17 Oct A Gift of Ageing

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 17.10.22


Our family is about to celebrate a 90th birthday and it will be the first one in a very long time.

There was probably a bit of a do when my maternal great-grandmother, Edith Rogers, reached this particular milestone but I was only two years old then and don’t remember it. No doubt it involved asparagus rolls and brandy snaps because in our family you couldn’t call it a party without them – still can’t, to be fair.

This dearth of 90th birthdays is not because we have a familial tendency to shuffle off our mortal coil prematurely – life expectancy on both sides of my family is generally well into the 80s. But this 90th sets a fresh benchmark, and it will be a delight to gather for Auntie Iris – my late-father’s youngest sister – and celebrate a terrifically good run.

I like the idea of 90 – it gives you reason to imagine a life might be made up of three acts, each of them thirty years long. You can think about what you did in your first 30 years, and then how much you’ve packed into life since, and feel quite chipper about imagining another chunk of life that size. Honestly, there might almost be enough time to get it all done. Though you wouldn’t want to dilly-dally.

The gift of youth, I often think, is that you don’t yet know that some things are impossible, so you launch yourself into ventures you might be wary of later. It can turn out they were possible – mostly because you thought they were. There is something to be said for being so young you haven’t had time to make a lot of mistakes. That youthful lack of cynicism is to be treasured.

Those of you in Act Two or Three – think about what you did in Act One, before you turned 30. I bet there was some wild stuff in there – stuff you might not do now, but which you don’t regret having a crack at then, and I bet a whole lot of it worked out really well.

As we get older, experience can make us risk averse. But it can also make us the other thing if we choose it. I have come to believe the gift of ageing is knowing in your bones that, if there is something you want to do, best you get on to it now. You become aware there is much less “later” than there used to be.

I have developed a taste for reading biographies and watching biopics – a thing we love to do, it seems, when we reach a certain age because, I’m guessing, as you start to feel the shape of your own life it’s encouraging to take a look at the shape of someone else’s.

I’ve recently watched two documentaries – one about Leonard Cohen, the other on David Bowie – and in both you could detect a time in their third act when they clearly had zero tosses to give about what other people thought of them. There was less anxiety – about failure, or anything else – and a palpable sense of nothing to prove and nothing to lose. Both those moments were followed by an intense period of creative output.

Self-acceptance is a glorious thing. It is also mercurial – you can have it on a Tuesday, and then wonder where it’s gone by week’s end. So perhaps another gift of ageing is learning to celebrate any moment of feeling comfortably and unapologetically yourself. Serve yourself an asparagus roll and a brandy snap. Make it a party.


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10 Oct At The Movies

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 10.10.22


I have taken to scooting off to the movies at the drop of a hat. It feels a wild indulgence to sneak a couple of hours out of an afternoon and watch stories in the dark about other people’s lives.

I used to think the point of going to the movies was the company, but it’s enough to have an audience of strangers, a big screen and an ice-cream to make it feel like an event.

When I was a kid, it really was an event. We’d put on our Sunday Best (black patent leather shoes, yes please) and I’d have a Sherbet Dab sold exclusively at the Regent Theatre – a red lollipop you dipped into a powder-filled envelope and fizzed on your tongue. This was back when we stood for ‘God Save The Queen’ and Dick Van Dyke was in all the films.

Now I go as I am, though with a coat because all movie theatres are freezing. I can do this because my life doesn’t have a regular structure. I work from home, or out of town, or at night or all day or both, and then occasionally none of the above. I don’t know what the word is for this. Asked to provide one recently I started, “My life is…” and a man offered, “Chaos?” But it doesn’t feel like chaos. Just a lot of different things I love which happen in an unpredictable order. “Impromptu”, perhaps, like these trips to the movies.

A friend says going out by yourself feels “like a secret” and I know exactly what she means. Especially for people who have spent chunks of their lives caring for others, managing complex logistics of pick-ups and drop-offs similar to General Norman Schwarzkopf that time he was organising Operation Desert Storm. Though Desert Storm only lasted 43 days. Now, when only you know where you are, it is thrilling.

There is a time when you are a kid when you grow big enough to go out by yourself. For a bike ride, to the shops, to the playground by the lake. No longer picked up or dropped off at an approved place at an appointed time by a responsible adult. You are becoming one of those yourself.

This is what being a grown-up meant – to think, what would I like to do right now? Where would I like to go?

You got a lot of this when you first left home – these opportunities which are also responsibilities. Then there was very little of it once you were in relationship and/or had kids. The chance to be alone or do things by yourself were so few and far between that sometimes you might go to the bathroom and lock the door just for a bit of peace.

I can see myself as a kid, going for long bike rides on my own. Sometimes this would be to the cemetery down the other end of town, to read headstones and imagine other people’s lives. You could find markers to make stories, like the gap in time between the husband’s death and the wife’s. Most often it was a matter of months but sometimes it was decades, and you invented different stories for the years in between – was it a long grief, or a liberation? Then on the way home you’d have a Jelly Tip.

And here I am this many years later, sitting in the dark with an ice-cream, still fascinated by stories about other people’s lives.



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18 Sep Waiting For The Queen

Published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 3.10.22


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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11 Sep Old Dog Learns New Trick

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 19.9.22


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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11 Sep Shushed At The Ballet

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 12.9.22


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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31 Aug On the Merits of Creating Diversity

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 5.9.22


For two Sundays in August, I got to hang out backstage at a comedy show starring nothing but women. This is special enough to make me weepy with joy. (Very girly of me, obviously, and I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing.) And how wild that after doing this job for almost 30 years this is still rare.

Back when I started in comedy I barely got to work with other women. Received wisdom was each show was allowed a maximum of one lady, often less. This was based on the theory (I’m guessing here) that women are the carbohydrates of comedy and you can’t have potatoes and pasta at one sitting.

It remained this way for decades in live shows and on TV panels – maximum one woman at a time, please, to any number of men. So while boys bonded backstage and in touring vans, built their networks and shared opportunities with each other, women didn’t see each other at work at all. We didn’t watch each other perform, swap stories about our experiences or get to speak up for each other. We were simply never in the same room at the same time.

It also meant audiences couldn’t see how different we were from each other – no compare-and-contrast on any given night demonstrating we were not a homogenous group telling, according to legend, the same period joke.

It also meant we didn’t get to warn each other about particular dangers we were facing alone, a conversation we didn’t even know was missing until #metoo encouraged us to share our stories.

All of this is why I am a fan of quotas – of mandating diversity, if you will. Because my job, like most jobs, is one you get good at only by doing it. Every opportunity makes you ready for the next one, but you need that first one to get started.

The counter argument – and we hear it a lot in politics right now – is that selection should be based solely on merit, with no regard to quotas for diversity. The “merit” argument is hard to sustain given how many people chosen that way turned out to have little of it. Certainly as an approach the “selection on merit” system comes with no guarantee of success.

Besides which, “the best person for the job” might be less about someone’s individual skills, but the differences they bring like cultural knowledge, ethnic and gender perspectives, or disability experiences. Someone who is not like you will see things that are invisible to you. “Who are we not hearing from?” is always a good question for any group to ask itself.

In the past, I’ve had conversations with women who insist they don’t want to feel they’ve been given a seat at the table only because they’re a woman and a lady-shaped chair needed to be filled. They want to earn their spot, and I get that. But so often the reason they weren’t already at the table is because they’re a woman, and we’re fixing that now. Take the win, I say, and do something great with it.

My industry is not so different from anyone else’s. We can all see that, each time you create a space for someone to step up, they are likely to grab it with both hands and earn the right to be there. Because a quota will get you through the door, but you get to stay in the room based on your own merit.

And here’s a simple rule to live by: Don’t let anyone be “the only one”.


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31 Aug Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 29.8.22


There is a century old artwork newly treasured at my house. It is Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” painted in 1907, and it arrived as a birthday card inside a package from Vancouver last week.

The women are naked, unselfconscious, strident, ethnically diverse and all Picasso-angles suggesting curves. They look like the kind of women who would not suck in their tummies as they passed by a mirror. This kind of confidence is, for many of us, aspirational.

I am setting aside for a moment the problematic relationships Picasso had with women and that infamous quote about us all being either “goddesses or doormats”. In this painting, I choose not to see the artist. I see women in a brothel looking much like ladies gathered for book club who have stopped bothering with the books. There are snacks in the foreground and an intimation of cocktails.

The demoiselles were waiting for me after I’d flown home from a work trip, picking up doughnuts at the airport as I sometimes do. Not often. Doughnuts are a treat, pure carbs and sugar. In fact, moments before I saw the postcard I was pondering the wisdom of this ritual – as you get older, your pants get tighter for very little reason, and the number on the scales climbs, and you get anxious about the shape you are becoming and who this means you are now and OH MY LORD WHERE IS ALL THIS JUDGEMENT COMING FROM? Certainly not from the demoiselles of Avignon who look very open to the idea of not only doughnuts but of relaxing into themselves.

How I feel about my body, I’ve discovered, has less to do with what I put in my mouth, and more to do with what I put in my eyes. In a world where we are constantly shown what “conventionally beautiful” looks like in magazines and films, on TV and our phones, you can look up from all that to see yourself and feel – what? Disappointed, inadequate, unacceptable, in need of improvement?

There is a thing our brains do – have always done – which is to regularly create an idea of what “normal” and “usual” and “average” looks like. As we go about our day we subconsciously make a note of the faces we see so, by dinner time, our brain has compiled a composite image of what people generally look like.

In evolutionary terms this has been handy – we could immediately spot a stranger in the village by their unusual features, alerting us to inquire if they were friend or foe. But now, when we can spend all day seeing photo-shopped, filtered and otherwise enhanced faces and bodies, that’s what our brain uses to produce its composite image of “average”. In this impossible context, our very own face is the one of out of place.

A really useful question to ask ourselves is, who benefits from this? Because those images of “what you don’t look like, but might if you tried harder or bought this” are a big business, directly or indirectly advertising something – the perfect thing you need now you’re aware of your imperfections.

It is powerful, then, to remind ourselves that these thoughts we have about not being beautiful have been put there by someone who is trying to sell us something.

I’m spending part of each day staring at the unapologetic women of Avignon and admiring their spirit. A positive body image is a daily battle, and they’re one of the weapons that help me win it.


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31 Aug Wisdom – Off The Top Of My Head

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 22.8.22


When you are no longer young, you find you are regularly asked what you had wished you had known back when you were.

“What would you tell your teenage self?” is a great question. It’s an invitation to pass wisdom forward so you’re not the only person who learns from your mistakes or benefits from your victories. Plus it’s a delight to hold the memory of your 16-year-old self for a moment, and be grateful life now involves fewer pimples and less angst.

Such a noble question deserves an august answer but lately I find the thing I am passionate to share with people – the thing I wish I had known about much sooner – is dry shampoo.

Full disclosure – I do not own shares in dry shampoo. Though I wish I did. I’d be as proud as if I’d invested in some other life-changing invention like the washing machine or the bicycle which both contributed greatly to the liberation of women.

I ponder the inventions that changed our lives forever – from tampons and contraception in my lifetime right back to the public toilet which meant Victorian women could venture even further from home than their bladders would allow. Somewhere on that list, I’d put in small letters, “dry shampoo”.

I cannot overstate the freedom it has brought me because – further disclosure – I have fine hair which is neither curly nor straight, and a scalp that tends to oily. Friends, what a combo. It means I have, for my whole life until this point, felt the need to wash my hair every second day and then, with varying degrees of commitment, encouraged it into something that is not frizz.

Cumulatively, that’s a lot of time which could have been spent on other things. I might have written another book! Had more children! Studied art history! But no, there I was, shampooing, conditioning, detangling and blow drying because my head felt grubby and my hair had about as much shape as dropped cake.

I tried a dry shampoo once before – something on special at the supermarket because you don’t want to spend a lot of money on something that might not work. And it didn’t – it came out of the can as a white spray and stayed that way on my black hair. Aesthetically, it was similar to that canned fake snow people sprayed on our summer windows to indicate Christmas. This was in the years before someone suggested we give up that northern hemisphere nonsense and embrace the Pohutukawa. If you’d put a red-breasted robin on my head, people who have said, “I see what you’re going for there, but it’s not working.”

Then last September I had ear surgery involving incisions and stitches. I was instructed not to wash my hair for two weeks, and that dry shampoo would be my friend. Two weeks! That’s seven washes missed! It was hard to imagine how lank and out-of-sorts my hair and I would be.

I invested in a fancy dry shampoo which made assurances that made it sound similar to dry-cleaning clothes – all the benefits without the wet. Outlandish promises are often made in the world of cosmetics, but this one was kept. Now, even when I could go back to alternate-day washing, I don’t. I discover, left to its own devices, my hair might even curl in a fairly pleasant way. Also, I keep hats handy.


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16 Aug Little Libraries

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 15.8.22


When I lose faith in humanity, I go for a walk down to our local park. There’s a lot to do there – chat with the ducks, have a jolly good swing, and browse through the latest offerings in our Little Library.

We have, in fact, two “libraries” in our park – freestanding cupboards built beside the play area. The bigger box has a glass front door and is filled with grown-up books. Next to it and set lower to the ground is another with stories for the kids.

Locals are welcome to give, swap, or just take books. You will find thumping bestsellers, old classics, and the occasional whacky read about something like spoon collecting which you hope will find its dream reader. I discovered a copy of Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments” there when it was still hot off the presses – left, I’m guessing, either by a speed-reader or a disappointed giftee.

When these outdoor bookshelves appeared a few years ago, I found it a little confronting to see books left unattended out in the wild. I was worried about the weather, or thieves, but mostly hoodlums who prefer to destroy rather than create.

Now and then, yes, the cupboards have been knocked about and books strewn, but whoever it is that tends them has never lost heart, and there are clearly more of us who cherish these treasures than there are vandals. Faith restored.

Also, “thieves” is a word that doesn’t fit in this context. These are books freely given for anyone to take. You can’t steal a thing that you’ve been offered.

Some days, after a swing and a slide and a flying fox, my mokopuna will read a book from the little one while I tidy (can’t help myself) the books in the grown-ups’ cabinet. Occasionally, books have been gifted from our household and swaps have been made.

Little libraries are an international phenomenon called Book Swap Boxes, Book Fridges, Hedge Libraries or Lilliput Libraries depending on the nomenclature favoured by a neighbourhood. They can range in size from a single bookshelf in a cafe to a shipping container filled with shelves – there’s one of those on Auckland’s waterfront. Regardless of size or geography, I’ve noticed they all tend to share a similar aesthetic sourced from the Dr Seuss colour palette.

My friend, Julie Fairey, is a passionate advocate and tells me the act of tootling round the neighbourhood popping good quality second-hand books into various little libraries is known officially as “book-bombing” – the most peaceful kind of bombing there is.

It’s a wonderful descriptor – there’s something very satisfying about placing a book you’ve loved on a shelf in a public place and trusting it will find its next home.

Julie notes that during Covid lockdowns when libraries were closed and before click and collect was set up, community book exchange spots were the only place people could get books for free. Kids’ books were especially popular for children stuck at home and hankering for a fresh story. So more little libraries popped up all over the country and now there are community Facebook groups to help people find ones in their area.

These are forever, of course, not just for pandemics. Look out for one in your neighbourhood, or even think about making one yourself. People who know about these things say they work best if they start as – and remain – a neighbourhood initiative, set up and cared for by the people who live and read nearby.

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07 Aug Invalid Name

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 8.8.22


Every time we go to the vet, I think about that time my daughter decided to change her name. (Weird start for a story, but you know what I’m like.) We were there again this morning with our cat, Satchmo, named for jazz legend Louis Armstrong and while he was weighed (not as heavy as I’d feared) and vaccinated (Satchmo’s a big believer in science) I was thinking back 20-odd years to a visit at the same clinic with a different cat.

Jimmy was our big fluffy ginger boy who enjoyed a remarkable 21 years, living with me well before my daughter was born and still here with us after she’d left home. Terrific cat, used to sleep on my head at night as though I was a pillow or he was a hat. I still miss him.

When Jimmy was eight and Holly was six, we arrived at the vet and were greeted with, “Jimmy A’Court? Come through.”

“Is he an A’Court, too?” Holly asked me, clearly struck by this information. Back then, Holly still had her father’s name but, she pointed out that day, everyone else living in our house – her mother, her grandparents and the cat – was an A’Court so she wanted to be one, too.

I said I wasn’t sure how to go about changing it and she did one of those six-year-old eye rolls and explained, “Oh, mummy! You write a letter to the government and tell them that’s what you want to do and they fix it.”

So we did, and they did, and all these years later her children carry our name along with others, which is very cool. For a while, because of the patriarchal tradition of only sons keeping their names, it looked like A’Courts were an endangered species, but we are flourishing now.

Though it is something of a hospital pass – it is rare that anyone knows how to spell it, even less likely they know how to say it. (For reference, it’s A like the letter A, emphasis on the first syllable – think “Acorn” but with a “t” right there at the last minute.)

I still find it hard to correct people, particularly in those settings where someone says, “Please welcome Michele a-COURT” so the first words out of my mouth would need to be, ‘Hello, you’ve done it wrong, lovely to be here”.

In more recent years we’ve discovered that, in a digital context, having two capitals and an apostrophe renders a name “invalid”. Various ancestors would be spinning to see “Acourt” typed into in online forms.

I am also blessed with a tricky first name – Michele spelt the traditional French way with one “l” and (my mother’s idea) a grave accent which I’ve been told is pretentious, to which I say, “Moi?” I’m not fussed if anyone else uses it, but once you get used to a macron showing you the length of a syllable in te reo, you can handle a grave.

There is a gift passed among all of us with less usual names. I swear every Siobhan and Aiofe is inclined to take extra care to get things right when they meet a Cholmondeley Majoribanks. A name is a taonga, and getting it right feels like a blessing.

They got the hang of A’Court at the vet clinic ages ago. Though I do remember on an early visit with our new boy, the vet nurse asked, “Satchmo… Now how do you spell that?”



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