Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hor d'oeuvre of dry roasted biro

dry roasted biro

The other night a friend and I demolished a small roast of beef, getting into training for Christmas.

An unexpected addition to the menu was dry roasted biro.

For one dread moment I wondered whether I was the woman who mistook her pen for an aubergine.

But in a flash I solved the mystery. (Applause for Madame Sherlock.) A stray pen could easily be swept up in a tea-towel doubling as oven mitt and deposited in the oven along with a dish of vegetables, couldn't it? So it was served as an hors d'oeuvre with a soup├žon of Dijon mustard and a garnish of Moore Wilson semi-dried tomatoes.

Modestly I claim the biro was a success. Tough and dry, I'll grant you that. But an impressive indigo colour and an acerbic literary flavour made it a fine culinary innovation. Recommended.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wedding song

Wedding song

So you are the hunter
and I am the gatherer
and you are the gardener
and I am the traveller
and I am the dancer
and you are the dance.

And I am the dreamer
and you are the harbour
and you are the future
and I am the farmer
and you are the juggler
and I am the clown.

I see you—I know you—
I love you—I see—

that you are the builder
and I am the weaver
and you are the mover
and I am the mender
and you are the mountain,
and I am the cloud.

And you are the lover
and I am the lover
and we are a twosome
and you are the one.

by Rachel McAlpine, 1996

I originally wrote this wedding poem for friends.
Later I realised that it also fitted another bride and groom: my daughter and her husband.
Eventually the truth dawned: the concepts in this wedding song may make good sense to almost any two people in love and about to marry.

You may share Wedding Song freely, but please include my name as writer.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fingertip information on glass: here now, enjoy.

Will people in their 70s and 80s live to see a world where intuitive glass displays replace computer screens? Of course. It's here already—just not in my home, yet.

Sure, it's an advertisement, for which I apologise. I have no connection with Corning's Glass. But their videos are a mind-goggling glimpse of the near future.

Isn't life great, with such adventures just around the corner?

View all the Day Made of Glass videos.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

72 is the new 30—I beg your pardon?

Salon.com poses the burning question:

"Is 72 the new 30?"

No wonder we get confused about who we are and how to live.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Today (Saturday) I walked in the Wellington Botanic Gardens with my daughter and grandson.

Tomorrow I get on a plane for the Frankfurt Book Fair and a week in Berlin.

These are the words I will take with me, by the immortal Margaret Mahy.
Dance, dance, little old feet!
Spin on your ha'penny of time.
Roar, little old lion
in your meadow of cobwebs and rust
'Til you burn with the fiery power
of the dance and the rhyme
and fall back to the earth
in a sprinkle of golden dust.
Hear Margaret Mahy read the whole poem and others:
The Word Witch: with CD. Photo by Rossi

Forgiving Anne Perry and going to Heaven

Last year I posted some thoughts about the 1954 Hulme-Parker murder and the way it affected me. Some inflammatory comments resulted—because even 58 years later, that teen-age murder still polarises and alarms and infuriates people.

Why? What made me keep carping about Anne Perry's perseverative lying—at least in the privacy of my own mind? For example, claiming that she was an accessory to a murder when she was convicted of murder—planning it, fully participating, doing the deed, holding the brick. Is that my business, really? I was also perseverating and it wasn't healthy.

I had finally managed to forgive myself, I think, for failing to notice a murder was about to happen, failing to prevent the disaster developing under my very nose. (Ludicrous guilt, but that's guilt for you.)

But I still had to find a way of forgiving Anne Perry—in order to get her out of my head. Judging from the comments on my former post, so do some other people.

Yes! Success! A couple of videos combined to flick that rusty old FORGIVE switch in my brain and (touch wood) I have let it go.

In both videos she continues to distort the truth and present the crime as an unfortunate event that just happened by accident, in her periphery, more or less. She is the heroine of her own story: fair enough—aren't we all?

OK, I don't have to believe her highly polished version of events. That's where I draw the line.

Because finally I get it. Anne Perry may be a famous Victorian crime writer but she is not leading the life of Riley. From the outside, it looks like an isolated, sad and struggling life. Perhaps she is still not free.

When I was about eight years old, I had an existential crisis: desperately worried about going to Hell, I consulted a professional—our Dad, then a small town vicar. At bedtime he gave me his considered (and possibly unorthodox) opinion.
  1. He was pretty sure there was no such thing as Hell after death.
  2. If there was an after-death Hell, only very very bad people would be sent there, and certainly not a little girl who had scribbled in a library book.
  3. When pressed hard to define a "very very bad" person, he thought deeply and replied, "Perhaps a murderer who never felt sorry for their crime."
Whereupon I sighed with relief and slept soundly for the first time in, well, hours. 

Anne Perry will go to Heaven: Mormons do. She has doubtless arranged for her victim to go to Heaven too. Perhaps Heaven really will be the magical Fourth World she and Pauline imagined as girls. (Hope not. Eternal harps—enough. Eternal Mario Lanza—spare me.)

Of course she has to lie to herself! What's behind the mask is not my business.

Let us forgive this woman who is doing the best she can, like all of us. And pity her.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

1970s vintage grannies dress up to dance

What to wear for the grannies' dance in the next Crows Feet Dance Collective show?

Six of the dancers are grandmothers and we are rehearsing an emotional dance to the song You are so beautiful.

We have to find our own costumes, vaguely 1970s vintage (like us), vaguely homogeneous (not like us), and totally liberating for dancing. That means not too heavy, not too tight, not too revealing, and able to accommodate kicks and deep knee bends.

Sally's lovely long dress in blues and greens is a foundation garment (joke) that has established a theme.

Yesterday I hunted through a few second hand shops. Rather than buy a dress on spec and crossing my fingers that it would blend with the others, I tried on the contenders and snapped them with my trusty iPhone.

Verdict: green dress from Polly's in Elizabeth Street is go. Everyone agrees.

I took some ghastly photos, but found that raising a leg improved my appearance considerably.

But I must also describe the weird experience of trying on a genuine 1970s Laura Ashley dress. High neck, big sleeves, dainty blue flowery Liberty print cotton fabric, waist, voluminous skirt.

I saw in the mirror an alien creature from a parallel universe—a sweet lady who never swears but runs through fields of daisies with tendrils of curly blond hair wafting behind in the wind. Butterflies flutter around my head. Bluebirds tweet. Three handsome princes are rivals for my hand.

Note that I am all blurry in this photo—you see me through a Vaselined lens, like Doris Day. I am probably going to die young, I'm just so pretty and quaint.

The Laura Ashley dress was yukky. I experienced a strong urge to vomit.

In the 1970s we were flat out doing wild stuff—fighting in the women's movement, recklessly travelling the world—wearing hippie gear, not aprons.

We did not dedicate our days to picking flowers and polishing the silver. We were reinventing ourselves.

And not as little Bo-Peep.

What were they thinking? In retrospect, the Laura Ashley craze looks like a patriarchal plot to lure us back into the kitchen.

Come to our new show: Sea of love: Songs of the 60s and 70s

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Senior Poems: read, laugh, sigh, share

It's great when somebody else puts into words exactly what you yourself have been experiencing, isn't it? And poetry is such a memorable way to share the pains, pangs and satisfactions of getting older.

So thinking, I have bundled my favourite poems on the topic of age into one ebook, Senior Poems.

I hope you'll read them. When you do, I hope you'll laugh and sigh and share them freely.

Senior Poems are published by Smashwords and cost the princely sum of $1.50.

Senior Poems: you know you want them
Please share your own thoughts and poems about growing older, here on the Old Lady Laughing blog.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Three cookbooks for old ladies

Recently three great cookbooks crossed my desk, each totally different in their appeal. 
I've tried to identify how far my response depends on my great age, and whether I'd have enjoyed them all regardless. But that's impossible, because (like you) I am at least three different people in the kitchen.
Inside this city writer/businesswoman lurks a classic suburban housewife, the one who used to grow artichokes and tarragon and strawberries, and preserve quince jelly, sauerkraut and 60 jars of tomatoes every year. OK, I've moved on, although I still preserve olives from our street and eat micro-goodies from a micro-garden. 

And indeed, rural-woman syndrome is part of the psyche of thousands of other women my age, which partly explains why A Good Harvest: Recipes from the gardens of Rural Women New Zealand is proving so popular. It gives a true picture of rural women's cooking now and a nostalgic glimpse of a time when we all made raspberry jam, zucchini fritters and pickled gherkins from scratch. Awesome book, this will come into its own after the apocalypse. Meanwhile, just love it.

Cookbook number two is One Pot, One Bowl, from Kim McCosker's 4-ingredients series. The appeal is to the flat-out, no-nonsense experienced cook, which is also me and maybe you. I turn my nose up at recipes that include cans of soup or packet soups (or both) for flavouring. But I celebrate the brilliant concept that produces dish after dish with just four items, for example Blue Cheese Pork with Pears, or Leek and Potato Soup. All Come Dine With Me contestants should be given this book: no more cheese in the curry.

My daughters pounced on Pipi The Cookbook the moment it arrived, which shows this is not a book for oldies. However, we old ladies happily drool over Brian Culy's delicious photos, mouthwatering recipes by Alexandra Tylee, and story of a family-friendly family business. Then we might take a long drive to eat at Pipi restaurant, soaking up the Pipi culture but leaving Pipi cuisine to the experts. 

A Good Harvest (Random House)
One Pot One Bowl (Simon Schuster)
Pipi: the cookbook (Random House)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sweet little old lady stereotype

I've been reading The Winner's Bible by multi-talented neurologist Kerry Spackman. As one of his coaching tools he recommends getting an independent, anonymous audit of your personal strengths and weaknesses.

Like everyone, I have a certain view of myself. But how do others see me? Is my self-image on target or way off the mark?

Last week two friends gave me unsolicited information on how they perceive me, and in each case, I was astonished. These are not friends who know me intimately, mind you, so I take their comments with a grain of salt.

Background: at Crows Feet Dance Collective rehearsals, we're looking at 1960s and 1970s clothes for the Grannies Dance in our August show.

Friend #1 wanted someone to help her man-handle some heavy trunks down from a high cupboard. I volunteered, and she said,

"Oh, not you! I need someone strong!"

I was most indignant: I believe I am very strong indeed, but she chose somebody taller to help her. So is weakness, absolute or relative, one of my weaknesses?

Comment #2 came when I showed a picture of myself in 1969, admittedly looking frightfully demure in a muslin top, gypsy skirt and sandals.

"You're sweet! You have always been sweet and you always will be."

Sweet, huh? This was not offensive but tremendously puzzling. What does sweet mean? Good-natured, happy, unobtrusive, a bit wishy-washy? The opposite of sour?

Add them together and I suspect I have been stereotyped as a sweet little old lady.

Photo either (c) New York Press or a stock photo: please tell me if you know.
Illustration, Joshua M Bernstein's article: Old Lady Syndrome

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Celebrating Jenny Pattrick's historical showbiz novel, Skylark

Skylark by Jenny Pattrick
Jenny Pattrick reinvented herself in mid-life as a novelist when arthritis made her delicate work as a jeweller too difficult.

Now I wouldn't wish arthritis on anyone. It's a horrible affliction and the world would be a better place if arthritis slit open its miserable belly and was swallowed by a cane toad. The planet can do without arthritis, thank you very much.

However, wonderful books have been born partly as a result of mild arthritis. (Jenny Pattrick has said she was ready for a career change regardless, after 30 years of working with metal.) 

Her first novel, Denniston Rose, was 10 years in the writing, but once published was an instant hit. Readers were hungry for tasty, well written, well researched historical novels about New Zealand, and that's what Jenny Pattrick has been feeding us ever since. Luckily she loves research, as do most writers of historical fiction.

Now her talent has flowered again in Skylark. Marvellously mingling fact and fiction, Skylark tells the story of Lily Alouette, born and bred to perform in theatres and circus rings—indeed, addicted to the life. Nineteenth century theatre comes alive in technicolour, and singers, acrobats, pirates, settlers, horse breeders and gold miners populate the pages. 

Skylark must surely be another well-deserved hit for our favourite historical novelist. She comes from a show-biz family—theatre and music have always been central to her own life. The story and characters are as wild as any she has ever written, and yet they are beyond credible: they live, breathe and turn somersaults on the pages. 

As the old lady laughing, I must point out that this New Zealand literary heroine was born in 1936. 

Thank you for your comments!

Cyclamen wilting: water me!
If you have commented on this blog and not received a reply, please forgive me.

I really appreciate your comments. It's great to know you are reading this blog and care enough to talk to me.

That's unexpected, you see. These thoughts are just my thoughts. I'm not looking for an audience—but there you are, you wonderful people, stumbling upon these ideas and sometimes responding to them.

Cyclamen reviving: thank you!
So this is a big
Thank you!
to everyone who has commented on Old Lady Laughing.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Frankfurt Book Fair: adventure 2012

I wondered why I wasn't trying harder to find a small adventure for 2012 and now I know.

My book Scarlet Heels has been chosen for the Frankfurt Book Fair! New Zealand is Guest of Honour at the fair, with a special national pavilion and various interesting events. The New Zealand Society of Authors will have a stand, and that's where my book will be on display.

So, that was the great adventure of 2012 waiting to fall into my lap: 
There is no reason why I need to travel to Frankfurt, because the NZSA will promote all the books on their stand. But I would like to attend, just for the hell of it. I will do my best to find a foreign publisher or two for Scarlet Heels, and yet I am taking the project light-heartedly. That's one of the advantages of advanced age. 

Booking a hotel any minute now... Old Lady Laughing is going to the fair...

For the rest of the year I'm going to have a parallel persona running all year in the background—my literary persona, slightly neglected over these last few years. I feel energized and cheerful about this change, as you do.

More about Scarlet Heels

Monday, April 2, 2012

When will I die?

Autumn tomatoes.

Bother. I've just taken two online tests that calculate how old I'll be when I die.

The Deathclock said I'll die at 99, but I didn't believe that, because the calculator is ghoulish and ridiculously simplistic.

Dr Thomas Perls, on the other hand, has credentials, and his Living to 100 Life Expectancy calculator is much more detailed. So what's his verdict? According to Dr Perls, I am doomed to live to the age of 98.

Now this dubious prophecy is not entirely welcome. I'm not particularly keen to live that long. In fact, I recently revised my desired date of death upwards to 92, for the very good reason that I became a grandmother again.

'Is it OK if I die at 92?' I asked my daughter. 'That means I can give your son 20 years of grannying. Will that suffice?'

Kind girl thought about it seriously and then nodded. And now it seems her poor lad may have to put up with my interfering grand-matriarchal ways until he is 26. We'll see about that.

See that scruffy old tomato plant aging on my deck? Last summer's weather was so vile that I never expected the tomatoes to ripen. Indeed, I had been studying recipes for green tomato chutney, because those tomatoes have been sitting on the vine, glowing green, for nearly three months.

And now look at them! The fruit grow redder and sweeter every day, even as the plant withers and fades and flops. Where is this metaphor leading me... Maybe it's reminding me that many writers produce their best work in, ahem, maturity. Bring it on.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Deadlines all in a row

Lately I have been stressed. I know very well what stresses me. It's absurd, and I can't stop it, but I can recognize it and do my best to settle down. Early nights, exercise and ticking off the to-do list help.

When too many obligations stud the calendar, that's what stresses me. I'm programmed to do one thing at a time. One enormous problem is not an issue: I can handle that. Show me a terrorist or a book to write by Friday, and I will cope on automatic pilot. Show me a calendar with 50 deadlines and to-do tasks, no matter how small, and I crumble.

Right now all is well again. Aaah... When stress lifts, I feel an electro-chemical change surge through my body.

We are nearly half-way through February and I have been ticking DONE beside small items and large. It even helps that three of my to-do things will be over by Sunday night.
  1. Tomorrow, a rehearsal for our role in the Chinese New Year show at the TSB Events Centre
  2. Sunday, the performance
  3. Sunday, an open home for Novella, the apartment I'm selling by private sale.

Odd: as if nearly done is done.

And as if stress is a computable arithmetic progression. Now I'm working backwards. March is equally busy, and in April another progression will begin. It's all logarithms, I suspect. Or logarhythms.

This pattern I cannot blame on age, as I recall spotting exactly the same pattern in my thirties, when I began to perform in public.

What stresses you, I wonder?

Of dancing and books

Last night I went to Dancing in the Wake, a 3-person, 4-performance play by Jan Bolwell with much creative input from all involved.

It was terrific. Unusual in that dancing by Sacha Copland (inspired, demonic, confronting) is welded seamlessly into a literary script (hilarious, rich, shapely).

I say literary with reason, for with Lucia Joyce, her father James and Samuel Beckett as the central characters, how could it be otherwise? The play created a big buzz afterwards, even for an opening night. Insights into the works of Beckett and Joyce abound, but they emerge from the action: nothing didactic, do not fear.

Inspiration bubbled up in our group of dancing grannies. We found an excuse to spend more time with each other in future: we will start our own dancing book club. That means, I think, every couple of months we'll have dinner together and then—yay! Each granny will dance a book she has been reading. Or a chapter. No pressure and purely for fun.

The first book I interpret in a dance will be The Information by James Gleick. Probably Chapter 3, celebrating the miracle of logarithms and Charles Babbage's doomed attempt to create a computer in the age of steam. Bring it on!

So Jan read a book and created a play built around a dance, which inspired us to unite books and dance in another way. The wheels turn.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Advice to a 20-year-old

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self? The Listener asked some prominent Kiwis this question and plenty of good advice was forthcoming.

But now the time travel problem pops up: what if your young self actually took that advice? History would be changed. Then you would not be quite yourself as you are now.

In real life I happily dish out buckets of advice to young people, confident in the knowledge that they'll absorb any advice that they happen to want at that moment and nothing else. (Just like you and me.)

So I won't tell that child bride a thing except what I'd say to anyone younger. If they choose to hear me, so much the better:

'You are perfect just the way you are. Be kind, be happy, be yourself, do your best, have fun and have adventures.'

Which is pretty much the message I got from my parents, bless them.