Saturday, November 28, 2015

Probable dementia

These words, 'probable dementia', are probably not what you want to read when investigating (online) the side-effects of the drug you are considering taking, as I was doing this morning after an overnight situation of the medical variety arose and the residual medication left from the same situation arising three years ago (I keep all my old drugs, because, well, don't you?) suggested itself as a quick - cheap - fix, the day being Saturday and the cost of emergency medical treatment being holy-shit high. Never mind that the box officially expired in July this year. Boxes can be wrong. Drugs is drugs.

But 'probable dementia' is probable, which is one notch down from certain dementia, isn't it? I think it is. And probable dementia is just one of the side-effects listed. Various cancers, weight gain, water retention, depression, are among the long list of 'possible' side effects of this darling drug, which, admittedly, is a long way from probable, but still. Possible is possible.

All this begs two, rather pressing and depressing questions: 1) Why didn't my doctor mention 'probable dementia' when she first prescribed this drug for me in 2009, and 2) Am I demented?

Apparently if you are demented it is difficult to know, which makes things a bit tricky. And I'm not sure my husband can help on this one either; husbands aren't the most reliable diagnosticians when it comes to the matter of their wife's mental health. Perhaps I should ask my teenagers instead. So many options!

I should probably not joke about dementia. And if I did have it, I probably wouldn't be joking about it. So, then, I think I've got my answer: don't trust old drugs or on-line doctors; it's the first sign of dementia.



Thursday, November 26, 2015

Confessions of a strange estranged Australian

This title and image are two of the many and varied subtitles and cover images rejected by my publishers for my childhood memoir due out next year.

Never mind. The photo chosen for the cover is better than this one and I am still dressed as an animal, so you don't need to worry about missing out on that little treat.

But the subtitle remains undecided, though we're just about to go to final print from whence there is no turning back. Apparently my publishers would rather have no subtitle than this one, which speaks strongly of their extreme dislike, as it was their idea to have a subtitle in the first place.

I can't understand it, after all I am a strange estranged Australian, as you, my loyal and devoted blogees, will be all too aware.

You may not know, however, that I was once a dancing brown beetle - with annoyingly white shoe elastic.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Slam bam, thankyou ma'am

I'm a poet - if not a very good one - and I do know it (unfortunately). Fortunately, others have more talent in this field than I.

Mohamed Hassan, pictured here on the cover of the latest North Shore Times, who emanates from none other than our next-door suburb, Milford - though originally from Cairo - is one such talent, having just won the National Poetry Slam competition

This, I fear, is something I am much too gutless to enter, though to be fair, I didn't quite know it existed until this article appeared - even more shame on me.

But never mind, it's nobody's loss except mine. Ha! A little bit more poetry for you there, even if rhyming is not poetry necessarily and the best modern poets avoid it at all costs, which I suspect includes Mohamed here, whose winning poem was about refugees, of which I believe he was/is one.

Friday, November 20, 2015


'Poise' 1992
(from a NZ photo, circa 1901).

On the precipice of play

poise has much to say -

without noise.

Boys know not

its calm cool collect,

its gentle tough caress,

its secret strength to guess.

On the precipice of play

poise has much to say.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Flowers over fists

Fists beget fists, flowers beget flowers -  

I've blogged on this theme before. Sadly, the world has given us yet another painful and poignant reminder of its truth, as the flowers of soft sorrow and sweet sympathy, of brotherhood and sisterhood united in worship of the only shrine worthy of the name and the time taken - beauty, in its broadest sense - are gathered and gifted here in stark contrast to the shabby and scared, the abject and ugly images that the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks delivered into our homes and hearts.

How many reminders do we need?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sunset study

A room with a view (if now sans one grande dame tree)

Silver study lining,
frilly faraway shining -
it's all about timing.

Catch it quick,
wait for the click.

Contract the zoom,
tightening the womb.

Twenty times stronger,
like living longer,
to see so far
from one's own room.

Monday, November 16, 2015

On prostitution and obscenity

With this month's cover article of Time I planned to write a post on gender politics and its enduring relevance, challenging the closing of various gender studies programmes at universities in this country as in others.

In fact I find upon closer inspection that these closings in recent years have, most recently, say in the last year or two, begun to reopen, with many 'women's studies' programmes that have for decades been ghettoised and poorly attended, drawing almost exclusively female students, being recast as 'gender studies' programmes. Although this is likely only a change in name - 'women's studies' has always been the study of gender - this is a potential sign of progress, though the subject remains ghettoised rather than integrated into the undergraduate course lists of all sociology, history and politics programmes.

So, for example, my former department, the Political Studies department of the University of Auckland, for 2016 will provide only one gender-related (not exclusively gender politics) undergraduate course, but three on the politics of China, two on the Middle East and two on the countries of the European Union. Surely gender politics is at least as large a subject as the the politics of one of these foreign countries and regions?

If this Time cover and article is anything to go by, the future of Iran, a key player in the middle east, might be measured by its evolving attitude to women's freedom of dress and movement - currently very strict, requiring a full hijab covering everything but face and hands. Indeed how free women are in any society by law and custom is a fairly close reflection of how arrogant and threatening a country's male-dominated domestic and international political practice will be.

Still, all countries (even NZ, even Sweden), remain male dominated politically speaking, if not altogether, and this enduring bias feeds into the most extreme political movements - such as ISIS - which are, in turn, the most male-dominated and macho political forces. This is no coincidence. The values of ISIS are the values of extreme masculinity embracing the notion of male superiority before they are of anything else. All religions are patriarchal and all condemn 'prostitution and obscenity' (sex and seduction beyond marriage and the home), one of the reasons given by ISIS for its attack on Paris.

In my opinion, if these killers knew the seduction and love of a good woman (or man) within a relationship that is equal, namely with equal respect between the partners and no hierarchy of status, then they would not resent prostitutes and their customers as they do, nor would they be so ready to kill and lose their lives to honour some puritanical prophet who lived thousands of years ago.

While instead men - everywhere - are taught to believe they are better than women and to serve an all-knowing male god, they cannot know what true love and respect is. And without that prospect, much hope of happiness is lost and homicide and suicide become that much more imaginable.

Look at all killers beyond organised war, but not beyond the home, and you will find men, every last one of them, who resent, disrespect and hate women. They were not born this way and nothing could be less natural than the hatred of the opposite sex. We teach men to think thus. Universities, where we are formerly taught how to think critically of the world we live in, should be the place where we unlearn this dangerous and destructive prejudice. Instead, all to often, these male-dominated institutions reinforce this prejudice directly and indirectly by focusing on macho subjects, like war and economics, and now terrorism, without studying the problematic masculinity that is at the basis of much of the conflict within and between nations.

What could be more obscene than a machine-gun turned on innocent people?  

Thursday, November 12, 2015



There is no dignity
like that of a tree...
whether towering and broad
or fledgling fine
trees carry themselves
with weight and spine;
outliving us all
with the grace of time,
presuming not to know
all the while they grow.

So that when one is lost
to the sinister saw
the sky mourns
and the ground roars,
for the end of an era
of a very great good
that was taken away
though no need of wood.

I lost a tree today, one of great age and beauty, yet minimal obstruction to surrounding properties. For many a year it has been a feature, indeed the feature of my view, keeping me elegant company and mighty muse. This is she the winter before her last. RIP my elegant dignitree.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"I want to say to everyone... women can do anything and we can beat the world."

Michelle Payne, winner of this year's Melbourne Cup, is not only the first woman ever to win the race, but only the fourth woman to ever compete in it since it began in 1861. Imagine how many would have won before - on those odds - if allowed to take part in the race and given equal opportunities for training and competition as men.

Women in Australia weren't allowed to compete in the Melbourne Cup or any other race with men until 1979 - 1977 in New Zealand, where the first female Melbourne Cup jockey (1987) came from. The first Australian woman to enter the race was not until 2003, suggesting that support for these rare women was not all it needed to be in that country. Indeed Payne confirmed this in her gutsy acceptance speech in which she described racing as a "chauvinistic sport" and told those men involved who make it difficult for women to "get stuffed''.

Tellingly, and amusingly, there was a woman jockey who fooled the authorities way back in the 1850-80s by competing in all the men-only races as a man. Her name was "Bill" (Wilhemena) Smith and she was pretty successful, no one discovering her sex until she died.

So yes, Michelle, women can beat (fool and save) the world from itself if given half the chance. We only need half the chance that men have had all these years of claiming they are better and brighter than us, whilst making sure that women were not allowed to prove them wrong by excluding us from competing on an equal footing with them and in the process creating a cheating, macho, bullying world that is far from bright for women, children, and those men who are disinclined to cheat, the only men worth having.

So cheers to you, Michelle, you have confirmed for our country and for the world at large that women are more than the equal of men. And better you than me, for I am allergic to horses, as I found out the hard way. But my grandmother was a keen horsewoman who regularly rode her horse through the waves of Bondi - side-saddle - which can't have been easy. She was also tiny and feisty (like you), qualities that might have made her a champion jockey too had the world woken up sooner. Of course, I would likely not have been born if that had been the case, but still, you can't have everything.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Media Misogyny III

I did not wake up this morning thinking 'the effing misogynist media', you may or may not be surprised to hear. But the media had other ideas. While waiting for the coffee to brew I casually thumbed through the rarely-visited-these-days pages of the TV listings at the back of the NZ Listener the magazine that prides itself on being our country's top current affairs and lit review magazine, and with fairly good reason.

We have subscribed to this mag for more than twenty years and been more or less happy with its content throughout that time, give or take some frustration over the insinuation of increasingly populist items into its cover stories, which seems to be the price to pay for the internet. And as that service gives me this blog, I mustn't complain.

But... I will - and must - complain about the magazine's increasingly apparent misogyny that does not to me seem a fair or necessary price to pay for progress. There is no excuse for blatant gender discrimination, indeed less excuse today than ever there was as we are now that much more aware of the widespread and destructive nature of gender discrimination.

The anti-woman discrimination I refer to in this case is the selection of images for the ten-page TV guide that includes 27 pictures of men and only 5-6 of women, in three of which the woman is pictured with a man, and in one the woman's crutch is more of a feature than her face, in another it's her cleavage. This image above is the only image of a woman on her own and not looking ready for sex. As well, there is no picture of a woman doing anything other than smiling or pouting, whereas the men are mostly active. Even Craig here is mid stride and carrying something, even if he is pouting a little too.

Message: women are not nearly as interesting, entertaining and active as men. Indeed men are more than five times more interesting,entertaining and active, if this selection of images to promote next week's viewing in the comparatively gender-liberated New Zealand is anything to go by. I have included all the images so you can see for yourself and because I haven't got anything better to do. You're welcome.

Probably a woman - hence the need to cover her entirely lest we
glimpse a woman working or doing anything at all that
might be deemed productive and worthy.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What, not even a little dribbling?

I was rather disappointed to find not even a little dribbling in Bill Bryson's latest offering (though there is some drivelling). Call me old fashioned but when dribbling is promised I expect dribbling, if only a little. And Bill doesn't even bother to explain why no dribbling, not even a little, which seems the least he could have done.

That said, I generally liked Bill's latest book despite this glaring omission and despite the fact that he insists on celebrating countless obscure 'great' men of history on almost every page, whilst insulting women at almost every turn, including at one point imagining beating one to death with his walking stick and burying the body in the marshes. Her crime? Letting her dog poop on a path.

He's a funny writer and funny excuses much in my book. However on the subject of women, from Katie Price to Meryl Streep - the latter of which he goes to the trouble of including on his list of fifteen 'reflex loathings' that he thinks everyone should be allowed to have without having to explain themselves - he is typically and tediously unfunny, snide and puerile. Katie Price he loathes for her '30kg-a-piece' breasts, Streep for 'being adorable'.

In 2015 this is unhelpful at best, shameless propaganda for the patriarchy at worst. Bryson, like most men, clearly holds mankind in greater esteem than he holds womankind and makes no apology for this bias in this, as in all of his other books, with few likeable female characters appearing amongst a multitude of worthy males. But as a fellow humorist I keep hoping for a maturing of this knee-jerk sexism from a writer of his general wit and intelligence and so was genuinely disappointed to find it hasn't happened yet, not least because the wider world in 2015 is beginning to wake up to the depth and breadth of male misogyny and its widespread destructive consequences.

Instead, Bryson continues to thank his wife for being 'patient'. How does she stand it! Aristotle liked his women 'patient' (read obedient and self-sacrificing) and perhaps so will it ever be with most men, wanting to keep for themselves the business-end of living. If this is the case, however, to put it bluntly, we are all fucked. Women will never be patient enough for men, while impatient men will ever make arrogant, cruel and incompetent rulers - and writers, too, ultimately. And what a damn shame that is.

Still, the hardback first edition cover of little dribbling is a visual and tactile extravaganza and I will miss caressing it while the book rests weightily in my lap and I hope that elusive dribbling will appear around the next bend. All women are patient, Bill, but that's far from all we are. The world will ever be at war with itself as long as it fails to understand this.

And on that impatient note, Bill, I'll leave you to your dribbling, little or otherwise.          

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

One lost chicken wing

I did not expect to be confronted with
a giant chicken wing when I paid a recent nostalgic visit to the university campus where I was once upon a time introduced to literary luminaries such as Sylvia Plath and Primo Levi. But then, I did not expect to be confronted by a giant chicken wing ever, one wouldn't, if not given some kind of warning that the world had taken yet another turn for the bizarre just when you thought it couldn't get any stranger.This sign was another feature of the campus that wasn't there in my day but seems to explain itself rather well, all things considered. I don't know what they're teaching at the university these days but I found myself, whilst hovering somewhat awkwardly in the substantial shadow of the aforementioned wing, rather intrigued to find out.   

Monday, November 2, 2015

Vampire grimace

'Tick or teat?' 

'Hello there. Oooo..., can we start with a trick?' 

Vampire grin. 

Me: 'Don't you have a trick? You can't say trick or treat if you don't have a trick.'

Vampire grimace.

Me: 'I guess your outfit is your trick; you do look very scary.'

A brimming basket of wrapped sweets is magically produced from behind my back and the two young Asian brother and sister vampire team politely take one each before I say they can have a few each, a direction they don't seem to have any difficulty understanding.

Take Two --

'Trick or treat?'

'Ummmm... trick; if you have a trick, that is?'

Chorus of hees and shees: 'We have a trick. Go!'

He: 'What do you call a girl on a...'

She: 'Not a girl, a woman.'

He: 'What do you call a woman on a tennis court?'

This is more of a joke than a trick, technically, but it's also more than a grimace and I'm happy to be more than a sweet dispenser. I give the joke a good few moments consideration.

Me: 'I don't know. Not much of a one for tennis, I'm afraid' (my own little joke there). No one laughs.

Hees and shees together scream: 'Annette!'

Me: (a beat to get it) 'Ah! Very good. Yes. Nets are on tennis courts. Excellent.'

The treat basket is again hastily produced and six keen brown hands dive in. No need to prompt this young Polynesian family to take more than one.

How funny that the sister thought the joke didn't work as well with a girl as a woman. Perhaps she couldn't imagine a girl called Annette; it is rather a womanly name. Or perhaps she thought that because I was so clearly a woman and so faaaaaaaaaar from my own girlhood I'd better appreciate the joke if a woman was featured in it rather than a girl.

Vampire grimace.

Our very own vampires, etc., one Halloween past.