Summer is just a few days away. In this part of the world summer “officially” starts on the first day of December. I’m already looking forward to late autumn.
A characteristic commonly shared amongst autistics is hyposensitivities and hypersensitivities when compared to non-autistic folk. Depending on the senses involved being hypo or hyper can be an blessing or a curse. For example I’m mostly oblivious to low and moderate levels of pain. It’s not until it reaches the level one experiences of momentary pain when slamming a car door on a finger, or the ongoing pain when the body unsuccessfully attempts to eject kidney stones, or when attempting to move muscles affected by polio that I experience “real” pain. Breaking my arm or gashing my foot exposing the bones resulted in curiosity about the outcome more than any conscious sense of pain. In fact I experience more pain from the noise of a typical shopping mall or from lighting effects commonly found in modern forms of entertainment.
I do not like warm weather. I have a narrow band of “comfortable”. Below 18℃ (64℉) I start to feel the chill, while anything above 24℃ (75℉) feels unpleasantly warm. As I age, the level of discomfort I experience increases when the temperature goes outside my comfort zone.
As temperature drops, it’s a simple matter of adding an extra layer of clothing to maintain a level of comfort although I have to be careful to avoid spontaneous “attacks” of Raynaud’s syndrome in my fingers and/or toes, which can be very painful as the symptoms wane. Coping with heat is a different matter.
Take today for example. Our indoor/outdoor temperature gauge, shows the outside temperature as being 27.2℃ (81℉) in the shade and inside as being 26.4℃ (79.5℉). I find myself extremely restless, pacing about aimlessly, unable to concentrate much on anything apart from wishing it was cooler. If I had my way, I’d close the windows and doors and switch on the heat pump, and allow it to maintain its default setting of 22℃ (72℉) as it does during the colder months of the year.
Unfortunately The Wife has other ideas. She relishes such temperatures. My suggestion that we turn on the heat pump resulted in a very emphatic “No!” What happened to so called neurotypical empathy? So in order to maintain domestic harmony I find myself wandering aimlessly about our home, keeping out of her line of sight as she finds my pacing “annoying”.
The Wife acknowledged my efforts not to annoy her in my discomfort and provided the perfect meal for a day such as today – somen (cold Japanese noodles).
Knowing that vaccination status certificates (vaccine passports) will be needed in little over a week, if I wanted to continue with the freedoms I currently enjoy, I decided that it was time to obtain mine. The exercise proved to be surprising frustrating, even more so when helping The Wife get hers. Here’s my experience. I wonder how many others will simply give up.
First question: where do I apply for the passport? The fact that they are available is one thing, knowing where to get it is another. The logical thing to do is google for it, so I typed get covid vaccination certificate into my browser, and lo and behold there were multiple links – news items about the certificates and instruction on how to obtain proof of vaccinations – for Australian, UK and US residents. Pertinent links for NZ residents were limited to news items only, none of which included the necessary link.
Some of the NZ related articles mentioned the term My Covid Record so I typed that into the browser. Yep, the first link listed was to My Covid Record | Ministry of Health NZ. Success. Following that link takes you to a page where you can log into, or sign up for, a My Health Account from where you can request your My Vaccine Pass (hereafter abbreviated to MVP) for use within Aotearoa or your International Travel Vaccination Certificate for use outside our borders.
At the top of the webpage an ominous message:
We’re experiencing a higher volume of traffic than usual. If you experience problems accessing My Covid Record, try again later.
Thankfully this didn’t prove to be too much of a problem, although some pages took a little while to load.
Question: do I already have a My Health account? I have a Manage My Health account where I can access my medical records, make medical appointments, renew prescriptions etc. I wonder it they’re the same? Nope. Click the Sign up link:
RealMe is an identity that can be linked to many central, regional and local government/authority websites. I’m reluctant to use it for all as the consequences resulting from RealMe being compromised are too horrible to contemplate. I use it for one government department only. Not everyone has a RealMe account, especially older folk including The Wife. The process of obtaining one is lengthy due to the need to prove your identity. I chose to sign up with email as the wife would need to use that option.
Ok. I see a problem: Many of our friends share a common email address between spouses/partners, usually one that is provided by their ISP. I appreciate those from a younger generation will probably have multiple email accounts, but it’s less likely for Baby Boomers. Sure most will have a mobile phone, and if it’s Android powered, probably have a gmail address associated with it, but the odds are they never use that address and don’t check their mail on their phone. Instead they’ll use their desktop or laptop machine for email and probably most internet activities. I’ll return to email addresses when it comes to installing the MVP onto the phone.
The wife and I have our own email addresses – I have many: several hosted on my own mail servers, several with Gmail, one with Outlook.com and a few others scattered around various providers that are kept only for historical reasons. It was the this point that we made the the first “tactical” mistake. We chose to use our personal (not Gmail) addresses, and I suspect this might be a hurdle some folk will be unable to jump over.
For folk who share an email address, it will be necessary for one of them to obtain a new address before they can progress further as the email address is the logon ID.
After entering an email address and clicking Send verification, a six digit code is sent to that address. Problem number two: The Spam filtering system I employ on my mail servers includes the ability to hold mail from specified geographical locations in quarantine for a specified period of time and rescan them before being released. This allows the system to detect new Spam patterns in real time between the original scan and the second scan. A number of ISPs do the same.
The greatest source of Spam on my servers is the good ol’ USA and mail from there is delayed 30 minutes before being re-scanned and delivered if still clean. Guess where the Health department sends its confirmation messages from. Yep, the USA. No, I don’t know why. I’m familiar with releasing email from quarantine before the 2nd scan, but I wonder If other people are. The Wife isn’t. When the email finally arrives, it warns you that the validation code must be entered within the next 20 minutes.
What it fails to do is inform you that the countdown started from the moment you clicked the Send verification link, not from when you received the email – another hurdle many people will be unable to jump over. How many folk are going to wonder why the validation code they were sent doesn’t work and after many attempts give up in frustration? This would have been an issue for The Wife, but fortunately I was there to help her out.
With the validation code accepted, we were each able to sign up for an account using our driver’s licence. Other options were passport, recent birth certificate or citizenship certificate. Once we were logged in, the system automatically linked us to our respective NHI (National Health ID) and verified that we have had two Pfizer shots. So far so good. At this point we were given the opportunity to have the MVP emailed to us.
Another hurdle in the making. I was cautious about how this might work, so we decided to experiment with mine before attempting The Wife’s. The web page had prefilled the email address with the one I had used during the validation process, so I simply used that.
The resulting email included a PDF attachment that can be printed out, and the body of the email includes links that can be used to install the MVP on your phone. We both have Android phones so I do not know what the experience is like for users of Apple Wallet. Here’s how we fared.
The Android link adds the MVP to Google Pay, and of course cannot be installed from a Windows or Linux machine. It means that the link must be transferred to the phone. In my case that was simple as I get my email on both all my devices. So I opened the email on the phone and installed from there. It installed successfully with just a couple of clicks and offered to place an app button on the phone home page, which I accepted. Job done on my phone. Now for The Wife’s
The wife had not set up her phone to receive mail from her personal account, and as far as she was concerned that was the only email account she had. I could have added the email account to her phone, but she had forgotten the mail account password. Not to be deterred, I reasoned she must have created a Gmail account when she first set up her phone. Yep, the Gmail account listed hundreds of emails, all unread.
So returning to her desktop computer I entered her Gmail address for receiving the message with PDF and installation links. Sure enough, within seconds, the email arrived (I had whitelisted the Ministry of Health email address so that it wouldn’t be delayed in quarantine), and confidently knowing the job was almost done clicked the Google Pay link. After agreeing to install the MVP I expected it to be plain sailing. WRONG!
I was advised that the MVP could not be installed until the software was updated. It didn’t say what software, so I assumed it meant the Android operating system. Nope that was up to date. So I tried installing the MVP again. Same result. Time to consult the oracle known as Google. No information forthcoming, so I consulted the lesser oracle known as Bing, with the same result. Duckduckgo, Ecosia, Yahoo! and Yandex weren’t any more enlightening. Nor was a hunt through the Ministry of Health Website.
Finally it hit me. Perhap Google Pay wasn’t installed on The Wife’s phone. Into Google Play and a search for Google Pay revealed that indeed it was not installed. Problem solved I thought (incorrectly) and proceeded to install the app. Once more I tried to instal the MVP only to have a request to confirm installation via fingerprint ID. If The Wife had set up fingerprint ID, she couldn’t remember, and even after trying every finger on both hands we were no further ahead.
At the first fingerprint ID failure there’s an option to use the screen lock PIN instead, so I suggested she try that. She did and after a few seconds…
The fingerprint prompt returned! After repeating the same process several times, she was ready to give up. I persuaded her that she should set up fingerprint ID.
It appears she had set it up originally but however she did it, it was no longer recognised. The Wife has very small hands and her phone is large – a 6.5 inch screen and she attempted to set the fingerprint ID with the index finger of the right hand while holding the phone in her left.
That was never going to work, but with a considerable amount of coaching from me, we managed to find a way for her to hold the phone in one hand allowing the index finger to make contact with the touchpad on the rear of the phone. Finally she was able to create a fingerprint ID that actually worked reliably.
Back to installing the MVP. This time she sailed through the fingerprint ID and finally reached the point where she was offered the option to install the app on the Home page, which she accepted. Except it didn’t appear on the Home page. Nor was it listed in the App drawer. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. She did, with the same result. No sign of the MVP anywhere.
Finally, in frustration, she handed the phone to me to “fix”. To cut an even longer story slightly shorter, it turned out her Home page consisted of eight horizontally scrolling screens, most of which were empty. The eighth page contained the MVP. Finally, after moving it to the default Home Page screen and removing the unused screens, The Wife is ready for 2 December!
The Wife’s computer skills are about average for a Baby Boomer, perhaps a little better than average. On her desktop machine she’s regularly on Facebook, and Pinterest. Her browser typically has ten or more tabs open at any time, most of our purchases are done online by her, and she’s likely to have a number of applications open besides the web browser and email client.
She’s less comfortable with the phone. At our age the small screen and font aren’t kind on the eyes, and fingers seem to be too big for the virtual keyboard, making it less than enjoyable. For The Wife, it’s main use is for scanning Covid QR codes at places of business via the Covid Tracer App, for video chatting with family via WhatsApp, and for use in case of emergencies.
She could not have installed MVP without my help, and I have absolutely no doubt that she’s not an exception. Given that amongst her friends, she’s viewed as someone “knowledgeable with computers”, there’s a great many people in the same situation.
Most people already have the Covid Tracer App installed on their phone. I thought it would have been logical to update that app to include the MVP. That app already records the NHI ID , although that’s optional. It would avoid the need to open two apps every time we enter a place of business. I do wonder how much consumer testing is done before this type of app is released to the public. My guess is that if there is any testing, it does not include Baby Boomers or older. Although our demographic isn’t quite as large as it one was, we nonetheless are still a significant proportion of the population.
As many people are aware, Aotearoa has fared better than most countries in containing covid. We successfully maintained an elimination strategy while maintaining more freedoms than elsewhere in the OECD until the arrival of the Delta variant in August. While every infection still goes through isolation and contact tracing the numbers of infections continue to grow – now reaching (for NZ) the dizzying heights of 200 new infections per day, mostly within the Auckland region.
Some time ago the government announced the plans for moving from the elimination strategy to a “protection framework”. Personally I would have been happy for the elimination strategy to have continued until 90% – 95% of the population is vaccinated, and outside of Auckland that would probably have been practical. But as the city of Auckland is our gateway to the world, cases are always going to pop up there.
Currently there is a “border” between Auckland and the rest of the country and while it is effective in reducing personal travel in and out of the city, by its very nature it must be porous if commerce is to continue. Besides, with Aucklanders being in a Level 3 Lockdown while the rest of the country is relatively free at Level 2 (no lockdown, but masks and social distancing, limits on size of gatherings), the level of frustration, particularly in Auckland, has begun to grow.
The new COVID-19 Protection Framework is the government’s plan to provide a pathway out of lockdown. It’s taken a very long time for the plan to be publicly announced (too long in my view), although we all knew it was coming. Not only does the legal framework have to be set in place, and with the lengthy consultation processes that typically take place in this nation, that takes some time, but the logistics of putting it in place must be a nightmare as it will affect every sector of society.
For anyone interested in knowing how the protection framework (also referred to as the traffic light system as it uses codes of green, orange and red) will work, there’s a PDF chart and an easy read PDF version (43 pages!) available. It means that for those who are fully vaccinated, movement and gatherings will be mostly unrestricted. Others will find life more restrictive. Businesses will have to choose whether to accept everyone and live with regulations mandating social distancing, the number of customers and the types of services they can perform, or choose to accept only vaccinated customers, in which case it’s mostly “business as usual” – usual as it’s been for most of Aotearoa for the last nineteen months.
To quote the government covid-19 website:
Elimination and the alert levels have served New Zealand well. They delivered the lowest number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths in the OECD, gave us sustained periods of days without restrictions and a strong economy that sees GDP rising and unemployment falling to historic low levels. But it was never intended as a forever strategy.
We now have the unique advantage of moving to the next phase of managing COVID-19 in our community with a highly vaccinated population.
The COVID-19 Protection Framework brings us a world where we are freer to move and live with less disruption and offers the stability businesses need to plan for the future. It introduces a new traffic light system to manage COVID-19 in the community:
Green Orange Red
The framework is more flexible than the current Alert Level system because we know that businesses that only open to vaccinated customers pose a lower risk. We can move up levels when needed to control an outbreak.
Of course this framework requires the use of vaccination certificates or “passports”. On 17 November, the My Vaccine Pass website was opened to the public, where we could apply for the passport. The “traffic light system” starts operating from 2 December 2021. I left applying until today in order to avoid the rush and the inevitable bugs that slow down process, or worse, not being able to complete the process at all.
I’m a reasonably competent computer user, using it every day as part of my part-time, semi-retired business hosting and managing web servers and mail servers for a limited number of clients. And having been a I.T. engineer for most of my working life until ill health forced an early retirement 22 years ago, I suspect my skills are well above average. But today, when faced with installing the vaccination passports on my phone and the wife’s, I struggled. I wonder how those less familiar with the wonders of modern technology are going to fare. I suspect a great many people who qualify will not be ready by the starting date. My experience installing the “passports” will be the topic for another post.
The song was originally written and sung by John Hanlon for a two minute advertisement by New Zealand Fibreglass to promote home insulation. It was part of a wide campaign in the early 1970s lobbying to make home insulation mandatory, and of course the company would benefit by having its home insulation products installed in every new home. It was possibly a brave move by the company, as two minute commercials were extremely rare at that time (still are) and only 10 seconds of the advertisement actually promoted their insulation product, glass fibre Pink® Batts®.
Electricity demands were rising rapidly at that time and the nation had historically built hydro power stations to meet the growing energy needs of the country. Dams, while a renewable resource, destroy much of the local natural environment by flooding vast areas of land. We were running out of rivers that were considered socially acceptable to dam, and insulation of homes was seen as a means of slowing down the ever increasing growth in electricity demand.
The advertising jingle proved so popular that it was released as a single and rose to #5 in the New Zealand hit parade in 1973. Hanlon made a condition of its release that all the profits from the song be donated to environmental causes. The song was then adopted by opponents of the Lake Manapouri hydro power scheme.
Today it’s remembered by most Baby Boomers, of which I am one, as a protest song – younger generations are probably unaware of it’s existence, and for those who are aware, it;s just another NZ folk song. Few remember that it started life as an advertising jingle for home insulation.
It’s odd, looking back to those days, that we young adults were very much into protests. It’s not just a 21st century phenomena that many today’s youth believe it is. We were just as idealistic as they are. In fact I venture that today’s youth is rather tame when compared to the youth of my generation. Among the causes we campaigned against were the Vietnam war and wars in general, gender inequality, nuclear weapons and testing, and in this country nuclear energy, Apartheid and sporting contacts with South Africa, destruction of the environment, whaling, to name just a few. Meanwhile in America and Britain, demonstrations against racial inequality frequently turned into highly destructive riots.
We were a generation with very high ideals, but somewhere along the way, we have been distracted by the needs of providing for self and family. As a generation, I feel were were, and possibly still are, more liberal and slightly more left leaning than the more recent generations. Perhaps it’s a false perception, but I feel that today the world is becoming more conservative, less tolerant than the sixties and seventies, has made definite a lerch to the right, and partisanship is very much more pronounced.
Back to the song Damn The Dam, written and sung by John Hanlon
Damn The Dam, Music and lyrics by John Hanlon, sung by John Hanlon, 1973
Leaf falls to kiss the image of a mountain,
the early morning mist has ceased to play.
Birds dancing lightly on the branches by a fountain
of a waterfall which dazzles with its spray
Tall and strong and aged, contented and serene,
a kauri tree surveys his grand domain,
and for miles and miles around him, a sea of rolling green.
Tomorrow all this beauty won't remain.
Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky.
To give power to the people
all this beauty has to die.
Rain falls from above and splashes on the ground,
goes running down the mountain to the sea.
And leaping over pebbles makes such a joyful sound,
such as Mother Nature's meant to be.
I have grave reflection, reflection of a grave.
Trees that once lived green now dead and brown.
The homes of tiny animals and little birds as well,
for the sake of man's progression have been drowned.
Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky.
To give power to the people
all this beauty has to die.
Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky,
Damn the dam cried the fantail,
as he flew into, as he flew into the sky.
To give power to the people
all this beauty has to die...
Fiction is a lie that tells us true things over and over again.
We have art in order not do die from the truth.
Tell all the truth but tell it slant — Success in Circuit lies Too bright for our infirm Delight The Truth’s superb surprise As Lightning to the Children eased With explanation kind The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind —
There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.
This song is very personal to me. It was written in honour of a young man I new well – Greg Carroll. We worked together as engineers for a large multinational I.T. company. We were part of a small provincial branch with four staff members located in the city of Whanganui. Greg was a very personable young man and was held in high regard by our customers – more perhaps for his genuineness, honesty and likeable personality than for his engineering skills.
I stayed with the company for a total of thirty-five years, but Greg moved on after a year, perhaps two, when he became the sound engineer for a local rock band. That may not seem long to get to know someone well, but our job required a considerable amount of driving and often Greg would accompany me as I drove between the small, widely scattered towns that made up our branch territory. A typical day might consist of up to four hours on the road, and a return trip to Turangi, our farthest outpost took six hours. You can cover a wide spectrum of topics over that period of time.
I’m not a good conversationalist, but somehow Greg, my junior by about 11 years, had the ability to make everyone at ease, including me. I honestly can no longer recall what we talked about on the road and the occasional overnight stay in a motel or hotel several hours from home, but I do remember that outside of my immediate family there was no-one I felt more comfortable being with. Unfortunately Greg died in a motorcycle crash in Dublin in 1986.
There are several Youtube video clips of U2 performing One Tree Hill, mostly from live performances in various locations around the world, but the one I have chosen here is a video cobbled together by TVNZ for their weekly music show Ready to Roll. One Tree Hill has been released as a single in Aotearoa and quickly rose to the number one spot on the NZ hit parade. This is the version I remember seeing in 1988.
There being no official music video, TVNZ brought together clips of previous U2 visits to Aotearoa, segments of the tangihanga (funeral) at the Kai-iwi Marae near Whanganui, and images of One Tree Hill and Greg. It also includes images of the Whanganui River and the rugged hill country inland from the city of Whanganui. The journey inland to the nearest township of Raetihi took approximately eighty minutes in ideal conditions. For much of its length, the road winds along the valley wall of the Upokongaro Stream, a contributory of the Whanganui River, rising 760 m (2500 ft) in 87 Km (54 miles).
This was a road I traversed at least one a week, often with Greg’s company. If you do the maths, you’ll notice that the average speed for the journey was 65 km/h (40 mph) and that was a good run without stops or hazards such as slips (common in wet weather) or flocks of sheep being moved to fresh pastures (common all year round) or semi-feral sheep that had escaped the confines of farms and were of the opinion that they were the masters of the road. Other vehicles were few and far between so the opportunities to opine world affairs or share dreams and aspiration were plentiful. We did.
One Tree Hill – U2 (captured from TVNZ’s RTR in 1988)
"One Tree Hill" – U2
We turn away to face the cold, enduring chill
As the day begs the night for mercy love
The sun so bright it leaves no shadows
Only scars carved into stone
On the face of earth
The moon is up and over One Tree Hill
We see the sun go down in your eyes
You run like river, on like a sea
You run like a river runs to the sea
And in the world a heart of darkness
A fire zone
Where poets speak their heart
Then bleed for it
Jara sang, his song a weapon
In the hands of love
You know his blood still cries
From the ground
It runs like a river runs to the sea
It runs like a river to the sea
I don't believe in painted roses
Or bleeding hearts
While bullets rape the night of the merciful
I'll see you again
When the stars fall from the sky
And the moon has turned red
Over One Tree Hill
We run like a river
Run to the sea
We run like a river to the sea
And when it's raining
That's when the rain will
Break my heart
Raining...raining in the heart
Raining in your heart
Raining...raining to your heart
Raining to your heart
Raining...raining in your heart
Raining in your heart..
To the sea
Oh great ocean
Oh great sea
Run to the ocean
Run to the sea
I’m referring to the season commonly named spring. Has anyone noticed that the names of the supposedly most beautiful months of the year – April, May and June (in the northern hemisphere) – are also given to girls? Perhaps not as often as in the generation of my parents, but nevertheless still recognised as being feminine names.
In Aotearoa spring “officially” starts on the first day of September and ends on the last day of November, but yesterday and even more so today, we seem to have reverted to winter. The almost gale force south easterly winds of yesterday have eased somewhat – now only 50 km/h (31 mph) gusting to 61 km/h (38 mph) – but it’s very obvious where they originated from – the Antarctic. Apparently some regions in Te Wai Pounamu (South Island) dropped to -2°C (28°F) overnight. That definitely is Winter temperature!
My indoor/outdoor thermometer recorded the outside temperature at 11°C (52°F) at 1:00pm. That’s 14°C (25°F) colder than this day last year and 5°C (9°F) cooler than average. Thank goodness I had the foresight to turn on the heat pump last night. I appreciate comparing the temperature of a single day in one year with the same day in another year is not going to prove or disprove climate change. However if one chooses to compare temperatures over a few decades, what is obvious is that year on year variations are now more extreme than they were in the middle part of the twentieth century. It’s a trend that only likely to increase over at least the next few decades no matter the outcome of the COP26 summit.
Admittedly Aotearoa is notorious for its frequent, rapid and localised weather changes, but it’s not a reputation I wish to see extended.
I had one of those pesky con artists, this time claiming to be from the Spark Security office (Spark is NZ’s largest ISP) informing me that there was a problem with my internet connection and it would need to be shut down, however if I cooperated the issue could be fixed on the spot. As usual, I let the caller lead me through the various steps of trying to gain control of my computer. As typically happens, she incorrectly assumed I was using Windows (I was asked to describe the key to the right of the left Ctrl key) and we spent a fruitless half hour trying to bring up the Run command box. However as I run a variant of Linux, that’s not an option.
Finally she attempted to get me to download and install a remote desktop application, on this occasion AnyDesk, usually it’s TeamViewer. It was at this point that let her know I wasn’t entirely stupid and needed verification that she was indeed who she said she was. We then spent another twenty-five minutes discussing or perhaps arguing about her credential. Strangely, when I told her that so far this year I’d had at least ten hoax internet related calls she tried the “not everyone is evil, so you should be more trusting”. Yeah right.
We spent another twenty or so minutes while she tried to persuade me that all I needed to do was trust her, and I insisted I wasn’t able to do that. She finally gave up after (for her) a frustrating fifty-four minutes. I despise the actions of such individuals. I’m not going to judge the person as harshly as I don’t know their circumstances, but attempting to fleece someone simply because one can is surely a marker of one’s contempt for others.
The Wife and I went to our usual barber/hair stylist for haircuts plus a beard trim for me. He’s a very sociable guy who seems to be able to encourage his clients to chat about all and nothing. The Wife had her hair done first and the room filled with loud and very public conversation between her and Ihaia (the barber) including politics (NZ and the US), families (his and ours), the weather (it’s been atrocious today), and of course Covid (especially the regarding deniers and anti-vaxers). Even I am able to participate although perhaps less fluidly than other customers, and always privately. During my time in the chair, I happened to mention that yesterday was our fiftieth wedding anniversary.
Afterwards, as the Wife was about to take out her EFTPOS card Ihaia told her to put it away as the haircuts were on him. When the Wife asked why, he said it was a fiftieth anniversary gift. Obviously, she hadn’t heard my conversation with him. While the Wife almost broke his neck in a heartfelt hug, the other customer clapped and cheered. Now that’s a good feeling.
While I’ve been at the receiving end of abuse for much of my life, I understand why. Most people are able to empathise only with what is familiar to them. They have no way of understanding what an autistic person experiences – hell, even many so called autism experts have no clue – so they judge my behaviour in neurotypical terms. Making allowances for that, I find most (but not all) are kind and generous.
Then there are the few who have little or no interest in the well being of others, and seem to have utter contempt for them. One being the former POTUS and another being yesterday’s “Spark security officer”. Fortunately I’ve never met one in person. They either arrive in news items, by email or telephone, always from a location outside of Aotearoa. It’s only since the internet has become ubiquitous that I have had personally experienced scam attempts. I wonder if this says something about the internet, or modern society, or is it simply a reflection of the fact that I’m fortunate to have been born in the least corrupt nation on earth?
Fifty years ago today, in the privacy of a suite in a ryokan (Japanese style inn), the wife prostrated herself in front of me and vowed to be a good, dutiful and obedient wife. I suppose some new husbands might delight in such a moving offer, but I was shocked and appalled. That was not what I envisioned. I had grown up in a very egalitarian society and in a whānau that was even more so.
I had seen in her – and still do – a wilful, independent spirit that was at the same time, tender, gentle, wild and fierce. What she was offering was servitude. What I wanted was someone to share my life with – as equal partners. For life. I don’t recall exactly what I said in response, but I remember lifting her up from the floor and (apparently crossly, according to the wife) telling her that if that was what she wanted, we may as well end the relationship right now, as I wanted her to be herself, my partner and friend, not my servant.
I’ve made many mistakes during my life, and I sometimes joke that my biggest mistake was telling the wife I didn’t want her to be obedient. It certainly has made life more unpredictable and challenging, but oh so wonderful – exciting even. I still sometimes wonder what she saw in me – a reserved, socially awkward undiagnosed autistic, not known for expressing or showing emotions. Certainly not handsome by western standards, more exotic than handsome by Japanese standards of the day, but she often reminds me that my patience, sense of fairness, absence of negativity and being ridiculously accepting and tolerant of alternative beliefs and perspectives attracted her, and my declaration in that ryokan confirmed her choice. She makes a point of emphasising ‘ridiculously‘ at times as she often finds tolerating my tolerance very difficult.
Fifty years seem to have flown by in less than a blink of an eye. I have spent 70% of my life with a woman who is both delightful and charming yet at times tests my patience and tolerance almost to breaking point. But I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We really have shared out delights and dispairs together.
As to the future, there’s little chance of another fifty years together, but with a history of longevity in both our families, another twenty to twenty-five years is a distinct possibility. I sincerely hope that those years pass at a more leisurely pace than those already gone for no other reason than to delight in the company of the person I have grown to love in a way I never thought possible.
It’s unlikely that she will read this post – she’s never asked me to provide her with a link to my blog – but I wish to extend a public expression of my gratitude for having her as my life partner. So thank you Sayoko, my Honey-chan, for being my friend, confidante and lover.
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