Thursday, 10 July 2014

Discharge without Conviction

Over the past week or so there has been a lot of debate, well not much debate, more just public outcry about the Maori King's son, Korotangi Paki, getting discharged without conviction.  If you've been living under a rock and don't know what this was about then Google is your friend.

What has disturbed me most is the self righteous indignation and pseudo legal arguments by many people who believe that this avenue was only made available because of some privilege afforded to him as the son of the Maori King.  Let the punishment fit the crime has been the catch cry of the week.  Unfortunately what people don't seem to comprehend is that this is exactly what the judge was doing when ordering a discharge without conviction. 

Let's look at the what seems to have fueled so much debate.  When a judge has to decide on what punishment to impose they look at legislation such as the Crimes Act 1961 and the Sentencing Act 2002.  Within in these Acts are the rules around sentencing and the minimum and/or maximum penalties for each offense.  These penalties have been determined by lawmakers (politicians) and is a guideline for the courts when deciding on a sentence, taking into account things like the age of the offender, remorse, if and when they plead guilty etc (s9 Sentencing Act 2002 outlines the possible aggravating and mitigating factors).  

Lawmakers understand that there are times when people are just stupid and do stupid things, or sometimes find themselves in unfortunate situations.  They realise that the act of receiving a conviction, even if the penalty is simply a fine, would unduly place a burden on the offenders that is disproportionate to the original offense.  For lots of people a conviction would ruin careers or negatively impact future opportunities, and in the case of Korotangi Paki, it would have affected his eligibility for succession. 

Section 106 of the Sentencing Act 2002 states:

s106 Discharge without conviction
  • (1) If a person who is charged with an offence is found guilty or pleads guilty, the court may discharge the offender without conviction, unless by any enactment applicable to the offence the court is required to impose a minimum sentence.
    (2) A discharge under this section is deemed to be an acquittal.
    (3) A court discharging an offender under this section may—
    • (a) make an order for payment of costs or the restitution of any property; or
    • (b) make any order for the payment of any sum that the court thinks fair and reasonable to compensate any person who, through, or by means of, the offence, has suffered—
      • (i) loss of, or damage to, property; or
      • (ii) emotional harm; or
      • (iii) loss or damage consequential on any emotional or physical harm or loss of, or damage to, property:
    • (c) make any order that the court is required to make on conviction.

This means that if there is no minimum sentence that must be imposed for the crime, then the court can discharge without conviction.  Section 107 specifies that it must be because a conviction would make the punishment outweigh the crime.  

s107 Guidance for discharge without conviction
  • The court must not discharge an offender without conviction unless the court is satisfied that the direct and indirect consequences of a conviction would be out of all proportion to the gravity of the offence.

You may have heard of Diversion - which essentially has the same result and is at the discretion of the police - it doesn't even get to the courts.  

Both Diversion and Discharge without Conviction are life savers for many young adults who don't know better and older ones who should.  You may not even realise that there are people you know who have been given diversion or a discharge earlier in their life.  People you wouldn't consider hardened criminals, who made a mistake, and instead of having that conviction hanging over them for their lives, have been given a second chance.  

One Law for All 

Let's go back to Korotangi Paki.  People believe he was given the discharge because he was the Maori King's son.  Yes and no.  There was no special privilege afforded to him because he is the King's son.  It was because by being convicted he would not be able to become King someday.  There is a difference.  If Paki was his second son (with no right of succession) or if there was no restriction to succession based on his criminal record, then the argument, of the punishment being unduly severe, would not be supported.    

Let's look at this from another point of view.  I've read so many arguments and had discussions with people based on the fact that there is some special privilege for Paki because of his father.  What they fail to realise and even when they're told specifically, is that this isn't a privilege set aside for a select few.  It's available to all of us, based on the circumstances of our crime and lives.  If you commit a minor crime, because you're a dumb ass, that carries no minimum penalty, and can show that to be convicted of such you would experience undue hardship - perhaps be disbarred, be deregistered as a teacher, be kicked out of school or uni, who knows, and that this hardship is disproportionate to the crime you committed and the penalty imposed for that crime, then you too can try for a discharge without conviction.  You don't have to be the son, or daughter, of anyone special.  

Let the punishment fit the crime.  

Should he have been punished?  Yes, I believe so.  He did commit a crime and in s106 there is a provision to make an order for payment of costs, restitution of property or compensation to the victims.  Without knowing the specifics of the case, because that was not the focus of any of the 'news' articles, I don't know if there was any order made for this.  But lets look at the case.  He drove while under the influence, and while out drunk with a few mates, as stupid dumb asses do, flogged a couple of surfboards and some clothes.  No harm to person or property was reported.  While I think he should have been punished, and fair and reasonable compensation should have been ordered, stripping him of the ability to become king is too severe for the nature of his crime.  A discharge without conviction, is fair and justified, in my opinion.

What really pisses me off about this saga is that in the time since the furor over Paki's discharge, the front page of Stuff has had two articles where people have been given a discharge without conviction for assault, where neither were reported to be the son of the Maori King or anyone else of significant media worthy note.  I've tried to create discussion about them on various websites, and Facebook pages, and the only ones who dare reply have been friends who understand the law aka lawyers, and someone who genuinely didn't know that discharge without conviction was a valid thing so didn't know that it wasn't just something for the privileged few.  

But he's a role model - if he does this he shouldn't be king. 

Do people really think that he was a role model?  A role model is someone we point out to our children as being someone to look up to.  Before this happened could anyone honestly, and I mean honestly, say that they knew who Paki was, or had put him in a place where their children were to emulate him?  If you're like me, and 99% of NZ I'm willing to bet, you had no idea who the Maori King's son was let alone thought of telling your kids to follow his example.  This is just an excuse to pile more crap on the kid.

Racism in NZ 

I wasn't going to mention this but I can't ignore the fact that under the thinly veiled guise of one law for all, there has been a rather racist reaction to this case.  I'm not talking about people who genuinely had no idea that discharge was available to all.   However even when the discharge is explained there is still a large number of people who are using this to make race based comments (there's a Facebook group I know of - not the only one I suspect - that is quite blatant with this) and that really angers and saddens me.  I thought we were better than that as a nation.  Unfortunately, every now and then I'm proven wrong.  

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

An Open Letter

I know I often write about shitstorms and meltdowns that have occurred on the internet. I know that for some people this appears to be feeding trolls, passive aggressive whining or a sign of how messed up our society is these days. I find it indicative of how our society is changing.

This blog is to and about a young man of my acquaintance. He is a real person.

I first met you online several years ago. You made some sensible reasonable contributions to discussions in NZ Pagan Community forums. Then you vanished for a while. Then you came back, but different.

I thought you were an utter tosser. You would enter into a discussion with a rant that had little to nothing relevant to the discussion. The most memorable being a post about recognising logical fallacies in discussions, debates and arguments. You were the first comment, ranting about how logic had no place in religion. I read your comment several times to see if there was something I had missed. Had someone else commented to put those two together and then deleted it? It couldn’t have been someone who had me blocked because they wouldn’t have been able to see the post in the first place. Here you were spouting off that they didn’t belong together, but there was no one putting them together except for you in your comment about why that was wrong. Perhaps you were demonstrating what a circular argument looked like?

I shrugged and went to bed. I’d try to make sense of that tomorrow.

When I looked at it again the next day, it hadn’t improved. You’d gone on about Philosophy and stuff like that. I saw one person had made the valiant effort to try to understand where you were coming from. He was asking you where your viewpoint came from and how you came to that conclusion. You were insulting and condescending. You said things like “Imma break it down and use real small words so you get this, m’kay?” Did you not realise that this terribly patient person was currently in the midst of his PhD in Philosophy? Did you make yourself clear? Oh I think so. That discussion seemed to end when you complained that you didn’t care, you were drunk and had better things to do like saving lives and shit.

Ah. You were drunk. That makes everything okay doesn’t it?

I recalled your posts filling my feed one night about how you were drunk and someone needed to come and bring you pizza. It reached the stage where you were demanding that at least one of those insensitive bastards you called friends owed it to you. When someone pointed out that pizza companies deliver and you could order one yourself, you insulted everything that was important to her and her most special achievements.

All of a sudden, and possibly because I was looking for it, everywhere I saw your name pop up, I saw your abusive behaviour. I saw an overweening arrogance. I saw you act as though being a Mall Cop was something pretty fucking special and how the Police were so grateful for your intervention. I saw you repeatedly tell people what your IQ was as if that made you something even more special. I saw you insult and demean a lot of wonderful people that really didn’t deserve to be treated that way.

I met you in person at an event. Firstly, I was surprised at how tiny you were. All your posts had made you out to be at least average size in a guy and closer to big for a guy. I was expecting someone at least 5’10” and built like the proverbial brick shithouse. Not this skinny weedy little fellow. But I thought that explained a few things. A bit of small man syndrome, bantam rooster stuff.

About six months later, you were outed to me. It was quite by accident. This mutual acquaintance didn’t know you were active in the Pagan Community. He knew you through the transgender groups that you’re active in. He said, “hang on, do you mean X? Transgender X?” Ah, suddenly so much about you made sense. Your irrational ranty aggressive behaviour could be fueled by all the testosterone you’re having to take in your transition. Even the questionable profile pic that was a close up of your barely covered genitals now made sense - even though I still found it distasteful and unnecessary.

I saw you again at the same event the next year. This time, I had two young women with me. Both vulnerable and dealing with some pretty nasty stuff of their own. That either of them had chosen to come at all and spend a weekend with a bunch of mostly strangers was pretty huge for them.

You got drunk. We had a chat and decided to see if we could mend fences and at least try for some sort of understanding. You mentioned your big “thing” and I told you that I hadn’t known about your big “thing” until a few months earlier. You were surprised, you thought everyone knew. It’s not a secret in this ‘family’ you told me. You went on to tell me all about how hard it was for you because you’d really like to have a girlfriend and things go so far and then they find out about FRANKENSTEIN you yelled while pointing at your crotch.

It didn’t get better. You were loud, you were drunk and obnoxious for most of the weekend. You didn’t seem to participate in anything other than the drinking and some sort of competition to be the most strident voice in any conversation. You were behaving like a complete arsehole.  You went on to near strangers attending their first one of these events about all your problems with your parents.  They learned nearly all of your issues while waiting in line for something.

At different times, both of the young women that had come with me came up to me freaking out over your behaviour. You’d been too in their space, you’d yelled things about freaks and frankensteins and how you didn’t want to be M any more so often that they were becoming really frightened by you. Both would most likely have pulled pins and gone home, if it had been something they’d had more control over.

“What the fuck is the deal with that creep?”

So I told them your big secret that wasn’t a secret in this group. It allowed them both to understand you. It was the only thing that allowed you to form friendships with either of them. Actually, knowing your secret that wasn’t a secret was the only reason I was open to forming a connection or friendship with you again. I know it’s not an easy place to be in, and perhaps with some more support you’d tone down the idiocy.

You sent me a message on Friday night telling me off for outing you. I asked where this had come from and you told me it was one of these young women. I apologised. You accepted my apology and complained about how you’d finally worked up the courage to tell her and found out that she already knew and that stole your thunder. I’d told you that I’d also told the young woman closer to me. She tells me that she hadn’t let you know that she already knew, but you then blew her up for not telling you this. I thought about the situation and felt that total honesty was required. I told you that in the case of these women, I would do it again in the same situation. Even with your “If you do this again then we can’t be friends” decree.  Normally, I wouldn't have outed you, but you needed to take responsibility for your own actions, understand why I'd broken this "rule" and perhaps be able to prevent it from happening again.

I had a responsibility to keep them feeling safe and you were threatening that. Your right to privacy stopped when it threatened their safety. Safety is not just purely physical circumstances. You can call this excuses all you like, you can pass it off as I have a sad, miserable life (you clearly have no clues at all about me) but nothing you rant at me, or anyone else who is sitting in self-appointed judgment of me will change this. If there is something I know that can make a difference to the situation these two were in, not sharing it for the sake of the privacy of a clown who has just told me that it’s not a secret and has yelled it to an entire campground, well that would be negligent.  And given that you'd yet to ask who told me showed another inconsistency in your problem.

You can tell me it’s about self-preservation. Right back at you. This was about their preservation. Yours was of lesser importance to me. And your hypocrisies and inconsistencies in this make it even odder. You’re supposed to be smart aren’t you? A 140 IQ should realise that you’ve dug yourself a hole and stop before it’s too deep to get out of.

Then I learned about the way you’d been behaving to these women. I’d been somewhat concerned about the tone of your conversations with one of these women since then. You were constantly chatting with her, presenting this persona of over the top masculinity and she was still trying to be understanding with you. She has other transgender friends and has a pretty good understanding (well almost as good as it gets from the outside) of what it’s like for you.

I didn’t know that the persona you were projecting onto the other young woman was the opposite. You’d chosen a part that was somewhat pathetic. She tried to justify your most recent behaviour to me as “the poor thing, he tries to hard to measure up to the macho male thing and just can’t feel comfortable with it. He doesn’t have much contact with anyone else in the LGBTQ+ communities.”

It was at that point I told her where your outing to me had come from. Not much contact with these communities? Really?

You see, we’ve all heard the stories about the way you behaved regarding your two ex-girlfriends in the community and the stories you’d told one of my girls about one ex didn’t match the person we knew. We were not there, we weren’t going to try to make sense of any of it or take sides. But the two different personalities you were presenting to the girls suddenly looked sinister. They’re both smart girls, smarter than you (in case you hadn’t figured that out) and while they were both vulnerable, neither would have fallen for it for long. One in fact realised just how insidious and mind-gamey your interactions with her had been.

That you spent a day and a night trying to turn my own flesh and blood against me, while she was visiting and sitting in my lounge with me shows a remarkable level of stupidity.  You can talk smack and try to use your own twisted brand of logic with her, but as I said, she's smarter than you and that didn't work so well did it?

Now you’re doing a big poor me bleat about how you’ll only ever be known for that label. You talk about all the questions you get when people realise and then they switch off. Did you get a single one of those questions from me or my girls? Did we treat it as anything other than a part of who you are, like your hair colour?

Do you honestly think that we’ll remember you for that transgender label?

Nope. Not even close.

If you don’t grow up and try to be a better human, you’ll just be known for one of a number of different labels. Or possibly all of them.

Arsehole. Manipulative bully. Perpetual victim. Abusive loser.

None of those have anything to do with what’s in your pants. Stop using that as an excuse to keep justifying and reinforcing those labels.  Try to be a decent human being first and the rest should follow.


I've had a long and wonderful conversation recently with one of the folks who outed you to me.  He pointed out that one of my most outspoken critics in this publicly outed you some time ago without your knowledge or consent.

She had a big thing on her facebook about how cruel it was of our government to not allow you a passport that reflected your transgender identity.  Your comments expressed your surprise that she had posted on your behalf and your gratitude that she was going in to bat for you.  Nowhere was there any kind of issue about being outed without your consent.

I guess it's okay when it's political and can be used to whine about our government.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Researching, Writing and Learning

I am in the process of writing my second book.  I have written some chapters and I have outlined others.  I have found some sections extremely easy to write about and others I have struggled with.  There are parts that were touched on in my previous book and I don’t want to just have a reprint of those parts with perhaps the odd changed word or phrase, but I’m not sure how to restructure it without losing anything.  I have spent a lot of time up to the eyebrows in other people’s books.  Doing research, looking for validations for my opinions - something to back up a point I’m making or a slightly different way of looking at it that will enable me to make it clearer.  Even refutations of my opinions are welcomed.

It has been quite a learning process.  In my head, when I started to write this book, I knew all I needed to know.  I was sharing the wisdom I’ve accumulated over the years with those who have less experience.  I was arrogantly assuming that there was little to nothing of substance left for me to learn in this field.

I pored over several books and ancient texts.  I found what I wanted to find, I had a couple of small surprises and I didn’t find what I hadn’t really expected to find.  I remember my excitement (and smug self-satisfaction) when one scholarly work verified and validated a conclusion I’d drawn on my own.

Lately though, reading through the last couple of books and concepts I’ve come to a realisation.  That through this research and writing process I am actually learning more.  There are concepts that I’ve had a faint grasp on, a shallow intellectual understanding of that I now get at a far deeper level.  I’ve had my “aha!” moments, I have found my somethings to back up a point I’m making in a different way and different ways of looking at things that will enable me to make it clearer.  I just didn’t expect that the way they made these things clearer was for me to understand them better.  For the deeper meanings to sink in and make my surface knowledge something deeper and truer.

There are components of ritual that our group always did.  We always did them because our High Priestess had always done them in her previous group.  They were never explained to us with whys or deeper meanings and to be honest, I’m sure that if she’d known them they would have been explained as often and clearly as possible.  I could explain why we did them.  I could give you a perfectly reasonable understanding of the function and necessity of these things.  But it has been while reading the book I’m currently in the midst of that a better understanding of some of these components has occurred for me.  It’s also fascinating for me that even with my imperfect understanding, I still had made the choices to include or not these actions in various rituals I’ve led correct.

I saw a quote recently.  It says:

We Learn…

10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
70% of what we discuss
80% of what we experience
95% of what we teach to others

- William Glasser

In writing a book, I’m teaching to others.  I’m learning more about these concepts that that I thought I understood.  I’m understanding them better by finding my own words to explain each concept.  In some ways, I feel almost as though I’m writing this book for me, not for anyone else.



Monday, 30 June 2014


Negativity is Bad

Oh no.  We don’t want or can’t have your negativity here.  It’s bringing us all down.  It’s something to be ashamed of donchaknow.

Memes and quotes and exercises abound, filling your awareness constantly with their messages about removing negativity from your life, surroundings and consciousness.  Lightworkers and Spiritual Coaches lecture you on focusing purely on the positives and letting go of all that is negative.

Cancer is negative.  I let go of all cancer.  I no longer acknowledge it’s existence or it’s power to harm those I love.  Cancer has no power over me.

Do you think that worked?  Can I now think positive and choose to never have another Cervical smear or mammogram because that would be inviting negativity back in?


It’s a word that you’ll hear a lot in Pagan circles.  What does it mean?

There seems to be a number of ways it gets used:

  • Anything perceived as bad or evil
  • Anything that makes you feel challenged or uncomfortable
  • Any time someone disagrees with you
  • Anything that takes away from your self-esteem (deserved or not)
  • A buzzkill
  • An expectation or projection of judgment or criticism (again deserved or not)
  • Worrying or concern

Negativity has become a cliched catch-phrase that is supposed to make you feel bad for displaying anything other than bouncy nauseating optimism and positivity.  Even neutral things now come under the heading of negativity.

Most recently I was called negative for giving my reasons for disliking and not recommending the works of a certain author.  Apparently it is bad of me to think that advising a teenager to be dishonest with their parents is wrong.  I questioned a blanket statement “witchcraft teaches us that we can’t do magic for personal gain”.  Questioning this person and asking him to back his assertions allegedly qualifies as negative banter.

I find this most fascinating in magical circles.  Especially those circles where the way magic works is described using electricity as an analogy. Magic is just like electricity apparently.

I also inform all clients that magic is like electricity.  It is energy that feeds off other other energy (the intent of the Enchantment & how well you follow my instructions on following through with prayers and/or meditations after the Enchantment is completed). 

In some ways, magic is like electricity. It can flow from one source to another.

Magic is like electricity; if you do not give electricity a specific way in which to travel it will fit [sic] the quickest route to ground itself, which usually ends up with someone being frazzled.

Magic is like electricity, it will choose the method which is both direct and energy efficient. Therefore a bolt of lightening would be quite energy inefficient, when a spell is cast. It would be more likely that it would be an energy packet (quantum energy) which would interact with the environment on a quantum level, hence no balls of fire.

Magic is like electricity--it has a purpose but can't do everything.

Psionics use the inner strength of a person to operate and like any other physical exercise can and will tire a person out. Magic, however, does not draw on a person's essence to operate. Magic is like electricity, it is power and people are the shapers and users of such energy.

Never mind all the ones that go into dark or light purposes…  Well, sticking with the electricity analogy.

I’m sure that at some stage in school we’ve all done that little exercise where you make a small circuit with a battery, some wire and a light bulb.  Now picture that battery in your mind.  Do you remember how it has two terminals on it?  Two opposing poles?  How are they labelled?  Yeah, positive and negative.  What happens if you only attach the positive terminal to your circuit and not the negative?

In magic, there is no difference.  Your lightbulb won’t glow if the source isn’t balanced, that is if the connection to both poles isn't present.

I think some of this phenomenon has come from a misunderstanding.

Positivity and Negativity

Affirmations leap to mind for me as my next and best example.  Affirmations allow us to change our reality, to improve ourselves and the world around us.

Affirmations must always be positive.

Now this doesn't mean that they must be filled with childlike optimism and naive choices to ignore reality.  It means that you can't use negative words in your affirmation.  Not bad words, negative words - "not", "don't" and so forth.  The reason for this is that your brain doesn't really hear them - it filters out many of the filler words.  If you were to make "I will not get sick" as your affirmation, your brain will hear "will get sick" and filter out the rest.  This is why your phrasing must be positive - "I will be healthy and well".

When you're phrasing a magical intent, the same rules apply.  "Only happy thoughts shall enter" is better than "sadness is not allowed".  You can have things that are thought of as negative "I will take my vengeance" (yes, it's melodramatic but it's fun) and it's still a positive phrasing of intent.

The negative is seen as the bad things.  The things we don't like about ourselves.  Some traditions refer to these things as Shadows rather than negatives.  Your Shadow side is still a part of you.  Denying it's existence or pretending that it's not there or that you can be rid of it is as silly as trying to cut off your actual shadow on a sunny day.  Are you Peter Pan?

If you are frightened of or threatened by your shadow side, then it has power over you.  It becomes a driving force and isn't that the opposite of what you're trying to do? 

I've done readings for people who've been freaking out over something they perceive as negative or bad.  I recall one lady whose husband had died about six months earlier.  She had been told it was time for her to be moving on with her life and letting it go.  I told her it was okay for her to be mad at him, it was okay for her to be still mourning him.  It didn't make her bad, it made her human.  It had been eating her up so much that she was so grateful for that one sentence.  She'd almost been making herself ill with the idea that it was negative, bad or wrong for her to be still sad, mad and caught up in her husband of forty years. 

Turning Wheels

Why is it that we can accept that night follows day and will pass at sunrise tomorrow.  We can accept that Spring and Summer follow Winter.  The darkness and the light follow each other in these cycles and it's natural.  We accept that these darknesses are essential and temporary, but when we face our own darknesses it is something wrong, it is to be feared, treated and medicated?

I know I can't change the world.  I know I can't beat everyone around until they grasp this concept.  I can only try to reach those who are willing to listen.



Monday, 23 June 2014

Winter Solstice Musings

Saturday was the Winter Solstice.  I had planned my usual solstice party.  I'd even chosen to open it up and put it out there in a couple of local internet pagan groups.  Especially as one of those groups contained a couple of people living not too far away, who had complained about being unable to find anything in their area.

I had several maybes.  I had several "Oh yes, we'll definitely be there".  I had a few nos, but thanks for asking.

I planned and wrote a ritual.  It was quite a deep and transformative ritual while being terribly simple.  One of those things that sinks in later, days or weeks later.  It was about recognising that darkness happens and light follows in endless cycles.  We know and accept this in our night and day.  We know and accept this in our yearly seasons.  But we don't seem to know or accept this in ourselves.  The dark times are something wrong that needs treating.  Or sometimes it just needs a little of someone else's light to remind us that the light is still there.  The ritual also contained being able to say something nice about yourself.  Something positive, something you are proud of.  Without any embarrassment, without comparisons (well, you should have seen me last year or you should see my sisters), without any projections (she just said she was smart, thinks she's smarter than us) and without any justifications.  To just be able to stand forward and say "I am smart, I am funny, I am strong" whatever it was that you are and to have that be supported by everyone else.  It was a phenomenal ritual.

It's just a shame that we never did it.

I've spent the last couple of years struggling with ritual.  Doing battle with ritual.  Ritual has almost grown into a larger than life nemesis for me.  No, I take that back, I can do ritual fine when it's someone else's ritual.  I can take a role and do that fine.  I can judge their rituals in the armchair comfort of my own head and pull apart what I would have done differently (and therefore better of course) and what worked for me.  What I am doing battle with is leading ritual for others.

I thought that by telling enough people that I was planning one, I'd be able to force myself into actually taking that step and doing it.

Now I have all sorts of justifications and reasons rolling around in my head as to why I didn't do it.

  • A lot of those 'maybes' and 'definitely be theres' bailed out and weren't there.
  • I really didn't feel this ritual would be right or well received or taken seriously with the people who were present.
  • I was disorganised and didn't give a clear start time so by the time I was ready for ritual, many others were drunk, going to sleep or heading home.
  • I should have planned to do the ritual first and dinner stuff after.
  • Sabbat celebrations are more about the gathering of people for me.
  • I'd woken up that morning with a dreadful migraine and been taking medication all day to keep it at bay so I just felt tired and sore and brain full of fuzz.

All of this is true and none of it is - all at the same time. 

I did still love the gathering.  I loved the mix of people and feel glad that some new people came along, as well as some people from many years ago.  I enjoy the pot luck dinner.  I enjoy sitting outside around our bonfire on the longest darkest night of the year.  Having one side toasty warm and the other feeling the cold.  I love that we get a different mix of people every year but don't seem to have any dramas with them.

I also love the next morning.  Sitting in the cold weak winter sunshine in my pyjamas with a cup of coffee and a great group of friends.

I am both grateful and a bit pissy that no one mentioned the lack of ritual. 



Friday, 13 June 2014


“Do you have a moment to talk about Amnesty International?” A very polite and somewhat attractive young man addressed me outside my supermarket.  His little table was covered in pictures of Malala with a single tattered laminated leaflet on top.

That day, I really didn’t.  I had a very small window of time to get my grocery shopping done before I had a series of appointments and commitments.  I said as much and offered a simple cash donation.  “We’re not taking donations today, we’re just taking registrations” he told me.  I was a bit baffled, so I asked for clarification.  He went into his spiel telling me about how they have a direct debit system and their minimum fee was $6 per week - the equivalent of only blah di blah.

Sorry lad, sorry Amnesty International, you lost me at the words “minimum fee”.

It’s not new though.  Over 20 years ago when I was a poor, struggling beneficiary, a collector for Greenpeace knocked on the door to my flat asking for donations.  At the time, my total income was $97 per week.  Out of that came my share of the rent, the phone and power, and the groceries.  I was still happy to give this young man some of my change - maybe $3 or $4.  “Oh no,” said this man, “Our minimum donation is $20”.  He left with nothing and I’ve never made another donation to Greenpeace.

I was a bit angered when Campbell Live did a piece on St Johns Ambulance.  John Campbell explained about how they survive purely on donations.  I looked from the tv to the tax invoice and threats of debt collection that I had from St John’s for the third ambulance call out I had last year.  I’d already paid for the first two ambulances at $84 each, but I was struggling with the third.  They were life-saving call outs too - not something minor or time wasters.  I don’t begrudge them the money, they save lives and do a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances.  But this was quite a misrepresentation.  How is payment for services surviving on donations?

Now I accept that some of this may be that I have some Oppositional Defiant issues - my husband certainly complains that I don’t do what I’m told - but I’m sure I’m not the only one who tends to object to this.  A donation to a charity is supposed to be a voluntary offering of what I am able to spare, isn’t it?

At what point does a charity become a business?  I was sure it has something to do with profit and non-profit.  But as I have a business that has yet to make a profit and profits are not our focus, doesn’t that blur that line already?  Benefiting the wider community? There are other non-profit organisations that benefit the wider community (TimeBanking is an immediate example for me) that don’t count as charities.  Giving goods or services away to those in need with no expectation of return was a suggestion from my husband.  Surely the $252 in total I was invoiced by St John’s ambulance made that argument invalid.  I’m also aware of a religious group in New Zealand, a group of maybe 5 people at the most that have registered as a charity and are constantly asking for donations, but I have yet to see what they are doing for the community around them to qualify as a charity.  In case you’re wondering, they’ve been registered for at least 5 years.

I’m saddened by all of this.  I think all these charities do some wonderful work.  However, whatever small amount I have to spare I will share where I please, when I please.  And it will be a donation, not a weekly fee.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Giving up Smoking

I’d decided that I was giving up smoking on Friday last week.  It worked out that the last cigarette of my packet was smoked Friday morning with my first cuppa as I woke up for the day.

File:Cigarette smoke.jpg
By Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin from Chalakudy, India (cigarette.. like a cigarette in the rain) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I started smoking when I was 13 or 14.  I gave up for four years around my late 20s and early 30s, then my marriage broke up.  I started to spend time with a great group of women - we’d have a few drinks every Thursday night and most of them smoked.  They did keep telling me not to buy my own smokes, just to smoke theirs while we were drinking.  By the second night, I was really uncomfortable with this.  I remember buying my first packet.  I sat and stared at the small, white, cellophane wrapped, unopened box for about 15 minutes wondering what I’d done.  It was one thing to have the odd smoke and another to buy 20 of them in one go.  It was a huge turning point and I didn’t really know how I felt about it.  This small inoffensive seeming handful was so heavy and symbolic of so many other things.

When I wrote my book, I made a bargain with my Gods that included me giving up smoking.  It was to be my sacrifice.  Then I couldn’t make myself do it.  I was afraid, I made excuses and I had my world ripped apart around me.  Several times I’ve had friends comment that they don’t know how I stayed sane coping with some of the events of the last year.  Several times, I made the decision to give up.  This was to be my last cigarette.  Then my son attempted suicide.  Yeah, I bought smokes on my way into the hospital following the ambulance.  That was never going to last in those circumstances.

Twice I managed to go 8 days with no problems.  I didn’t tell anyone until I’d gotten to a week.  I didn’t want to hear everyone’s advice, expectations or even how proud of me they are.  I’m sure they all mean well, but I find it… actually, I don’t know how I find it, I just know I don’t like it much and it annoys me for some reason.  It annoys me just as much when people are being understanding about how I tripped up with it now and then - I would react (inside) in just the same way as I did when I was being judged for being weak. With those two bouts of 8 days, I had stresses, I had situations where someone hurt me very badly and I wanted to hurt him physically as if that would fix it.  I heard the lies that person told to try and gain sympathy from others and justify what they’d done.  So many times, I didn’t want a whole cigarette, I just wanted a puff.  If I happened to get a puff I was all good and didn’t want a smoke anymore.  But that wasn’t always possible.  I bought a small packet and hid it.  I could get a puff now and then when I needed it, but could still pretend I wasn’t smoking.

The problem with having a pack is that the pack is like a commitment.  There are 20 or 25 or 30 smokes there that need consuming.  They call out to you, you are always aware that this little packet is there and maybe, once you’ve finished them all and you’re free of this little pack, you’ll be okay to start over.  To be smokefree.

The odd thing was there was not a physical need for a smoke.  It was all the crap in my head.  I would catch myself justifying buying a pack of 20s to myself and even trying to plan how I’d hide it.  No, I would tell myself firmly, I don’t do that anymore.  But I’d still find I was scheming, it would be quieter this time, almost so that I couldn’t hear myself doing it.  It’s okay, with what you’ve been through lately, no one would blame you, I’d hear inside my head.

I listened to other people talking about their final triggers to give up.  One guy said he suddenly realised that he doesn’t enjoy smoking, it costs him money he can’t afford and that was his thing.  He looked at his pack and said “Fuck you, get out of my life.” And that was that for him.   Another friend was having a throat cancer scare.  Someone else had just realised a gym membership cost the same each week and made the decision to do that instead.

For me, it was the promised sacrifice but also the money.  My car needs about $500 spent on it for a wof and that’s $500 we don’t currently have to spare.  I’ve been trying to compare smoking to eating chocolate.  Yes there are times that I crave chocolate, but if I have none in the house, I’m hardly going to drive 10kms (my nearest shop) to get a chocolate bar.  So Friday morning it was to be.

I was to have a fairly busy morning which I thought would be a good thing.  There was a woman coming to pick up a bull I had borrowed and once he was off and away, I had two appointments to make.  Keeping busy should keep me sufficiently occupied to cope with not smoking, or so I thought.

Without going into too many details, it was a catastrophe.  Almost everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong - up to and including the bull being in very real danger of dying - he jumped halfway over the bar across the front of the float and got himself stuck with a lot of pressure on his heart.

Once all had been sorted and he’d made his way to his next port of call, I was physically, mentally and emotionally wrung out.  I wanted a drink and it was only 10am!  I bought a packet of smokes and gave myself until Monday.  In my head, I was telling myself off for making excuses and giving in too easily, but also telling myself it was better than hitting the vodka on a Friday morning.

Monday, again, I had one cigarette left and that was gone by 6:45am.

I spent half the day kinda wandering around feeling like I’d forgotten or was missing something.  I was fidgety, like I had an itch that would be impolite to scratch in company.  It dominated my thoughts for most of the day.

For the most part, I thought it went okay.

But I was amazed though at how everyone else suddenly became a perfect angel.  Their behaviour was totally beyond reproach.  I was obviously just cranky because I was giving up smoking.  It was all my bad attitude that was the problem.

I saw this type of thing when I was pregnant and again when my first marriage broke up.  I couldn’t possibly be telling someone off because they’d deserved it - it had to be hormones and stress on my part.  Roll your eyes and pity that woman who is clearly not coping.

I stopped speaking in the end.  My dearest darling hubby had bitched and moaned and picked holes in everything I said.  I couldn’t say anything right, I was snarled at and spoken down to - but you see, it was all me, I’m just grumpy because I’m giving up smoking.  That sounds so much worse than it really was.  He was in a mood and was cranky, but he didn’t pick on me all night.

Tuesday.  Second day.  I thought my first one of the morning would be the hardest one to miss.  I think it was more the one when I get back from the school run.

Today I ate.  I snacked, I picked, I “tasted” dinner while I was cooking it so much that I was so full I actually felt sick before I’d even sat down to eat my dinner.  I wasn’t actually hungry, I wanted to taste something.  I still ate my dinner.

I needed to empty the ashtrays today.  I was starting to eye up some of the bigger butts.  They were looking good even though they suddenly smell really strong and really foul.

In other words, I’ve noticed a huge difference to my sense of smell, already.

Wednesday.  Third day.  I didn’t sleep very well last night.  I’m coughing more than I did when I was still smoking (can I say that yet?  It’s been three days), but I’m still feeling overfull and somewhat sick from eating far far too much yesterday and last night.  I think I’ll be drinking a lot of water today and not consuming much else.

I know that the biggest thing, well, one of the biggest things for me is habit.  I noticed yesterday though, I felt as though I’d been busy for half the morning.  I’d gotten plenty done, it must have been around 11am, I thought.  Then I heard the letterbox bang shut and the postie drive away.  I checked the time, it was quarter past nine.  I’d gotten all of this done in an hour or less?  Right, time for a break and a … snack.  It’s partially the habit and partially a reward I’d give myself for getting some stuff done.  It’s something to do with my hands when I’m on the phone.  It used to be my little piece of time out.  When you have an Aspie/ASD child, having the space to take even 5 mins for yourself some days is a rarity.  The toilet/bathroom doesn’t always work, I’ve been followed into that several times. It got worse once he hit his mid-teens and started smoking.  I didn’t have that escape, he’d come with me for a smoke.

There is also a lot of fear.  Fear of gaining a lot of weight when I already have cholesterol issues.  Look at the way I ate yesterday, that was only my second day!  Fear of getting sick.  See, I’ve done this a few times now.  I know that getting rather ill a short time after giving up smoking is completely normal.  Smoking kills off some of your immune system, but at the same time, it replaces it and works in the same way.  When I gave up for that four years, I sniffed and snuffled as though I had hayfever for two full years.  I had a constant slightly runny nose that whole time. 

There’s another fear, but it’s tied to stop-smoking medication.  My parents used one very highly recommended form after Dad had a heart attack.  It worked very well, my mother used to be bad for keeping a hidden pack, or coming to visit and having one of mine.  This time there was none of that - much to Dad’s surprise.  Unfortunately, since taking this medication, Mum’s short term memory has become somewhat patchy and unreliable.  It may not be connected, it may just be a fluke of timing.  I heard a suggestion that there was a rare link between this medication and messing up memory, but I haven’t heard it formally and don’t do the chinese whisper thing (which is why I’m also not naming the meds).  But what if?  I’m going to do this on my own because it’s a sacrifice, it’s supposed to be hard - that’s part of the point.  I’m afraid of the medication in case I’m suddenly the person who asks the same question 5 times in a half hour phone call, in case I’m suddenly forgetting birthdays and getting confused about plans for later on this afternoon.  I don’t want to be the person that others are suggesting should be in a home when I’m clearly far too young for that and quite frankly, still functioning fine in everything else.

There are a lot of jobs that need doing.  Many of them are away from the house down in the paddocks.  I think that might be where I spend a large portion of today.  I have fences to secure to stop the sheep from going under and through and into paddocks where I don’t want them to be.  I have trees to plant, trees to prune and trees to move.  I have rocks to shift, a garden that needs work, cattle that need separating for the homekill this weekend.  I also have another book to work on, research to complete, sources to find, taxes to do, a calendar to finish, half-written blog posts to tidy and post (more than one blog).  I have plenty to keep me occupied.

Wish me luck!