Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Christmas past

I haven’t been able to find the time nor the energy to blog over the past few days. It’s a hectic time of the year with extra family and dogs, days too warm for my comfort, a mild migraine that kept me in a sort of brain fog for days and hayfever medication that makes me drowsy regardless of the counterclaims on the packaging.

In our household, Christmas is usually a time of overindulgence when it comes to food, and this year was no exception. The one glaring difference was that we had our family Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, as family obligations meant some were not able to be present on the day. There were ten of us present, which is about as many as I can cope with: myself, The Wife, our son and his wife, our daughter, her three children, her partner and his son, plus two dogs.

The meal itself was typical family favourites and I daresay is not too different from that served up at many Kiwi Christmas get togethers. We started off with a watermelon and cucumber soup (cold of course). For mains we had glazed ham, chicken nibbles, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, and a selection of salads. As it was three days ago I am struggling to remember them all but here goes: pasta salad with with (lots of) preserved ginger, red and green glazed cherries, pineapple, red capsicum, baby peas and and beans, and corn; mandarin, almonds and rocket salad; apple and celery salad with dried cranberries and feta cheese; watermelon and cucumber salad with mint and crumbled feta; cucumber salad with red and yellow Tom Thumb tomatoes and pan fried halloumi cheese.

For desserts we had trifle (the grandchildren claim it wouldn’t be Christmas without it), pavlova topped with whipped cream and berries, fresh cherries, an assortment of fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries and raspberries if I remember correctly), tiramisu, apple crumble and an assortment of ice creams (triple chocolate, salted caramel, rum and raisin).

Then gifts were exchanged with those who would not be present on Christmas morning, and what was left of the day was spent quietly recovering from eating too much. On Christmas morning, gifts were exchanged and by 9 am something like normality resumed, with just myself, The Wife, our daughter and one dog remaining. Tonight our daughter is staying with a friend who lives nearby leaving her dog with us, and tomorrow it will be fully back to normal with just The Wife and I occupying the house. Until next year…


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Twenty-seven in the shade

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”.

Postscript

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).


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A long journey, but oh so quick

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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Winter meals

Winter and Meals go together so nicely, and this winter has been no different. And we’re not going to let the inconvenience of a lockdown get in the way. The video clip is here to remind me of the pleasure I get sharing meals with the wife and whānau. If you enjoy it too, so much the better.

The meals have been made by the wife and/or myself. Care to speculate who cooked what?


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Flawed logic?

Where one person prepares a meal, others who partake of the meal have a responsibility tidy up the kitchen and dining area afterwards. That seems logical and fair to me.

When one makes a mess, one has a responsibility to tidy that mess up. That seems logical and fair also.

So why does it seem so unfair when the first rule above applies only when the wife cooks and the second rule applies only when I cook?


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Changing perspectives

It still comes as a surprise to me to realise my perspective on many aspects of life have changed over the years. I’m also reminded that much of what I comprehend about the society in which I live is viewed differently by others. Some nuances are so subtle that it is only now in hindsight and because they are topics of debate today that I realise I did not understand let alone appreciate some social norms I grew up with.

One of these is gender roles. I completely failed to recognise that society had different expectations of men and women. It even baffled me why certain types of attire were considered appropriate for one gender but not the other. But it was the more subtle expectations for both men and women that I failed to pick up on and was oblivious of their existence.

I grew up in an era where most families could live in moderate comfort on a single income and virtually every household had a stay at home parent while there were children in their care. It never occurred to me that the reason most households had a stay at home mother and not a stay at home father was primarily due to social expectations and not a matter of choice negotiated between the parents.

Prior to my teen years, I adopted whatever behaviour and role I felt suited me, and being unaware of social expectations, I simply took on aspects that today would be viewed as gender nonconforming or nonbinary. Starting in my early teens I had most of this adaptation knocked out of me as I became aware of the negative views many held about me, and especially by acts of violence that I thought I had provoked merely by being different from the norm. I wasn’t fully cognisant of the disapproval being gender biased. Instead I had an understanding that it was not acceptable for me, as an individual, to exhibit such behaviour without understanding why.

It wasn’t until my mid twenties when it dawned on me that there were oh so subtle ways that societies place different expectations on men an women. The first occurred on my honeymoon when my new mate prostrated herself in front of me promising to be a good and obedient wife. To say that I was surprised is an understatement. I was shocked and appalled. I made it very clear that I was expecting an equal partner, not a servant. I later learnt that she was just as shocked at my response, but pleasantly so. Admittedly her culture had (and still has) more clearly defined gender roles, but it’s only a matter of degree, not that it was absent in my own culture.

The second occurred after I grew a beard in the mid 1970s when they were far less common than now, but more often worn by men of privilege. I didn’t grow it as a sign of masculinity or as a fashion statement, but because I loathed shaving and having very wavy hair, ingrown hairs were an all too often painful fact of life. Overnight the way both men and women responded to me changed – especially those who did not know me personally. It was quite an eye opener.

Both genders tended to be more polite to me but in different ways. Men tended to treat me as an equal or as someone slightly more “knowledgeable” than themselves. I was also assumed to be older than I was. Women on the other hand tended to display a sightly more subservient role in my presence as if somehow the beard gave me more authority. I felt even more uncomfortable in the company of others than ever before – both men and women.

The reason I was prompted to write this post was that I heard a song this morning that was a favourite of mine in the late 1960s. It has always brought a lump to my throat and a little water to the eye. It reminded me so much of the relationship between my parents who had so much respect and love for each other, although rarely expressed in the presence of others. I’ve always viewed the words as an expression of love by an equal partner, but when I now hear the answer to “what should I want from life?” in the last verse, the answer makes me somewhat uneasy. There’s an implication that one’s worth as a woman is measured by having a loving spouse. Or am I reading too much into the lyrics?

Allison Durbin – I have loved me a man (1968)
I have loved me a man, like my momma did
I have loved me a man.
Tall and tender, his hands like my daddy's were
With a mind that understands

And the arms that held me when I would cry
The lips that kissed away my tears
They're a part of the man that my momma loved
And I have loved me a man

I have wed me a man, like my momma did
I have wed me a man
I can still feel the warmth of the words he said
He held my heart tied in his hands

And in the morning I would wake by his side
And wonder what I could have done
To be loved by a man like my momma loved
And I have loved me a man

I would bear him a child, like my momma did
I would bear him a child
She'd be gentle and sweet, like my momma was
I'd watch her grow and in a while

She'd ask me momma what should I want from life
And I would tell her with a smile
Just be loved by a man like your momma loved
And I have loved me a man

And I have loved me a man


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Special people

On Saturday I and two of my siblings travelled the three hours to Opunake to a commemoration service for an aunt. I’m in my 70s and the two siblings are knocking on the door of 70, and attending funerals, commemorations and celebrations of lives of recently departed is becoming more frequent by the year.

This particular service was called a commemoration as the aunt died in January, but due to the restrictions on international travel imposed by Covid, it was felt more appropriate to delay the funeral until as many as possible would be able to attend. Instead of there being a presence of a body in a casket, there were her ashes in an urn on a table amidst flowers, photographs and a candle. Somewhere between 200 and 300 attended

Looking back on the services I have attended over recent years, it struck me that the only “real” Christian funeral was that of my mother. All the rest either ignored Christian theology altogether or at best may have included a token hymn that reflected an aspect of the deceased’s life more than anything specifically Christian.

Like all the others I have attended (apart from my mother’s) there has been no mention of God or gods, Jesus or an the expectation of an afterlife in heaven or hell. The only token towards a cultural Christianity was a quip by one speaker who mentioned that if her late husband was the one designated to drive her to the pearly gates in his much loved orange Vauxhall Viva, she’d probably wish to be somewhere else – anywhere else. He had a reputation for loudly expressing his view that he was the only competent driver in the world (and probably in heaven), although it was evident to everyone else that he wasn’t.

Aunty Joan was my father’s oldest sister and was just a few weeks short of her 105th birthday. She was one of twelve siblings, of whom only two remain. I was going to title this piece “Another one bites the dust” in light of that comment being made in jest by one of her remaining brothers, but I suspect some of my readers might not think too kindly about such an irreverent phrase, particularly if they have experienced a recent loss of their own.

On the drive back, my brother, who is neither a Christian nor religious made the comment that Aunty Joan was a true Christian, and the world could do with more people like her. My sister and I agreed, but I quipped that a great many fundamentalist Christians would disagree. It all comes down to what one considers “being Christian” is all about.

I live in a society that is secular but nominally “Christian”, and as best as I can recognise, the religious beliefs of Kiwis has changed little over my lifetime. What has changed is what Kiwis consider “being Christian” is. Until the 1960s, most Kiwis regardless of their religiosity would have been offended if they were described as not being Christian. Being Christian did not centre around belief but around action. One was judged by their deeds – generosity of heart and spirit, helping those in need regardless of one’s own circumstances, listening, caring, being supportive and being a warrior of whatever one perceived as social justice.

What has changed over recent decades has been that the concept of “being a Christian” no longer has that meaning. Lead by the importation of fundamentalism it’s become all about belief – having a specific sort of faith, and that “good works” count for nothing. Perhaps if one does “good works” for the purpose of salvation (whatever that is) then just maybe they do count for little. But people such as Aunty Joan never gave salvation a second thought. They give of themselves because, in good conscience, they could not ignore the needs of others.

For old schoolers such as myself, Christianity was (and I’m using the past tense deliberately) about one’s relationship to humanity (Love your neighbour as yourself). Today it seems that for some Christians, all that matters is one’s relationship with a deity and the worshipping of “His” Bible.

Sixty years ago I too would have been offended if someone had declared I wasn’t a Christian. Today, I’d be offended if they said I was. It’s not that my beliefs or values have changed significantly, it’s because the common understanding of what being a Christian has undergone a radical change under the influence of the fundamentalist evangelical movement. That’s why today, if someone asks if I’m a Christian, I always ask what they mean by being Christian. I’m unlikely to be in agreement with many who are younger than fifty.

The following is a poem by David Harkins that was presented at the service. I felt it was most appropriate.

You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.


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Rā kirihimete 2020

Meri Kirihimete (Merry Christmas) one and all.

I appreciate that for some of my readers, it’s still Christmas Eve, but for us in Aotearoa New Zealand, Christmas day is drawing to a close.

The wife and I travelled the 110 Km (70 miles) to Paraparaumu for lunch with our daughter’s family and some of her friends. As usual it was an extended affair where we all ate too much, and by the time dessert and coffee had been served it was 5:00 pm. Three hours later I am still uncomfortably full. I think it was the third helping of the wife’s truly wonderful trifle that finally told me I had consumed too much. Although it might have been the second helping of tiramisu or pavlova…

It’s the realisation that many of my readers (most are in North America and Western Europe) will not be so fortunate this year, being unable to celebrate the festive season with friends and family, that requires me to acknowledge how fortunate we are to be living in a Covid-free bubble of five million people.

Christmas fare

Top: What was left of mains after everyone had taken their first helping.
Bottom left: My first serving of mains.
Bottom right: Selection of desserts.

Perhaps not typical Northern Hemisphere Christmas fare, but hey, it’s summer and the only fire burning today was the gas barbeque used for cooking the lamb chops and sausages.


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Tea for two

Tea is the name Kiwis give to the evening meal. Why, I have no idea, but that’s the way it is. And before anyone tries to tell me that we are mutilating the English language, may I remind you that the Americans call the main course of a meal the entrée, when it’s supposed to be the course before the main course, and they commit the greatest of all culinary crimes by topping an oversized meringue with whipped cream and berries and calling it a pavlova!

The wife and I don’t dine out often. Quality restaurants tend to be somewhat pricey in this country, and being on a limited budget, we get better “bang for bucks” by buying top quality ingredients and cooking at home. Besides, even better restaurants tend to leave us a little disappointed. The wife has an exceptional skill when it comes to flavour and aroma and she has a mastery that few professional chefs could better. A quiet intimate tea for two with a glass or two of NZ Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or Chardonnay in the comfort of our own home is hard to beat, and there’s no need to drive home afterwards.

While perhaps presentation isn’t quite up to that of the professionals, flavour and aroma more than makes up for it. Here’s a selection of home cooked meals we’ve enjoyed over the past month [Duration – 2m 37s]

Nothing can beat a lovingly prepared home meal