Saturday, 30 January 2016

Telephone Tedium

I am most disinclined to answer the telephone these days. Now that we are well and truly in the age of electronic communication I find I have less and less patience with those who insist on the steam telephone as a way of contacting friends and family. This rapid change in attitude rather surprises me because there was a time not so very many years ago when I quite enjoyed a gossipy half hour with a receiver pressed uncomfortably to my right ear. Quite apart from that, those who know me will agree that I am not exactly a technical wizard and processing the practicalities of tech communication seems to take me at the very least three times as long as it should. However that’s the way it is and I plod on until I get there, feeling like the class dunce circa 1947. My lack of patience for telephone callers disappoints those who are still firmly locked into the hand set & receiver chat age though this is by definition becoming a smaller and smaller group as time marches on. My preferred method of communication at present is most decidedly via text and/or email and the cosy chats can oh so easily wait until the friend and I are face to face with coffees safely ordered. I cannot decide when this change in my affections actually took place but it must have been in the past five or six years and as each year passes I grow more determined to avoid telephone-talk if humanly possible. For one thing favouring email or text exchange rather than the telephone gives one decidedly more control over any arrangements that might be made for meeting up. It is so, so much easier to express in text-talk that the proposed visit to the salt-water baths at eight am on Monday morning is a perishingly mind-numbing idea (especially for one who cannot swim) than voicing that particular view when the proponent of the plan is breathlessly awaiting your response in your right ear. By text one can even say: Oh Yuck! - almost impossible by telephone in polite society but strangely just about acceptable as a text message with a smiley face nearby!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016


We went to see `Suffragette’ the other day and I have to say I found it interesting as movies go, quite the best performance being that of Meryl Streep of whom we saw far, far too little. The scene where Emily Davison steps in front of the King’s horse was particularly harrowing for obvious reasons, and also believable. Other aspects of the film I found less believable; the manner in which Maud the heroine so easily gives up her small son being one of them. And it’s also odd that the would-be adoptive parents of the boy choose to take a four year old in the first place when it was surely a time when society was knee deep in unwanted babies. I found Maud’s working class vowel sounds unconvincing but there I’m being picky. Having said all that the subject matter was thought provoking, attention grabbing even. Here in New Zealand where women got the vote so very long ago it seems almost laughable that it should have been such a laborious process for Englishwomen. All this, aided by the fact that I now own a Kindle Paperwhite, spurred me on to read something of the life of Mary Wollstonecraft whose `A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women’ was written as long ago as 1792. Now there was a Feminist to knock your socks off! A solo mother in the days when such a state would be likely to ensure whole suburbs would cross the street to avoid you! Finally mother of two daughters, one of whom would grow up to attain even greater and longer lasting notoriety than her mother as the young bride of Percy Bysshe Shelley and the author of `Frankenstein’. Her mother would undoubtedly have been proud of her it has to be said. I must say that Mother Mary surprised me. I saw her as the kind of woman who would munch up errant lovers for breakfast rather than collapse in soggy tearful heaps when not paid sufficient emotional attention. If those who now write about her life are correct (Janet Todd in `Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life’ for example) Mary the Mother reacted almost as badly as I have done myself when spurned in love, fruitlessly pursuing the objects of her passion and begging explanations. You just don’t expect that kind of neediness in one who had just written `A Vindication’ - it doesn’t exactly go with the territory does it? So bewildered am I that today I intend to make a start on Claire Tomalin’s `The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft’ in the hope that she will be able to provide some clarification. And hopefully she may prove to be easier to read than Janet Todd.

Thursday, 21 January 2016


I do so loathe and detest those among us currently sharing this glorious multi-cultural city, who spit in the street, at times almost at the feet of other pedestrians. I try to ignore this horrendous habit but invariably find myself reprimanding the perpetrators in tones that are far too hostile. It’s got something to do with growing up at a time when every second household harboured a TB sufferer and effective and reliable treatment had yet to be developed. At least, that’s how I justify it to myself because I’m old enough to recall those signs that used to be on buses, and that I failed to understand until I was at least twelve years old. `DO NOT EXPECTORATE’. The fine was five pounds if I am not mistaken. But why not `DON’T SPIT’ I still wonder? But fast forwarding once more, you will have noticed that I have avoided commenting on the typical ethnic background of the usual offenders and there’s a reason for that – I mean quite apart from the fact that I do not actually enjoy being labelled `Racist’. It might almost (but not quite) be possible to finally train myself to largely ignore those pedestrians, invariably males, who expectorate liberally in my path in more central parts of the city but I don’t think I could ever come to grips with our football heroes and yes, I’m targeting the sainted All Blacks here, who actually spit on the field during play. I am incensed to the point where I fantasize about nailing them to rows of crosses and depriving them of their sexual organs with a large knife. I’m not kidding. The husband maintains that this over the top attitude is more to do with my hatred of sport than anything else. I disagree: it is largely to do with the fact that little boys in parks are beginning to copy them. A few years ago seven year olds waiting for their turn on the slide did not spit now did they? I do not subscribe to the notion that New Zealand males under the age of ten years might have acquired this distasteful habit whilst waiting in line for their Chinese takeways.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Vexatious Visitors & Aggravating Guests

The husband thinks we should entertain more. `How long ago was it we had people to lunch?’ he’s inclined to ask at this time of year with irritating frequency, scratching the side of his head and trying to look genuinely baffled. It’s getting harder and harder for him to understand that visitors can be a real pain in the proverbial. That might be something to do with the fact that all he has to do is pour the wine and indulge in banter. The fact that our bijou kitchen (`galley kitchen’ is the estate agents’ term) is not designed for the preparation of the exotic meals I could once throw together with abandon, seems to escape him. Even the fact that we no longer have enough chairs is infuriatingly ignored by him and when gently reminded he’s inclined to look about him in disbelief and accusation as if I might have hidden them somewhere. The only way we can comfortably provide a lunch for six to eight is to hold it in the summer time in the courtyard where eight chairs (six comfortable and two not) and two sun umbrellas beckon invitingly. And that of course was our forward plan for lunches when we moved here, and indeed the reason why we invested in the large wooden table in the first place. `It will be wonderful for entertaining in summer’ we both agreed; and we don’t agree on everything. The dearth of lunch parties is all to do with the guests if I am to be perfectly honest. `Oh – so hot out here,’ complained one former attendee, `Let’s eat inside….’ And off she went, followed almost immediately by the remainder of the guests. Next time I sent out email warnings to bring sunhats…..ignored of course. I paid a visit to the Two Dollar shop and bought half a dozen rather fetching straw hats with wide brims which nobody so far has been able to bring themselves to actually wear. Guests can be increasingly aggravating I find. The husband thinks it’s something to do with me being what he calls `petty’ and sometimes even `picky’. He could have something there but I am still inclined to find myself flabbergasted when, having spent half a day preparing a delicate summer fish lunch (for four ) – followed by Lemon Mousse (for four) I am telephoned by one of the guests an hour before arrival with a request to bring along a second cousin who is visiting from Norway. `Of course,’ I hear myself reply through gritted teeth. Well, how exactly does one say `No – that will not be OK’- ? ? ?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A Touch of Political Correctness in Talkback Land

The locum morning host at my favourite talkback station announced that today we would be addressing a subject that really incensed her, got under her skin and rendered her frustrated and exasperated: Political Correctness! Things we could no longer say in case others felt offended, affronted, even slightly miffed. Well she did not go out of her way to offend people but she was totally fed up with having to walk on egg shells in case someone somewhere just might feel slighted by something she said! Oh good, I thought to myself as I swallowed the morning’s stay-alive pills and contemplated last night’s dirty dishes, elegantly stacked beside the sink by the husband now nowhere to be seen. I had to stay home all morning awaiting the plumber so a radio wrangle about whether it was still acceptable to describe the grossly obese as fat or refer to the larger part of the prison population being Maori would be a splendid diversion. It took the locum a while to get things going I have to admit and it was nine thirty before a genuinely outraged listener rang in to complain about insults to Catholicism posing as so called `works of art’ but she was quickly followed by someone who felt slighted when she was described as a `partner’ rather than a `wife’. But our radio host was anxious to get into the meatier aspects of political correctness and urged the discussion forward. What about the use of even more offensive terms she demanded. It was then that the earnest sounding elderly man who had recently returned from New York happened to ring in. He had been shocked on the streets of that city by an African-American female newspaper seller calling out to other (presumably) African-Amercans to `come and get your N***** Newspaper here….’ He said that he had not heard that word spoken in public for a number of years and he had been totally taken aback by it because you certainly would not hear the term on the streets of New Zealand cities. The gasp of horror from the host was followed by a stunned silence – five seconds is a long time in talkback land. We listeners waited in excited anticipation of what might happen next whilst she recovered enough to hit whatever dump button was necessary to dispatch the world traveler back into whichever suburb of the city he had emerged from. `We simply cannot have words like that used on this programme,’ she reprimanded in the admonishing voice of my old Sunday School teacher, `That word is completely offensive – every right thinking person would agree…..yes, I know it was being used in context but all the same it is absolutely unacceptable…..’ I reflected that one of my own pet hates is being told what every right thinking person is currently agreeing with. Did I have the energy to ring in and tell her so? No, I did not. So – on to the next call and the discussion concerning political correctness continued.

Monday, 4 January 2016

In Disgrace With Fortune....A Chronicle of Harlotry

To celebrate the coming of 2016 I have generated a coupon code for IN DISGRACE WITH FORTUNE. It can be accessed for the month of January from the Smashwords site. The coupon code is PR99A (not case sensitive) and should be entered prior to completing checkout.

Friday, 1 January 2016


My first Resolution for 2016 was to tackle the job of making print copies of my books available – yet somehow I don’t have enough get up and go….maybe it got up and went! From time to time I check my Amazon Author page and they all look so enticing sitting there that I can’t help wondering why I’m not selling more copies. Mary thinks it’s because I’m not doing enough marketing. She says it’s simple and all I’ve got to do is get on with it. Jennifer says she’s not terribly good at marketing either so she understands the problem. Ella doesn’t say much because all her books are selling well – at least that’s what we suspect. Part of the problem is because the technical instructions for making print copies available are just too complex for someone as technically phobic as me and although I know I can pay to have the job done I am deeply suspicious of all those helpful souls who will organize printing, even find you an old fashioned style publisher if you want one, edit – even rewrite your book for you and all for a mere five hundred dollars and it will be done before lunchtime. I know it is said to work for some people but I am a sceptic and to be perfectly honest I don’t believe any of them. Quite apart from all that I’ve known far too many people who end up with hundreds of books stored in the garage. I no longer have a garage – at least not the kind you could store books in. So I really am going to have to sort out the problem of print on demand copies all by myself……at some stage.