04 Sep EqualizeNZ

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 4.9.23


If you’d ask me this time last year for my thoughts on football, our conversation would have been limited to my enthusiasm for the TV show, Ted Lasso. Favourite team: AFC Richmond. Favourite player: Jamie Tartt.

Not a football aficionado, is what I’m saying. And yet by the time the semi-final was played at Eden Park in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, you could find me in the stands, screaming my heart out for Spain (I have a cousin who lives there, so picked them over Sweden) while proudly wearing a tournament scarf gifted to me by the Secretary General of FIFA, Fatma Samoura.

That’s quite the name-drop but I can explain. I spent this July and August tootling around the motu, helping to MC a series of speaker events called EqualizeNZ. Aimed at showcasing Aotearoa’s role in driving gender equity, these were free events starring all kinds of women in sport, in business, academia and the arts.

Some of them are already well-known – Theresa Gattung, Dame Farah Palmer, Dame Valerie Adams – and there were also young emerging stars like Arizona Leger and the YWCA’s Latayvia Tualasea Tautai whose names you will likely get to know more as the years go by.

Also, if you missed these events and wish you hadn’t, you can find video recordings of them all on the eyeson.nz website.

The grand finale of these shows was held in Auckland the day before the Spain vs Sweden semi-final match. Two thousand people packed into the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre to hear Ruby Tui, Dame Jacinda Ardern, Natalie Portman and Fatma Samoura speak. I had the honour of being MC for the night.

It is one of the gigs that will live in my heart. On stage, it was a joy – an audience delighted to be there to hear stories of struggle, success and hope. Lots of laughter, buckets of wisdom, and an incredible opportunity to see all four women together in conversation with singer and documentary-maker Moana Maniapoto.

Back stage it was an endless stream of pinch-myself moments. Like sitting in the greenroom with Jacinda catching up on news since we’ve last seen each other, and then Natalie Portman arrived and – I kid you not – fangirled all over our ex-PM.

Natalie gifted Jacinda a personalised team shirt from her football club, Angel City, and then asked if it was ok to have a photo with her. It was an extraordinary thing to see – two remarkable women being thrilled to meet each other. And there’s me hanging out, still essentially a girl from Levin who got lucky, grinning from ear to ear and thinking, What a time to be alive.

And feeling that again the next night with a couple of gifted tickets to the fancy part of Eden Park stand, sitting right beside Michele Cox who played for the Football Ferns in the 1980s, and her mother Barbara who also represented NZ in the game. We introduced ourselves, took selfies and high-fived each other after every goal, no matter who scored it.

So I’ve learned a couple of things about football. Mostly about how the sport gives women and girls an opportunity to do extraordinary things, and how events like this can throw a spotlight on women doing extraordinary things in so many other areas.

Oh, and Phil Dunster, the actor who plays Jamie Tartt in Ted Lasso, was sitting just along from us. Wild right? Got a photo with him. He’s still my favourite player.


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04 Sep Who Is Wearing the Trousers?

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover date 28.8.23


My rule with clothing is that, if you buy something expensive, you’ve got to wear it every chance you get. Cost-per-wear is the equation that matters. And by “matters” I mean, “justifies spending silly money on something if you don’t save it for best”.

So there’s a good chance you’ll see me out for dinner in my yoga pants at some point because, honestly, those things cost the earth. On the upside, they last forever. I suspect two things that will survive a nuclear holocaust are cockroaches and Lycra. Plus the good ones (pants, not cockroaches) suck in your wobbly bits so well it’s almost like you don’t need to exercise once you’ve pulled them on.

I have been entranced with the latest brouhaha over whether yoga pants should be worn in public at all. I say “latest” because it is a perennial issue – yoga pants will be banned from schools, on planes, in workplaces. But this was novel – a call to ban yoga pants from actual yoga classes by ultra-conservative men who deemed them too revealing and immodest.

Social media, naturally, lit up in defence of being allowed to, gosh, I don’t know… Wear what we like and be comfortable? Illustrations were posted of men doing exactly that – wearing whatever they like as they go about their exercise – making the point women are held to a different standard. Picture scantily clad gentlemen in low slung short-shorts and no shirts at all. Hot flushes all round.

One could argue that policing what women wear is what makes civilisation great. You would lose that argument, of course, but along the way you’d find lots of examples of people giving it a jolly good go. Depending on the time and culture, women are admonished to cover up some body part or other, lest we fail in our responsibility to avoid tempting men, poor darlings.

Where does the propriety of athleisure wear fit in modern history? They like to tell you it is new, this wearing of exercise gear as a fashion statement. But hands up who wore hand-knitted legwarmers over shiny leggings to a nightclub in the 1980s? Putting both hands down again now so I can continue typing.

In the grand scheme of things, the yoga pant is less radical than women beginning to wear trousers in the first place. If the boys hadn’t been off fighting WWII, it would never have been countenanced. Even by the 1960s, it took some courage for my grandmother to buy her first pair of trousers, and she made sure she never wore them out somewhere nice, and never on a Sunday.

You don’t need to go that far back to find pants that shocked. In 2002 Prime Minister Helen Clark wore trousers – lovely designer slacks, they were – to a state banquet here for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip. Royalists and newspaper columnist were horrified at the informality.

Though at a fancy dinner days after this scandal I was embarrassed to find I was the only woman who hadn’t thought to wear trousers as a sign of solidarity with our PM.

Now I wear my yoga pants wherever I like. Mostly to and from yoga, to be honest, with a detour to the supermarket. Sometimes for warmth I throw a kneelength woollen Shearer’s Singlet on over the top and it amuses me that this very blokey garment might make the ensemble seem, to an ultra-conservative, more modest and appropriate for a lady.


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30 Aug You’re Being A Dick … Sir.

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover date 21.8.23


You know that list you have tucked away in your head of the things you would have if you were super rich? The house with room enough for everyone, a very cool car with maybe a driver, possibly a personal chef and a masseur, a walk-in wardrobe with clothes arranged by colour, shoes and handbags on display…

Okay, yes, this is my list. But regardless of whatever you might have on yours, please add this to it – extremely wealthy people should definitely hire someone whose job it is to call them out when they are being stupid.

Because looking round the place, we can see that billionaires make some terrible choices. I don’t mean sweet little eccentricities. I totally get why the late Steve Jobs had a wardrobe that featured only black turtlenecks and jeans – if you’re running a company like Apple maybe you don’t want to start making decisions till you get to the office.

And when Salvador Dali took Babou, his pet ocelot, for walks in Paris, or Lady Gaga turned up at the MTV awards in a dress made of meat, these were expressions of their personality entirely in keeping with their wider oeuvre. A good and trusted friend would have said, “You do you, Boo” and cheerfully gone about their day.

But then there are decisions made that affect all of us, and which are unfathomable. Can we have a quick chat about Twitter? As a long time user (I joined the flock in 2009) I’ve been watching the changes made by new owner Elon Musk. Specifically, ditching the cute blue bird and replacing it with a creepy black “X” had me thinking, Mate, I don’t think you have people in your life who feel okay about telling you when you’re doing it wrong.

Sure, the rebrand is sort of appropriate in that Twitter is like everyone’s idea of an “ex” now – used to be fun, you once had good chats, but now it’s a toxic cesspool with the default mood set at shout-and-snarl. So, yeah, “X” works in that sense. But kill off the bird when it’s the last sweet thing we remember about the place? Mate.

When you have a lot of money and therefore power, you end up always being the person with the highest status in the room. Relationships can become transactional – they’re there for what you can give them. No one wants to rock the boat if your boat is a luxury superyacht.

Ancient civilisations and medieval rulers knew these dangers, and that the trick to avoid becoming a fool was to employ one. A court jester – literally The Fool – who could, without an ordinary courtier’s fear of punishment or death, tell the King he was being an idiot. In a chorus of yesses, they were free to sing a solo “no”.

It would be a helluva job, of course. I imagine you could get used to living adjacent to luxury pretty quickly and have to keep reminding yourself that part of the job is to risk the boss’s displeasure on a daily basis.

You would need to be past the point in life of being a people pleaser, with nothing to prove and even less to lose. So basically, what every billionaire needs is a belligerent nana.

I would apply for that job. Especially if it came with a personal masseur and a walk-in wardrobe to enjoy for as long as the job lasted.


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14 Aug My Mother’s Rings – Two Stories

An edited version of this appeared in the NZ Woman’s Weekly, cover date 14.8.23. This is the full story… Also, click on the link here for videos and photos of the remodelling process with the amazing craftspeople at The Village Goldsmith.


My mother was the kind of woman who wore her rings every day. Sure, she’d take off the diamond engagement ring when she made scones and pop it in the dish on the windowsill kept there for this purpose, but once those scones were in the oven she’d slip the diamond back on.

So these two rings – the platinum wedding band and matching solitaire – are not only in every family photo when we’re dressed up for best, but in all the moments of our lives. On her hand for every meal, every bedtime story, every hug. And if you’re the kind of person who believes the things we love and carry with us absorb something of our spirit (I am that kind of person) then there is a lifetime of memories embedded in the these rings.

When I was little I might be allowed – with clean and careful hands – to play with the white box the rings had originally come in (it looked to me like a wedding cake and made a very satisfying sound when it snapped shut) and to try on the diamond ring which, my mother said, would one day belong to me.

She talked about that more in her last days, and the practicalities. She knew the engagement ring needed work because after being on her hand for 65 years – not counting the times she made scones – the band had worn thin. She thought perhaps I could use the platinum from the wedding band to strengthen it, let one of them bolster the other.

Donna died in June 2019 and I put the rings away together in their wedding-cake box. I couldn’t wear them as they were – my mother had slender fingers, I have my father’s hands – and I wasn’t ready yet to make them “different”.

This is the thing with estate jewellery – you want to honour the original piece while also making something you want to wear, that feels like you. I had watched my mother have one of her own mother’s rings remade, and saw how it mattered that the person it had belonged to might approve.

There was no rush. I felt I would find a design I liked at some point, that I’d know it when I saw it. And I wanted the whole process to feel good because my mother’s rings were important to her, and therefore to me.

My mother’s story about these two rings begins in 1954. She was almost 20 and my father, John, had just turned 25 when they got engaged. Dad was working at the Sander Tie Company in Wellington and one of the women there had a friend who was a manufacturing jeweller in Courtenay Place. Mona sent my parents to see him.

In an upstairs workshop, the jeweller brought out velvet cushions, placing loose diamonds on them with tweezers so my mother could choose one. For the setting, she chose platinum – a break with conventional gold.

Which was all very sophisticated for a 19 year old girl and her young man who both came from modest backgrounds and were doing all this – buying rings, planning a wedding, even buying a house – with nothing to come-and-go-on but their own wages. It says a lot about my mother – an eye for beauty and her own ideas about how to do things – and about both of them and their determination to get those things done.

My story about these two rings also begins in Wellington, but 69 years later. This January I was visiting the Capital to do some shows and walked by the Village Goldsmith where the Floeting rings in the window caught my eye. I loved them – simple, elegant, all about the sparkle of the diamond. I took a photo, sent an email via the website, explained I had my mother’s diamond ring, and could it be remodelled to look like that?

What followed was a lovely email thread. The answer was “no” but also “yes” – the Floeting diamonds are a particular thing of their own, but maybe we could make a ring that looked a lot like it with my mother’s diamond.

I met with Ian Douglas when he was visiting his Auckland studio. Ian was much less into the “let’s melt it all down” and much more into, “Let’s preserve this beautiful craftsmanship while also making something new.”

And there was a hairs-on-the-back-of-my-neck moment when Ian looked at the wedding band and recognised it. This ring had been crafted at Clements and Holmes, the Wellington jewellery studio where he’d done his apprenticeship. His idea to return the band to its original 1955 state felt like exactly the right the thing to do.

Sending the rings off to Wellington with Ian felt a bit like sending children off to stay with someone – safe hands, but also weird to no longer have them where you can see them. Except that I did get to see them – Ian sent photos and videos of the process. I couldn’t help thinking when I saw the diamond lifted from its setting that I was seeing it the way my mother first saw it, as a loose stone, all about the sparkle.

I hadn’t at all appreciated how much work would be involved in the wedding band – not only restoring the frangipani and diamond shapes around it, but also doing that incredibly tricky thing of inserting a piece and matching it so it would fit my finger. There is a moment in the video where Dan is working on the wedding band and he says, “Perfect”, and I grin and also there is something in my eye.

I also hadn’t appreciated the beauty of this ring before – overshadowed by the diamond, I guess. I wear it next to my own wedding ring now, with the diamond floating on my right hand. They still get to hang out together, but they get their own space.

We have kept the engagement ring mounting – it lives in the wedding-cake box – and I’ll put a stone in it later when I know who it should belong to next. The other two rings I wear every day. Though I keep a small dish on my kitchen windowsill to pop the diamond ring into whenever I’m doing something messy. My mother would love all of this.


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11 Aug Reflecting on Matariki

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly, cover date 7.8.23


Sometimes you don’t know you are missing something until it turns up in your life. This is how I feel about Matariki, our new public holiday to observe the Māori New Year.

I’ve always figured we needed an official winter break – that was a long wait from Queen’s Birthday in June to Labour Weekend late October, right? But I hadn’t realised how significant it would feel to celebrate something uniquely our own, which comes with local history and ritual.

Sure, the Gregorian New Year comes with “ritual” in the sense that “party hard, midnight snog, start the year a bit dusty” has been an accepted blueprint.

But spending this Matariki consciously reflecting on the past and planning for the future felt like a perfect thing to do in the heart of winter – and probably exactly what people in the Northern Hemisphere feel about their snow-covered celebrations when even the weather wants you to rest, take stock, be still for a moment.

Out in Piha where I spent my long weekend we were down at the beach hours before dawn on Saturday to look for the Matariki stars. Local kaumātua Pita Turei has been observing Matariki here for years and usually a handful of other people join him. This year around fifty of us gather from 5am till almost 7.30am, hearing Pita tell stories (not “myths” he says, “our narratives”) that belong to this piece of land and its sky.

Someone has helpfully brought a laser pointer so that, when Pita talks about the constellations, we know where to look – though it is also a tiny bit hilarious that an ancient ritual briefly feels a bit PowerPoint-presentation, and there’s a gentle ripple of laughter.

We gather in a circle around two small fires – one where we burn pieces of wood held in our hands while we’ve thought about the past year (regrets, people we’ve lost) and another fuelled by sticks representing our plans for the year ahead. Some of us are mana whenua, most of us are Pakeha, all of us begin to feel connected. One of the people I’m staying with whispers in my ear, “This is how we bring people together,” and he’s right.

It is a powerful thing to hear the stories of a place while you are literally standing in that place. When I was a growing up, history was in books and about other countries. I know I’m not the only one who is hungry to learn more of the stories about the place I live, and how much more you feel you belong when you know these stories.

It was a jarring moment, then, after sunrise and coffee to read the newspaper and see one of those other stories we’ve been seeing lately – some high profile, wealthy New Zealander saying our country is not what it was, has lost its mojo, that as a nation our best years are behind us. That they’d like it to go back to the way it was (make it great again!) or else they’re letting us know they’re leaving for somewhere better.

This is a story told by someone who was doing pretty great before, and would have liked things to stay the same. Makes sense for them. And I won’t pretend times aren’t tough. But then you look at who gathers before dawn, and you can think maybe we are just starting now to move in the right direction, and our better years are to come.


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11 Aug Unplugged

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly, cover date 31.7.23


This birthday just gone, I gave myself the gift of a weekend lolling about in bed with some books. Something about a day reading under blankets feels extremely indulgent but honestly, once you push through the puritan guilt, it is magnificent.

There was a shimmering moment midmorning on Sunday when I pulled the blankets right up to my chin and wriggled down into the pillows and for a moment felt entirely connected to the child-version of myself. I may have shivered with an emotion very close to glee.

As a kid, I could spend a whole winter weekend reading in my room. No big deal, no one seemed to mind. I suspect I even strung out the odd cold or tummy bug a few extra days so I could stay home from school, underneath the eiderdown, reading. I vividly recall one particular week off school, in bed with ‘The Wind In the Willows’, a large block of Milky Bar chocolate and my very own Chapstick lip balm which were such a perfect trio of pleasures that even now I can’t see or taste one of them without thinking of the other two.

The best bit of university, apart from working out who you are and what sort of world you want to live in, is the compulsory reading. It might look like you’re doing not much of anything, hunched over a two bar heater in your damp flat, but actually, reading this novel is kind of your job right now.

And then there’s a long bit in your life when you can’t flop around with novels. You’ve got work and kids and the dinner won’t cook itself. Reading is done in that bit before sleep, and the purpose of the book shifts from expanding your mind to calming it – though you hope for both before you drift off.

Somewhere in here you get the idea that lying about with a book in the daytime might be lazy, or something only old people do and gosh, are you suddenly lazy and/or old?

Or is this entirely what you should do because you’ve been dancing from one thing to the next and a bit of stillness is just what the doctor ordered. If not literally, then maybe literally if you don’t start doing something nice for yourself that also lowers your blood pressure and calms your heart.

My birthday had other joys, too – on the Friday I gave a talk I really enjoyed, had ice cream and op shopped with my favourite daughter, went for a long drive with Lucinda Williams, and had beef cheeks and creamed parsnip at my favourite restaurant with my favourite husband. There were gifts from family, flowers from friends and messages from grandchildren. All the major food groups were represented.

But then I unwrapped a weekend of “unplugging”. No social media, no emails (ok, I read enough to be sure there was nothing there I needed to read), and no news bulletins. As well as books, I caught up on favourite newsletters and, when I had to be upright to make snacks, listened to favourite interviewers like Kim Hill and Charlotte Ryan. Absorbing the things I’d intentionally picked rather than being bombarded by stories I didn’t actively choose.

And then back to bed and books with my plate and glass, with space here and there for a bit of a think. Which is when it occurred to me that all this “unplugging” was what my great-grandmother would have simply called, “Sunday”.

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25 Jul Dad, I’m Hungry…

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 24.7.23


You’ve got to love a Dad Joke. No really, you’ve actually got to because it turns out they are good for your mental health.

This is especially true for kids – lucky, because they’re the ones who have to hear them most. A recent report in in the British Psychological Society journal says these puns and cheesy one-liners that illicit eye rolling and exasperated sighs are extremely beneficial because – get this – when your dad embarrasses you with his dad-joke nonsense, you learn a crucial life lesson: that embarrassment is not fatal.

I don’t know if I fully appreciated this before – that blushing does not kill you. Understood it on some level, sure, but had never articulated it. You may want to die, wish the ground would open up and swallow you, but you are not in any danger of literally carking it.

And so when you say, “Dad, I’m hungry,” and he says, “Hi, Hungry, I’m Dad,” what he is actually offering you is an opportunity to become resilient by experiencing a little bit of humiliation … and surviving.

Think of Dad Jokes as a vaccination, then, against embarrassment. Experts tell us to really dose up our freshly minted teenagers because they are super prone to mortification, particularly in relation to their parents. But give them a good jab with unfunny jokes and eventually they’ll become immune.

And the prize here is that, the less prone you are to feeling awkward, the more likely you’ll find the courage to be yourself. Think about that – if the prospect of falling flat on your face doesn’t bother you, you will cheerfully risk the high wire. We magically remove a barrier that hold us back from adventure.

My dad did a reasonable line in Dad Jokes. We’d pull into Waipukurau on a family road trip and he’d say, “Waipuk? Why not!” and we’d groan gently in the back seat. If asked, he would tell you the best time to visit a dentist was “tooth-hurty”. Mostly we’d just love that he was in a bouncy mood – another Dad Joke benefit is that it indicates everyone’s heart is light.

Anyone can do a Dad Joke. Though as a mum I went less for the word-based humiliations in favour of dressing up for it. Like that time – weary of waiting in my car for my teenager to emerge from events – I told her I’d be arriving in pyjamas with Crocs and a cowboy hat, and she probably didn’t want me to come inside? Very prompt, she was.

Also, you don’t have to be a kid to benefit from the Dad Joke styles. This has always been part of my approach to MCing daylong hui, especially the ones where people who aren’t comfortable with public speaking have to do some.

If you, as the high status person – the one who is the professional, and in charge – are willing to make yourself look like a bit of an idiot with the odd lame joke at the start and yet maintain your equilibrium, it gives everyone else a bit of wiggle room to fail, have less fear of a misstep and more confidence to relax and be themselves. At which point you will be like an award-winning scarecrow because – wait for it – you will be outstanding in your field.

So get out there and share some classics with your kids and mokopuna. Help yourself to my current favourite which is that I have successfully managed to weigh a rainbow and it turns out it was pretty light.



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17 Jul The Joy of Boredom

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly –  cover date 17.7.23


There is a good chance you are reading this in a moment snatched between school holiday pickups and drop-offs. Or maybe you’re hiding from the kids in the other room where it’s quiet, but keeping an ear out for signs of trouble.

Ideally what you’re hearing is an ebb-and-flow of chatter. Not shouting, but not total silence either. It is in the absolute lack of sound that the trouble lives. It means they’ve either just done something unspeakable or are about to. These are the only times kids are silent, except when they’re glued to a screen or asleep.

We do our best to keep them happily occupied – tougher during the winter breaks. Even so, at some point you know they’ll find you – likely when you’ve made coffee and opened the secret biscuits – to tell you, “I’m bored”.

Kids assume this phrase is akin to one of those “in case of emergency, break glass” alarms that will have us instantly flicking on our siren and racing to their emotional rescue.

Can I suggest we don’t? Can I posit a theory that sitting in the feeling of “boredom” is good for a person?

Full disclosure: I hanker for a bit of boredom so maybe I’m projecting. I love what I do and so forth, but I really do fancy the idea of space and silence to see what happens next, what new activity I might discover.

Boredom, as I remember it, is not being able to think of a single thing you could be doing. Either that or having stuff to do but not finding any joy or meaning in it.

So a weird state to aspire to, I guess. Except I am old enough to remember what happens after that. Properly bored, left to your own devices, you will come up with something. A “something” which is clarified by the long list of activities you have rejected. You know what you don’t fancy doing right now – drawing, a puzzle, chucking a ball against the side of the garage – so when you hit on “bake a cake” the discovery is especially sweet.

Parenting experts (who may or may not have children, they often don’t say but you will have your suspicions) give advice like you should tell your bored child to go for a walk and think about it, and come back with three ideas for things they would like to do. Ok, but I guarantee those three things will be a) expensive, b) irritating and c) messy.

And while the Devil might find work for idle hands, he’s not the only employer in town. There is also Imagination which needs a bit of space to wiggle its fingers, too.

I don’t mean lock the kids in an empty room and leave them to stare at the walls. But let them discover things. The puzzles, the recipes, or the ball that needs bouncing.

For sure, check in with them – are they bored, or are they lonely? Because if they genuinely need a playmate – or your attention – that’s a very human desire.

But it is also very human – and ok – to not feel great all the time. If we run around protecting new humans from ever feeling bored they’ll be 30 and quite needy and possibly living in someone’s basement.

I don’t know if you’ve met grownups who constantly need to be entertained but, trust me, it’s not good. Finding your own way out of boredom is an essential skill. Look at you – you found a thing to read. Nailed it.


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17 Jul On Not Travelling Light…

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover Date 10.7.23


You will have felt it at an airport luggage carousel or train station or anywhere people depart and arrive. A discernible moral judgement being made about the size and weight of a traveller’s baggage.

Somewhere along the way, “travelling light” has become aspirational. Being able to move around the world carrying the fewest possible possessions makes you – if not as saintly as a nun or monk revered for eschewing worldly goods – then at least someone efficient, streamlined, self-contained.

In movies, a character arriving with a mountain of matching luggage is shorthand for wealthy, pampered and out of touch. Those bags are there to tell us this person is not like us.

Though you don’t have to bring the whole mountain to get a bit of side-eye. Turn up for an overnighter with something bigger than what is officially deemed “an overnight bag” and you’ll get, “How long are you planning to stay?” delivered with more or less humour, depending.

I know these things, and I also know I am capable of travelling light with the regulation under-seven-kilos, carryon-only, bare essentials. But here’s the thing: I choose not to. I’ve tried it both ways and have landed on the side of Big Baggage.

My feeling right now is that, while I spend this much time away from home, I want to take some of the good bits of home with me. Not the cat, obviously. But I’m learning the things that make me comfortable at home also bring me comfort in a hotel room, so they’re coming in my suitcase.

Exhibit A: scissors. You would be amazed how often, when you don’t have scissors handy, you need them. Errant threads, sturdy labels, or individually wrapped teabags which are supposed to have a starter-tear to get them open but you’ve landed a full batch that just don’t.

Travelling light – and reluctant to carry scissors through airport security in my hand luggage – I recall finding myself scissorless in New Plymouth. I bought a pair at a local bookstore only to discover back in my room that I couldn’t get them out of the packaging without … erm … scissors. Chicken, egg. Except you don’t need scissors to crack open an egg.

So now little scissors are in my checked luggage, along with a lightweight Bluetooth speaker so I can make a hotel room sound like home, good soap, my favourite room spray, a travel coffee plunger and ground coffee (not beans and a grinder, that would be crazy), a potato peeler because I like to buy carrots for snacks, hat-scarf-gloves because even when you check the forecast you can’t remember what 8 degrees cooler feels like but suspect it requires woolly things; the book you’re finishing plus the one you’re about to start.

This plus fresh undies and so forth is about nine kilos, a smidge more than the permitted weight for carryon. And I am nothing if not a stickler for the rules about how much you can stuff into an overhead locker. I watch people jam something the size and weight of a side of beef up there and I think it is fair to say the side-eye I get for my checked-in suitcase is nothing compared to the side-eye I give to that sort of nonsense.

Though the irritation passes quickly enough when I remember that pretty soon I’ll be brewing fresh coffee and listening to jazz in a room that belongs to a hotel, but feels very much like home.



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03 Jul Measuring It In Coffees

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover Date 3.7.23


Where would we be without coffee? Not just uncaffeinated but also unable to understand the value of anything from a gym membership to a charitable donation, it would seem.

“The equivalent of a coffee per week!” a journalist will tell us to help us get our collective head around an annual rates rise to the average Auckland household of nine per cent. Though I so rarely buy coffee by the takeaway cup I had to research what that meant.

This is not because I don’t like coffee – I very much do. But I work mostly from home so I am pre-loading on domestic caffeine which means at any subsequent visit to a café the best thing for my heartrate and anxiety levels is to order a soothing pot of chamomile tea and just look at it.

Indeed, the first thing I do each day – sometimes before I am awake – is grind coffee beans and fill the plunger, a procedure sneered at by coffee aficionados who tend to disapprove of a plunger. This is why in the privacy of my own head I refer to it instead as my “French press” to give it a little je ne sais quoi of a matin.

Anyhoo, my research (I googled “How much is a cup of coffee in NZ?”) reveals the going rate is around $5.50. Thrift-hounds, though, can find it for as little as a couple of bucks while those looking for single origin beans cold-brewed by someone with one of those inexplicable mini-beards known as “a soul patch” could pay triple that.

Armed with this information, I did a quick bit of reverse engineering on my annual rates bill and can confirm a nine per cent increase would indeed be the equivalent of a slightly-above-averagely-priced coffee.

The takeaway coffee trope exists to represent affordable luxury – something you could live without but can treat yourself to without totally blowing your budget.

But I feel we need more options for putting the price of things into perspective for non-coffee drinkers and those who lean towards other pleasures. You will be able to make your own list of little luxuries that bring you joy, that let you know life is not just about bread, but also roses.

Here are three of mine. Fresh dates (equals two coffees, sure, but the box lasts several days); good soap (equals two coffees if it is French milled, and mon dieu it should be); and comfy knickers made locally and sustainably in a way that is good for the environment (four to five coffees but they should last almost forever and not be at all prone to bunching).

So let’s all try more creative thinking and fresh perspectives. My potential rates rise, for example, of around $6.70 per week is also the equivalent, annually, of eighteen kilos of cheese. Now there’s an image I can get my head around.

Or at an annual level, my rates increase is roughly the equivalent of thirty-eight boxes of tampons, which would get a mother and two daughters through one year of menstrual cycles. These are not a luxury, obviously, but knowing the comparative cost of necessities is useful, too.

Or it’s around six bras. Or ten really good novels. Or ten bad novels – they cost the same, weirdly. Which is yet another reason I love my local library, and feel like paying my rates is a useful thing to do.



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