Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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It’s a girl!

Amid much less fanfare that I thought was likely, our Prime Minister gave birth to a baby daughter yesterday. Rather surprisingly, when Google’s landing page is opened from a New Zealand IP address, a rather small image acknowledges the arrival. This is what you see:Selection_070

Unless you know what the image really is, you could be forgiven for mistaking it as some stylised question marks. Why Google chose to make the image so small, I don’t know. It’s not like there’s much else on the Web-page. In fact the image consists of a small fish hook cradled between 2 big fish hooks representing two parents and child:Selection_071

If you know that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s partner, Clarke Gayford, is the host of a popular TV fishing show, then the use of fish hooks starts to mean something. The image is the work of artist Stephen Templer of Wellington who based the design on one Jacinda and Clarke posted to Instagram when they announced they were expecting. As an aside, Clarke will be a stay at home dad and full time carer of the baby when Jacinda returns to work in six weeks time.

Matau (fish hook) is a prominent feature of Māori art alongside the koru (unfurling fern frond) and features in Māori mythology – New Zealand’s North Island was pulled from the depths of the ocean by a fish hook fashioned from the jawbone of Maui’s grandmother.

Hei matau are highly stylised fish hook ornaments, traditionally carved from pounamu or whalebone. Today it’s not unusual to see them made from other materials, but those with the most mana are made in the traditional manner.

Hei_matau

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Mother-in-Law’s funeral

I guess as one gets older, the more inevitable it is that the frequency of attending funerals increases. Except in my case, it seems to be the frequency of not attending funerals of those important to me.

Last year I was able to be present at my mother’s funeral, but I was unable to attend my father’s funeral a few years earlier. Two years ago My father-in-law passed away, and due to failure of communications, we didn’t learn of his death until several weeks after the funeral. Last year a very dear aunt died, and I was fortunate to be able to attend.

A little over a month ago, another favourite aunt died, but due to another migraine, and distance, I was unable to attend the funeral. Fortunately, I was able to watch the service via a live link over the Internet – a very common practice here these days due to tendency of Kiwis to scatter widely.

Then in the late hours of Sunday (or possibly early hours of Monday NZ time), my mother-in-law passed away. We learnt the news mid Monday morning. The funeral was held at 1:00 pm Japan time or 4:00 pm NZ time on Tueday – less than 10 hours ago as I write this. Neither my wife nor I could attend.

When you live at the end of the world that is Aotearoa New Zealand, it’s is an unfortunate fact of life that the rest of the world is a long, long way away. While there’s plenty of flights in and out of the country, direct flights to any specific city in the world are few and far between, and even using a series of connecting flights can extend a journey out to several days.

Take for for example a trip from our home town to the city where my mother-in-law’s funeral was held. My wife could have started her journey on Monday afternoon by flying to Auckland, but she would have been stranded there until Thursday, as that is when the next flight to Japan leaves. By the time she cleared customs, it would be too late to catch a flight or bullet train that evening, so it wouldn’t be until mid morning on Friday that she arrived at her family’s home town – three days after the funeral!

A frantic search for less direct routes proved fruitless as no option could get my wife home any earlier than Thursday regardless of the seating class. So another funeral missed.

We’re not doing too well in the Funeral attendance stakes. Let’s hope there’s no one keeping tabs. I would hope that there’ll be more than my own children present at mine.

I nearly made a terrible faux pas today. Had I not caught myself mid-sentence, I think I would have been “persona non grata” for a very long time. Sometimes humour does not transfer well from one culture to another.

After my mother’s cremation, we returned to the home my mother and sister shared, and as we tend to do in the warm months, we removed our ties etc and sat out on the terrace under the shade cloth and each opened a bottle of beer. My three siblings and I had just sat down at a table, and I was in the process of taking the first sip gulp (funerals are thirsty work) when one of my brothers quipped “You know… we’re orphans now!”

The next moment I was snorting beer out my nose as I and the other two siblings collapsed in laughter. Today I found myself saying the same thing, but I managed to stop myself just before “orphan”, and redirect it to a suggestion of what we might have for tea (Kiwi-speak for dinner or evening meal). Whew! Saved by the skin of my teeth. That’s humour that would be close to unforgivable as far as my wife is concerned, whether it was said yesterday or in 5 years time, bless her wonderful heart 🙂

Whose funeral will I miss next? While I’d be happy to miss my own, age, migraines and distance, means I’m probably going to miss many more.


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What’s wrong with some Kiwis??

In a recent Colmar Brunton poll conducted for TVNZ’s One News, 18% of the population believe that our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s ability to govern the country will be negatively impacted by the birth of her first child in June. That means almost one in five Kiwis believe motherhood is incompatible with running a country! I thought we were beyond that sort of thinking.

There have been several PMs (Prime Ministers) in the past who have had children while in office, but I can not find a single poll that queried the nation’s opinion and about whether or not the upcoming birth would have a negative impact.

The difference? The other PMs were male. Strangely, although the number of comments by the public in the media are few, there does not seem to be a significant difference of opinion by gender in how becoming a parent might affect her ability to run the country.

Most comments have been around the fact that due to the many sleepless nights ahead, the PM will not be in a condition to make wise decisions. For goodness sake! This is Aotearoa New Zealand. Most Kiwi fathers will have just as many sleepless nights as their partners, and during the night might even change the baby’s nappy (nappy = diaper) more often than his partner, leaving her to perform the one task he is incapable of: breast feeding. The odds are that previous PMs have also been just as sleep deprived as Jacinda will be.

Why did One News think up the idea that a poll on her ability to govern was even newsworthy? This has me somewhat baffled. Perhaps they thought it might be more controversial that it turned out to be? There’s no doubt in my mind that news media are just as capable of creating news as they are of reporting it.

Perhaps they wanted to show how progressive we as a nation are. If so, that fact that one in five of us think that motherhood is incompatible with a major role outside the home reveals we are not as progressive as we like to imagine.

On the other hand, if the intent was to create controversy by illustrating how conservative and traditional we are in contrast to our image of ourselves as being progressive and liberal, especially regarding gender roles, the result must be disappointing. The response from the public has been much along the lines of “(Yawn) So? (Yawn)”.

For those who missed the results in the clip above, the results of the poll How do you think becoming a parent will affect Jacinda Ardern’s performance as Prime Minister? are:
59% No difference
18% worse than now
15% better than now
6%  don’t know
1%  refused to answer

Thank goodness, no one has conducted a poll regarding the appropriateness of the PM being in a relationship that is not formalised in the manner of a marriage or civil union. I can be reasonably confident that the reason for there being no such poll is because (a) more than 90% of the population would consider it irrelevant, and (b) it would bring out the very worst of the very small number religious fundamentalists who like nothing better than to vilify anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideas of morality. While controversy might be good for business, being seen as vehicle for hatred and bigotry is not. Perhaps this is just a “Kiwi thing” that extreme views are not encouraged.

When I think about the fact the the leaders of the two political parties that make up the current government (Jacinda Ardern of Labour and Winston Peters of New Zealand First and who are also Prime Minister and deputy Prime Minister respectively) are not married to their partners, yet no one here thinks anything of it (the few religious fundamentalists excluded), or considers it in any way remarkable, perhaps we are somewhat progressive in our thinking after all.


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How I know yesterday was Father’s Day

  1. My daughter phoned to wish me a happy Father’s Day.
  2. My son dropped in give me a cordless drill set as a Father’s Day gift.
  3. Ads on TV promoting all kinds of gifts from socks to stuff for DIY projects to massive armchairs with beer chillers in the arm rests suddenly stopped appearing at every commercial break.

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in September, but in this household the celebrations are really about the respite loved ones get from being made to feel guilty for not buying their father expensive gifts they can’t afford and he doesn’t need and doesn’t want. It also means that those same commercial interests that had attempted the guilt trip on loved ones also stopped trying to convince me I’m unloved because my children haven’t lavished me with extravagant gifts.

Of course it will start all over again in a few months time as Christmas approaches.

Actually I told a porky above. My son didn’t call in to give me a cordless drill set like the one I’ve been hoping he’d give me ever since the one he borrowed came back with a burnt out motor and a broken gearbox. In fact he didn’t call in at all.

Oh all right. He didn’t even call. Or what’s App. Or text.

I wonder if he’s still alive…


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Reflections

My father was a very private person. He kept his beliefs and opinions to himself. Most of these he took with him when he died. If I have one regret, it is that I was not able to get to know the real person that hid behind that gentle and loving façade I knew as “Dad”.

Occasionally he would slip and reveal a little about himself when retelling an anecdote about something that occurred in his past, but while he could be drawn into discussing the event itself, he would close up it we tried to discover how he felt about it, or what his opinion was about what happened.

Perhaps the only way we could see into the “soul” of my father, was in some of his poetry. It was here that he let his guard slip, although I’m not sure if he realised that he was doing so. Certainly we were unable to discuss with him the meaning or values behind his verse. I’m not sure whether it was due to his reluctance to reveal himself, or his firm belief that it was our own responsibility to interpret the “meaning of life”. Perhaps a bit of both.

Dad spent almost his entire adult life in extreme pain, but even more so over the last few months of his life. During this time, he was in and out of consciousness, and I think we were all hoping that his suffering would soon come to an end. Even so, he did his best to hide is pain, and not once did anyone hear him complain. When he was able, he still managed to tease and humour the family and nursing staff who took care of him.

I was unable to attend his funeral, and was unaware of the very last poem he wrote less than two months before he died. The other day, I stumbled upon the Remembrance card that was handed out at the funeral service. On it, was his last known poem. It’s somewhat rambling, but then what else could it be for a 90 year old in extreme pain and where the line between consciousness and unconsciousness was rather blurred.

I’ve posted the poem here purely so that I know where it is and can access it as I require, but if anyone else is able to enjoy it, then I’m sure my father would be happy for me to share it.

Reflections

I sit in here and wonder what life is all about.
It holds so many mysteries
Of that there is no doubt.
Who knows what’s due tomorrow,
Who’ll come knocking at my door.
Will it bring happiness or sorrow
like I’ve never known before?
What ever comes I’m ready
To take things in my stride.
For there’s been some lovely moments
Since my wife become my bride.
I know that if she ever took it in her mind to go
I’d be ever desolated because I love her so.
We have a lovely family;
Three boys but just one girl.
And she is like her mother, a really lovely pearl.
They’re a lovely family –
You couldn’t get one better.
To them I say most every day I really am your debtor.
I’ll do my best to give to you
The things that really count.
Like love and warmth and sympathy
That’s what it’s all about.
So take them as you find them,
That’s my advice to you, and you will find,
if you are that kind, they will do the same for you.
Look before you leap I say, for I know it to be true.
Don’t try to imitate bad things,
It’s not the thing to do,
But let your conscience be your guide,
Is my advice to you.
And let us hope that we can cope as other people do
For after all is said and done, you’ll find
That there’s still lots of fun,
Not sitting in the sun with nothing left to do.

May 2013

 


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Marriage and property rights

I’m surprised by the similarities and differences of what makes up marriage property rights in various countries. Most nations have moved to the position where property is owned in equal share by both partners in a marriage, and in the case of divorce or separation, many countries are working towards, or have moved to ‘equal-sharing rules’ in which the presumption is that both partners have contributed equally to the marriage and therefore property and child rearing responsibilities should be divided equally.

As more countries recognise same sex marriages, people in such relationships are also achieving the same rights to property as heterosexual couples. This is perhaps more true in “Western” countries than elsewhere.

Where I see a greater difference is in what is recognised as a marriage in different jurisdictions. For example, in England common law marriages aren’t recognised at all, and only a few states in the USA recognises common law marriages. Usually one half of the partnership will be seriously disadvantaged should they decide to split up.

Matrimonial property in NZ

If you were to search the law books of Aotearoa New Zealand for a definition of matrimonial property, you’d be searching for a very long time as it doesn’t exist. The main reason for this is that as far as property is concerned, it’s the relationship between a couple that determines property rights and not a marriage certificate.

What would be termed common law marriage in other jurisdictions is termed de facto relationship here. It is one of three types of relationships that are covered by the Properties (Relationship) Act 1976 and its amendments. The other two types are marriage and civil union.

The act has four principles, three of which are relevant here:

  1. that men and women have equal status, and their equality should be maintained and enhanced
  2. that all forms of contribution to the marriage partnership, civil union, or the de facto relationship partnership, are treated as equal
  3. that a just division of relationship property has regard to the economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses or partners arising from their marriage, civil union, or de facto relationship or from the ending of their marriage, civil union, or de facto relationship

If you live together as a couple and are not married or in a civil union, you’re legally considered to be in a de facto relationship.

For all practical purposes, a relationship begins when a couple start living together or have their marriage or civil union formalised (which ever happens first), and ends when they cease living together or one of them dies. The act also makes provision for the dissolution of a marriage or civil union, but as that can only occur after not living together as a couple for two years, it’s not really of any significance here.

All property acquired, used or shared after a relationship commences is considered relationship property, while property previously acquired becomes relationship property after the couple have been living together for three years.

So here in NZ all couples, whether in heterosexual or same sex relationships, in marriages, civil unions, or de facto relationships are treated equally in regards to property rights. Personally, I believe thus is how it should be. What is also of significance is that there is no necessity for a couple to have a sexual relationship, or even to live in the same residence for a de facto relationship to exist. If there is a dispute about a relationship existing, then the following criteria are taken into consideration, but the absence of one or more of them does not necessarily  mean they are not a couple:

  1. The duration of the relationship
  2. The nature and extent of common residence
  3. Whether or not a sexual relationship exists
  4. The degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support, between the parties
  5. The ownership, use, and acquisition of property
  6. The degree of mutual commitment to a shared life
  7. The care and support of children
  8. The performance of household duties
  9. The reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

As there are no advantages to being in a marriage or civil union as far as property rights go, it begs the question why do so many couples eventually marry? There are no tax advantages in having a relationship formalised in marriage or civil union as incomes can not be pooled or shared in NZ. Each person is taxed individually. Income from shared property such as interest from a joint bank account, or rent from a shared property is divided equally and then added to the income of each individual.

About one in three relationships in NZ end before the death of a partner, and after five years, de facto relationships seem to be as stable as marriages and civil unions. Around two out of five couples live in a de facto relationship, and it seems to me that it’s time to question whether marriages and civil unions need to be formalised by the state at all. As there’s no legal or financial benefits in having a document that says a couple are married, why should the state get involved?

I can understand the desire for a couple to want to publicly declare their commitment to each other, in fact I think it’s admirable. But does making it a legal contract make the commitment any stronger? It would seem no if the NZ experience is to be believed. Can anyone give me a strong reason why relationships should be registered and made legally binding in the form or marriage or civil union?


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Good on Ya, Mum

Cutting the cake

Cutting the cake

My mother will be 95 years young tomorrow. Physically she’s not as mobile as she once was. She still has her mental faculties, although by her own admission she does have “intellectual interludes”. Don’t scoff, I’m twenty-nine years her junior, and I have them as well.

Today one of my brothers and I travelled to Whanganui and took Mum and my sister out to lunch at their favourite café, where we chatted about everything from last week’s disastrous floods – the worst in in recorded history in the Whanganui region, to a recent case where the courts declined to give a cancer sufferer the right to seek assisted suicide, to the influence American churches have on US politics, to the anniversary of the Rainbow Warrior affair, to catching up on the affairs of our whānau (extended family).

Afterwards we returned to the home shared by my mother and sister, where we continued with our conversations while preparing for afternoon tea when a horde of grand children, great grand children, and friends and well wishers arrived.

As can be seen in the photo of Mum cutting the cake, she is still in good health, and thoroughly enjoyed the day. At the rate she’s going I won’t be surprised if we celebrate her 100th birthday in five years time.