Monday, July 26, 2010

Book me

Everyone has a book in them right? And while I personally believe that life's too short to bother with Jodi Picault and Robert Ludlam, most people disagree with me. So help me out. Which one of the following 15 books I have in me should I write first? If I die soon, which I won't, but if I did, which one would you most like to have read? Which one would you buy? Which one would you buy for your friends? I'm sure you know that you must never give gifts that suggest the need for self-improvement so some of the titles might have to be just for you:

1. What Would Sacha Do? (an exhaustive list of how to behave in any new and potentially scary situation. Most examples premised around the simple idea of take over, talk lots, leave early, send an invoice.)
2. Cucumber. You too can be cool like me. One word titles are pretty BIG right now.
3. Dogs Bite. Not really a book, more of a complete and well reasoned theory for why you shouldn't ever keep one at home with your children.
4. Cats Wee. As above at number 4.
5. The Paradox of Success. How to be enormously popular, confident, wealthy and skinny but still have nothing to wear, nowhere to go and no money for milk every day-before-pay-day.
6. Lads I've Loved. Not a very long book, but sort of a documentary coffee table book. The boy from the dairy next door, aged 5, Paul Drew, blond and so cute, aged get the idea.
7. Lads Who've Loved Me. A companion to number 6 but with a few less entries.
8. Places I Could've Been to If I'd Tried a Bit Harder. I'm thinking a pictorial book with all the classic places like Gisborne, Cape Reinga, Feilding, Masterton, Otorohanga and Wanganui.
9. Natural Beauty. A lay woman's guide to looking your best everyday. Simple step by step photoshop tools to take your headshot and transpose it onto photos of Helen Mirren, Angelina Jolie and for the intellectually able Angela Merkel. Slightly more complex tools for printing out 15 A4 sheets and sellotaping them all around you so that only an experienced eye will notice the joins.
10. Wig-a-rama. A personal favourite. My face with lots of different hair styles. It would be an interactive book. I'm thinking of giving away free crayons to colour in bows and ribbons and including scissors to scratch my eyes out.
11. Neat Freak. Capitalising on the fad for home cleaning and organising and tidying and buying storage stuff that doesn't quite fit on your existing shelves. It will obviously be a fiction title as I have no actual real life, true life, experience of the actual, real, true topic.
12. Awaken the Little Person Within. I am often likened to Tony Robbins except that he is quite a bit taller and manlier and successfuller than I am. I do have whiter teeth than him and in the motivational speaker world this counts for almost as much as having good content and being motivational. He has probably never been to Masterton either.
13. Awaken the Dog Within. This would really just be a personal note for P who has just come home from school singing "who let the dogs out? who? who?"
14. Lost in Time. This would really just be a personal note for whoever taught P such an old song. Like, it is soooo three years ago. Whatever. Not even. Shame.
15. Bargain. Again capitalizing on the one word title and keeping in mind that bookstore owners have to buy the books before the readers do. Think how much they'll save on promotional signs.

Wait, now I've got it. The best title yet:

16. Bargain, $.99c.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Surrounded by idiots...

and feeling quite at home.

I have been living through a bureaucratic nightmare. I tried to book a mammogram. The 12 -month-after-you-were-first-told-you-had-cancer-check-up. The one-year-to-see-if-we-got-it-all-the-first-time-we-cut-your-breast-off-check-up. The don't-let-the-ones-you-love-miss-an-appointment-check-up.

I'm still too traumatised to recount the conversation with the receptionist but I'm happy to share its low point that occured about half-way into a 10 minute attempt to get an appointment time this side of Christmas 2014.

She: What's your date of birth?

Me: 24/6/1973

She:, are you sure you've been here before?

Me: Great question. Thanks for checking. I'm not sure. No, not sure at all. Perhaps the 5 times I've been to your offices in the last 12 months for the following reasons - to be prodded and pricked to test for cancer, to sit with my husband and be told I have cancer, to be given a little cottonwool filled mini-pillow to stuff my bra with after the operation to remove the whole of my right breast, to check that the disgusting scar that replaces the aforementioned boob was healing, and then to hear about what other poisons and burning would be recommended to prevent cancer returning - perhaps, just perhaps I made all that up.

Patience, lovingkindness and empathy for my fellow travellers seem to have disappeared from within me and been replaced by intolerance, frustration, pride (unjustified feelings of superiority), and worst of all snip-snappiness.

What do you think? Is it too much to ask of the people around me that they at least learn to argue properly, do their jobs with just a smidgeon of common sense, grow a brain cell in their left hemisphere to complement the lonely figure in their right????

1) A contractor is sending me letters quoting a piece of legislation that is expressly inapplicable to our situation. Not arugably inapplicable. Not a grey area worth discussing. Expressly inapplicable. Is it my job to do his job and help him find the appropriate section of the particular Act that he can use to sue me?

2) I have a new pain on the right hand side of my chest - most likely a muscle pulled while I writhed on the floor in disbelief at the latest idiot piece of mail that arrived last week - but who'd want to take chances? The hospital won't let me see any of the seven oncologists I already know and love. They want me to go back to my GP, get a referral, book a test at Canterbury breastcare, see para 1 above, and then just before I die, see one of the seven so they can wish me luck on the other side.

3) A lawyer helping me with another matter (ever since I blogged about not needing food stamps I have become a magnet for the disaffected clamouring for cash) left a message for me at 4.50pm on Friday. I returned her call at 4.52pm - she'd left 'for the day'. I rang the following Monday to be told she'd gone for that week. Agreeing to leave a message with her PA I received a message informing me that the PA was away until Wednesday. I called the main reception desk again - is anybody from your firm intending to work ever again? They're called the School Holidays, not the Everyone Sacha Might Need this Week Holidays.

Do I think I'm going to die? Not at all. Do I wish for a few hours of respite from consciousness? Heck yes.

Me feeling at home amongst the idiots comes from the unnerving reflection that I am as stupid as them. In fact, I'm worse. I know enough about human falibility to know that not everyone is on top of their game all of the time. Mistakes get made, the wrong options presented, inappropriate decisions taken. Let's imagine what my 'idiots' might be going through? Divorce, threat of redundancy, sick children, financial pressure, lack of self-actualisation, nothing to wear, uncertainty about what on earth to cook for tea, falling out with co-workers, bit of 'flu, winter blues, stiffling bullshit bureaucratic rules, chillblains, parking tickets, missed the last episode of Glee regret, and/or general malaise.

J.K Rowling makes a compelling case for imagination as a vital life skill in the Commencement address she made at Harvard one year. If you haven't watched it yet, you should, and let me know that you hadn't so that I can refill my glass of unjustified superiority. Google 'J K Rowling Harvard speech'. Perhaps my lovingkindness is returning - those instructions were for my mother's friends who pop into visit this 'blogsite' - it's a BLOG - from time to time.

Her thrust is that imagination is not only a rich source of Muggles, and Quidditch, and morality tales, but is indeed the foundation of all empathy. The ability to imagine the world from another's perspective is the door into understanding what it might be to live in their shoes. Or in their barefeet.

The temptation when I feel set upon by the morons of this world is to wallow in despair and rail against the hopelessness of it all. But if I force myself to spend 10 minutes with J K Rowling and Elizabeth Gilbert (as you know her TED talk on creativity is an all time favourite of mine) and Seth Godin and Awul Gawande and (not for the faint-hearted) the Hyberbole and a Half blog of Allie, I find my mental game lifted and persepctive returning.

I am thankful that I am surrounded, not by idiots, but surrounded by people, just people doing their best with what they have on any given day; and that for the most part, I feel quite at home.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Signs & Wonders

Headline in the Christchurch Press just last week: Sacha lifts her game. I knew it! Sacha Jones, the teenage tennis sensation was back to her best and I was basking in the associated glory. Reading the article shattered those hopes. Some old nag, purchased for a mere $10,000 was coming good at last for her owners and won the group D half a mile around the back strait and over the gallops at the Wayawayfromanywhere racetrack on dole day Tuesday. I just can't get excited about horseracing but I wondered if the headline was a sign. Time to lift my game?Require a bit more of myself? Hmmm.

The other item that caught my attention introduced me to the idea of transition societies. Whether you follow the Mayan calendar or believe 99% of the world's scientists doesn't really matter - our planet is on its way to being poked. Transition societies teach all the old crafts like stone masonry, black smithing, milling flour and other medieval type activities we would need to draw on if the global production economy collapsed. Everyone has a role to play in ye olde village and as I read through the list of jobs there were only two that I could even begin to fulfill. Useless at cooking, cleaning, sewing, handicrafts, and not busty enough to work at ye olde public bar I settled on being the town crier (big mouth) or the village idiot (I am often the dumbest person I know).

Our surnames used to tell all about our role in the village. The Taylors, the Millers, the Arrowsmiths and Cooks. I put it to my dear friend that his was a heritage of entertainment but Mr Morris was having none of that. My surname indicates that my forebears lit the fires that burnt the witches at the stake - I'm not sure who invented the torture that gave rise to those who spell their Coburns with an extra c.k. And as for my new friend Mr Hygate I can only suppose that it's simply a matter of perspective.

My dad is planning to ride a motorbike around the perimeter of New Zealand during September to promote awareness of prostate cancer. He has Harley Davidson luggage, badges and belts and won't hear of any suggestion that he's an aging cliche. He's jacking up sponsorship and will be in a town near you with a bunch of other bikies with blue buckets. I mention this momentus challenge (both the biking and the buckets) not so much as evidence of a sign, but more because it's a wonder.

I wonder a bit these days. I wonder what colour to dye my hair, and how the war in Afghanistan will go without McChrystal's influence on local decision makers. One of the journalists I follow on twitter provided live updates from the Apsen Institute Security Forum and while I most wanted to know if she was going to have botox while she was there, SachaZ (not a racehorse or a tennis player) instead totally got me thinking about the challenges facing the planet. Forget the massive advances in medicine, technology, the industrial revolution, Madonna, and donuts - the primary difference between our society now and ye olde village is the vast array of information we have at our disposal to process and evaluate. What is most important? Saving the planet? World peace? Self-actualisation? Checking your balls for evidence of what you might have otherwise happily died of? Making sure your jeans are the right cut for this season?

I envy the villagers of times past. Unless they travelled they didn't know that no-one in the next village was still wearing brown sacks for dresses. Rabbit was always fashionable in a stew and there was no awful judgement about whether or not you'd had an epidural.

For the record, in deference to Rome I had two c-sections. Too posh to push. Send your condemnation to

I checked the newspaper again this morning for a sign and perhaps not surprisingly given a readership in excess of 100,000 there didn't seem to be any messages specifically for me.