Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fional Kidman's mature short stories satisfy like novels

Fiona Kidman writes with 7 decades of wisdom and skill.

The 11 stories in The Trouble with Fire are wholly satisfying. They range wide and deep, and weave in and out of each other so that one could surely not feel cheated, as sometimes happens with short stories. On the contrary, by the end of the book I felt as if I had lived several lives in several other skins: The Trouble With Fire is as rich and complete as a fine novel.

Fire smoulders and flares here—in peat underground, in a pine plantation, and on the tussocked hills of Lady Barker's sheep station. Obviously, these images epitomize passion that flickers or rampages through the characters' lives. Delicately handled, they're as subtle as the rose petal cover art.

Fiona Kidman is a model of maturity. She knows how people behave: her characters respond to the twists of life in ways that are not rational or predictable, yet seem inevitable. Kidman meets, observes and follows her characters, sometimes through decades.

Her eyes are sharp. Her memory is long. Her words are simple and clear, sometimes lyrical, always layered. Experience has made Kidman wise but not cynical: she retains a fascinated compassion for ordinary people living their lives as best they can, despite extraordinary challenges.

Enjoy these stories. They're a great way to find out first hand why Fiona Kidman is one of New Zealand's most revered authors.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mortality? Stuff it!

Kicking in the sunshine.
It's about two years since I started this blog. Slightly bewildered about turning 70. Feeling some vague responsibility to accept and understand how old I was—even to believe it, that would be a start.

This odd urge to become conscious of my chronological age was stirred up by the strong memory of my mother's choice: she always swore she didn't want to live past 70, and she duly died before that self-imposed deadline.

At this point, I say stuff it. I have tried. I will never be a Buddhist monk. And I've gone back to living my funny little life with no more age-awareness than the next person. Today I feel about 41, a sprightly 41.

I meditate and do Tai Ch'i and I've lived with tea masters in Japan. So I understand—theoretically—the idea of coming to terms with one's mortality. My friend Maja Milcinski used to lecture on 'The Void' throughout the world, and what intense debates we had. But she is a fey, funny genius with one foot in the spirit world, and I am just me.

Without her permission, I'm going to quote my sister Lesley, one of the wisest people I know.

Me: 'When will we be ready to die?'
Lesley: 'When we die.'

Game, set and match to common sense.

And now the cabbage tree is flowering in sunshine. The cat is searching for mice in a pile of stationery. With friends I'm going to Pina in 3D this afternoon. My family, health, business and life are all thriving.

Mortality? What's that?

Life? Bring it on!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

How the show went: Crows Feet Dance Collective in Angle Poise.

We came, we danced, we conquered some hearts if not every single technical challenge. Visit our new Facebook page for a growing gallery of photos of the old ladies dancing:

And please Like us! Like everyone, we like to be liked. And it spreads the message -- dancing is great at all ages.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Old ladies dancing: what's difficult about that?

As the oldest dancer in the Crows Feet Dance Collective, I need all the help I can get. And I get plenty of help from kind friends and my trusty DIY tools: a notebook and Flipp video camera.

Now Angle Poise, our new dance show, is only two weeks away, which is pretty scary. So what do I find most difficult?
  • Very fast or very slow steps. Too fast, and I lose the plot. Too slow, and I lose my balance.
  • Orientation: when we learn a dance facing north, and then must do it facing west, I'm bewildered. What side of the stage? Where am I? This may be just a variation of the famous female incapacity for putting flat packs together, but then again, I'm good at map reading.
  • Too much spinning. I love a bit of spinning, but too much and I get dizzy. (Don't you?)
When I was a teacher, I loved a little girl called Pam. Every Monday for months she asked me why some words in French were masculine and others feminine, with no regard for gender. I knew that Pam was the brave one who dared to state what others also thought.

So when I'm writing notes (8 back RL, 4 x 1/4 turn, 4 x promenade RL ...) or videoing a sequence, I tell myself I'm not a dummy. I'm not too old: I'm just the Crows Feet Pam. Because sometimes others say they also find these things difficult. (Could've fooled me.)

One thing I'll never know, because I have never met my control-self in a parallel universe. Am I slower than the others because I'm older, or because I only began contemporary dance 5 years ago? Or both?

But this I do know: everything about dance that is difficult is also exhilarating. Where's the fun in doing something easy?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Case history of a prosopagnostic

One happy day I discovered I had prosopagnosia, a glitch in my brain. I'd been bluffing my entire life despite having trouble recognising faces. It's easy: you say 'Hi Rachel,' and I say 'Oh, hi!'

Nevertheless it was a relief. Oh, so I'm not imagining it. Oh, so there's a reason, there's even a label. Maybe it's not a moral flaw to forget people's faces. Maybe I should just give up the struggle.

Think you might have this abnormality of the brain? Here's my experience of prosopagnosia. (What a cool word! I love it!)

Aged 12, first year of high school. A literary little girl, I was fascinated by novels. How did writers write? An inspiring English teacher instructed us to look at plot, style, theme and ... character. Time and time again I stared at myself in the mirror, wondering how a writer could possibly describe my face. Ordinary eyes, forehead, nose, mouth—what could they possibly say? Rachel has a face? As a budding writer, I was mystified. A face is a face is a potato.

Going to the movies. In the early days I recognised Doris Day by her hair and voice, and of course by the name on the poster. I easily recognised Brigitte Bardot from her uniquely big luscious lips (pre-Botox), roughly the same shape as her breasts, and Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn by their hairstyles. So I wasn't doing too badly at first. But soon the pool became too crowded, and now every actor has fifty look-alikes. So today, though I adore the movies, never ask me who the stars are. They all look the same—except for Meryl Streep.

Who is that young man? Surely not —? A nice young man crossed the road, stood 6 inches in front of me, looked me in the eye and said very deliberately, 'Hello, Mum.' Yep, that was my son. He'd had a hair cut.

Who is that strange looking man in my house? A friend of my husband? No, Rachel, that is your husband. He shaved off his beard.

Who is that person in the mirror? It's me, of course. Everyone knows that. Out of context (the mirror) I think I might recognise my forehead and smile. Might not.

To my delight, I find my reflection a more familiar sight since I lost some weight. The jaw now meets the neck in a shape I seem to remember from an earlier era.

Oops, what about that scar on your nose? Minor surgery for skin cancer last week freaked me out, which made no sense for a minor operation. It's funny to think I care so much about spoiling my face, when after all, I see it as a potato. An attractive potato, even a gourmet Jersey Benne potato—but still, a potato.

With age, there's a marvellous bonus for prosopagnostics: I'm no worse at this gig than I was at the age of 12, but my friends say they're getting worse. They think it's is a normal sign of aging.

Prosopagnosia is a funny little ailment that has done me no harm. It's kept me on my toes. And it seems self-indulgent to even mention it, except that all this new brain research is fascinating.

Image: Harvard University: my famous face recognition test result

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A yummy life

Contents of my fridge
My lovely big sister has almost finished the final draft of a terrific memoir. She noticed that many of her stories had a focus on food, and so included a tried-and-true recipe with each story. It's wonderful to read these stories that bring our family meals and eating habits so vividly to life. As for Jill's adult life as a cook and hostess, it was shaped by her creativity and common sense as a young wife, producing menus with colour, taste and charm for sixpence.

This got me thinking about influences on my own cooking and eating over the years. At our age, we're walking, talking gastronomic encyclopaedias. Let me count the ways my own life has shaped the way I eat...

1. My mother: healthy, tasty, simple, cheap and fast! Celia did everything with flair and shortcuts, including cooking. With a big family and a full-time job, she raced into the kitchen and single-handedly prepared our meals at high speed. Daughters did the washing up. The cheapest cuts of meat, fresh veges and fruit from the garden, milk, cream and butter from the cow, eggs from the hens. All organic before there was need for such a word. Porridge, soup, meat and three veg, and pudding to fill up the corners.

2. So-called Continental Cooking classes in 1959-1960. Heavy rich dishes like vol au vent and Hungarian goulash. Add cream and sherry or wine to everything. Put apricots and prunes into casseroles. Exciting, satisfying Friday night food for blokes after the pub.

3. Reefton boiling, roasting and baking. The cooking of my mother-in-law, Vi, was perhaps the most exotic I ever encountered. Boiled mutton with white sauce. Cabbage boiled to mush. Mutton roasted in 3 or 4 cups of lard. Little cakes with strange names and many processes, like Louise cakes and Eccles cakes and Boston buns. I was astonished but did not emulate.

4. Switzerland, from 1961-64. This was a gastronomic awakening for both Grant and me, and we have never recovered, thank goodness! Foods like asparagus, oysters and radishes honoured individually, a course in themselves. A salad with every meal. New foods every day. Fondue, raclette, sauerkraut. Wine with meals. Discovering small quirky cafés with one special dish and a fierce chef. Food was an obsession, and yet it was simpler than the jumble of items we had been throwing on our plates all our lives. For raclette, you only need cheese, gherkin and potato—but it has to be the right cheese, the right gherkin and the right potato.

5. Feeding my own family. As a housewife and mother of four in Masterton, I applied everything I knew to feeding my family. No problem, plenty of fun. When children disliked a food, I cruelly forced them to eat one mouthful—one pea—one bite of asparagus: usually there came a day when their eyes filled with wonder, because suddenly, they got it! Oysters were yummy!

6. 1970s dinner parties: competitive cooking. Bored housewives all, we tried to outdo one other with culinary masterpieces. I produced bombe Alaska, fillet of beef Duke of Wellington, crepes suzettes, boeuf bourgignon—you name it. Ridiculous. But what else is a girl to do in Masterton?

7. Hippy brown stuff. Whole food Vegetarian cafés began popping up in the 70s. Note the capital V, granted because much of this early Vegetarian food was primarily ideological. It pretended to be meat: lentil burgers, vege sausages, tofu steaks, brewers yeast and lecithin on everything. Some delicious, some disgusting, all of it righteous, too much of it brown. In Taranaki and Golden Bay, I lived among the hippies. Vegetables remain my top-favourite, number-one primary food group. I love them as they are and I don't like to see them tortured.

8. The Japan aesthetic. For two years I lived as a privileged professor in Kyoto, the heart of elegant Japanese cuisine. For a time, I lived with a tea professor and a kaiseki chef. My aesthetic sense was polished to the point of baldness. I make sashimi and I love the Zen side of food appreciation, but I'm fussy about which Japanese place I eat at.

9. Cafés and Moore Wilson. Living in Mt Victoria means passing cafés every time I walk to town. Small, beautiful, fresh, creative snacks and meals. Fusion without fuss. Lunch in a paper bag from De Luxe. Brat in a bun at l'Affaré. Breakfast with friends at Mojo. Business meetings at Jimmy's. Well, you get the drift. Then when grandchildren come to stay it's yum cha or sushi or both.

10. Travels in Asia. Life takes me here and there. China, Tokelau, Tonga, Samoa, Malaysia, Cambodia, Bangladesh and India, for example. Each time it's a reminder that the ethnic meals produced in New Zealand are a pale reflection of their original selves, brushed bland for our foreign palate. The world is full of amazing flavours.

11. Live-aloner stair-thinker cooking. Living with a family or even just one other person, I found it easy to produce meals for 2 or 4 or 10. But I've lived alone for more than 20 years now, and my habits are very different.

Nowadays, cooking for one person is what's easy and soothing and fun. Virtually every day I cook something wonderful for both lunch and dinner. Yesterday's lunch was a salad of silver beet (lightly steamed), baked beetroot, persimmon, walnut and feta cheese. Other days last week I ate Thai red curry fish soup, pork and pea soup from my freezer, salmon omelette with a green salad, toasted sandwich—whatever, I love it all.

Normally I run downstairs from my office, and on the stairs I think about what I'll cook. Today, for once, I'm thinking ahead: rösti with a salad of broccoli and pear, maybe. It depends what's in the fridge. And there's always enough for one person.

But you can't prepare a menu for guests while running down the stairs. You have to think ahead. Make decisions. Even go shopping. The cooking is still easy, but thinking about what to cook can be strangely disconcerting. I am better at making lightning decisions than methodical ones. What's more, I invent many dishes on the spot and never make them again. Recipes do not feature. So I'm illogically nervous that the dish of the day might be just too eccentric for anyone but me.

The sum total? I'm happy with my food. Almost every meal I say out loud, 'Yummy! Mmm! That was delicious!' What I eat is constructed from a brilliant foundation in childhood, the constraints of raising a family on a budget, the wonderful foods available to us here in this privileged enclave of New Zealand, and the stimulation of many outside influences.

And every step of my culinary development has been tightly associated with particular people. That's the beauty of it.

Lucky lucky me. I have a yummy life.

That's my food story. What's yours?

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Hulme-Parker murder revisited

Today I watched Reflections of the Past, a documentary about the notorious Hulme-Parker murder case in Christchurch in 1954. As a documentary, it left much to be desired, but it stirred up new thoughts about the personal agenda of the many interviewees—and of myself. Many of us have a stake in how the murder is perceived by others—which is tightly entangled in how we perceive ourselves.

I was a classmate of Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker.

The school photo was taken after they had both left school; I don't know the date, but I suspect it's 1954, when they were in prison.

The shock and scandal left its mark on the school, the country—and me. Small things, and temporary, but big for me. My fantasy life went from vivid to obsessively, terrifyingly weird and violent. I shoved the blame for my own confusion on to my blameless mother and was mean to her for several years. Girl friendships were viewed with paranoia. My best friend moved away, for unrelated reasons.

Strangest of all, I felt guilty for abandoning Juliet, especially after learning how her parents had repeatedly abandoned her or sent her away when she was ill. I made a few attempts to write to her in prison and gladly, guiltily gave up when she didn't answer. Many years later, Alison Laurie and Julie Glamuzina told me my letters would certainly not have been delivered. I sobbed with the release of guilt and grief.

I was not a friend of Juliet's. My mother and Mrs Hulme had brought us together before Juliet enrolled at Christchurch Girls' High School, hoping we might become friends. The idea was that we were both geniuses, with IQs of [insert arbitrary number]—a ludicrous belief of the 1950s—both loved reading and writing and were highly imaginative. And so it appeared we would have a lot in common.

We didn't click. She was two years older than me; I'd been promoted and she'd been ill. In her company I felt like a rebellious child to her superior adult. While others were in awe of her, I just wanted to keep my distance.

The documentary interviewed far too many people.

Some (for example Peter Graham and Michelanne Forster) had interesting, true and new things to say.

Some had zero credibility, the worst example being a young male 'teacher' who hypothesized about girls getting the cane for not getting their homework right, in the 1950s. (In case you wondered, that's rubbish.) Alexander Roman, the film maker, said he had trouble finding people to interview; rather, he had trouble leaving people out.

On the upside, most of these witnesses and pretenders revealed their attitude to Juliet and Pauline. Many had something to prove, and that's not a bad thing. It's just human.

So I asked myself why I was in the cinema. What do I have to prove?

I do have a stake in the story.

I used to read Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, but this real life murder was no mystery. We know who held Honora Parker down by her neck and bashed her to death with a brick, and we know why.

I suppose deep down I still needed assurance that I was worthwhile even though I couldn't see what was going on under my nose at the time, and even though I walked away from a girl in need. Although Juliet and Pauline had left school when they committed murder, I still felt that I should have seen this tragedy brewing and prevented it somehow. I was not a good Samaritan: I passed by on the other side. In fact I ran a mile.

Now that's irrational, but guilt is often irrational.

Big things happen, bad things happen. And people on the periphery are affected in all sorts of ways. Denial. Fear. Anger. Sympathy. Empathy. Arousal. Bewilderment. Guilt by association. Guilt for surviving. Guilt for doing nothing to stop it.

Here's a reason to go to the documentary: the old buildings of Christchurch before the earthquake feature prominently in all their glory. Christchurch Girls High School was recently demolished after serious damage.

Two sides of the Parker-Hulme murder
Reflections of the past: Alexander Roman documentary

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Adjusting to widowhood

My friend Anne Else blogs about the huge adjustment necessary after the death of her husband of 30 years, poet Harvey McQueen. In so doing, she gives a voice (or a point of difference, which is just as valuable) to others who have been bereft in this way. This is brave of her, and useful, and inevitable, because she is a lifelong writer.

Mainly I just want to draw attention to her blog. If it reaches and helps other widows and widowers, that's good. It is difficult for others to understand what you're going through. I just watch in awe as Anne and other friends and relatives painstakingly reconstruct their lives after the walls have been removed. I see that this takes ingenuity, imagination, effort and thought. It doesn't happen naturally.

Anne's blog: Elsewoman — Learning to live on my own for the first time in my life

Friday, April 29, 2011

Our glorious grown-up brains

In an airport recently I picked up Barbara Strauch's best-seller, The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain. Now, technically, I'm a little more than grown-up: technically I should be over the hill — yet mysteriously, like you, I am not.

Research old and new explains why on the one hand, I can't for the life of me remember whether I've read that book by whatsisname, and on the other hand, I believe that mentally I'm in peak form. Turns out these are both facts, and they're not incompatible, not at all.

Mature people are inclined to tell the identical story twice... or many times ... to lapse into a conversational loop. And I've already told this story once. So please go direct to my business blog:
Your Miss Marple Brain at work and play.

I talk about this on a video. So you get to not exactly chat with me, but be chatted to. Bye now.

The metallic rush of turning 71

Life goes on: the cliche sprang to my mind when I realized I had ignored this blog for 2 months, and the last time I posted I was a mere 70 years old. OK, Old Lady Laughing will always be a personal indulgence, a mere toy, as long as I'm heavily involved in my business, Even so, let me do a quick update.

The trigger for Old Lady Laughing was the awe-inspiring achievement — and the what-next existential challenges — of having lived 7 decades. Now I've survived that interesting year and I'm used to being in my 70s. For the moment, living as a slightly older lady is fairly straightforward: business as usual!

Numbers have their own magic. I reckon 71 carries a lot more clout than 70.

I say, 'I'm 70.' You think, 'OK, round figure, good on you.'

I say, 'I'm 71.' You think, 'Oh. You're committed, then! You're on the way to 80.'

Image: Unisex 'anti-perfume' by Comme des Garcons. Obviously this is the scent we 71-year-olds should all be wearing. says:

When you first smell the fragrance you get a big metallic rush, it's very different. ... Electricity, Metal, Office, Mineral, Dust on a hot light bulb, photocopier toner, Hot metal, Toaster, fountain pen ink, Pencil Shavings, The salty taste of a battery, incense, Wood, Moss, Willow, Elm, Birch, Bamboo, Hyacinth and Lettuce Juice.

So ... does this reflect me, in theory? Pretty much!

Today's diary: Meditate; Blog in office at computer; work in office at computer; make toast; change batteries in phone; get new washing machine installed; dance rehearsal on wooden floor; do sudoku with pencil; eat lettuce salad; throw away pot of dead hyacinths; blat out.

That metallic rush surely trumps the smell of old-lady-lavender. But is it ... actually ... nice? I'll probably stick to Dune.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Like the hair you've got. That's what you've got.

Yes, those are pea shoots growing in a container on my kitchen bench. Tasty (if a bit hairy) in salads, perfect in stir-fry.

They have a growth pattern disturbingly similar to my hair in February, 2011. (Remember, I'm a poet.)

I read recently a comment from a wise woman, whose name I don't recall—sorry about that. It goes something like this:
'We should all get to love and accept our hair early in life, because that's the hair we've got.'
If I'd read that when I was 14, I would have scoffed. Get used to my hair? No way. I wanted hair like the models in Seventeen magazine. Any model, any hair but mine.

At the time, my hair was thick and lustrous and blonde. Cut in a pudding bowl style that made me look like the pudding, but capable of growing very soon into a bouncy pony-tail that was perfect for rock and roll.

Magazines deceived us with tips on making our hair curlier, straighter, thicker, thinner, less dry, less oily, more like a fantasy woman's totally incompatible tresses and less like our own perfectly wonderful hair. They still do that, of course. And we still expect hairstylists to perform miracles.

Twice in my teens I subjected my hair to Toni Home Perms, and twice it emerged even straighter than before. (Good thing.) The Greek sun bleached it to platinum blonde, the Geneva winters created a brunette, and all by myself I turned a glorious henna red for a couple of years. As for styling, I've had everything from a French roll to a Number Two buzz cut with a poodle clipper.

The upside of this congenital discontent is that hair is very forgiving. Pretty much whatever you do, it grows right back, just the way it used to be.

Over the years, however, hair does inexorably change. It's unmissable evidence that we are, yes we are growing older. Some follicles give up the ghost and you can see the skull through the faithful few that cling loyally on like seaweed. New hairs slither out of your skull that are greyer or whiter and coarser because they are technically dead. (The scalp as a forest of dead, lichen-draped trees or a cemetery with zombies: charming.)

But nature still has a few surprises. In August of my 70th year, something bizarre happened. The undergrowth went crazy and new hair began to grow like weeds. The first ones are up to the canopy already. Fuzzy furly new hairs keep forcing their way into the forest and I just look different.
I asked my hairdresser why my hair has abruptly, blatantly started to grow again. Is it Moroccan Oil or is it the secret of eternal youth?

'It's just a cycle,' she said. 'Some people have a 5-7 year biological cycle, and you must be on the up and up.'

Second time around, I won't complain. I'll like the hair I've got.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Writing for fun again: what am I to do? Can't help it!


So, my 70th year is almost over—doh! (That happens, Rachel.) It's been awesome and the next year will be awesome too.

An influx of maturity and wisdom never arrived, sorry to report.

But just in the nick of time I can imagine my next writing project. Thank goodness: there's nothing more fun than writing for fun.

Ever since finishing Scarlet Heels: 26 stories about sex, I've been almost 100% businesswoman—apart from a blissful stint as writer in residence at Lavigny. I've even stopped transcribing poems that dribbled out of my granddaughter's mouth because I felt I was invading her privacy.

Lately I have been inspired by Maud Casey, a wonderful young New York novelist who was with me at Lavigny. I've just read The Shape of Things To Come. She has that proportion thing right: the prose is exceedingly easy to read and understand and yet quite often there's a sentence that's so brazenly original and wise or mysterious or metaphorical, it's like a salutary slap in the face. I don't want to be boring or bored, but I don't want to be impenetrable or pretentious either. Maud is my model at present.

That, and reading a patchy book of memoirs by distinguished old NZers, yesterday gave me a vision of my next writing project. Very thrilling to see the way it could be, even if it never happens. I think I'm going to write random poems randomly related to life as an officially older person. Not unlike this blog, but as poems.

Odd and funny and real would be the goal. And not boring! I'm sick of oldies who relate earnestly how life was when they were young, how it's changed and what they think of that. I don't care.

I don't usually announce what I'm going to write: that's just asking for trouble. But I'm old enough to be pretty sure this one will happen. Not quickly, because I'm busy. But in a steady dribble, as is appropriate for an old lady laughing.

Writing for fun again—what am I to do? I can't help it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What I love and hate about Christianity

I'm reading The Naked Buddha: a demythologised account of the man and his teaching by Eric Harrison. The author has been a committed Buddhist for 25 years and a meditation teacher for more than 40 years.

He explains why Buddhism grows very very slowly, and why Westerners turn away. He's refreshingly honest: approach is to highlight the good as I see it (which can be very, very good) and point out the bad (which can be quite awful).

This honesty—so rare it's almost unthinkable—stimulated me to think about what I love and hate about Christianity. And why I walked out of church in the 70s and virtually never went back. I'm not highlighting the good and the bad objectively: this is strictly personal.

What I love about Christianity

  • My Dad, a vicar and a battler
  • God is love (the message we got from our Dad)
  • Worship, being consciously grateful
  • Values of kindness, service to others, and generosity
  • Peaceful meditation and food for thought
  • Inspiring ministers: good, brave, wise people
  • Jesus: a human being
  • "Life is real, now: make your own heaven"
  • Aesthetics: music, stained glass, flowers
  • Poetry: the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer
  • Mary
  • Ritual and chanting
  • Myth and metaphor
  • Adventurous theology
  • The City Mission.

What I loathe about Christianity or at least some factions

Some of what repels me, like the first item, is not intrinsically bad: it simply doesn't suit me at all. Some is all in my own mind. And some is genuinely bad, bad, bad.

I know people who help to create wonderful church communities and they belong there and improve the world. But I walked out one Sunday when it struck me that only 5 of the 400-odd people in the church would have the slightest understanding of my own position. (The 5 included the minister, bless him!) In every service I had been mentally translating the words into a more compatible theology.

Then I caught feminism and the translation job became impossible. Frankly, I didn't belong in a church.

Gradually feminism began to soften church misogyny. But it was far too late for me. I can't stand:

  • Being part of an artificially constructed community
  • Boring, false, or foolish ministers
  • Persistent masculinity and paternalism
  • Too much guilt
  • Arrogance
  • Persistent anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-other attitudes
  • Exclusivity: this is the right way and the only way
  • Wealth and control and greed
  • A sense of pointlessness.

Well, let it go. Growing older, I can see the big picture. I think...

Photo: The Jesus Place at Gobind Sadan, Delhi

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My first new year resolution in 70 years

A New Year's resolution? I don't remember ever making one before. At least, not one that lasted more than ten minutes, not one that felt fun and difficult and right. Here it is:

I will buy no clothes in 2011.

Last year was the year of the clothes. Almost my entire wardrobe got refurbished. I had plenty of excuses, or justifications. I lost 7 or 8 kilos (that's a lot on Short People like me) and only my favourite clothes were worth altering. Then there were new clothes for weddings and conferences and India. And some garments were bought because I got a sudden urge to look like a grown-up—at least sometimes.

I normally give away or throw away something equivalent when I purchase something, so I probably don't have a larger number of clothes than before—but they are all fun or useful and I like them.

In other words I am spoiled rotten and have far too much Stuff.

Denying yourself a purchase can be a very satisfying experience. I get an unholy kick out of shopping but I also love psyching myself up to buy something... then changing my mind. Recently I did that on a large scale, saving myself at least 10,000 fantasy dollars. I decided to turn a little archive room into a bathroom, planned it, chose fittings. Then I changed my mind. Do I really need a second bathroom? Of course not.

Now, about the money I'll be saving. Who shall I give it to? My top favourite good cause is Books in Homes. I sponsor a couple of schools and could maybe add another one. We'll see how we go.

Books in homes