Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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My kind of food

Growing up, I was not particularly fond of seafood. Although I tolerated the taste of most fish, my ability to catch fish bones in my throat brought me much fame in the whānau, and considerable discomfort to myself. It didn’t matter how careful my mother was in de-boning fish, I was sure to discover a bone by choking on it. Typically no one else could find any bones for want of trying.

Paua3I didn’t enjoy shellfish at all with the one exception. And that was paua. For those unfamiliar with the word, pāua are members of the abalone family endemic to Aotearoa New Zealand, commonly found just below the low tide mark around most of the country. Blackfoot, the most common species has a black body and the shell has a beautiful peacock-like iridescence. With friends of my parents regularly diving for these delicacies, they found their way to our table frequently.

My father was a keen surf-caster, and most weekends when the weather was good, the entire family would squeeze into the car for a short trip along the coast to one of Dad’s many fishing spots. While Dad looked after two, three or four fishing rods, Mum would keep an eye on us kids while we dammed streams, explored caves and rock pools, and risked life and limb climbing cliffs.

It would be a very exceptional day if Dad didn’t catch enough fish to provide a meal or two for six people with a little left over to give to friends. From what  I remember, Dad always prepared the fish, but both he and Mum took turns at cooking it.

In those days, the selection of food in NZ was very limited. Most vegetables came from home gardens as it did in our case. Roasts of mutton and hogget were by far the cheapest form of protein, with beef and lamb some distance behind. Smaller cuts such as steaks and chops were too expensive to have more than once a month, and pork and chicken were so expensive, that we had them only on special occasions such as Christmas. Fish, if purchased was also expensive. So free protein fresh from the sea was really appreciated by all the family except for myself. The fish I most enjoyed came in cans and never contained bones to choke on; Tuna, salmon, herrings and mackerel.

When we were children, meal times a were special time where food, experiences, thought and opinions were shared. They will always be fondly remembered by me. However, the only food I really loathed was one of my parents’ favourites – mashed carrots and parsnips. I still feel ill when I recall its taste and texture. Disgusting!

My wife’s background was very different. For her family, sea food was the primary source of protein and in such a wide variety of forms, that it still makes my head spin. When she first arrived in NZ she longed for the variety of food found in Japanese supermarkets. She had no idea how to cook roasts – Japanese homes don’t have ovens – and the smell of sheep meat cooking made her physically ill. Most of the food and ingredients she was familiar with were unknown here.

Over the four and a half decades since her arrival, New Zealand has undergone a food revolution and our choice of fruit, vegetables and proteins has increased many times over. Our choice of foods will never match the likes of Japan or Europe or (I assume) North America as we are a relatively small country physically with a tiny population, and a very, very long way from other markets. But it’s a marked improvement over the days of my childhood.

Since those log ago days, the relative prices of many foods have changed drastically. Chicken, once very expensive, is now the cheapest form of protein, while beef and lamb (why is all sheep meat now identified as lamb?) is the most expensive. Pork and fish lie somewhere in between. Which finally brings me around to point of this post.

My wife has educated my pallet to truly enjoy a wide variety of food styles, but what I realised recently is how drastically my protein of choice has changed. Where once I preferred red meat, today I much prefer red or pink fish. To be specific, tuna or NZ farmed salmon in the form of sashimi. Salmon is around half the price of good steak, and tuna is somewhere in between. If, fifty years ago someone told me that one day I would enjoy eating raw fish, I would have laughed at such a ridiculous  statement. How wrong I would have been!

Long gone are the days of “meat and three veg”. Here are some recent examples typical meals lovingly prepared by my wife.

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Feijoa Season!

Love them or loathe them, at this time of the year are are unavoidable. We have a short  6 metre long hedge consisting of six feijoa bushes that runs along part of the south boundary of our section (residential property). Every few days we gather several kilograms of the fruit.

Feijoas

An over abundance of feijoas!

Today, our granddaughter picked up 8.5 Kg (about 19 lbs) of the very aromatic fruit in around ten minutes. Harvesting is by collecting fallen fruit from the ground – never by picking off the tree, as picked fruit fails to develop as much flavour and sweetness as fallen fruit.

Thanks to methyl benzoate and similar chemicals, the potent aroma is what makes feijoa so unavoidable. It is very distinctive and during harvest season, which for us is May and June, the house positively reeks of it. It’s one of those smells you either love or loathe. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who is indifferent to it.

The picture is one I took a few days ago. The two bags our grandson is holding contain 5 Kg (11 lbs) of feijoas. Five bags of fruit were gathered that day totalling about 12 Kg (26 lbs). The three grandchildren gathered them in little more than five minutes

For those unfamiliar with the fruit, it tastes a little like guava, a little like pineapple, a little like pear and a little like tart berries. Yep, it’s like eating a very flavoursome fruit salad. Delicious! They are best eaten raw, but are very nice in a cooked desert such as apple and feijoa crumble. It also makes a wonderful aromatic jam.

Inevitably, we give away most of our crop to family, friends and neighbours, as do most people with more than a single bush – they’re such prolific croppers. The rest we consume fresh or it’s frozen for making into desserts or smoothies over the next six to twelve months.

As I have already mentioned, it’s a fruit you either love or loathe. At this time of the year, if you visit someone and the place doesn’t smell of feijoa then in all probability they do not like the fruit, and you can be sure they’ve turned down many offers of feijoas over recent days. Don’t risk harming a friendship by offering them any.


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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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Disabled? I Am Legend!

I have never considered being an Aspie and having chronic migraine disabling any more than the need to wear corrective lenses. While I would love to loose the migraines, 55 years of wearing spectacles is no more an inconvenience than wearing clothes. On the other hand, my differences due to Asperger’s Syndrome are intrinsically part of who I am.

I am not disabled, but society often disables me. Unstrange Mind explains it so well:


Morality and contraception

Sometimes I happen across a blog post that expresses my thoughts far more succinctly than I ever could. This is one such post. Comment are disabled here. Please comment on original post.

Clare Flourish

Things happen. Human beings have purposes and intention. Things don’t.

Here’s the Catholic Church on contraception, taken as before from Rejection of Pascal’s Wager. John Chrysostom found it appalling: Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. Weird. Pius XI wrote, No reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything which is intrinsically against nature may become comformable with nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is designed primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purposely sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. So a condom to prevent spreading AIDS was forbidden by John Paul II.

The current position: Wikipedia’s source claims condoms were permitted

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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.


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What ever happened to my future?

I remember as a child being fascinated by predictions of what life would be like in decades to come. In the ninety fifties, predictions didn’t include the Internet or mobile communications. Nor were microwave ovens, responsive cruise control, or personal computers. Some ideas have not been realised. I can recall seeing illustrations of high tech cities with high speed personal transport such as flying cars or vehicles that could attach themselves to trains of similar vehicles to improve traffic density, efficiency and safety.

The sixties were similar except that large scale computers were predicted to be commonplace, along with supersonic air and rail transport. One concept that was being considered was the prospect of mankind having more leisure time than he knew what to do with and this is what I want to touch on in this post..

The thirty five hour week was predicted to be just years away and a four day week was thought to be only a decade or so away. We were being encouraged to find interests that would keep us occupied during the long weekends and at the end of a shortened working day. I can remember in the late sixties and early seventies there were concerns that unless we learnt how to occupy our leisure time,the boredom might lead to social unrest.

It was envisioned that full employment would continue as working hours would reduce as productivity increased. Flexible working hours and job sharing were expected to become the norm. The gap between rich and poor had been decreasing for decades and there was no reason to think it wouldn’t continue to do so.

So what happened to that future? Where did it go? I’m not sure entirely. Some of it disappeared in the oil crises in the last decades of the twentieth century and some went with the financial collapse that followed.

A lot more has gone into the pockets of the owners of capital. The wealth that we were told would trickle down to the masses is trickling up the the wealthy few. In fact it seems to be more of a torrent than a trickle. The forty hour working week, which was protected by legislation is now only a memory belonging to those of us over fifty. Poverty was the result of life-style choices, now twenty percent of school children come from households that are below the poverty line.

I grew up in a very egalitarian society, where professionals and unskilled labourers lived side by side. I played with children whose parents were lawyers, bankers, doctors, teachers, business owners, freezing workers, tradesmen and shop assistants. How many children have that opportunity today? Now we have whole suburbs where families are on or below the poverty line, and at the other end of the spectrum we see walled communities sprouting up where BMWs, Lexuses and Ferraris outnumber children.

Single income families were the norm. It was very unusual for both parents to work. Latchkey children were virtually unheard of. Today we see the rise of the working poor, where both parents hold down more than one job, and are still unable to send their children of to school on an adequate breakfast or with something to eat for lunch.

University was a place of higher learning where students were encouraged to discover for the sake of discovery. Today they are little more than factories churning out industry specific qualifications — something that was once the role of polytechnics. Any research still undertaken is for short term industry specific goals. What has happened to pure research and even long term research greater than two years?

Continuing adult education was available to all, either free or at nominal cost in every community. Everything from home economics to glass blowing to second language learning motor vehicle maintenance, and everything in between was available and we were encouraged to take advantage of them to ensure that we would be able make best of the free time we had then and the even greater free time we expected soon. All now gone because they were “not justifiable as they didn’t improve productivity”. How about being socially justifiable? Apparently social well being now takes second place to national wealth, which is being held by a decreasing percentage of the population.

Was the lifestyle we were heading towards in the mid twentieth century just an aberration on the road to pure capitalism or is it something that is still worth striving for?


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My Father’s Funeral

My father died on the 27th of July 2013. I wasn’t there.

My father’s funeral was held on the 30th of July 2013. I didn’t attend.

II had said my goodbyes to my father two weeks before. He was barely conscious and I doubt that he realised he was dying. If he did, he certainly put up a good fight. The last time I saw him, his breathing stopped often and each time itndid I was certain he had breathed his last. But then miraculously he would start breathingnagain. Even though we knew the end was near, it was also a happy time.

For the first time in many, many years, my father, mother, two brothers, sister and I were together in the same room. It may have been a hospital room but that didn’t matter. We sat around Dad’s bed and between singing old favourite songs to him, we reminisced about growing up under the watchful eye of our parents. Every now and then our father would wake up and be with us for a minute or two before drifting into unconsciousness again.

I spent three days with my father, but inevitably I needed to return home. No one expected him to hang on as long as he did, but in hindsight we should have realised that being the stubborn bugger he was, he wasn’t going to go without a fight. Even though I had said my goodbyes, I was sad that I wasn’t there with him at the end. He was ninety years and one month young.

On the day before the funeral I developed a migraine. By the following morning it was much worse. I was unable to string sentences together, and had difficulty in comprehending what my wife said. I was unable to walk without staggering, one side of my face had a droop, and my right arm had gone on strike. As best as I could I told my wife that I still wanted to attend the funeral even though it was an hour drive to the city where it was to be held.

When my son arrived to pick us up, I not yet dressed into my suit, so I struggled upstairs to change. Buttons are very difficult to do up when one set of fingers refuses to cooperate and the other set obeys reluctantly. Eventually I was dressed and struggled downstairs and waited in the dining room while the others made final preparations for the journey.

I have no idea how long I waited, but eventually I realised the house was very quiet. I went in search of the rest of the family but found no one. I then noticed my son’s  car was not in the driveway. I couldn’t understand why they had left without me.

I tried to phone my sister to tell her that I had been left behind but I wasn’t able to make a coherent sentence, andbhung up in frustration. Almost immediately the phone rang,  it was from my sister’s house. The personnon the other end told me not to worry about not being able to attend the funeral or being a pallbearer. I’m not sure if my insistence that I wanted to attend was understood and eventually the caller terminated the call. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, my wife and son had already arrived at my sister’s place where everyone was congregating before the funeral. Over an hour had passed since I went to change.

Migraines can play havoc  with  one’s executive skills and it  did so that day. I decided that if I was going to attend the funeral, I would have to get there myself. I realise I was in no state to drive, so I  set out on foot. I was about three kilometres into the journey when it dawned on  me that it would take more than nine hours to get there and the funeral would be well and truly over by then. I turned around and headed home.

I don’t remember the walk back home or anything else until late in the day when my wife found me sprawled out on the bed still in my suit. It’s not often I get angry, in fact it’s extremely rare, but apparently I was furious after I was told I was left behind “for my own good”. To add insult to injury, I was informed that my condition was so distressing to observe that it would have upset those attending the funeral.

I didn’t attend my father’s funeral. I wanted to.


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94 and going strong

Today I made a special effort to ignore an looming migraine. My youngest brother picked me up at midday and we drove to Whanganui, about fifty minutes away. There we met two lovely ladies, and the four of us went out to lunch at a popular café situated in a garden centre. Over the next two hours we ate, drank several cups of flat white, reminisced about days from the 1950s through to the present, and even about the future.

Some of us had slow cooked lamb shanks, and others had beef and Guinness pie. Both delightful, filling and warming on a winter’s day. The café was cosy, but very noisy. For a Sunday it was very busy and the noise was just short of torture for an aspie with a migraine. Nevertheless I was very glad to be there.

It was around 3:30 pm when we left the café and returned to the home the two lovely ladies share. There we sat around a wood fire and our conversation ranged from almost forgotten memories to family and friends to politics to philosophy. More coffee – instant, not flat whites – until the sun had disappeared below the horizon. There was a little man inside my skull hitting the back of my left eye with a sledge hammer. The chat was gentle, warm and loving, and at times was able to push the thumping into the background. I’m glad I was there.

Then it was a fifty minute drive back home, through the deepening darkness. If you’ve ever traveled by car with a migraine, you’ll know how unpleasant that can be. My stomach was threatening to return the beef and Guinness back up the route it had taken several hours earlier in the café, but fortunately there was a reflex that just managed to keep the pie down. Finally I was home, much to my relief. But I was glad I made the journey.

It was a very special day for a special event. One that I’ve taken part in many times before. There won’t be many more, but I hope today’s won’t be the last. I recognise that I am very fortunate to have had as many as I have. I am grateful to have been able to be part of this special day belonging to one of the lovely ladies I spent the afternoon with.

Who were the special ladies? One was my sister. The other was an even more special lady who has had a huge influence on my life. She has shared a home with my sister for several years, and she was the reason we traveled to Whanganui.

She is my mother.

It was her birthday today.

She was born on the 29th of June, 1920.

Welcome to the start of your ninety-fifth year Mum.