Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Stocktake

People sometimes ask do you think ‘life’s unfair’. The answer is yes and no. Easter Sunday seems a good day to do a stocktake.

There are moments in my present existence when it does seem unfair. In my mid-70s I could be enjoying an active, mobile retirement. I’m not. But that can’t be helped. Matters need to be seen in perspective. Mum had a saying, ‘you can only play with the cards you’ve been dealt.’ True! There are moments of anger, regret, depression but they jostle with good memories and present acceptance and sometimes cheerfulness. Age and being an invalid does have some advantages. Teen-age obsessions and boredom have long departed.

Taking the life in the long view – a successful career, 18months working closely with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, head of the Teachers Council, volumes of poetry, teaching and public service that upheld a good education system, two marriages, love and friendship, the successful Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, travel, (22 countries), exploration of New Zealand, the balance is well and truly on the positive side. It’s been a good life. It’s not over yet.

Years ago after an exasperating session with my mother I said to my niece who had been present ‘she’s just a stupid, stubborn, old git’. Janine responded, ‘takes after her eldest son’. One of Mum’s characteristics was to downplay celebration.

After I had my first serious illness I wrote this poem. Allowing for post-illness despondency it illustrates another of Mum’s characteristics. One does not blow one’s own trumpet.


I dozed at meetings
cantering through
a long brief career
interior rooms
a sparkling view
ambition on every side
power with its gestures
                      & rituals

there were
times off duty
a camel at
the pyramids
a hired car
in the Cotswolds
a black sand bath
at Beppu
even our own
Franz Josef

the alternative
to living
(should that be loving?)
is defeat

talkative linesmen
install Saturn

the X-ray packet
safely stowed
behind the sofa

Had I lived in earlier centuries I’d be dead by now. As it is I am still here. Two rosellas called yesterday to investigate the crab-apple tree and a tui comes daily to the abutilon.

I have on the whole escaped partisan rancour and cultural insularity. I have not known first hand war, famine or terror.

As regards the two marriages I make only one comment. The thing I regret most is the thing I’m most pleased to have done. It has been a joy living with Anne with thirty years. Companionship is one of life’s greatest blessings. A regret that I do have (and legitimately) is the loss of the ability to do things together, shows, travel, meals out etc.

Even though I can’t put socks on I can still struggle in to my dressing gown. And today Diane who is of French stock is bringing her famous rabbit and prune casserole for the midday meal. Normally we used to go to her place for Easter Sunday dinner. Now, she’s coming to ours. Adaptability – one of our species’ greatest abilities.

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