My two-week summer holiday was spent in Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa. And although the languid days inched past at the time, it all seems a bit of a blur now. I recall sun, rain, wind, coastlines, sheep, eels, farm tours, shortbread, being well fed, reading novels and feeling sorry for anyone who was camping when the storms arrived. Yet this break was more than the sum of its parts. As ever, my mind was alive to the pressing issues of the season. Here are five concerns that had me pondering.
ONE: Are goals better than resolutions?
Every time I sit down to make some New Year's resolutions, I realise I don't really know the difference between a resolution and a goal. By the time I work out that particular problem, the urge to make any positive changes has evaporated. For the record, a goal relates to a specific achievement - for example, wanting to lose a certain amount of weight - while a resolution is likely to take the form of a permanent lifestyle change - such as eating healthily. Goals and resolutions, then, can be closely linked but they are not the same thing.
I reckon resolutions can set you up for failure. One bad day can potentially make you give up on all your good intentions for the year. The timing isn't right either. Trying to lose weight or cut down on drinking while enjoying the festive season would be a pretty big ask for many people. Surely it would be better to introduce lifestyle changes once we're back into our regular routines. I think I also resent the Goody Two-Shoes undertones of most resolutions. I'm more likely to want to strive towards a positive goal than be made to feel restricted by a dreary resolution.
TWO: How do you know you're a real Kiwi?
There's a surefire way of knowing whether or not you're bona fide Kiwi. Let's say you're reading a novel and somewhere down the page you spy a capital letter "N" followed in quick succession by a capital letter "Z". Your stomach flips. You take a sharp breath. Could it be that our little country is Being Mentioned in a Book? That is too exciting. Of course, it's a major letdown when you realise that one of the characters is called, say, Naomi Zimmerman. In which case, you resume reading - just a little embarrassed about the false alarm.
Poet Bill Manhire addressed this very phenomenon:
"Words which begin / with Z alarm the heart: / the eye cuts down at once / then drifts across the page / to other disappointments".
This summer I most definitely was not disappointed by John Grisham's latest novel Rogue Lawyer; "New Zealand" was indeed mentioned on page 238. What an adrenalin rush! I'm still buzzing. We are punching above our weight. Again! Go us!
THREE: Are emojis overused?
I may not do Instagram but I used to pepper text messages with emojis. My most used ones were: the horse head, pink love heart, star, martini glass, clapping hands and two dancing girls. I was even looking forward to the new releases; face palm emoji and taco emoji have been a long time coming. Yet recently my enthusiasm for emojis in their most pure form seems to have faded. Just yesterday I ended one text message with three words: "Excited face emoji". In another message I spelled out: "Winky face emoji". My friend texted back: "Do you not have emojis on your phone?" So I explained that I thought it was sometimes quicker (and definitely funnier) to write it out rather than search for the right emoji. My friend typed: "Weirdo". I replied: "Weirdo emoji".
FOUR: How difficult are ketchup bottles?
One summer, at a barbecue somewhere on the Coromandel Peninsula, we acquired a taste for Heinz tomato ketchup in its upside-down bottle. We loved the way it stands on its lid with all of its deliciousness ready to be immediately dispensed. So it drives me nuts (nuts!) when people stand it up the wrong way after using it. When this happens it doesn't pour easily next time. When this happens it is clear these people just do not know which way is up. I get so agitated about this saucy faux pas that I will no longer serve ketchup to guests. That'll teach them.
FIVE: Why complicate place names?
When I was growing up Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa were called "Hawke's Bay" and "Wairarapa". This would not be a startling revelation were it not for the fashionably incorrect way of referring to these parts of the country; those from out of the area have a penchant for saying "the Hawke's Bay" and "the Wairarapa". Of course, that's as silly as saying "the Northland" or "the Otago". What is the point of this piece of pretentious nonsense? More importantly, whose idea was it?