a bit from Column B.

Like everyone else, I worry about memory. Any time I forget someone’s name or reach for a word and can’t find it, I fret about this being an early sign of something serious that can’t be fixed by an early night and more fish oil.

Though it is comforting to recall with crystal clarity that I have always been dreadful at remembering people’s names, even when I was 23. Something to do, apparently, with being too stressed about how a new person perceives me for the correct part of my brain to calmly and politely file away information about them. Honestly, being a people-pleaser is not at all useful when it comes to pleasing people by remembering their name.

Nevertheless, I am so keen on keeping forgetfulness at bay that I’ve adopted a daily regime of brain exercises which work a treat whenever I remember to do them.

And then this thing about being visual rather than aural got a second think recently. I was sitting on my yoga mat at the beginning of a class, attempting to join in the meditative chant which you can either read from laminated cards or follow along by listening then repeating.

There was a brief moment of mild panic as I sat in sukhasana and realised I could neither see the words without my glasses nor hear the chant clearly without my hearing aid – neither of which I take into the yoga studio.

Was I usually an aural or a visual learner, my teacher had asked? Once I would have confidently replied, “Visual” but it occurred to me this has changed – now it is “both”. I need to see the words to understand, then need to hear them to imbed them in my memory.

Which is why over the past few weeks while I’ve been learning scripts for a drama, I’ve adopted what is, for me, a new approach. Turns out my favourite way to memorise a scene of dialogue has been to voice-record it and then both listen and read – simultaneously at first, then without the pages, then without the recording, and finally just from memory.

So the answer to whether I am a visual or aural person is that now I am both. Old dog learns new trick. Highly recommended.


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11 Sep Shushed At The Ballet

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 12.9.22


A couple of weeks ago, we were shushed at the ballet. I say “we”, but really it was me rather than my daughter and granddaughter who was asked to tone it down by the pre-teen sitting beside us.

It took a long moment for me to register that a child really was telling a nana (not her nana) to calm down at a Saturday afternoon matinee. The upside-down-ness of this (was she going to send me to my room?) felt so bizarre it had, if anything, the opposite effect. Did I dial down my applause at the end of the next truly fabulous pas de deux? Sit mutely with hands folded neatly in my lap? Did I heck. There was additional whooping.

We don’t really talk about how to be an audience. People train for years to be on the stage, but there are no classes about how to sit and watch what happens on it.

We know we love sharing these experiences of watching something together rather than alone – a movie is more fun in a cinema than on our couch at home. But the rules? Mostly we wait till someone violates our unwritten code of decent audience conduct and let them know with a look or a shush that they’ve gone too far.

Though sometimes the code is written. That afternoon, for example, we’d noted signs at the doors of the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre asking people to open their ice creams before taking their seats so the rustle of wrappers en masse didn’t drive everyone crazy.

At the Village Vanguard in New York, patrons are explicitly informed when they buy their ticket that there is to be no finger-clicking, clapping or even swaying to the jazz performed each night. It is a still and serious room, a very different experience from jazz in New Orleans, where your whole body is invited to respond.

Modern tradition is that you don’t applaud between movements at the symphony. This can be desperately embarrassing for a novice. “Look! Here I am! I’ve never been here before!” Though how lovely to have people discovering live classical music, right? It’d be great if the response, instead of dagger-eyes, was, “Welcome! We will all clap soon, too! We’ll show you in a minute!”

We have agreed to no phone calls or texts at movies and live shows – people break those rules, but we know we have some. We don’t seem to have agreed on the manners involved in filming stadium-sized music gigs but we do have regulations about not recording most other live events. At Chris Rock’s recent show, this was strictly enforced – they took everyone’s phone off them at the doors and locked them away.

My rules go like this: If you’re going to talk, it must be about what’s on stage, but if someone is talking on stage, don’t talk at all. Laughing and applauding, however, are what a performer lives for, so please do that. I’ve been in a comedy show when someone has shushed someone for laughing “too much”, and that’s just weird. Honestly, I got out of bed that day to hear that laugh.

And if people are dancing and there’s a live orchestra, and you’re not going to bother any of them by explaining a bit to your 8-year-old or whooping at a particularly magnificent moment, then please, express your joy. No one should get into trouble for having fun at the ballet.


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