Thoughts: A Quick Roadtrip with my Kids

Every year around this time I have taken my kids camping. It’s been something I instituted post-marriage with the aim to broaden their horizons somewhat and maintain a good bond with them.

It’s worked.

This year was a little different owing to a few changes and uncertainties that came about in 2018, so we only had three days to make something happen.

I decided to take them up North. They’ve actually been around Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri a lot (their mother’s dad has a timeshare they’ve been able to make use of).

I wanted to show them some of New Zealand that they wouldn’t ordinarily get to see. My daughter expressed that she wasn’t particularly interested in New Zealand and it’s history. She loves the Romans (but hasn’t read Asterix – go figure). I guess it’s her age and the education she is exposed to.

We based ourselves in Kerikeri. The campground there is well appointed. Enough trees to cope with the 32C heat. It borders a river and it was fun cooling off. And trying not to kill myself by slipping on algae-covered rocks. I’m not really great with ‘outside’. I’m sure I used to be, apparently not now.

I enjoy getting them involved in cooking. Deciding what to buy at the supermarket then taking responsibility for its preparation. They complain of course, they’re teenagers after all, but they do do the doing. I also like them to see me interact with other campers. These places are magnets for tourists and locals alike. My kids are fairly introverted and shy so I feel it’s important to show them how to socialise.

One of the people I talked with was a Maori guy, one of four. He politely asked if he could share the BBQ I was using (of course he can) because he was cooking up a feed of mussels for himself and his three mates. I asked if he’d gathered them. “Yes” he said. “From Countdown”. Sigh. He also didn’t have any cooking suggestions I could learn – “I just put them on until they open and they’re sweet eh?”. He gave me one to try. His approach to cooking worked just fine.

As a side note, everyone has Bluetooth speakers and personalised playlists. This group had a particularly excellent Soul, RnB thing going on and were having a bit of a singalong.

The next group I talked to were Indian. A family. They were cooking corn on the cob direct on the gas hobs. But for me the interesting thing was the seasoning they were going to use. A mix of chilli pepper, salt, and then a squeeze of lemon. Spectacular. It was fun being able to talk to them about their cuisine.

Day Two was the core of my plan. Now, my kids aren’t that interested being taught stuff, learning, when they’re in holiday. Tough dad eh? We got on the road early to drive from Kerikeri to Cape Reinga. It’s an interesting drive, very different landscapes, interesting fauna (we saw cows, sheep, hawks, turkey, emus and more). Actually, we were lucky and saw some shepherds with their dogs working a flock from one paddock to the next, across the highway. Was something pretty special to witness.

As we drove, I pointed out to my kids, the small communities anchored by a church and graveyard and maybe a shop. How NZ was and still is.

Note: Telecommunication coverage is appalling in the Far North – given the potential for tourism there I think it needs to be looked at.

I loved seeing how many people make the trip to see the Cape and its surrounds. It’s quite something being at the top of the North Island.

We headed home, stopping off at Te Kao for an ice cream. (Do it, it’s obligatory). We detoured through Totara North as it’s where my kids maternal grandmother grew up. (There’s literally nothing there so it didn’t take long). We visited a site where gumdiggers worked in terrible conditions locating and digging up kauri gum. I actually got interest from my son. He now knows why gumboots are called gumboots and not Wellingtons in this country.

Next stop, also obligatory and totally worth it, was Mangonui. They have the best fish and chips there. Do it. You won’t regret it.

Given the lack of feedback one gets from teenagers I can only assume that when they’re in their 20’s they’ll look back to the day they saw the Lighthouse…

Day Three. We packed up the campsite and got on the road. (I have to add that as they are getting older they are getting much more useful and helpful).

I wanted to take them West to see Opononi (pretty, nothing much there, had a dolphin in 1955/56 that was friendly) on the way to the Waipoua Forest.

It was good to show them how people live in the Far North. Either by choice or through circumstance. There are small communities dotted on the road. Shanty’s. Lean-to’s. Derelict. Rundown. Deserted and abandoned. It’s certainly not Howick. I was interested to see that despite the ruination of the buildings around, the churches all were in quite good condition…

Then we arrived in the Waipoua Forest. I wanted to make sure they saw Tane Mahuta whilst they have the chance to. (It’s no guarantee that access will be for ever).

All up, it’s been a great few days. Good company, good food, good conversation, good music. I am very grateful that my kids like to spend focussed time with me. Now to plan the next.

Thoughts: Xmas Notes

So it’s the downward spiral to the Festive season.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly noticed people are getting scratchy. Conversations I have through my work show that people are just OVER everything, and there is a lowering of tolerance for those little things that you’d normally let slide, and now you simply can’t ignore.

 

This piece about a Porirua Xmas Note leaver is a case in point. On the surface it’s amusing, but it belies the angst that this time of year can create.

I too have been the recipient of an Xmas Note this week.

 

 

My first instinct was to laugh. What kind of loser would go to such an effort to leave this note on my doorstep? (Not in my letterbox, or on the car).

I live at 19. I share a kerb with 21. It’s a free parking zone. There are no laws dictating where one can park. And there is actually plenty of parking on my street – you might have to walk 5 more meters, but extra step-count in your day is good right?

Have you been on the receiving end of anything like this? Have you left notes?

What are your coping strategies for getting through Christmas and maintaining your dignity and calm?

Mine? Today I moved my car. I parked it in front of 23.

 

^SD

Parenting from Afar

These last couple of weeks my kids, Master 16 and Miss very-nearly 13 have been on a bit of an overseas excursion with their mother.

It’s been a few months in planning – basically it’s around a trade show that my Ex needs to attend for work – so the opportunity to expand the life experience of my kids is fantastic.

However, where Miss very-nearly 13 has been excited and planning all the things (and yes, she will turn 13 whilst away), Master 16 has been incredibly anxious. For the three months prior to departure he was in denial. In fact he hadn’t packed up until a few hours before their flight out.

I have been worried about him. And I have been worried about how best I can support him.

Their first destination was LA. Master 16’s anxiety was summed up in a few text messages to me:

This of course was of concern. I queried him as to what he was feeling:

I do need to note here that LA isn’t that bad. I have many friends who live there. I suspect he plays too many video games.

That one was hard to read.

I challenged him to focus on and to tell me about ‘three good things’ that he saw or experienced each day, and to his credit he has.

This simple task changed his perspective on LA and his travels. Phew.

He felt a lot more comfortable in London. To him, it’s more like New Zealand and he was able to find a ‘normal’ breakfast. (My God, he has routines).

All this time of course, his mother and sister have been enjoying, seeing, exploring, shopping and telling him that they’ll be using his baggage allowance for the trip home.

Paris has been interesting for him. He wasn’t prepared for a country where English is not the first language.

It’s been good to see that they’ve walked and explored. They did do the Eiffel Tower for example. However, an upbringing in NZ does heighten the hypochondria somewhat:

I asked him about his feelings. Being in a place with much history:

I think he’s getting used to this travel thing.

I asked his sister about how it’s going, what she’s seen, what she has enjoyed etc. etc.

I get:

Sigh. Describing the Louvre as ‘the giant art place’ didn’t give me much hope, but they managed to see the Mona Lisa (small painting, big crowd) as they ran through due to time constraints. She has enjoyed the Architecture of Paris though, so that’s a bonus. She is seeing the bigger picture.

On to Germany…

The boy’s first observation was the Cologne Cathedral all lit up at night. Apparently my daughter was enthralled. He did make an observation about the locals:

They’ve managed to get some shopping and some eating done. By this stage he is feeling a lot better about things.

The man child clearly doesn’t yet have my adventurous streak activated. I’m sure it will come. I’m not too worried about the girl child at this point.

I do feel a bit disconnected though. Whilst it’s great they’re experiencing this, I know their experience of the world would be different with me alongside. Less anxiety more openness perhaps. I will add this to my list of things to explore with them.

Thoughts: Dealing with Annoyance

It’s sure been an interesting time in my life.

Processing the passing of my birth mother has been a bit of a big deal for me. I was able to be in the moment as well as being somewhat out-of-body at the same time, dealing with the various stages of grief that one goes through.

And now I’m in the stage of Annoyance.

Annoyance is the feeling you get when someone or some thing makes you fairly angry or irritated.

My mother has annoyed me. Yes, it’s a purely selfish response but I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed that she’s gone. And what’s worse is that she hated to annoy anybody. Which is partly why she is now gone. She didn’t want to be a bother so didn’t call her doctor for three days when she should have. Sigh. Lessons learned.

So how have I been dealing with this particular annoyance?

Well, I recognise that the source of it is completely out of my control so all I can really do is focus on the good things. The little time we did have. The memories. The fact that I was able to meet her and that she was able to meet her grandchildren. This is pure. And it is healing.

On reflection, I have learned over the last few years that I have an incredible resilience. I don’t get stressed about things. I don’t really get angry. I have learned to keep my mouth shut and listen (mostly). And consider my response to stimuli rather than react.

Yes, I have been living through the consequences of decisions that I made in the past – owning it, accepting it, growing from it, moving forward.

Yes, I have been impacted hugely by the actions of others. But I recognise that I have no control over other people and what they do or what they say. I don’t necessarily know their stories. Their pain. Their stressors. All I can do is look for the good in the situation.

This approach prevents me from burning bridges or removing people from my life on an emotional whim. Don’t get me wrong though – I am very good at recognising and understanding when a person is toxic for me and I have no energy in my tank to continue to give to them. Thankfully this doesn’t occur very often.

Someone once told me that their approach is to ask themselves ‘Will this actually matter in five years’? It’s tough to do when you feel the red mist starting to swirl but it is worth making the attempt.

Take a step back. Breathe. And get on with your life. You only have one.

S.

Thoughts: That Time When You Accidentally Join A Pagan Celebration

Today was decidedly odd.

The morning schedule was a meeting with the Solicitor to get Mums affairs in order and progress correctly. To make sure they had all my details sorted. From there to the Memorial company to order a new Headstone for the plot.

Side note: We learned that if we wanted raised lead lettering on the stone it would cost 8 quid per letter…

We opted against raised lead lettering.

As we were close to Glastonbury we decided to head in for lunch. Completely forgetting that it was 1st May – May Day. Beltane. Glastonbury was at a complete standstill.

(Glastonbury is known for its Tor and has a history rooted in mythology and legends including Joseph of Arimathea and King Arthur. More here. The Glastonbury Festival takes its name from the town but is held a few miles away in Pilton).

The whole town gets involved in this celebration. There was the Town Hall address. The Town Crier welcoming Summer. The menfolk bearing the Maypole.

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I loved the folk dressing up as Goddesses and Green Men. Some better than others to be fair. The guy in the ghillie suit for example, didn’t quite get it. Or the guy who was green all over and wearing his favourite green shirt (it was a Green Lantern shirt so bonus points for that).

Flower crowns/garlands were on heads everywhere.

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We walked in a procession behind the Maypole for the best part of a mile. Destination: a field near the base of Glastonbury Tor. We paused by the Red Spring and the White Spring – a place of significance and meditation – for the Maypole to be blessed by intermingled waters from both. (ask me about the guy bathing naked in public sometime).

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The procession continued uphill and as we entered the field we were welcomed and blessed. The church of Beltane was truly in session. Chanting. Entering the ring through the garland portals.

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There were Gaelic blessings, invocations and chants. There were Druidic blessings, invocations and chants. People were drawn in to a state of worship. Singing. Drumming. Cannabis…

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The May Queen and May King were joined. The Maypole was planted. The couples were paired. The merriment began. Summer has been welcomed. Fertility has been encouraged.

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It was quite an experience. Not something this lad from Palmerston North has experienced anyway.

(Local coverage can be found here).

I do like days where the unexpected happens simply because you follow your curiosity and say Yes to new experiences.

But what is my take-away from all of this? It’s not just something that a tourist can observe and say “That was good wasn’t it”?. I think there’s more to it.

Beltane is about new life. It’s about conception. So, for me, I will conceive that new project, grasp that fleeting idea and get on with it.

Life is not about stagnation.

Not. One. Bit.

 

^sd

Thoughts: RIP Mum

What a whirlwind these last few weeks have been. Out of nowhere I got news that my birth mother, Rachel, had passed.

It’s been a lot to process.

I have known my whole life that I was adopted. It has never really been a self-defining part of my life, and I always had in the back of my mind the motivation to track down my origins and see if I could get to know my biological family. Years came and went. Every couple of years I’d get motivated to progress things. I obtained my original birth certificate, located a name, located a home address from the 60’s. Then I’d hit a roadblock and have to park the search. Over time, the Internet evolved and around 2007, my mother (well, someone with her name and broad location) popped up on a genealogy website.

I had confirmation. She (I thought it was her) was alive.

I found someone with her surname in the local telephone book, and one night made the call from Auckland to Somerset, UK. I finally had a current address.

I had actually forgotten over the last decade who the person on the end of the phone was, and was delighted to meet him at Mum’s funeral. He’d kept the secret.

So around Christmas 2007 my mothers life irrevocably changed. As did mine. I met her for the first time in 2011. The memories from that occasion flood back with such clarity.

And now I find myself in Somerset, saying goodbye. It’s been hard. The grieving process has been brutal and now the healing begins. I am so grateful to my cousin who has been handling everything – I think we’ve helped each other get through this time.

The funeral was lovely. In a setting steeped with history and legacy. I was proud to be able to address the congregation with some thoughts. I have posted this below for posterity.

So now I continue to sit, and to think, and to process.

 

 

Pieces of the Puzzle

Good morning everyone,

We are here today to celebrate the life of Rachel, my mother.

Everybody here has memories of Rachel. Each memory is different, each memory personal. Each memory is a piece of the puzzle that when collected together presents a picture of who Rachel was.

That’s the great thing about life. People, all of us, have the opportunity to impact others and leave behind a lasting memory.

My story is a little different to most here and I’d like to share some of it.

Rachel was an adventurer. She went to New Zealand to have an overseas experience decades before that became a common thing for young people to do.

I was an outcome of that adventure.

Growing up with my adoptive family, I always felt… different. I think differently to them. I see the world differently to them. I certainly have a mischievous streak and a wanderlust that did not come from the nurture I received. It was always in the back of my mind that I needed to find out more about who I was.

It was around 2007 I think, that I tracked Rachel down. All I had was a name on an original birth certificate and a very basic Internet. I remember finding a Somerset Sealey (I can’t remember who it was) and making a telephone call to locate Rachel’s current address and to ask if he thought it would be ok if I wrote.

Mum received that letter shortly before Christmas Day. And I know her world changed. I like to think for the better.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I was able to come out here to meet her for the first time, and meet many of you here today. My blood relatives. I remember arriving at London Heathrow and seeing her in the arrivals hall quite clearly.

Thank you Mo for being there at that time also.

That moment in 2011 was a time where some of the missing pieces of my own puzzle were located. And placed.

Rachel and I were able to get to know each other as adults without the angst of a parent-child relationship getting in the way. She was desperately proud of her family here and she loved telling me about all what you were doing. She was delighted to get to learn of her grandchildren, my son Aidan and daughter Caitlin, their strengths and interests, and to see her heritage passed on.

Rachel and I realised early on that I am definitely cut from the same cloth as her. My extreme curiousity comes from her. My off-beat sense of humour comes from her.

At this time I would like to acknowledge my birth Father, Phil. I am so grateful to him as he made it possible for Mum to come to New Zealand in 2016 to see me in my habitat, and also to meet Aidan and Caitlin and give them an opportunity to meet and get to know their grandmother. He sends his condolences to us all.

Rachel reflected to me that she felt that she and Phil were incredibly selfish when they gave me up for adoption. I told her that far from being selfish, her actions at that time were completely selfless.

Because of her, I have had a good life, raised by great parents, knowing nothing but love.

And now Rachel is gone.

But she also continues.

In me, in her grandchildren.

I know that she wouldn’t be comfortable with all this attention but I also know that she would be ‘right chuffed’ as to what is happening here. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that this connection grows and strengthens. That this connection endures.

The puzzle that is Rachel may be completed today, but there are more puzzles to complete.

More pieces to find and to place.

I hope that you will help me as I honour her memory through living and in some way, perhaps, I can help you also.

Thank you.

 

Thoughts: I need to get my words back

It’s occurred to me that I haven’t written anything for some months.

A lot has happened. Christmas, for example.

Many ideas of posts of extraordinary value to my readers are swirling in the void. They get close. Really close. And then just get taken out of my reach when I become aware of them.

I suspect that so much has been going on in my life that I’ve been reeling from one thing to the next without being able to put focus on a thought properly and with consideration. Simply having to deal with life has been enough.

I’m going to change things up. Watch this space.

^SD