18 Apr Endolphins. Not A Typo.

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover Date 17.4.23


“Endolphins”. That’s not a typo, it’s a new word I believe I just invented.

It describes that exhilarating sensation you get in your body when you feel a rush of joy, which I encourage you to picture henceforth as a pod of tiny dolphins swimming and leaping merrily through your veins.

So endorphins (the happy hormone that deals with pain and stress) but shaped like everyone’s favourite aquatic mammal.

Weird? Oh, for sure. But that image, and the word, came to me in a blissful dream the other night, and I feel like we know each other well enough for me to risk sounding a bit mad. And honestly, it’s not a million miles from describing nervousness as a tummy full of butterflies? And, I feel, way nicer.

What inspired the “endolphin” dream? This sudden clarity of porpoise? (Sorry, not sorry.) It happened after a day of driving and – this is the important bit – singing in the car.

I had forgotten how much I love singing. I’m not a great singer – not terrible, it’s not caterwauling. People don’t grimace when I join in on “Happy Birthday”. But no one is going to ask me to find the first note either.

This has been a disappointment – singing is the talent I’d have asked for if I’d been allowed to choose. When people asked eight-year-old me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said cheerfully, “A singer”. People had looked askance. Not, as I say, because I was terrible but my enthusiasm, their faces said, surpassed my ability. It could be a hobby, not a job.

Here’s a general observation – at some point, as an adult, you stop doing the things you are not outstanding at. We focus on our strengths, nurturing skills that enhance our career or show us at our best. In the busyness of life the other things fall by the wayside.

So – unless it is our particular thing – we stop drawing pictures, playing games, dancing, dressing up. We can no longer tell you what our favourite colour is. We don’t daydream about who we want to be. We stop doing things we are “ordinary” at, even the ones that bring us joy.

And so I had forgotten how much I love singing, and hadn’t really done it for ages. But I’ve started again – kind of on doctor’s orders. I use inhalers now that make my voice croaky so a serious vocal warm up before I get on stage to talk is now an essential part of the process.

And I’ve learned the best vocal warm up for me is to make a playlist of favourite songs and sing them in the car on the way to the gig.

Usually, that’s a short drive but an event in Taupō gave me four hours of belting out hits, and I couldn’t help but notice how gosh darn happy, uplifted and positive I felt by the time I arrived.

Turns out, this is science. Singing releases all the happy chemicals – serotonin and dopamine as well as my personal endolphins. Plus it oxygenates your blood and improves lung capacity, and totally amuses anyone who catches you pulled up at the traffic lights where you’ve grabbed the opportunity to throw in some full body emoting. Honestly, you’ve made both people’s days.

Not everything you do has to be brilliant – ordinary is also a thing we are allowed to be. Especially if it brings the kind of joy that has us swimming with endolphins.


Read More

18 Apr That Time I Lost My Mind, And A Year

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover Date 10.4.23


It is a marvellous trick of nature that, even as the years pass, you still feel like the same person inside your head.

That’s why it can be a shock to pass a shop window and see someone you only vaguely recognise – your mother? – reflected back at you. Ah, I see, so I am not actually the 32 year old I think I am? Cool, cool, cool. Must get around to updating that internal image, then.

It is the same phenomenon that means when I am hanging out with a bunch of new mothers I still feel like one of them, and that it was only yesterday that I was living the life they are living now. But then I check the date and realise it was – can this be true? – 30 years ago.

And so it was that I spent a delightful day recently in Taupō, MCing an event to raise money for a local charity, Village Aunties, which supports new mothers. Naturally, this took me back to my own experience of being a new mother and had me digging around in my memories for what that looked like.

What it looked like was possibly a bit mad. I describe 1993 as the time I lost my mind and lost a year – a melodramatic way of saying parenting was so all-consuming I became unrecognisable to myself while the world and its issues went by mostly unnoticed.

I have since googled 1993 and caught up on some of its goings-on – the Waco tragedy, World Trade Centre bombing, a genocide in Rwanda. Years later, I rented the movie “Hotel Rwanda” thinking it was possibly some Merchant Ivory production along the lines of “Howard’s End” (I don’t know why) and was entirely traumatised by it. How could I have missed this horrific event? Mind you, it seems like the United Nations missed it, too. Perhaps they were also breastfeeding.

Like so many, my baby was born prematurely – six weeks early, so not so far off ready, but still in intensive care and fed for the first week through a tube down her nose. I needed to wake her to feed – an odd arrangement, like demand feeding in reverse with the mother doing the demanding – and it took a long time till I believed in my bones she was going to survive.

It was my fabulous Plunket nurse, Marcia, who finally got that message through to me on one of her home visits. “You know she’s going to live?” she said, and I hadn’t known that until the moment she said it.

Marcia was one of the few responsible adults in my world back then. I’d moved to Auckland while pregnant and was without close family or even a social circle for that first intense year.

When my baby was bigger, I’d take her to Plunket for her health checks. It was winter, and I recall our debut expedition, dressing her in many layers till she looked like a Michelin Man, carefully tying on the woollen hat my mother had knitted using a small orange as an estimation of size, though even then it was loose.

Thank goodness she was rugged up, I thought, as I opened the front door and the wind whipped fiercely around me, even colder than I’d expected. At which point I looked down and realised that, though the baby was properly dressed, I was wearing nothing but a nightie and socks.

We were late for our appointment. Marcia was very understanding.



















Read More

18 Apr On Time as a Metaphorical Construct

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 3.4.23


It’s funny what pops into your head while you’re doing the housework. This is one of those times when your body is busy but your mind is not fully engaged, so it can land on any thought it fancies.

What my mind fancied to land on was a movie I watched as a kid on our black & white TV about a family with twelve kids. “Cheaper by the Dozen” was made in 1950. (I was watching Sunday afternoon re-runs decades later, don’t be rude.) In it, the mother is a psychologist and the father is a time-and-motion-study efficiency expert.

There’s a definite feminist lilt to it (she’s no shrinking violet) and I enjoyed the comedy of watching a grown man use a stopwatch to work out if it was more efficient to start buttoning your cardigan from the top or the bottom. (From the top, I seem to recall – certainly that’s the approach I have since adopted.)

I thought about daft old Clifton Webb and his stopwatch while I was wrestling with my duvet, pulling off the old cover and stuffing it into the fresh one. I hate this job. I will happily change the sheets every five minutes, but woman-handling the super king duvet into a fresh casing is a monster chore, I don’t care how many YouTube hacks you watch, and I will put it off for as long as possible.

Anyway, I did it and, though it wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had in the bedroom, I suddenly realised This Did Not Take Very Long At All. Certainly not the marathon effort I had envisaged. Hence thinking of Clifton and wishing I’d used his stopwatch so I could report specifically how much actual time it had taken. Next duvet change, I promise.

I feel tempted now to knuckle down and do one of those proper ‘on-your-hands-and-knees’ washes of my wooden floors, which in my anticipatory head takes all freaking day, but could probably be done properly in half an hour? Again, I should time it for perspective.

There is, perhaps, an effort-to-satisfaction ratio at play here. A tidy drawer or an organised pantry offers more long term visual joy than a – snore – different duvet cover or briefly shiny floor.

More things seem to take longer than they actually do. In my head, doing my accounts takes forever so I don’t even start till I have a clear day in front of me. But then I shocked myself when I started casually pulling things together for a tax return late one afternoon and accidentally finished it by dinner time.

Balancing out these chores that take less time than you think are things you imagine will happen lickety-split but take for-jolly-ever. Losing weight after menopause. Monday morning admin. Defrosting anything, especially when hungry. Waiting for a parcel to arrive and – but of course – waiting to get paid.

But I have a pretty good handle on how long other things take. Ironing? Three sitcoms or two episodes of a British drama. Trimming the hedge along the driveway is one full sized podcast. Scrubbing the shower tends to take one Kim Hill interview.

These are measures of time adopted in some part because we barely wear watches now. But really, none of this is new. Back in the 1980s, after my Great-Aunt Ruth died, Great-Uncle Frank taught himself to cook and cheerfully informed the family that the perfectly boiled potato took two gins.

I could try that with the duvet cover. And then take a nap.



Read More

27 Mar Shiny Things On A Dull Day

First published inthe NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 27.3.23


When my brother and I were sorting through our late-mother’s things a few years ago, we found boxes of written treasures – letters and cards she’d kept over the years because they meant something to her, and showed how much she was loved.

Sometimes – oh my heart – she’d left little notes on the back of things for us to find that explained their importance. Like the birthday card my brother had sent, not to her, but to our grandmother nearly 30 years before. Our mother’s post-it on the back said Grandma had kept this card on her bedside table all through the last weeks of her life. It was one of the last things she’d looked at.

We treasured these, but so had our mother – the letters and cards hadn’t just arrived in the post and been tossed in a box till we found them. They’d been taken out now and then, re-read, pages smoothed then refolded and tucked lovingly back into envelopes like children into bed.

It occurred to me then that I’d have fewer letters to hold onto, and my daughter and grandchildren would have even less. We email now, send texts and photos, and these are things you can’t tie with a ribbon and squirrel away.

But for years I’ve been keeping a file of emails on my laptop labelled “Nice Letters” which I dip into now and again on a dull day in the same way my mother might have sifted through hers. Some are from friends and family, others are from strangers who have read or seen a thing I’ve done and liked it. Many come with their own stories that echo mine. Some are just a simple bit of kindness.

It always surprises me that, when I read them, it feels like the first time. It seems it is harder to remember the lovely words people say, absorb them and hold them in your mind than, you know, the other kind.

We all do this – remember the hurts and criticisms easily, the praise less so. It’s called “negativity bias”, this bigger impact unpleasant experiences have on our psyche as opposed to positive things.

Studies show that insults, for example, fire up our brain much more than compliments do. Likely it’s because we are busy assessing how much of a threat this is, and whether we should be ready for flight or fight.

Like all mouthy, lippy women I get my fair (is it fair?) share of insults. Enough for me to have created an Insult Bingo Card for social media interactions, quietly (just using my inside voice) awarding points to detractors depending on how many squares they can cover.

You get points for: Never heard of you. Heard of you but never liked you. No longer funny. Never been funny ever. Old and/or ugly and/or fat. Smarty-pants and/or dummy. Raving communist and/or government shill.

It is worth noting that I can be accused of pairs of mutually exclusive things by just one person. There are several blokes and one or two sheilas who have never heard of me but also have disliked me for years.

If it all gets a bit much, I might have a fossick through the Nice Letters. Though the very best thing – the real antidote – is not to read a Nice Letter, but to write one to someone else. And you hope they are – we are all – keeping a file of shiny things to read on a dull day.



Read More

20 Mar Transistor Radio

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 20.3.23


On a windowsill at my place there is a solar powered radio which also doubles as a torch. I bought it in 2010 from one of those mail order catalogues that features couch covers with handy pockets, and anti-slip shower mats that promise to massage your feet.

Not everything in the brochure has a dual function but you have to turn quite a few pages to find something that doesn’t. I have my eye on a vintage wall clock that doubles as a secret storage space. Except now I’ve told you.

No need to hunt out the receipt to be sure of my torch-radio’s date of purchase – I know I placed the order immediately after that first devastating Christchurch earthquake in September 2010, the one that woke the city in the dark.

From where we were up the other end of the country, we heard stories of people whose only way of staying connected in a city without electricity, telephones or internet was to listen to the radio. RNZ National’s overnight announcer, Vicki McKay, was credited by many listeners for keeping a shaken – and still shaking – city calm and informed.

If bad things were to happen where I lived, I wanted to know I’d be able to tune in to Vicki, too.

Hence this clunky banana-coloured transistor sitting in my window. A hybrid, if you will, because in addition to the solar panel, you can whack in AA batteries, or plug it in, or if it’s dark and there’s a power cut and the batteries eventually die, you can wind a lever to give it a bit of juice for as long as your arm lasts.

Preparing for these recent weather events, I’ve realised it’s now the only transistor left in my house. There used to be some kind of more-or-less portable radio in pretty much every room, mostly plugged in but also able to take batteries should the need arise.

One also played CDs and a particularly ancient one could play a cassette if we still had some. (We have some.) One by one, they’ve been replaced by Bluetooth speakers connected to my phone – better sound quality, less space, easy access to whatever I want to hear next.

Unless, of course, I want to hear the news during a long power cut. Or to hear Joni Mitchell, who took her full body of work off Spotify and thank heavens I still had my lifetime’s collection of her albums and something to play them on. My resistance to letting go of things can look almost prescient.

There’s been a surge in transistor radio purchases over recent weeks – along with a quick lesson for some demographics about what a transistor is.

I was a kid when my father took me to buy my first one. Dad chose the second cheapest despite the salesman saying the one just a couple of dollars more was significantly better quality. Our family has approached appliances the way people approach wine – not the cheapest on the list, but we’re not paying crazy prices either, are you mad?

And sure it was tinny and crackly, but it was still brilliant for listening under the bedclothes to a whole world of music on the new radio station up the road in Palmy, and this was how I first heard Steely Dan and possibly Joni Mitchell before she came home on a record.

It was true then – and true again in an emergency – that it doesn’t really matter how tinny it sounds when all you want is to feel connected.


Read More

18 Mar My Hairdresser Hates Me

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 13.3.23


For a while – and this is no longer true – but for about a year, I had a hairdresser who hated me.

Hate is a strong word. I mean he looked bored when I arrived at the salon, could barely summon the energy to cover me with a cape. Rolled his eyes when I told him what I’d like done. Muttered instructions to the colourist in the tone of someone sharing an insult. Meandered back later with scissors to disagree with me about the length and shape of my fringe. And right at the end – my favourite bit – he’d do a sort of sarcastic flourish in the mirror as we both looked at the final effect, as if to say, “Ghastly. Still, look what I had to work with,” and he’d slouch off to his next client.

I loved it. I’m not entirely sure why. But I kept going back, like I say, for a year or so. It felt very French (he wasn’t French) to be dismissed this way. Here he was, a trained professional in making women look and feel good but, in this particular instance, not really bothered because clearly, sigh, what was the point?

It felt very funny, too. I’d sit in his chair each time and imagine it as an episode in a comic reality TV show where you came for a makeover but no one actually cared. I’d tell people, “My hairdresser hates me!” as though it was the best joke, and we’d all marvel at this strange phenomenon.

Strange, and oddly refreshing – at first anyway. Hairdressers mostly adore you, want the best for you, see potential for volume and movement and shine. They might gently note split ends and return of the greys, but in a tone that suggests we can put that behind us now. They won’t mention anything they can’t fix. You are already gorgeous, they’re just going to let that show.

Not this guy. This guy had no soft patter, could find no compliment to give about my hair, nor my frock, nor a handbag. Nothing about me appealed. Once – and this is a treasured moment – when trying to explain just how short I like my fringe (very) I showed him on my phone one of my publicity photos taken with full makeup and beautiful lighting, and he looked at it like I’d forced him to look at something in a state of decay, and made a noise that sounded exactly like, “Pfft”.

It is possible I hurt his feelings early on, irrevocably. The first time I was sent to his chair (didn’t feel like that the first time but did on subsequent visits) I’d told him “light trim, soft layers”. He’d suggested a short bob, jagged fringe. I told him I’d just grown out a short bob and wasn’t ready to go back.

We could say it started then? But he’d approached me with an air of defeat before that conversation began.

It’s possible I was hoping for a breakthrough. Like those gigs where ninety-nine people are laughing but the hundredth has a stony face and so the whole show becomes about making them crack. Or I’m a masochist, or I’m uncomfortable with compliments, or I have a thing for emotionally unavailable men.

Not now, though. Somewhere in between lockdowns I let him cut a short bob with a jagged fringe. It turned out we both hated it. That’s when I knew it was over.



Read More

13 Mar Unprecedented

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 6.3.23


There is a very good chance that you, like me, have had it up to here with “unprecedented events”. That you would like many days in a row where nothing notable happened, where you only experienced things that are familiar, ordinary, banal.

Never have I been quite so keen to be bored. I’d like someone in a shop to say casually, “How’ve you been?” and I’d like to answer truthfully, “Oh, you know… Same old same-old.” And we’d grin at each other and float comfortably on.

Instead, up at our mall, we’ve been asking each other if flood waters have been lapping at doors, and sharing tales of downed trees, drowned houses and power cuts, a little unburdening that is always tagged with, “But really we’ve been lucky, I know plenty who’ve had it worse.”

And that’s just this year. For many years in a row, our casual chat has been about big events – domestic terrorism, eruptions, a virus, lockdowns, an occupation at Parliament – that were not part of our conversations before. Regular use of the word “unprecedented” is no longer unprecedented.

When a National State of Emergency was declared on Valentine’s Day, it was noted this was only the third time in our country’s history that this had been done. The Canterbury earthquakes, a pandemic, and now Cyclone Gabrielle. It’s a big deal. It’s new.

It’s so new, some people didn’t get it. “But why? I’m fine over here!” could be heard on social media, people not understanding that a national state of emergency doesn’t mean the whole country is in trouble, but that the whole country will help those who are.

So many things we have never done before – at least, not in my lifetime, and I’m old. And not the fun new experiences you might put on a bucket list. Hot air ballooning, having a conversation in te reo, learning to swing dance… This is about diving into situations and looking for solutions to things that feel alien and unexpected.

It goes some way to explain our slightly odd and irrational responses, like racing to the supermarket each time a lockdown was called or a cyclone is imminent to buy unfeasibly large quantities of toilet paper or eggs or whatever the imagined “scarce item du jour” might be. We’re not entirely sure how to prepare for this threat, but squirreling away acorns feels a little bit right? Hardwired to equate “safety” with “supplies”.

Friends overseas tell me we are making the news over there – we always have, with our books and comedians and films and sports – but with unprecedented weather events now, as well as the other things.

Over a decade ago, when I was on the other side of the world, I remember my eye catching the N and Z of New Zealand in a news story, as it does, and the headline read: “Sheep Runs Wild In Wellington Streets”.

Turns out a mystery sheep had been seen bolting down Ghuznee Street shortly before midnight and was apprehended by local police after being cornered in the Briscoes car park.

Officers had bundled the sheep into the back of their vehicle and taken it the police station. “There was nothing else we could do with it,” they’d said. “It could have caused mayhem if it got into Courtenay Place.” I had never missed my country more.

It felt like a story I’d heard before, and now hanker to hear again. Familiar. Ordinary. Baa-nal.



Read More

05 Mar On Salsa and Also Gumboots and Those Empty Supermarket Shelves

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 27.2.23


There is a constant supply of homemade salsa at my place right now. Partly it’s because nothing says “summer” on a rainy day like a bowl full of spicy tomatoes (close your eyes and pretend) but also because I keep seeing coriander in the shops and cannot walk past without buying it.

Truth is, I am still recovering from The Great Tabbouleh Debacle of Christmas 2022. I say “tabbouleh” but the trauma included salsa.

These are my two favourite “salads” if you will. Fun to make, festive colours, fresh and delicious. They were to be a pivotal part of our Christmas lunch production – supporting acts to glazed ham in the starring role.

So imagine my accelerating panic in the week leading up to December 25th as I found, day after day, that key ingredients in both dishes were suddenly (I swear they’d been there the week before) missing from all stores in my local environs.

Coriander and flat leaf parsley? Too much rain, thank you climate change. Bulgur wheat? Supply chain issues, thank you Covid. Limes? Good luck finding them, bless you if you could afford them. Onions? Also rain, but red onions could be bought with any gold bullion you had left over from buying that solitary lime.

“It’s like living in the Soviet Union!” I texted hyperbolically to a friend who also had a need for limes, possibly (and ironically) for her vodka. I sent her a photo of a pouch of lime juice – twice the price it was a year ago – to see if that would do. It would, so I swapped that for a handful of parsley (curly, not flat, but needs must) from her garden.

Tip for anyone else attempting tabbouleh in these difficult times – couscous is a reasonable substitute, but also you might find a bag of bulgur on a lost shelf in the gluten-free aisle.

Ultimately, Christmas lunch was saved but it’s made me think how much we’ve assumed we could get anything, anytime. I understand about “seasonal produce” – we grew up with a vegetable garden, so I get it that stuff ripens for a little bit, and then disappears till the same time next year. No point hankering after fresh asparagus in May.

Though this does not apply to silverbeet. That nasty stuff is the vegetable equivalent of a post-nuclear cockroach. It just keeps on existing, even when you encourage the family chooks to peck it to death. Ugh.

But these empty shelves we’ve been seeing are new to us – the gaps where the tissues used to be, or eggs, or seasonal vegetables now battered by unseasonable weather.

Empty shelves, too, for things we wouldn’t usually need during this season, but now do. Even before the floods, I went looking for gumboots – something lighter than my red bands that would work for outdoor gigs in an already damp January, and which wouldn’t require a woolly sock.

“Gumboots?!” The lady in the store was incredulous. “Not now!” A few short, wet weeks later it is entirely possible someone in head office is rethinking what makes the perfect summer shoe and that “waterproof” will become a design feature.

In the north of Aotearoa it seems we are going to have to learn to live with more rain than we’re used to. So I’ve dug out my red polka dot umbrella, and found some light PVC boots, and now I’m walking to the greengrocer to see if they’ve got any parsley.


Read More

20 Feb Having A Go-Bag

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 20.2.23


The other week, I turned up at yoga without my yoga mat. Not a disaster – there’s a cupboard full in the studio and, while they are not orange like the one I love for my down-dogs and Salamba Sarvangasanas, you can still have a brilliant time on them. Namaste.

Still, the annoying bit was I’d forgotten the one thing I needed to remember – the rolled-up hot orange mat, placed carefully at the front door to make forgetting difficult. And yet. As I flew down the stairs I’d been distracted by a text and this was all it took. Lucky I had my pants on already, right?

We forget stuff. Often, we forget stuff because our brains are busy. There is a popular theory that we make 35,000 decisions a day and, while most of these would have to be below the level of consciousness, I can see that what to wear/eat/say/do/read could easily reach an astronomical tally in between choosing to hit the snooze button in the morning and deciding when to turn out the light at night. Just getting this page in front of you probably involved dozens of choices, so well done, you.

To reduce Decision Fatigue, people create hacks, shortcuts for avoiding unnecessary choices. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously filled his wardrobe with identical blue jeans and Issey Miyake black turtlenecks so he wouldn’t have to decide what to wear on the daily. Basically, he picked looking like a boring middle-aged dude and stuck with it. Instead, he took the time and energy the rest of us would use up on, “Does that top go with that skirt or is it a trousers day?” to do something else, like imagine an iPad into existence.

My favourite life hack is one I picked up from “Criminal Minds”, a TV series about profilers who work for the FBI tracking psychopaths and sociopaths wreaking havoc on society.

Dealing with psychopaths and sociopaths is not what we have in common – though if you saw who comes to find me on Twitter some days, you’d wonder. What we mostly share is frequent travel.

And so, like them, I keep a “Go-Bag” – a few essentials packed and ready to scoot off with anywhere, anytime. It is possibly not so different from the thing you packed in the last weeks of pregnancy ready for the hospital run, back when you believed being “organised” and “ready” was possible because you didn’t yet have kids. Or the Baby Bag you kept later with wet wipes and spare nappies, always enough of them in there until the day you found yourself out of range of a supermarket.

My Go-Bag involves a complete toiletries kit. I have, over the years, bought two of everything you need in the bathroom because I got tired of having to think my way through the ablution process to ensure I had a hairbrush, toothbrush and moisturiser, not to mention plasters, tweezers and Savlon.

It has all the things you might assume plus some surprises, perhaps. A tin with soap, because I hate this new hotel thing of liquid soap on the wall. Scissors, because you’d be amazed how often you need to open impossible things. A vegetable peeler, because the carrot is my favourite snack.

I am still, though, capable of leaving stuff behind. Until I made a travel makeup bag, I would frequently turn up to do an event without mascara, or foundation, or powder. I often forget pyjamas, but not often enough to make them the first thing I pack. Though I once went away with no undies at all, and can confirm this is not a thing you do twice.


Read More

13 Feb Getting My Steps In

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 13.2.23


I like to walk to the shops on Mondays because that’s when the gelato place is shut. A walk plus a gelato is less efficacious, by my calculations, than just a walk. Though still better than a gelato sans walk, of course.

But if the walk is the point then taking it on a Monday when there is no risk of gelato seems wise. I have willpower, I just see no reason to test it unnecessarily. Certainly not when they’ve put the pistachio and the salted caramel right there at the front of the cabinet.

“Getting my steps in” is how we talk about it now, this conscious moving around to reach a daily target we’ve set ourselves.

My phone has been quietly keeping track of how many steps and flights of stairs I’ve been taking for years, even before I knew what it was up to. Now it delivers unasked for statistics about my current activities and how they compare to last week, last month, and even last year.

And yes, it is creepy that this app on my phone has been gathering data on me since 2016, but it’s also fascinating to have all that information available in an orange bar graph. I can swipe through and spot the holidays at Disneyland (sudden columns tall as skyscrapers) and lockdowns (rows of tiny boxes) and the year I wrote a book and barely moved.

There was a time when I didn’t need to think about getting my steps in. This was long ago in an era when we didn’t carry water bottles because we didn’t know we were thirsty, or that being thirsty between locations was bad.

Instead of “getting my steps in”, I just “walked to things” – school, or university, or a job. In my first year in Wellington I lived on one side of the city and studied on the other, and public transport involved two bus routes that didn’t quite mesh so on days with less than torrential rain or gale force winds, it seemed easier to walk.

I reminisced about this when I was back there last month, staying down one end of the city and working up the other, cheerfully ambling along the waterfront several times a day. (The Capital, unlike my home city, has been having A Summer, which is both enviable and weird.)

Those earlier years of walking were curbed by work commutes, and taxiing kids, and fetching (and fetching for) aging parents. And generally squeezing so many things into each day that the only viable option for getting from A to B was the fast one, even for short trips – like a hasty nip to the shops.

Now I’m replacing as many of those drives as I can with a walk, which leads to “a think”, and possibly also an admission that this tedious nonsense about exercise and how it makes you feel good turns out to be – snore – quite correct. Endorphins and whatnot, who knew? I mean, everyone, including earlier versions of me, but I’m joining the party once more.

Even when you must take the car, this pro-walking ethos takes the anxiety out of finding a car park. Two blocks away? That’ll look good on my bar graph.

There is another app on my phone that tells me when I’ve done enough exercise for a treat. I downloaded that app on purpose. Turns out, two walks to the shops almost equals one gelato.

I love Tuesdays.


Read More