07 Mar What Not To Ask

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 14.3.22


We’re all a bit edgy in these Pandemic times, so I’ve been asking around for samples of the things we might be saying to each other than tip us over that edge. Turns out, you don’t have to bring up the virus or vaccines to ruin a conversation – pregnancy and parenting can do it, too.

It’s weirdly comforting to remind ourselves we’ve been saying dumb stuff to each other forever. But since we are living in what is objectively a Very Difficult Time, a chat about what not to ask each other is timely.

In terms of frequency, my survey says top of the list of Worst Questions People Ask is, “When is the baby due?” It’s a sweet enough enquiry if you’re planning to knit booties and want to know how fast to get the needles flying, but it’s a truly terrible thing to ask of someone who is, you know, not actually pregnant. Looking pregnant when not pregnant is not aspirational. Nor is being reminded you’re not pregnant if you quietly aspire to be.

We should agree right now on a fundamental rule: do not mention someone else’s pregnancy until they do. If they’re actually pregnant, they’ll probably bring it up so wait for that. Even if they’re having something that might be contractions and you think you can see a baby’s head crowning, I’d still keep it subtle and maybe gently ask if they’d like you to boil some water and grab some towels.

It may seem counterintuitive but, as much as people love talking about their kids, let them take the lead on what gets covered. Definitely do not ask “Was it planned?”  (we always say they were, regardless), or “Do your kids know they are adopted?” followed by, “How much did they cost?” (Not kidding, real question asked of a real parent.)

Also, we need to keep our sticky beaks out of when people might have another kid, and out of asking people who don’t have children why not. Though the opportunity to say, “Because we don’t breed well in captivity” can be very welcome.

Also, we must not ask, “Have you had your baby yet?” While it can be hard to tell because normal women don’t go back to their pre-pregnancy shape … like, ever … this is going to be awkward if her response is to call over a toddler as Exhibit A. Instead, maybe try, “What you been up to?” and see if a recent birth is at the top of her news.

When we a see a woman out doing her career, let’s not immediately ask her who’s looking after the kids – it suggests that’s her real job and she must have done something strategically and logistically amazing to wriggle out of it. Plus, right now she might want to exist in the world as something other than a parent.

We should not, at any point, ask if her partner is “babysitting”. Fathers don’t like it either. That thing dads do when they spend time with their kids is just called “parenting” and you don’t get paid for it by the hour or get a lift home afterwards, and you make your own supper.

Best thing to say to parents? One person told me they’ve never forgotten being told by a stranger, “I love the way you talk to your kids!” And a mother overhearing grandma say to her daughter, “You are a strong woman, and you come from a long line of strong women”. Gold.


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28 Feb What Not To Say

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 7.3.22


You know how it is – you’ve had a hard week and what you’d most like to do is slip into something with an elasticated waistband and binge some small screen trash. But there’s a thing you’ve promised to go to and it will probably be lovely once you get there.

So you make the effort, do magic with under-eye concealer and dress like you’re totally up for this so that, by the time you arrive in your favourite frock and sexy shoes, you’re starting to believe your own hype.

Until someone, head tilted, concerned of face, says, “You okay? You look tired.” Oof. You feel it now. Deflated. Rug pulled out from under. All that concealer is just dragging your eyes miserably, inexorably, down towards your ridiculous shoes.

“You look tired” is one of those things we should never say, unless it’s to a small child we are encouraging to go to bed. In all other circumstances, it is a cruel observation, an appalling conversation starter, and a self-fulfilling prophesy. I’m pretty sure you could say, “You look tired” to a woman who had just returned from an invigorating 3-day retreat and she would visibly slump with sudden exhaustion.

There are other “Things We Shouldn’t Say” to each other – and I know this because I asked a bunch of friends and acquaintances to share their pet conversational peeves.

They fall into categories: things that sound like compliments but aren’t (compli-nots, if you will); unsolicited advice (“Calm down, love”); questions you shouldn’t ask, (“When is your baby due?” which gets asked of people who aren’t pregnant more often than you’d think); and daft platitudes that are the opposite of helpful, (“Cheer up, it might never happen!” when actually, take a breath mate, it just has, hence my face).

Each category gets a page of its own in coming weeks, along with a crowdsourced list of beautiful things we absolutely should say to each other – random compliments for courage and skill and also great pants, which are what we all want more of.

But this week, the compli-nots! The backhanders, which too often are to do with age or weight. “You were beautiful when you were young!” and “You would have been quite something in your day!” both have the structure of a compliment but feel like a dagger to your shrivelled old heart.

“You’re looking well,” is, we all know, code for, “You’ve chunked up”, or the new-to-me rural expression, “You’ve been in a good paddock, haven’t you?”. Moo.

Then round the other way, we have weight loss conflated with attractiveness – the classic, “You look great, have you lost weight?” which is not only wildly judgemental, but also more than one person has discovered the reason for weight loss was dire illness. So let’s just not talk about each other’s size.

Including “You’re shorter than I expected” which I get a lot. Depending on my mood, I’ll go with either, “It’s been a shock for me, too” or “You’re less charming than I’d hoped”. Whichever way I go, the dialogue stalls.

Worse, I get, “I don’t usually like female comedians, but I like you,” – again, it left their brain as a compliment but arrived as an insult to all the women I work with and adore. Though if I say this I’ll get, “Calm down, love.”

Finally, no compliment on appearance – your stunning hair, your beautiful face, your divine outfit – should be followed by, “I barely recognised you!” Ouch.


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21 Feb Remembering How Cars (and Vaccines) Work

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 28.2.22


Back the 1970s when I was a kid, pretty much everyone drove manual cars. My mother’s green Morris Minor had a wobbly gear stick about a yard long and, with no synchromesh left in Gertie’s gear box, you had to double declutch on your way out of fourth back down to third.

Honestly, I can explain what this means – that you push in the clutch, flick her into neutral, release the clutch, pump the accelerator, push the clutch down again and shift into third – but I don’t think it’s going to help. You either know how to double declutch or you’re under 50, and you can’t be both.

There was only one car I rode in as a kid that was an automatic. Mrs P. had survived childhood polio but one of her legs had never recovered so managing a clutch as well as the accelerator and brake would have been impossible. Mrs P and my mother took turns driving us kids to dance classes, and I thought her car was cool, but not the reason for needing it.

We all knew about polio – about iron lungs and people our parents’ age who had been sick like Mrs P or who had siblings who’d died. We also knew it was unlikely we would ever get polio because they’d made a vaccine and we’d all been given it, and that felt pretty great.

We also talked about vaccines because my mother had a story about almost dying as a child from diphtheria. Diphtheria (my mother was always careful to pronounce it properly as “diff-theria”, not “dip”) had been a common cause of death in children when my mother was at primary school, but by the 1970s almost no one had heard of it – we’d been vaccinated against it as babies and then again as children.

At high school in the mid-1970s, everyone in my year waited in a line outside the assembly hall with our sleeves rolled up to get jabbed in the arm with the tuberculosis vaccine. We knew from English class that TB was the lung disease that killed Katherine Mansfield at the age of 34, plus our neighbour had had it, so I was very much into getting that vaccine, too.

Vaccinating every kid against TB stopped in the 1990s because it became so uncommon, though at-risk groups are still offered it for free.

Kids born today continue to be vaccinated against polio and diphtheria, as well as a raft of other diseases – measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, hepatitis B, meningitis, Rotavirus – which stay uncommon because we keep vaccinating against them.

A couple of weeks ago, my 8-year-old granddaughter had her first Covid vaccination. Her 4-year-old brother is too young for that yet but, on the same day at the same time in the same clinic, he got his latest shots for whooping cough, tetanus, polio and diphtheria. My mother and Mrs P would be pleased.

These are repeats of his vaccinations at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months – and there have been others too. In all the brouhaha right now, I think we forget how vaccines are administered, that it’s not one-and-done – we space them, we boost them, we tweak for new strains.

At age 65, I’ll be due for my next round of tetanus, whooping cough and – yes, mother! – diphtheria vaccinations. Not exactly looking forward to it, but still grateful that when I drive an automatic car, it’s out of choice, not necessity.


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14 Feb Little Treats In The Post

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 21.2.22


Little treats arriving in the post – there’s nothing like it, is there? As a kid, it was such a hopeful tootle down to the letterbox each day in the week before your birthday – and also after, in case some great-aunt or other had almost forgotten but not quite.

There might be a card with a postal note (old timey pretend-money before bitcoin) or actual dollar notes if the sender was up for the bald-faced risk. Even better, there could be an actual parcel – whee! – containing a book, or a game, or something knitted – not the favourite option but still a thrill because of the surprise factor.

Now, as a grown up, it can be tricky to recreate that moment of wonderment, of a mystery revealed, when the parcels arriving at your door were mostly sent to you by you.

Tricky, but not impossible. For starters, there’s the lag between order and delivery. We’ve been embracing online purchasing since lockdowns made it our only option, and courier companies still seem overwhelmed by the volume of deliveries. Which – silver linings – leaves you with enough time to forget what might be arriving on your doorstep next.

Some of our mornings begin with Jeremy shouting, “Are you expecting something?” as a van pulls up at the front door downstairs, and me replying, “I don’t know, probably?” And then the sound of a parcel being thrown at the steps and a van reversing at speed (like I say, they’ve got a lot on) and Jeremy muttering, “Well, I hope it isn’t fragile”.

Sometimes the forgetting is less about the waiting, more about the chardonnay. Even before this pandemic got us window shopping on our phones, a lovely friend would tell me about spending the occasional Friday evening enjoying a wine or three, and browsing stuff from stores she missed back home in England. A few weeks later things would start arriving – not quite remembered but for the most part appreciated and, happily, in her size. Like a whole lot of presents from someone with her exact taste.

Other times you can blame the shopping on the toddler. That’s what happened to a family in New Jersey recently – mum was browsing a website, popping furniture she fancied into the cart so she could go back later and choose maybe one or two things. Except her 22-month-old son was playing with her phone and managed to click “check-out” and, because her credit card was loaded onto the website, the payment automatically went through.

Over the next days and weeks, things started to arrive. Many things, like flower stands and armchairs – NZ$2690 worth of stuff. It was a wild enough story to bring a TV news crew to the house to interview the family. During which the little boy apparently got hold of the reporter’s phone, opened her contacts and sent an email to her mum. This is what happens, they reckon, when you raise a baby during a pandemic and model living so much of your life on your devices.

The store has agreed to let the family return the furniture, and the parents have agreed to put passcodes on their phones. One hopes they will be complicated passcodes, and not something easy for the kid to work out, like his birth date.

Meanwhile, I’ll stick to my new online ordering ways and keep those parcels coming – and continue saving a small fortune on petrol and parking.


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07 Feb Don’t Eat That, I Just Bought It!

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 14.2.22


I don’t know exactly when “stocking up” becomes “hoarding”. Is it three packets of macaroni? Six cans of tuna? Or is it opening the spare bedroom wardrobe to jam in another mega stack of toilet paper and a carton of baked beans?

All I can say for sure is that, right now, my kitchen cupboards look better resourced than they usually do.

In pre-Covid times when life was full of travel, our pantry consisted of a little pasta, a lot of spices, the odd tin of tuna and an impressive range of teas. Dinner ingredients tended to be bought daily, swinging by the greengrocer on the way home from the airport to see what was in season and what was on special at the butcher’s next door.

Now, I look like someone who prepares for things. What we are vaguely preparing for is the possibility we might need to self-isolate for 14 days should we return, at some point, a positive Covid test. Not panic buying – that always feels rude and a bit like stealing from other people who also need things. This is adding a few extras at each trip to the supermarket, and feeling pretty darn lucky my budget lets me do that.

And also grateful about being at the stage of life where we’re not living with teenagers who destroy a pantry like locusts. I am no longer reduced to shouting, “Don’t eat that, I just bought it! It’s there to make the cupboard look good!”

The fun part has been thinking about the food I most like and wouldn’t want to be without. Cereal, it turns out, and coconut milk and the kind of yoghurt you make yourself, and also a particular baked pea snack. Apparently I would cheerfully live on nothing but breakfast and chips.

Though also (and I am ashamed to admit it) if I am at the supermarket and notice a near-empty shelf of something, I will pop one of the last few into my trolley in case this is indicative of a supply chain issue, and these will be the last – what? bags of rice? tins of chilli beans? – we might see for weeks.

Also, soup. I imagine self-isolating me will want soup because that’s what sick people traditionally eat and, while I know how to make a fabulously robust chicken broth from scratch, I might not have the energy to chop ginger and lift out the bones if I’m not well.

I am envious of people with a chest freezer in their garage that they can fill with comfort food for uncomfortable times. Making ourselves feel safe by controlling one small part of a world that is otherwise beyond our control.

I keep thinking of my great aunt Ruth and great uncle Frank who didn’t have a freezer, but who stocked their garage with bottles of pop (luxury!) and also grapefruit marmalade and blackcurrant jam made from fruit grown in the backyard.

My mother, too, bottling apricots and making jam back when it was cheaper than buying it at the supermarket. And then one year, after she’d spent a day or two peeling and chopping and leaning over a hot jam pan with the wooden spoon and pouring it into carefully sterilised jars, the jam didn’t set and she sighed, and started bringing home Rose’s ginger marmalade which it turned out we loved.

I must put that on my list for next time.


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31 Jan Between Delta and Omicron

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 7.2.22


During that sweet spot between Delta and Omicron, I considered it our job not only to scan in, mask up and get boosted, but also to get out and enjoy each other’s company – very carefully – while we still could.

And so after staying put since last August – the first time in decades I’ve spent that many months without travelling – I scooted out of Auckland on a little comedy tour to some of our best beachside towns.

The first leg involved a plane – a plane! – that delivered us to a regional airport. Airports are good at planes, but less good at ground transport in smaller places where economies of scale mean taxi stands are mostly empty and you can wait as long as your original flight for a cab to respond to a call.

We tried an Uber in New Plymouth this time to see if that might work but got a call from the driver wondering if our destination was far enough away to make his trip to the airport worth his while. Given he had the address of our accommodation, and the advantage of local knowledge, we figured only he could answer that question. Ultimately he decided a drive to the airport this sweltering Sunday wasn’t for him and we were back to square one.

The next wait for a taxi, though, gave me an opportunity to hoover up a particularly delicious and quite chunky lemon slice I’d had my eye on in the airport café. It put me back in the travelling groove.

The trick with travel is to surrender to what happens next. Though I’m not a fool – I realise that whoever said the joy is in the journey, not the destination, probably didn’t have kids. Or half-a-dozen comedians to herd like cats. Still, you learn to make the best of it and get your lemon slice where you can.

We played that night to a couple of hundred joy-filled locals and holidaymakers in Ōakura, a town I’ve never played before – and there aren’t many places left on that list. Even so, it produced some old friends not seen for a long time and there were catch-ups over fish and chips, and then new friends made on the other side of the show.

I never know quite how to explain what it feels like to do my job, especially after months of not be able to. It’s like coming home, or returning to myself, or finding yourself at a really good party instead of ending up at the slightly lame one and hearing that things are going off somewhere else. And as well as having your own turn, there’s the bit where you slink off down the back of the room to watch your mates work, and see a room full of strangers roar with laughter, nudge each other in recognition, feel delighted and connected and happy. It’s a grand way to spend an evening.

The next day it’s a six hour drive in a van – round Mt Taranaki which is as bare of cloud and snow as I’ve ever seen it, then up through the King Country to the Waikato and on to Auckland to prepare for the next leg. Could’ve been five hours, I guess, but there were whitebait fritters to be had in Mōkau, and at least two stops for mango ice blocks. We remember how to travel when we can.


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20 Jan A Brief Word

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 31.1.22


Life changing. That’s the only way I can describe it. It has brightened my mornings, lifted my mood and didn’t cost me a cent. More than happy to share the secret so we can all get on board, and you’re very welcome.

Here’s what I did – I cleaned out my undie drawer. Marie Kondo’d my knickers, chucked out the ones that didn’t bring me joy. The ones that judged me and said I’d had too much Christmas trifle. The ones meant to suck in my tummy but made me feel trapped. Those others designed to feel young and funky but which cut me off at the thighs or disappeared up my bum or rolled over at the hint of a belly. Also the shabby ones, and the ones that had been mean and scratchy from day one.

Which sounds like a lot of undies to chuck but really we’re talking maybe half a dozen? Some of them were guilty of more than one crime – I’m looking at you harsh red lace bikini brief with a tendency to ride up in places you don’t belong.

We hold on to bad undies longer than we should. Partly that’s because they’re madly expensive – especially relative to their size and weight – and we want to get our money’s worth. Leave them in the drawer untouched for a couple of years and, golly, look how well they’ve lasted.

But also, somewhere in each of us lives a particular terror which is The Fear of Running Out of Clean Undies. I honestly can’t tell you if this has ever happened to me – maybe on some trip I’ve miscalculated the ratio of knickers to number of days between laundromats? But the fact I can’t tell you where or when this terrible thing occurred suggests this is not a memory, but an anxiety about something that hasn’t happened yet. A hardwired dread, like being attacked by a woolly mammoth at the mouth of your cave.

So we keep the knickers that make us sad and angry for “emergencies”, shoving them to the back of the drawer where we’ll find them when all other options fail. But they’re sneaky, those undies, working their way up the front where your early morning barely-conscious hand will accidentally pluck them from the pile, and before you know it you’re wearing something that makes you feel bad about yourself. The day has hardly started and you’ve already made a terrible choice.

Toss them out, I say! Yes, even the expensive ones – stop thinking they deserve a turn so you can justify the money spent on them. It’s not your job to make your lingerie feel special – this is absolutely supposed to work the other way round. You go right ahead and chuck ‘em out if they’re mean to you.

And then (and this may be a general rule for living) pay more attention to the undies that bring you joy – their style and shape and fabric – and get more of those into your life. I mean, wait for the sales, obviously, unless you won Lotto this summer. A terrifically good underwear drawer is a long-term investment project.

And remain vigilant – any time a pair of gruts feels less than great (“gruts” is an awful word but it’s still better than “panties”) biff them. And as you toss them into the bin, say in your firmest voice so you really hear it, “It’s not me, it’s you”.


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10 Jan For You – A little taste of what menopause is like

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 24.1.22


I like these humid days in summer when everything feels soggy and your limbs stick together with sweat, when your internal engine seems overheated, your fingers are too fat for your jewellery and somebody made your pants too tight.

“Like” is perhaps not the correct word – I “admire the democracy” of days such as these because it gives everyone a little a taste of what menopause is like.

It is certainly the major way menopause has presented itself in my life over this past decade. A rush of damp heat that rises up my body – surprise! – as though I am blushing from the feet up. Waking in the night because I am on fire and the bed is a swamp, so I throw the covers off and hang a leg over the side and seconds later I am freezing. Feeling heavy and bloated, and always with the pants suddenly too tight.

Back when we used to travel to foreign parts, I would smile to myself as the plane door opened in somewhere like Rarotonga or Bangkok and a wall of hot, wet air would slap each passenger in the face, and they would either be delighted or overwhelmed by it, and then everyone would walk into the arrivals hall and be hit by a wall of freezing aircon and there’d be grumbling and I’d think quite loudly, “There you go, that’s menopause, except that menopause lasts for years. Maybe give your mum a call and tell her you’re sorry for not cutting her some slack when she was in her fifties.”

It is, of course, a different experience for everyone – which we are discovering now that we’re talking about it. My mother, thank goodness, shared her experience with me so I knew what was likely when my turn came – hot flushes and interrupted sleep were definitely our thing.

Having a relatively easy time of menopause (my reward, I like to think, for suffering through years of excruciating periods) gave me space to look for and find the upsides. I have been able to talk myself into thinking of hot flushes as “power surges” driving me on to do the next thing. My mother encouraged me to think of this bit of life as my prime – parenting over, harnessing this wild energy for work and creativity and intellectual curiosity.

I’ve gifted myself cotton and silk (more affordable once you stop buying school uniforms and tampons) so my skin can breathe, especially at night. And there’s the joy of liberation from the male gaze. Sure, being this invisible means it can take too long to get served in shops but otherwise what bliss to move about the world without total strangers providing commentary on what you’re wearing, how they rate you, or what they might want you to do for them next.

I hear that my mother and I got off lightly. There is a plethora of menopausal symptoms, many of which are debilitating. There seems to be an equal and opposite lack of research into the causes, effects and solutions.

But changes (see what I did there) are afoot. From where I sit now – almost out the other side – it looks like we are breaking the last taboo about what life is like for people with uteruses. I witnessed the moment in history when puberty and menstruation were brought out into the open, and I like being here for this chat about our next change of life.



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05 Jan On the Difference Between You and a Tui

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 17.1.22


In these wild times, we look for certainty where we can find it. Here’s one thing I am reasonably sure of – out there in our vast native bushlands, there are no wild animals proposing a toast to welcome in the New Year.

This isn’t because they know something we don’t (though they may know some things we don’t). It is because there are at least two things that separate the wild things from us humans.

First, there’s their lack of opposable thumbs and consequently an inability to hold a wine glass to make a toast. And secondly, while they’re good with general seasons, they don’t appear to keep a day-by-day calendar, lacking that (solely?) human need to construct a narrative to give their life shape and meaning. Tūī and wētā don’t keep a diary, and have no use for a New Year, nor a party to mark it.

We do, though. We humans need narrative, and we search everywhere for stories, for their beginnings and endings which help us muddle through the middles.

This is why we invented calendars with weeks and months and years, and whipped up weekends, an entirely artificial construct which lets us trick ourselves into thinking something is finished so we can take a breath and reset, and then again trick ourselves into believing something new has started. You run, you stop, you catch your breath and then, more or less refreshed, jog off again into the future.

We especially like to farewell one year and welcome the next, as though they are a living, breathing thing with their own personality. It was a good year, we say, or one we’re glad to see the back of. See you later. Next.

One of the tricky things about this pandemic is we know when it started but have no idea where it ends, that we are “in the midst” of it, but possibly nowhere near the middle even yet. “Nailed it!” we’ve been tempted to think a few times, until the virus reinvents itself and we feel closer to the beginning again, with the end so much further off.

So being certain that tūī and wētā don’t join us in counting down to midnight on New Year’s Eve is one of the few things l will state with any confidence. And I am doing you a favour by not making any predictions for 2022 – whenever I feel sure about something, the universe appears to find it amusing to whip that rug of certainty out from under my feet.

I’ve had a look back at my hopes and dreams for 2021 – it boiled down to wanting to make the diary in my NZ Covid Tracer app look like something I’d be proud to have Dr Ashley Bloomfield read out to the nation at a 1pm briefing.

I pictured local excursions, shows, galleries, restaurants! And certainly, there was some glorious tootling about in those first months, and it warms me to remember them.

Then in August, life became entirely tootle-free. Even Dr Bloomfield would be hard pressed to read with any verve my record of, “Supermarket, supermarket, supermarket…”

So I will have nothing to say about this last year as it leaves, or to the next as it arrives except, “Fate, I will not tempt you”. I will try to be more like a tūī or a wētā. Though I’m still grateful for opposable thumbs which I will wrap around a wine glass, and I’ll look the world firmly in the eye and say, “Let’s give that another crack”.



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27 Dec On That Glorious Space Between Christmas and New Year

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 27.12.21


The week between Christmas and New Year has always been my favourite. There has been the indulging of family at one end, then the over-indulging of self at the other – though I am less inclined to that these days. Look at me, all grown up.

But between those two poles of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the week is slung like a hammock, offering calm and a bit of a lie down with a new book and some leftover ham.

Not for me the Boxing Day sales – I’ve seen enough shops for the time being and I’m happy to let others snap up the bargains. Besides, I still haven’t put my Christmas presents away so there’s no need to bring in more new stuff yet. Instead, I’ll likely venture as far as the nearest beach, book in one hand, ham sandwich in the other.

I often think I like my city most of all when everyone else leaves it – Auckland seems to function best on about half its permanent population. This tells us something about our infrastructure woes and also our obsession with cars, but I’m possibly too drunk on leftover trifle to articulate that this week.

It will be interesting to see how many of us really do travel this summer – some have been champing at the bit to get out, but many of us are still hesitant. One of my friends jokes she has Stockholm syndrome – her house has held her captive and now she doesn’t want to leave it at all.

Indeed, sensible people have been suggesting Aucklanders should keep away from regions still working on their vaccination levels, and I can see their point.

Mind you, it is easier for me to comply with that kind of request given our family from across the border have come to us for the holidays, saving us from having to make a hard choice. And I know many people are doing the very best they can to safely visit much-loved, much-missed family in other places – travelling direct, staying still once they get there, being vaccinated and also taking a Covid test before they head off.

What a remarkable thing it has been, to have ended up with my closest family on the other side of a border! Sure, extended family have been scattered about the world for decades, but to have been unable to see my daughter, my brother, my mokopuna for this long when they’re just a few hour’s drive away is not something I’d ever imagined.

There are so many things I would never have imagined two years ago that are now part of our lives. Scanning in and showing vaccine passes – pretty straight forward – but also balancing the love you have for your family against the risk you might inadvertently bring them.

Though this has been true for small numbers of us for a long time – friends with cancer who didn’t need viruses brought into their homes, premature babies who needed to be protected from the wider world and the big people in it, all kinds of at-risk people we wanted to visit, but it was best we didn’t.

Perhaps this has been a taste (for all of us) of what it has been like (for some of us) in pre-pandemic times. Having to make personal sacrifices for the greater good is part of the price we pay for community, and here is our reminder.

To be honest, though, staying very still this week is no sacrifice – it’s all about the ham. Shush now, I’m reading.


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