January 2023

23 Jan Chucking It Out There – the joy of an inorganic rubbish collection

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 23.1.23


Round my way, we have an annual “inorganic rubbish collection”. Not every town or city is lucky enough to get these, and I feel sorry for people who don’t experience this circus-has-come-to-town thrill.

When I first moved here, it was even flasher. Back then, each neighbourhood was designated one week a year when they could put all the things they didn’t want – a fridge, a lounge suite, a cathode ray TV – out near the road and, at some point, a truck would come and take it all away.

Take away what was left, that is. Because as the inorganic collection date moved around the city, so would people looking for interesting, useful, even re-sellable things amongst the piles on neighbourhood berms. It became a kind of Market Day, when everything was free so long as you could haul it off.

Shy shoppers would go for a stroll of an evening, casually poking through mounds with a curious toe, while more brazen hunters cruised the streets in utes and vans, gloved-up and not pretending to do anything but forage for bargains.

It’s not quite the same these days. Each household gets a short window to book a personal inorganic collection which may take up no more than a metre square tucked inside your gate. So it’s less social, less “on display”, and you miss out on that one glorious week when an entire neighbourhood looked like either a bazaar or a bombsite, depending on your view.

My cousin in Spain tells me a similar thing happens in his village all the time, but without the truck coming round. On a designated day you put out the armchair or the bed you no longer want and, whoever needs it, takes it. Though if it’s still there at dusk, it’s your responsibility to bring it back in.

Effectively, it’s a second-hand store without a middle-person involved and no money changing hands. And cute, apparently, to have dinner at your neighbour’s sometime and sit at the table you once had at your place.

Being offered a date for an inorganic pick-up was the motivation I needed to finally go through Dad’s shed. It’s nearly six years since he died, so it’s fair to say I haven’t rushed things.

Inside were tired brooms and garden stuff, plus two sets of drawers filled with what are now rusty nails, stiff paint brushes, bits of old rope and quite the selection of sandpapers.

To this, we added two bent scooters, four worn-out garden chairs, a 40-year-old food processor and some old containers we used to hold the smaller, rusty things. It was a mad scramble to keep it all together because foragers kept taking the containers, leaving scattered nails. One of the scooters was rescued which made the remaining one look even more broken and sad.

I felt the food processor needed an explanatory note – I wanted anyone looking to know we hadn’t been using it all this time, it had just been living in cupboard. Because I know you could look at a ragged couch on someone’s berm and think, Really? You were sitting on that till quite recently? Not what I’d pictured for you from here in the street.

I also found treasures which will stay. Dad’s hammer and plane and,best of all, his spirit level which he’d had since the 1940s. It still thrills me with its golden-green bubble like a cat’s eye, still showing what is straight and plumb, even after he’s gone.


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16 Jan A Summer Holiday Fantasy

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 16.1.23


A Pacific island resort, a ski trip to Aspen, a tootle around the East Cape… These are all options for a summer holiday, but are you thinking big enough? Because a friend has been fantasising about taking her annual break in – wait for it – the 1970s.

I see her point. Simpler times – or that’s how we remember this orange-and-brown corduroy of a decade. Those of us who were there can picture it and, for those of you who weren’t, let me paint you one.

You would drive into your 1970s holiday in a Morris 1100, the car we all had then unless we had a Morris 1300. White, usually, with red upholstery, manual gear stick and wind-up windows. There’s a handy tow bar so you can borrow the neighbour’s trailer for that essential holiday activity, a family trip to the dump.

This is where you fill the trailer with bits and nonsense from the garage, the shed, and from “underneath the house”, a space we used to have in houses built on sloping quarter acre sections where you would put broken and unwanted things for a kind of “cooling off” period.

Occasionally, something might make it back into the house for a bit – a coffee table might get a second chance as a DIY project, and your older brother might be over David Bowie but that poster would look great on your wall. After some unspecified period, though, it is agreed things are ready to move on to landfill.

You queue up at the tip with all the other Morris 1100s pulling borrowed trailers on unsealed roads navigated by dads who fancy themselves as terrifically good at this sort of thing. They deliberately place themselves in situations where they can demonstrate their trailer-reversing skills – you don’t need to back up to the edge of the abyss, but they all do.

It is January so it is stinking hot, and also stinking because it’s a tip, and in these cars without air conditioning (it’s the 70s) there’s a pointless back-and-forth about whether you should wind the windows down (to let in cool air) or up (to keep out the smell). In the end you just give in to the stink and to the shriek of seagulls tearing around, looking for something delicious amongst the old mattresses and broken chairs, and finding it often enough to keep them this far inland.

On the way home there would definitely be an ice cream or – because it is a holiday after all – a stop at the local pick-your-own strawberry farm where you’re allowed to eat as many strawberries as you like and just pay for what you’ve got in your punnet, though there will be obligatory jokes about weighing the kids on the way in and the way out and charging mum and dad the difference, ha ha!

Some of this 1970s realism may be tricky to recreate where you live, but I bet you can manage a family trip to the local playground with – for authenticity – socks and sandals for dad, and a towelling bucket-hat. And for mum? A bit of a night off for the missus with fish’n’chips out of newspaper (those seagulls will be back if you’re doing it right) and then home for board games and the inevitable family fight.

What joy! The only tweak you’d want to make to a purist’s vision of the 1970s would be slapping on some actual sunscreen rather than SPF-free coconut oil. Otherwise, you’re ready to groove.



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05 Jan Life In 2050

An edited version of this piece was published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly and is on sale from 29 December. 


As we get to know this New Year, I am casting my mind even further forward to life in 2050.

The glorious thing about the future is that we each get to decide what we’d like it to look like, so here’s my version of life halfway through the 21st Century.

By 2050, Baby Boomers like me will likely be sitting quietly somewhere eating soft food and waiting for Nurse to bring us a pinot. Not a terrible prospect, and only right and proper that we are making space for our children and grandchildren to get on with things.

My granddaughter, Ariana, will be 37 years old and I picture her driving the Hover Car my generation was promised by “The Jetson’s” cartoon. If not exactly that then surely by now she is living in a fossil-fuel free, zero-carbon world.

Electric cars and electric bikes are universally affordable with charging stations as common as Vape stores used to be in 2023. Meanwhile, Vape shops don’t exist at all because everyone has worked out that breathing anything into your lungs apart from clean air is a stupid idea.

Instead of smoking or drinking, people will be micro-dosing psychedelics which will have the dual benefit of a) eliminating anxiety & depression, while also b) making you think your e-bike is a Hover Car.

In 2050, short-haul air travel is done by electric plane. They’re still working on electric planes for long-haul flights, but say they’re close to finding an extension cord that’s long enough – they’re pretty sure there’s one in the shed.

Ariana lives in a city which is actually made up of many small, self-contained and sustainable “villages”. Everything is in walking distance from home – work spaces, village schools, doctors and shops are all set around shared green spaces with swimming pools and playing fields.

The country is officially called Aotearoa following a referendum which confirmed what people were organically doing. We also had a referendum on the voting age which now starts at 16 and stops once you start listening to talkback radio.

While everyone enjoys a universal basic income, the wealthiest people in each village are the caregivers – the people who look after kids, the elderly and disabled and sick. That’s because people have decided to stop just saying thank you to nurses and teachers and mothers with words, and to value them the way we usually value things – with money.

Mostly this is down to the shift from Patriarchal Capitalism to Matriarchal Socialism. There hadn’t been an actual revolution – no one had actually smashed the patriarchy. The ladies had been threatening to do this for a while but could never find anyone to look after the kids.

Instead, in 2039 men decided they’d honestly had enough of being in charge of everything and they’d said, “You know what ladies? You really should have a turn. We’d quite like a bit of a sit down. We want more time with our kids, and maybe we’ll do some more gaming.”

Which was fair enough – the ladies had been Prime Ministers and Governor Generals and Chief Justices for a few decades, so it seemed about time they had a go at the jobs that actually involve money and power.

And what gets people out of bed in the morning? Not an alarm clock, but birdsong. The return of tūī and pīwakawaka to each neighbourhood is the clearest sign that the planet is beginning to recover and cool.

Ah, 2050. You sound lovely… Makes me want to stick around.

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01 Jan New Year Honour 2023 – Michele A’Court ONZM

“Award-winning comedian Michèle A’Court has been appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. A’Court has been a trailblazer for women while performing for 30 years in radio, theatre and TV. She also set up the New Zealand Comedy Guild…” New Zealanders Recognised…



New Year Honours: Michele A’Court says stand-up comedy a terrific vehicle for flying feminism flag


The fight to ensure women can tell their own funny stories rather than just be the butt of jokes goes on, Michele A’Court says.

A’Court has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her work in the entertainment and comedy industries.

When she saw the invitation from the Governor-General’s office, she thought it was a scam, but once it sank in, she was delighted.

“You don’t realise it would mean something to you until it happens.”

While it was exciting for her, it was also special for the comedy industry because not many have received recognition, she said.

A’Court has worked as a comedian for 30 years, a both around Aotearoa and overseas, in radio, theatre and television. She established the New Zealand Comedy Guild, still the only industry body globally solely representing comedians, serving as its inaugural chair from 1999 to 2006.

She said her career as a stand-up comic was “a brand new thing in New Zealand” when she started and it coincided with finding out she was pregnant with her daughter.

She was inspired by US comedians Danny Kaye and Carol Burnett when she was growing up and the idea of performing on a stage and making people laugh and feel better about life appealed to her.

It was also the ideal format for a feminist, she said.

“I love the idea that you can take some challenging ideas and some social activism and put it into some comedy and reach the people who otherwise you wouldn’t be able to reach, and maybe make them think differently about a couple of things.”

When she started, it was an unwritten rule that only one woman could be on the billing for a stand-up show. Now it was not unusual for there to be a 50-50 split.

“So we’re not as lonely as we were … There’s a great network and a lot of support for each other.”

This was needed, she said, because there were still times when women were resented for not being male performers.

A’Court said the fight for women to get a fairer representation as performers was continuing. It “made her heart sing” that so many women were keen to be involved in the industry, and she believed her honour was recognition for the role she had played in advancing their cause.

She was nervous about the first Feminists are Funny show she hosted in 2016 as a fundraiser for the Auckland Women’s Centre but it sold out “in 30 seconds flat” and has continued to thrive.

“There’s an appetite for women’s voices – women and non-binary people – telling our stories and making ourselves the centre of the jokes that are told rather than the butt of the joke.”

A’Court said she felt like the luckiest person alive and it was overwhelming to receive the same honour as her hero, fellow comic Ginette McDonald.

– from RNZ https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/481706/new-year-honours-michele-a-court-says-stand-up-comedy-a-terrific-vehicle-for-flying-feminism-flag


– and from the NZ Herald: Herald: This Honour Represents Trailblazers

Michele A’Court has been made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, recognising her trailblazing work and advocacy in comedy.

The multi-award-winning comedian established the New Zealand Comedy Guild. She has also advocated for access and safety within the comedy community and provided practical assistance to many New Zealand comedians building their careers.

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