Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Birthday anniversary

Today would have been my mother’s 100th birthday if she had not passed away in February 2017.

I’m reminded of the occasion because the wife showed me a Facebook posting by my sister (the wife has a Facebook account, I don’t, but that’s a story for another day). Otherwise the occasion would have gone unnoticed by me.

The wife mentions that she misses Mum, but it’s not a feeling I share. Not because I have any negative thoughts towards her, in fact I can’t think of anything negative to say about my mother, and I’m still very fond of her. But that’s where it ends. I feel the same about her now as I did four years ago, when she was a 96 year old bundle of energy. Her passing hasn’t changed that.

I have been told that it’s unhealthy not to have a sense of loss when losing someone close, but I have no idea what a sense of loss is supposed to feel like, but then I find it difficult to identify most emotions within myself. I’m more empathetic to emotions in others than in myself if they are emotions related to sadness or distress or joy, but otherwise I’m virtually blind to emotions in others as well as myself.

Alexithymia is characterized by difficulties in identifying, describing, and processing one’s own feelings, often marked by a lack of understanding of the feelings of others, and difficulty distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal. It’s more common than most people realise

Around 10% of men and 2% of women have alexithymia to some degree. It’s also often associated with PTSD. Research indicates that between 50% and 85% of autistics have alexithymia. Whether it a characteristic of autism or a comorbid condition is open to debate, but it’s definitely a condition that many of us on the autism spectrum share.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m devoid of emotion. I suspect I’m just as emotional at the next person, but I’m not able to differentiate one emotion from another, especially when it comes to feelings. On the other hand I have come to recognise the physical manifestations associated with some emotions. For example, I recognise that I clench my fists and clench my jaws in situations where unfairness or injustice arises. I presume these are physical responses of anger?

Do I miss Mum? Not that I’m aware of.
Should I? I Haven’t a clue, And for me it does not matter.


Edit: For anyone who knows the actual date of my mother’s passing, and wondering why it’s being published on the wrong day, all I’ll say is I’m a slow writer.


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ANZAC Day 2020

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served” It is, I believe, the most important day of the year for most Kiwis. But what it means does vary from person to person.

From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anzac_Day

I have mixed feelings about ANZAC Day. While, like most Kiwis, I consider it a day of remembrance, I along with an increasing number, find that the day adds weight to the futility of war. In this respect, I think there is a growing gap between Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia about the significance of the day. From my observation, in Australia, the day is also one of growing national pride, whereas here it is much less so. But keep in mind, this is purely a personal perspective.

ANZAC day traditionally starts with a Dawn Service held in every town in the nation. Last year the event was curtailed somewhat as it came so soon after the Christchurch shootings and due to security concerns, but this year, an even greater threat, COVID-19, has seen the cancellation of all services.

Instead, we were encouraged to “Stand at dawn” at our gates, entrances, porches and balconies. So shortly before dawn, I made my way down our driveway to the entrance of our property, and stood “Apart, but together as one” with many, but by no means all, of the households in our cul-de-sac. It was too dark to see most, but the quite murmurs of nearby households could be heard while I listened to the virtual dawn service broadcast over RNZ National.

Since my father died I have made a conscious attempt to attend the Dawn service, usually in person but sometimes by listening to a service on the radio or watching it on TV or online. My father made a point of taking part in the Dawn Parade that makes up part of the dawn service.

The parade consists of Returned Services personnel (veterans) and more recently, members of their family and their descendants, and also of current service men and women, fire and emergency personnel, and other services. Those with service medals are encouraged to wear them – on the left if they are your own, or on the right if worn by a family member or descendant.

In one respect my father stood out from every other returned service man and woman. He would be the only one that didn’t display any medals on their chest. Don’t get me wrong – he did have many medals, including several for bravery, but he refused to display them. He felt that displaying them was a form of false pride. It must have taken a lot of courage on his part to have put up with the ribbing, criticism and sometimes direct insults that he received every year from those he had served alongside.

It is as much for my father’s steadfast standing on principles, as for any other reason, that I now observe ANZAC Day. It is also My Father’s Day.

Sunrise shortly after dawn service 2020
Sunrise following Dawn Service


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Why, oh why didn’t I indoctrinate my kids?

There are times when I wish I had indoctrinated my children, especially my son. That way, he’d probably still hold beliefs and values similar to, or at least compatible with, mine. Instead, I encouraged them to think for themselves; to seek out evidence and then draw their own conclusions. At times. as happened yesterday, I begin to question the wisdom of that.

I’m not a believer in absolute or objective truths, be they religious, social, or even scientific. I’m old enough to recall “Scientific certainties” that are no longer certain and in some cases disproved.

I can recall a time when homosexual acts were criminal and when the medical profession classified homosexuality as a disorder. It was first declassified as a disorder in Australia and New Zealand in around 1972, in America a year later and throughout the most of the world within a couple of years. In Aotearoa New Zealand, homosexual acts weren’t decriminalised until 1984, and in some parts of the world such acts can still be punished by life imprisonment,

As an aside, as a teenager, I was an avid reader of periodical magazines and other publications, especially if they contained articles of a scientific nature, and I first became aware of the possibility that homosexuality was not “wrong” in the mid to late 1960s through a number of articles I read that were mostly highly critical of, and sometimes angry at, a pamphlet titled Towards A Quaker View Of Sex first published in 1963. Although I didn’t get to read the entire pamphlet until more than forty years after its first publication, excerpts accompanying the articles seemed more reasoned and well thought out than most of the criticism leveled at it. Most of the criticism was related at the morality, or rather the perceived immorality that the critics believed the publication advocated.

And yet, most (but not all) of the conclusions reached in the pamphlet are now widely accepted as the norm: same sex relationships are generally viewed as within the bounds of normality; here, and in many parts of the world same sex relationships have equal footing with heterosexual relationships; here, a partnership is legally recognised by its nature and duration, not by whether or not it has been formalised by a marriage or civil union. We have still some way to go in accepting and recognising forms of relationships that do not involve only two people. For example in this country there is no legal recognition of a relationship that involves A & B & C, although the relationships between A & B, B & C, and A & C may be recognised.

I have drifted off topic somewhat. Now where was I? Oh yes, indoctrination. If I had indoctrinated my son into believing the Bible was not the literal Word of God, nor a rule book to live by, then he might not have reached the conclusion about a decade ago that indeed the Bible is literally the Word of God and is to be believed and followed to the letter. Unfortunately I don’t think I ever mentioned, let alone discussed, the Bible. I regret that now.

And yesterday I realised that I did not indoctrinate him sufficiently to be suspicious of conspiracy theories. They are “conspiracy theories” and not “conspiracies” for a reason.

Yesterday I discovered that he is convinced that the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11 was due to controlled implosions on multiple floors within the buildings. I had to forcefully end the discussion when he declared that all demolition experts agree that the buildings could not have collapsed the way they did unless they had been rigged by a demolition expert to collapse that way.

Sigh! If he had said “some experts” or “an expert” instead of “all experts” I might have been prepared to hear him out. I’m not closed to rational disagreements, but the use of “all experts” was sufficient evidence for me to conclude any discussion would not be rational.

I must admit I’m somewhat curious as to who he believes the “conspirators” might be. After all if it was “controlled”, it was planned, so who planned it and why? But in the interest of maintaining a mostly close relationship with my son, it’s a curiosity I’m not going to try to satisfy.


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“You and mum help make this happen”

These were the words my daughter used to accompany a video clip sent to me via WhatsApp earlier today. To me they are very humbling words indeed. This is not because in any way we were directly involved in facilitating “this” to happen, although perhaps there is an indirect link in that we provided child care and dog sitting services at times to enable her to make “this” happen.

Instead I would like to think that what she is showing appreciation for is in regards to the values we encouraged her to develop, and which she expresses – participation in “this” being but one example. I’m uncomfortable using the word “proud” for my part in her development because it can be used in ways that are closer to boasting, and I don’t want to imply that our daughter is who she is simply because we as her parents made her that way.

I’m convinced that the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is accurate, and as parents, we are just one of the many influences that have played out in our children’s and grandchildren’s lives. And even in saying that, we have to acknowledge that we too are products of the environment in which we developed, including parents, whānau, and the wider community. So I cannot claim be the originator of any of the values my offspring hold dear. At best, I’ve been a conduit, and perhaps, only in a very small way, an enabler.

I acknowledge that I have often fallen short as a parent, and it has been my children who have shown me how to be a better parent and human being, and for that I will be forever grateful. And yet our daughter takes a moment to say “You and mum help make this happen”. I can’t find a word or phrase that describes my reaction to her statement, but I hope the sentiments are clear enough from what I have written here.


As to the “this” referred to above, I have been contemplating whether or not to identify the occasion. My reason is that I’m somewhat anonymous on this blog. Although there’s enough information available for anyone to discover my real identity if they had a mind to, it would take a small amount of work to do so. And the possibility of someone who knows me stumbling across this blog is extremely small.

Experience during my formative years taught me to be cautious about how I expressed myself, and I learnt the hard way that there are boundaries (which I still can’t always recognise) that can’t be crossed without very unpleasant consequences. Although I believe our society is far more tolerant and liberal today, the caution within me remains. The relative anonymity provided by this blog allows me to express views that I would be reluctant to share in the “real world”.

But in light of the fact that “this” is a public expression opposing the very thing that makes me so cautious, I cannot help but feel duty-bound to share it here, even at the risk of making my identity easier to discover. I could perhaps not mention that our daughter identifies herself by name and role in one of the Facebook video clips linked to below, but I want to publicly acknowledge that one of my greatest teachers about life has been my daughter, which is why I find her statement humbling.

“This” refers to a local street party declaring that bullying is not acceptable. It is never “character building”. Its only function is to cause harm.

   


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Christmas is over for another year

Christmas Day has ended and we’re an hour into Boxing Day (well, in Aotearoa New Zealand, at least), and I’m thinking “Thank goodness it’s over for another year!” As I get older, I find family events such as Christmas are getting more exhausting, although no less enjoyable. Both migraine and being on the autism spectrum seem to be affecting my ability to cope with sensory over-stimulation more and more as I get older. For those who understand the spoon theory, I have fewer spoons than I had even 5 years ago, that I can use to pass as being “normal”.

This year was somewhat different than in previous years for several reasons. We hosted neither lunch nor tea (That’s dinner/evening meal to non-Kiwis) this year. Instead the whānau gathered at our daughter’s home for lunch, less than 10 minutes drive from our place.

Unfortunately, my wife has been a bit crook (Kiwi slang for being ill) over the last few days, so the ham is still sitting in the fridge, unglazed and uncooked. And everyone’s favourite trifle is yet to be assembled. Last night we were unsure if she would be well enough to join in the festivities, but this morning she felt well enough to brave the noise and commotion that normally accompanies such events.

Lunch was a typical Kiwi Christmas do, with a variety of hot and cold meats, plenty of salads made from seasonal vegetables and fruit, cold soups, and a few hot dishes for those who really want it. As usual, most of us ate more than we should, but hey, it’s only once a year.

Dessert was also typically Kiwi except that the pavlova was deconstructed, as one younger member of the whānau dislikes whipped cream that usually tops it. The pav was accompanied by panatone, fresh berries and melon, brandy snaps, fruit mince tarts, plenty of whipped cream and assorted other goodies I can’t recall offhand.

The weather had been deteriorating all morning, and just as lunch finished, the sound of thunder could be heard in the distance. As the exchanging of gifts commenced, we could hear the thunder getting ever nearer, while the sky became so dark that it was necessary to turn on the lights. Before long, flashes of lightning would light up the room followed by ever more loud crashes of thunder. As the gift exchanging was drawing to a close (it’s a long drawn out affair), a particularly bright flash of lightning was immediately followed by the lights flickering out and instead of a clap of thunder, we heard what can only be described as very loud static.

An hour later, and still no electrical power. Many of us were longing for a cuppa, but of course there was no way to heat the water without electricity. I checked the website of the local lines company (thank goodness the mobile phone network was still up) and discovered that over three and a half thousand households in the our town (population 14,000) were without power.

Many other towns in the region were similarly affected, so obviously the electrical storm was  widespread. It seems that such events are becoming more common, I daresay due to the effects of climate change.

The wife and I called it a day at around 4pm and drive home through a very heavy downpour. As the car came to a stop under the carport, the concrete flooring, dry a few seconds earlier, was suddenly inundated by a torrent of several centimetres of water that began cascading down the steeply sloped pathway. I had to back the car out into the open (where the rain was still coming down in buckets), so that the wife could safely exit it without water rushing over her shoes.

There was also the strange spectacle of little fountains jetting up between some of the joints in the concrete driveway. None of them were very high, perhaps only 20 centimetres at most, but there were dozens of them, and it did look impressive. Not sure it’s caused any damage underneath the concrete, but as there is little in the way of silt on top, I’m hoping for the best. Time will tell.

So that’s my Christmas for 2018. As I write this, some of my readers will only just be getting up and the sun is yet to appear above the horizon, so to you I wish your Christmas day goes at least as well as as mine!

 


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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