November 2022

29 Nov Happy 90th Birthday to the NZ Woman’s Weekly

Published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 28 November 2022


There is every chance that in 1934, when my grandmother was pregnant with my mother and visiting the doctor, there was a copy of the NZ Woman’s Weekly in the waiting room.

The magazine would have been 2 years old then and surely already a staple of waiting spaces. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been in a waiting room without a NZ Woman’s Weekly in it, except maybe during the early part of this pandemic when we weren’t allowed to touch things, and possibly the odd corporate foyer where they’d prefer you to have a go at enjoying their latest annual report. There’s nothing like a group photo of the Board of Executives, most of whom are named “John”, to have you hankering for some celebrity gossip and a new recipe for eggplant.

So I like the thought of this magazine being there for Grandma right at the very beginning of my mother’s life.  Certainly by the time I came along the Weekly was a constant in our lives. Recent copies would be stacked neatly in my grandmother’s living room magazine rack, while the latest was close by with a cup of tea. Any number of back issues could be found in the sunporch at my Great-Aunt Ruth’s – a terrific way to while away a rainy school holiday afternoon.

It is inside these pages that I first saw the Royal Family in colour (our TV only provided black & white images because I am very old) and I marvelled at their matching dress-coat-hat ensembles in thrilling pastel shades. The ladies of our town tended towards black for church, maybe a wild splash of navy.

I would try my hand at the crosswords and quizzes, and read Letters to the Editor that were rather more glass-half-full than the ones published in the Levin Chronicle. People who wrote to the newspaper mostly pointed out how badly someone had got things wrong, but these letters to the magazine were from people who said they’d enjoyed reading a thing, or felt that way, too, or had another story to share.

When you’re little, celebrities get mixed up with other people you’ve heard of but haven’t yet met. The name “Jean Wishart” was so familiar, I thought it belonged to an actual family friend, not the famous stranger who edited the Weekly from 1952 to 1984. She lived in a corner of my mind with Aunt Daisy who I initially assumed was a distant relative of my Dad’s.

My mother, who took her fashion seriously, subscribed to English Vogue which she picked up monthly from our local bookstore. But in between she’d collect my grandmother’s Weekly and wasn’t above giving it a jolly good onceover before dropping it round to hers.

When it briefly looked like we’d lost the Weekly in 2020, I heard a man describe it as “a women’s magazine” in a way that suggested a magazine for women was less important than a magazine for people (men). Rude. It has been one of the few places we have always been able to read our own stories over the last 90 years.

I also heard this man say, “I don’t know anyone who reads it”. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. I leave my copies in the magazine rack in my living room, and my daughter and granddaughter will occasionally pounce on them for celebrity gossip and local news, and maybe this column.

Five generations over 90 years. Happy Birthday to us, and many more.

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21 Nov What You Learn on Your Day Off

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 21.11.22


There is a moment in each holiday when you can feel like maybe this whole relaxation thing is just too stressful and you’re tempted to give up and put your work pants back on.

I almost pulled the plug on this mini break away before it even started. (As I write this I can wriggle my toes and feel the sand stuck between them so, spoiler alert, I made it in the end.) I had a job booked up north – one night only – and decided to go earlier and stay later to do… well, nothing at all. Sleep, read, walk, eat, stare at things.

I can tell when I am nearing burn-out. The voice in my head (the one we all have with that endless running commentary) turns into a right cow. I’ll be in the shower in the morning, minding my own business, and she’ll be all, “You shouldn’t have done that, you’re stupid, and also everyone is stupid and also mean, and I bet nothing goes right today, see, shampoo in your eye, typical.” And it takes a fair bit of energy to shush her which is a pity because you’re short on energy which is how she got in that mood.

So a little break away, a change of scene, waking up without an alarm seemed a sensible idea. But all efforts to clear my agenda for a couple of days were thwarted and the day before I packed my bag I realised I’d also have to pack my laptop, a box of research notes and a long To Do list with deadlines attached. Maybe just cancel the motel and stay home where I keep the stationery and the coffee? Also, the cat had seen my suitcase and he looked sad.

But I pushed on and I can tell you that ten minutes out of the city I felt my shoulders drop, and 30 minutes into the 3 hour trip I was singing and grinning, two of my favourite things.

There is something about geographical distance from the location of your usual routine that makes even routine things feels a bit sparkly. I can look up from my GST spreadsheet, see the ocean and listen to the waves for a minute, and the association of these things makes totting up the columns almost a joy.

All the work feels fun – the gig for a roomful of lawyers, even my business emails have a certain joie de vivre.

I’ve also had one of my epiphanies.

On other holidays, once I’ve relaxed, slowed down, noticed how bright the colours are and begun to feel time as something vast and full of choices, I’ve tried to sort of … bottle that feeling. “Remember this when you get home,” I’ve thought, “take this holiday feeling with you, try to live this deliberately and with this much pleasure all the time.”

But of course, you go back into your old routine. Which is when your internal monologue will grab a chance in the shower to suggest you’re a failure, that you’ve let the magical holiday feeling slip through your hands.

But of course it has – it isn’t possible to live like you’re on holiday when you’re not. Instead, it is enough to feel it mindfully at the time, to know you are capable of relaxing into yourself when you get the chance – for a week, or a day, or even an afternoon.

Heading home now to plan the next one.


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14 Nov Look Out, You’re Doing It!

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 14.11.22


There was a trip when I was about 7 to Wellington’s State Opera House. If you haven’t been there, you should put it on your list. It was then, and is again now, “a grande dame of a théatre” (it helps if you say that whole phrase with a French accent). Crisp black and white tiles, red velvet, gold paint. If it were a lady, she would smell of face powder and wear a beauty spot on her cheek. Possibly have a little lipstick on her teeth.

We had driven from Levin to see a ballet – I don’t remember which one. This is one of those things parents do when their kid has taken up a thing – ballet, kapa haka, rugby, piano – you take them to watch the pros doing it properly to inspire them, show them how good this thing can be at its best.

Our seats were in the gods – way, way at the back and up so high I thought if leant too far forward I would fall on the people in the front row. (I’ve been up there as an adult and it doesn’t feel at all like that, which is one of the disappointing things about being an adult.)

My sudden desire then was not to become a dancer, or even about spending my life dressing up and going to shows. The startling thought was that I wanted to see all this the other way round – from the stage, looking out. That, I felt sure, was the better view.

And it is. Bang on, seven-year-old me. I think of her – not just when I get to work on that particular stage, though then for sure – and I tell her I think it’s cool to know where you want to stand and which way you want to face so early in your life.

I used to think it was weird that a) I wanted that, and b) knew I wanted that. But I can see now that we all have these moments of clarity, of yearning to be in the thing – part of it, not watching it. For all of us there will be a job, or a side hustle, or a skill you want to learn, a place you want to live, the family you want to build, or the kind of person you want to be. You will have felt an instant of recognition when you saw it and thought, “There it is, that’s the thing. I want to be inside that picture, not looking at it.”

And so there are two magical moments to be celebrated when you meet them – one is knowing that you’ve spotted a future you would like, and the other is knowing you’ve got there.

It’s that second one especially you need to keep a weather eye out for in case you miss it. It can be like learning to ride a bike – finding your balance feels impossible, and you’re terrified, and then at some point the person holding you lets go but you don’t notice until someone shouts, “You’re doing it!” and you realise that you are.

See also: swimming, driving a car, learning a second language, becoming a parent, graduating, meditating, and getting a job. At some point either someone will shout from the sidelines – or even better, you will notice yourself – that this thing you wanted to do? You’re doing it.


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09 Nov On the Pain (and Sometimes Pleasure) of “Waiting”

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 7.11.22


Waiting – the act of hanging about in some degree of limbo – is rarely described in positive terms. Even the rooms set aside expressly for this purpose are mostly sad affairs – bad art, out-of-date magazines, uncomfortable chairs and an even less comfortable silence. When was the last time you stepped into a waiting room and thought, “Wow, I hope I get to be here for ages”?

Of course, in these spaces we can be waiting for potentially bad news. Sometimes you don’t know how worried you’ve been until you find out that everything is fine. There was a scan a few weeks ago that I’d thought I was totally relaxed about until I got the all-clear. At which point I drove home, cancelled that evening’s plans, collapsed on the couch and had a jolly good cry.

Where, I thought between sobs, were these sobs coming from? The news was good! But there must have been more anxiety humming in the background over those days between test and results than I’d been conscious of. How weird was I?

Not so weird – you’ve probably felt it, too. Last week there was a wonderful text from my friend who had experienced exactly this – a level of relief about good news that showed just how much she had dreaded something bad. She was texting now from under her duvet.

So there is anxious waiting, but we can forget there are other kinds, some of which are delicious. I’ve always liked the bit between exams (of the academic kind) and the posting of results. A golden period after the work, but before the judgement. There’s a chance it went well, so you can choose to imagine it has. Or at least try that choice on and see how it feels before the dread sneaks back in.

I have felt that kind of delicious waiting again in recent years during the spell between writing a book and releasing it into the wild. Again, it’s a golden time when your work is done, your deadline has been met, but no one has read it yet and it feels like a secret. Might be a good secret, no?

Ditto for opening night of a new show. That pause after the creation and before the reviews come in is when you can imagine a world where what you created is good because no one has told you yet that it’s not. As waiting rooms go, that’s a fine place to loiter.

I think of this kind of “waiting” when I’m hosting an awards night for a business or community group and at the start of the night you look out at a room filled who people who have been nominated for something special, and they are wearing a thing that’s fancy and also new, and there is the possibility for each of them that they’ll hear their name called.

There are other kinds of waiting, too. Not for “results” for but for events on a calendar, like Xmas or the return of someone we love – happy anticipation. Or when you’ve been asked to keep a secret about something really good, and waiting feels like tucking a little treasure into your pocket for later. Or the wait can be less patient when it is for things we need like money (the cheque’s in the mail, mate).

And we wait for babies to arrive, which involves a little of all the above. And almost as soon as they’re here, we start teaching them how to wait, with patience.


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