Keep our daughters safe

First published in Hamilton News 14 December 2018

She should have been safe, but she wasn’t.  That’s the message our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern relayed to Grace Millane’s family on Monday as her suspected murderer faced court.  The outpouring of sorrow, grief and guilt from Kiwis led to two candlelight vigils being held in Hamilton and throughout the country on Wednesday, and in true 2018 fashion a torrent of attention on social media focused on how this could happen here.

I found it hard not to think back to the case of Margery Hopegood who unfortunately found a similar fate here in Hamilton in 1992, days after arriving in the country.  It reminds me that she should have been safe, but wasn’t.  We should all be safe, but aren’t.  It’s a reminder to us all that Aotearoa has an secret uglier than our less than 100% pure image – which is our rate of physical and sexual violence towards women.  I feel compelled to discuss this today due to #notallmen trending online.  No, it’s not all men.  But, it’s too many men, and this is one instance where you don’t get the luxury of putting up a wall to deny blame.  We all have to take responsibility for this.

Whenever we read an article about violence towards women there is an element of victim blaming.  Why was she travelling solo?  (How dare she be independent).  We check what she was wearing in her last photo. (Skirts a little too high, Dear).  We give well intentioned warnings to our daughters to, keep a phone with them, not drink too much and stay with friends.  What we don’t do is spend enough time telling our boys and men that they have no right to touch a woman without express permission, that “no means no” and that it’s not okay to “keep trying lest she changes her mind”.  Violence is never justified.  I was pleased to see strangulation and assault towards family members highlighted in the Family violence Act.  We don’t spend enough time telling the #notallmen brigade that it would be more useful for them to be pulling up their friends or family members who act or talk out of line.  Speak up against the violence.  Intervene.

If you find yourself wanting to direct your anger and sorrow anywhere – it should be at changing our culture that is currently accepting violence towards women.  We all have a responsibility to keep women like Grace safe, our daughters safe, my daughter safe.

http://www.communitynews.co.nz/hamilton-news

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Have yourself an as ethical as possible Christmas

Published first in Hamilton News 7 December 2018

Have you seen that cartoon with Santa taking his sleigh of gifts straight to landfill called ‘Cutting out the middle man’?. Sadly this is reality and it’s not good for Papatūānuku or our wallet.

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I don’t want to sound like the Christmas Grinch but, I do worry about the pressure Christmas puts on us to buy gifts that we can’t really afford and then have them end up in landfill in the next spring clean.  Where is the sense in that?

Most of us don’t have dedicated funds to call upon at this time of the year and clock up credit card debt, skip bills or do without to get through.  Yet we do it, every year – because we want our loved ones to know we care…  It’s human nature and it’s habit.  But, I’m calling on Hamiltonians to make some small changes this year for an ‘as ethical as possible Christmas’.

Consider buying secondhand or “vintage”, diverting quality, unique items from landfill, supporting charity and saving you loads of money.  You’ll be amazed at what you can find at the Dump shop, or Sallies.  Spit, polish and wrap.

A little bit crafty? Make something useful like a reusable bag or produce bags from an old t-shirt or fabric lying around.  Youtube has numerous DIY videos to help you out.  Your friends and whanau will appreciate it immensely in less than 6 months when the plastic ban kicks in. Yipee on that.

Our tamariki will remember that time they went to the zoo, movie or theatre more than they will another expensive plastic toy.  Make memories not waste.  I know that 90% of the fun is unwrapping, so make a game of it. But remember that foil wrapping paper isn’t recyclable so stick to the paper stuff (which is cheaper anyway).

I also think it’s time we called ‘time’ on the dreaded workplace Secret-Santa. It’s always novelty crap that has no function.  Why not change your workplace tradition to be $5 or $10 towards a charity, you agree on. Win Win.

Christmas doesn’t have to be about debt, gifts destined to landfill and stress. But, it will take some changes.  What will you do differently this year?

 

Conversations around the water cooler

“She’s in childcare from 7.30-5.30pm … but it’s good for her to be socialising with other babies and it’ll give her a head start for school”.

“What did you get up to over the long weekend?”  “Oh you know, just caught up with jobs around the house.  The cars needed washed, lawns mowed – that sort of thing”.  “True, Never enough hours in the day eh?” “Nah, especially with the commute”.

“40 hour week? Good one, I’m pushing 70 hours trying to meet those deadlines. I’m lucky I can work from home so the Mrs doesn’t have a go at me”.

“What are you doing with your kids over the holidays?”  “Oh god, I don’t even want to think about it, we can’t afford the holiday program this year and I don’t have any leave left”.

“The Board says we have to tighten our belts, so HR will be looking at workloads and restructuring – it’ll mean a loss in jobs…  Don’t panic, we’ll make sure we honour our contractual obligations in the event of redundancy”.

“Are you coming to the gym later?” “Nah, I can’t.  I have to work late to make up for taking time off to take Mum to hospital last week”.

“I had a chat to the Manager about the role they’re advertising” “Oh yeah, what did he say?” “He reckons I can get it but I’ll have to go full time if I want it”. “Yeah, the good jobs are always full time”.

While Labour day is just a day off to most of us, it commemorates normalisation of an 8 hour working day.  The idea is that it would give us a fair work life balance, 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of sleep.  Nice in theory.  It seems we still have a long way to go for fair and progressive employment conditions which reflect society in 2018.  If you had to work on Monday the 22nd, Labour day check out your employer obligations

Small town, no longer home

It’s been nearly 20 years since I left that town with no desire to return.  Last week opportunity, nostalgia and curiosity more than anything else led me back.  Without realising it at the time, the short visit managed to slay a demon of sorts for me as well. Upon reflection I think part of this is because my sense of ‘belonging’ has been well and truly established somewhere else.

When many of us think back to ‘how things once were’ we think of the freedom, innocence and outdoor adventures of living in a small country town.  In this respect this town had the goods and was a great place to be a kid.  We could explore our surroundings without limits.  It was safe.  But as much as we reflect in nostalgia for how great it was, I also remember the hurry to get out.

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Wyndham (population 505) is one of those towns.  It’s the type of town where everyone knows everyone.  Gossip is rife, but by well meaning, salt of the earth people.  It’s conservative Southland.  Little diversity, just white working class New Zealanders going about their life in an unassuming but flavourless way.  The only claim to fame that I can think of for the town is that according to her autobiography, Janet Frame once lived there.

We drive down every street in town (trust me, this didn’t take as long as you’re imagining), most are named after people and places of the Crimean war.  There was no body around.   No kids biking, or even at the playground. I don’t know anyone who lives there any more either.

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I was surprised how many heritage buildings there were for what had always been a small rural town.  That wasn’t something I noticed as a kid.  I was happy to see a handful of houses being restored, like ‘the Doctors house’ and noticed the Catholic church is now a private residence.   There has always been the odd empty shop on the main street, but I was astounded with how many more had joined them – and how many had been demolished.  Another telltale sign that things are quiet is seeing corrugated iron boarding up windows or rotten boards on a main street.  Like in movies.  The post office still grand, still the light pink it has been as long as I’ve known it – has missed out on the lick of paint that would have made it a landmark to be proud of.  I marveled at the main town intersection – which anywhere else would be a roundabout… here… a hodge podge of streets meeting.

I wander down some roads and reserves and reminisce about where I tried my first cigarette (which fortunately was a bad experience), saw a stash of playboys hidden in a bush, by who knows, and learnt how to start fires with dried grass and twigs.  I gazed over the fence which we used to go through to get to our swimming spot in the Mataura river.  The smell of that river has stayed with me.  I wonder how we were allowed to swim there unsupervised…  I’m struggling to remember if it’s always looked this vast.

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Finally the high school beckons…   I was astounded at how small some of the buildings looked.  At least 25% smaller than I remember.  Though in essence it looks the same.  Native wood, formica and industrial metal lends itself to a timelessness.  Of all of the buildings, it’s the school hall that conjures up the most memories.  I re-imprint the school emblem above the stage. Integrity.  The rows of stacked wooden bench seats are still there.

I think about how many people like myself are holding their breath in assembly and class so they aren’t noticed.  How many hover at the back so they might get through another day without dying more on the inside.  Surprised at the memories that flood back.  Some good… more bad.  Everything looks more overgrown on the steps outside the hall.  Did it always look like this?  So sad?  I look at the grass field.  It’s massive compared to many schools now and I vaguely remember we had the biggest field per capita.  But it was never big enough to hide on.

Which brings me to wanting to tell you this, if you’re wishing away each day like I did.  You will get through this.  I got through it.  Each day drags; hell a lunchtime can feel never-ending.  Another year will pass, then another.  Then one day it’ll be over.  You wont need to endure it to get your education, placate your parents with your attendance and get your ticket the hell out of there.  Start again.  I wish I’d known how small that school was, how small that town was so that I might have been able to understand that it didn’t define me.  It’s not my home any more.  Who you are at school doesn’t have to be who you are when you leave.  Create a new life.  As many times as you want.  Don’t like your job change it.  Don’t like your town change it.  Move.  It’s up to you.  Breathe.  Dream and Go.  Get the heck out of there, this doesn’t have to be your home.  It’s not mine any more.

In writing this I am conscious of not wanting to offend those who live in or do love Wyndham.  I know there will be many.  The opinions are my own and share how I feel about a town that was once my world. 

 

Hamilton Circle Jerk on Free FM

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To say I’m pretty darn excited about this weekend’s 10th annual Hamilton Circle Jerk is an understatement.  It’s hands down the best showcase of local music for the year – with 11 bands doing covers of other Hamilton bands songs (past or present) before sharing an original.  In this week’s Free FM podcast, the organiser of this madness Lauren joins me in the studio to talk about the concept and the bands in this year’s line up.  We’re joined by Timmy, Richard and Matt from Funk Therapy and Rob from brand spanky new band Bitter Defeat.  We spin tracks (digitally) by them, Bloodlux, Mobile Stud Unit, Hollow Grinders and local scoundrels Wink Wink Nudge Nudge.  Anyway have a listen and see you on Saturday!  Listen to the podcast.

Check out an earlier post about Future City Festival (March 2018) and the videos with my studio interviews with Bloodlux and Glass Shards.

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Wendy Ganley: 1960’s Fashion Designer

The story of a 21 year old Hamiltonian, opening her own fashion boutique on Victoria street, caught my attention.  That it happened back in the 1960’s, fascinated me even more for the vision, gumption, passion and dedication it would have taken to succeed.  It was a privilege to hear Wendy Hall nee Ganley of Elle boutique talk about her early career during an event at the Waikato Museum / Te Whare Taonga o Waikato on Sunday.  The exhibition showcasing her work, “Elle & the Youthquake” was curated with the New Zealand Fashion Museum and runs until the 14th of October.

Take a sneak peek here…

A visit to the exhibition will take some of you back in time… and for the retro-curious like me, have you swooning over the display of 1960’s clothing we spend hours scouring op-shops for today.  I’ve got a little collection of dresses in the mod style which I’ve collected over the years – it’s difficult to find them in my size, but I find the shape flattering and the colour and patterns fun.

Sunday’s conversation was facilitated by Doris de Pont, a fellow designer and Director of the New Zealand Fashion Museum in front of over 40 people.

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Wendy started out by making clothes for dolls, herself and friends.  After finishing school she contemplated what might be next; and while peers may have followed a path in nursing or teaching she decided to follow her love of design, textiles and colour.  The decision was fortunate for Hamilton, which could have been forgotten as a trend setter for fashion in those days.  Because trend setter she was!  Hems were getting higher, she was cutting holes out of the midriff, using crochet loops to make her version of a fur coat and combining colours not previous paired.

She shared her love of colour, showing off the bright orange lining on the inside of her cream wedding suit – which is in the exhibition (bottom left of the photo above).  Orange has been her favourite colour though points out it doesn’t look as good on her as it used to… I’m not sure if I believe this, I get the sense when looking at her that she would still get away with it – as stylish as she has remained.

Society was changing in the 1960’s.  Youth were no longer restricted by pre-war conservatism and more women were in the workforce, giving many of us discretionary income for the first time.   In fact, one member of the audience and one of Wendy’s first customers, an ex-nurse, recalls spending “all her pay” in Elle boutique, while other’s nodded in familiarity at lay-buying their latest desires. Many of these items still hang in their wardrobes.

Another theme, coming from stories of Wendy’s early career was the industry support given to her by fellow designers and given to others in return.  Wendy learnt couture from Babs Radon in Auckland, and mentored Marilyn Sainty in return here in Hamilton.  It was through working with Barbara Penberthy of Babs Radon that she was able to see how balancing motherhood and a career could work; through setting up a space for ‘the babies’ in her Frankton workshop.

Wendy was able to share her original sample books with the audience, which showed the textile swatches she had to choose from – and the designs and combinations used to make her clothing and accessories.  I was really surprised each item was a one off – she explained there wasn’t the same awareness of economies of scale; customers wouldn’t want to be seen at the races in the same outfit as someone else and besides, it wouldn’t have been fun mass producing them that way anyway!

Before trade was opened up in the 1980’s New Zealand wasn’t inundated by cheap imported clothing; or “fast fashion” as we are now.  Buyers consumed fashion under the kaupapa of “Buy once, Buy well”.  Quality over Quantity.  These garments were often one of a kind, hand made and of high quality, particularly with New Zealand wool a common textile to use.   Collectors like myself can attest to this enduring quality – with it not being uncommon to find an immaculate 1960s dress or suit in an opshop (they obviously knew how to follow “care instructions” unlike me).

Inevitably it got me thinking about how different things are now, and most notably in comparison to fast fashion.  Will there ever be a resurgence of NZ made clothing? Will we look back some time in the future and pin point the time when we started to “Buy once, Buy well” rather than base a decision on low cost and quantity.  Will we look back in 50 years and know who our local designers were?

We are not paying “The True Cost” #fashionrevolution

The Waikato Museum / Te Whare Taonga o Waikato has booklets about the exhibition available in their shop for $15.

 

 

 

The Definition of ME!

Last week I attended “The Definition of ME”, a panel organised as part of the Toi Wahine festival.  It prompted me to think more about how we define ourselves, how we look and compare ourselves to others and how to live a life with more authenticity.

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Panelists on The Definition of ME! Toi Wahine festival. Aug 2nd 2018

Social media feeds us a curated view of other women’s lives through a beauty filter.  Literally.  With that in mind, should those living fun and interesting, “successful” lives shy away from sharing it?  No.  Should they feel compelled to throw in #nomakeup selfies as a way to look ‘more real?’.  Well, only if they want to.  The important message that I want for you to remember is that a curated feed is just that.  It is a snapshot of the moments someone chooses to share with us.  It doesn’t tell a full story.  It doesn’t share day to day monotony nor the high dramas.  I mean, when was the last time someone posted a photo of themselves doing the laundry or vacuuming? Their feed will also be missing moments of pain, frustration and the breaking points we then use to build resilience from.

We scroll through our feeds and watch other women tick boxes for marriage, 2.5 kids, a career, community involvement, a mortgage … (while also being rich, skinny, pretty and talented).  We might feel envy, resentment and then resignation to always be two steps behind success.  But, are we comparing ourselves to a mirage?  How many of the women who we think “have their shit together” would also say that of themselves?  I’m going to hazard a guess and say “very few”. So, why do we put these unrealistic expectations of life on ourselves?  Why do we let ourselves be defined by rules of a game that we had no input into?

Panelists at “The Definition of ME” were asked defining moments in their lives.  Their stories aren’t mine to tell, but you could see a pattern of not so much as moments but events or decisions that changed the path they were on.  Some are chance encounters, some due to forces outside of their control; whatever they are it should act as a reminder that any life can change, better or worse at any point in time.  The other overarching theme is the internal-battle that exists throughout; which may cause times of avoidance, breakdown, panic, substance abuse, reliance on others and eventually resilience to fight another day.  These are the stories that colour our pages and should be embraced.  All panelists shared their experience of “a peppering of mental health issues”.  But, we don’t always see these battles in the social media feed.  It’s unlikely they, their friends or family would post a photo of them curled up crying in frustration or in the midst of a crisis.

In the reminder that social media is a curated view, and that ticking off all the boxes in the right order and at the right time, is a dangerous framework with which to view and compare your life, how do you want to be defined or known?  What is your story?

The seed to begin your personal journey into a life authentic to you or to be “your best self” could start with pondering three things today.

  1. What are your passions? – where does the fire burn in your belly;
  2. Your skills? – believe it or not everyone is good at something;
  3. Your contribution? – how can you help leave the world better than you found it?

It might, by default include ticking all of the ‘expected’ boxes.  It may not.  Identifying your passions, your skills, your contribution and living life accordingly is authenticity.  Instead of envy, resentment, sadness or resignation at not being “that women” with the fabulous life on social media; cheer them on and cheer yourself on.

Can you identify your passions?  Your skills?  and Your contribution?  No?  Surround yourself with women doing great things and they will help you find yours. Strong women lift each other up.

There was a song that kept repeating in my head while writing this, so I thought I’d share it – You are welcome 🙂

The next post I’m writing is on the use of alcohol to deal with social situations…  for now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post.