Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Three events during the week....

Walk up the mountain..
Today my friend and I climbed my mountain up the longest track. We gave ourselves an hour and determined to turn around and come back down after the hour. We nearly reached the top! Five more minutes and we would have been there. Up toward the top there were patches of icy snow still lying on the path which meant we had to be careful on the way up, and coming down.  I did push the pace which I am not sure pleased my friend. I have had a intense week so I was pleased to have this physical "blow out".
There was icy snow to negotiate.
I am in this picture. Can you see me?

Exotic trees near the start of the track.
As far up the mountain as we got.
Some photos my friend took during our walk.
On Monday I had a meeting with some people from the Night Shelter Trust. We were thinking about the money we are needing to raise to purchase the buildings we currently rent. We talked about a man who has been generous to us and who we hadn't had contact with in a long time. We said we ought to make contact because he might be able to help. He is certainly wise and sympathetic.  Later via email the suggestion came to me that we ought to talk with our local Member of Parliament. On Tuesday I parked in the car park of a shopping mall and made my way toward the shops. Walking toward his car was this man we wanted to contact. We had a warm, though brief conversation.  I had sent an email on another matter to our MP. Today I had parked at the starting point for our hill climb waiting for my friend. A car drove in and driving it, thrilled to see me was the local Member of Parliament. We had a short warm but useful conversation. How strange that these two unplanned meetings happened just when we needed the contact?
Blunt Doctor...
I had to go to the doctor on Friday to get a prescription for a new lot of blood pressure pills. My normal doctor is doing compassionate work in his home country of Nepal so I saw another one. I told him the symptoms of an issue I had, symptoms I thought were insignificant, but worth reporting to a doctor. He asked a few questions and said we will look into it, but first wanted to sort out the prescription. He checked my blood pressure, which was the best it has ever been lately, and printed off the prescription. "Now" he said, "That other matter..." He asked a few questions, mumbled a bit then declared... "It could be an infection... but unlikely.... It sounds like cancer of the bladder. We'll need to get it checked.  You can't just ignore it as you suggest!" I have to get some tests.  I am sure that it is OK, but was quite astounded by this doctor's bluntness! Generally they do everything to avoid that "C" word until every test is done. I think he just wanted me to take the situation seriously. He said, "I would hate you to look back and be able to say that I missed something." I thought I was now free of urology departments with all their poking and prodding. Watch this space.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

It been a tough week....

It is Sunday night and I have a sort of heavy heart. There are a number of reasons for that.
I have been getting rid of the dent. Bog will cover my failings.
The little plastic bit I had to import from Japan.
I have to get all these back into the van in the right place.
Under the dashboard is a "fun" place to work.
Car troubles..
We have three vehicles in our household. One, a Nissan Bluebird, has not been used since before we went overseas last year. In NZ we have to get a Warrant of Fitness every six months and register the car each year. This car, which I love driving, has run out of both registration and warrant of fitness. It is also the least economical vehicle so has tended to not be used. It has just sat and I want to get it on the road again.  We have a little Toyota Starlet, my wife's car which is a good little car around town. It is economical and goes very well, but it is very small and you can't fit much in it. Then we have our 1996 Nissan van. The van did not cost much because it had a big dent in the front of it. It has already paid for itself, but I suspect the dent was causing problems for my windscreen wipers. In due course they broke down, a little plastic gadget disintegrated. It has been a massive mission getting under the dash board to attend to the problem. I decided too that while I had things in pieces I had to get this nasty dent out. It is taking for ever because I cannot get clear spaces of time to work on it. I miss my Bluebird and my van and can't wait to get both back on the road, but time slots to work on them are few and far between. It is frustrating.
Night Shelter disappointment.
The Dunedin Night Shelter Trust is trying to raise enough money to purchase the Night Shelter. We have a number of applications in for grants. But early this week we heard that one big one we had at the Lotteries Community Facilities Fund was rejected. I would think that I spent at least four days gathering together the information and preparing for that application. Three of us worked on the final application and we are confident it was good. They asked for more information, so we hoped it was on track for acceptance. But it was turned down! I know of other projects which received support, which I feel are not as worthy as ours. The rejection makes it very hard, if not impossible for us to reach the amount we need. We need about $260,000 more. So I am sad.
The Night Shelter buildings we want to purchase.
I am not an entertainer!
I lead the service at the local Presbyterian Church this morning. It was billed as a "Community Service", people were sent letters inviting them to come and I was asked to lead it. There were about double the number of people in the congregation, many I did not know. I put a lot of effort into it and though I felt I was not on top of my game, I had very positive feedback. During the service I could see people smiling and enjoying the time. But I felt "used". Why do they like my services? I suspect it is good entertainment for them. I sometimes get asked to talk about the Night Shelter at various community groups. I get annoyed because often they just want an speaker to entertain them for twenty minutes and have no intention of helping to fund the Night Shelter.  Well today I felt the same way. I was passionate about what I was communicating, but they were just enjoying it as entertainment! I felt used. I somehow felt cheapened. So this afternoon I have felt sad, telling my wife, "That's the last time I will preach there!" Jesus said something about not casting "your pearls before swine". 

If these are my biggest problems, I guess I haven't got much to growl about really. But none the less I feel a tad burnt out and flat. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Men's experience.. "agh...awe"

I read this on the internet, and use it to bounce off to write about men’s experience of sexuality.
British Nobel Prize-winning scientist Tim Hunt has resigned from his post at University College London over controversial comments he made about female scientists.
"Let me tell you about my trouble with girls," he was reported as saying in South Korea.
"Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry."
The 72-year-old also called himself a "chauvinist pig". Speaking to BBC radio on Wednesday, he admitted making the comments but added: "I'm really sorry that I said what I said. It was a very stupid thing to do.  "What was intended as a sort of light-hearted, ironic comment was apparently interpreted deadly seriously."
He said somewhere that he was just being honest. I sympathise a little bit. I do not know anything much about how a woman experiences sexuality but share a little about men.
It is physical!
As a teenage plumbing apprentice I once worked with an Australian plumber in his thirties. As he rubbed his chest I remember him saying something like, “I need sex! My tits get itchy if I haven’t had sex for a while. I hope the wife wants it tonight!”  Now I have not ever had that problem, but in my experience there is a physical “urgency” that happens. You react more to sexual stimuli when you haven’t had it. You can be driving down the road and glimpse a good looking girl, and there is a reaction within you. If you glimpsed the same girl the morning after a fine evening with your wife, you may not react at all. It is physical. It does not make me a lecherous male chauvinist pig, it is a physical automatic reaction that I suspect red blooded males have.
Then there’s the “agh ..awe” reaction.
I cannot spell this sound. It is a gutteral, grunt of appreciation that men make, accompanied by a rush of blood. Most times, if they are polite, men will not utter it out loud, but it happens “inside” all the same.  Again, it is an involuntary reaction. Here are a few incidents.
* I was standing having a beer with some firefighters at a function in the social hall at the fire station. Two women dressed to kill, (they were “hot”) walked in. My three companions let out an “agh…awe", though not really loud.  "Inside" I did the same… but I’m the chaplain. It is an almost physical involuntary reaction. (To me the measure of whether I am a “dirty old man” is what happens after that – do I dwell on it?)
* I was at a family open air wedding, standing next to a cousin. I had never met the bride and in due course she arrived and started walking up the isle. She looked..... gorgeous! Next second I heard my cousin say, "Agh...awe!" I had to stifle a laugh and about then my wife's elbow hit my ribs.
* I was at my old church chatting after the Church service. We were getting ready to leave because the Korean congregation that worshipped after us was arriving. A friend from our drop-in and I were walking through a door and pushed the door into this young Korean woman who was about to come the other way. She was coming to Church but once again, she looked “hot” – short figure-hugging dress, high heels and lowish top. At first glimpse we both went, “agh…awe!” … but mine was in my head, my drop-in friend, however, came out with this guttural grunt. (It was cut short by my elbow in his ribs.) As we moved away, I said to him, “Keep it inside!” … “But.. but you saw her too, she was hot!” he responded. “But you don’t need to comment.” I scolded. “Its alright for you, you're old and you're married.” 
This “agh… awe.” reaction happens unsolicited. An unintentional glimpse of cleavage - A skirt opens up and you catch a flash of thigh - A woman with a nice butt bends over in front of you - Some stranger in front of you in a queue flicks her hair and a shapely neck is exposed..etc.  … just a glimpse as you are walking by will create this involuntary “agh… awe” reaction. You are not out there perving, it just happens. It is involuntary.
I have been missing my “agh…awe”
Because I am getting older, and because I have had various “men’s” health issues over the last couple of years, I have not experienced this urgent “agh…awe” reaction. Don’t get me wrong, my wife and I have been “sexually active” over this time but the urgency, the “agh…awe” was not there. I have been working on walking and getting fitter. I feel better because of this. I was out having my walk the other day and I heard the patter of feet behind me. A girl runner came past. I looked at her style and felt jealous that she was running and I was walking, she was fit and loping, I was just walking. I was green with envy.  But then I saw it. She had those black tights on... there in front of me was the most gorgeous butt I have seen since the blonde girl in ABBA. “Agh…awe.” I said. (inside)  And then I smiled. I must be more healthy, I have got my “agh…awe” back. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

You feel others' pain.

We arrived home from visiting our son and family on Waiheke Island on Friday evening. Weary from travel we went to bed, enjoying the familiar comfort of home again. Very early on Saturday morning we got a phone call from a man we have known for years, but have not had contact with since we retired from Church ministry. He has limitations in terms of abilities, has got himself in trouble from time to time and has had a very tough life. He is very much alone with no close family and few friends. He was ringing us because while we were on Waiheke Island our home city Dunedin suffered a once-in-a-hundred-years deluge of rain. This man's ownership flat is in the low area of town and had about nine inches of water running through it. He is desperate for help to sort out his predicament. We went out in the afternoon and helped him sort through the smelly mess. We will be in contact with him again tomorrow to assist his sorting out of insurance etc. It was smelly because sewerage had mixed with flood waters. His flat was not clean or tidy before the flood. He is almost suicidal. We only spent a few hours with him but came away deeply sad. His life is a mess! Even before the floods it was a mess. Now it is worse and we are the closest "friends" he has. Our clothing, our skin, smelled but somehow our spirits were impacted even more - it is just so sad. (And - there must be many more sad vulnerable people impacted by the flood - the area has many of those sorts of people living there.)
That evening we sat watching the news followed by a farming program we enjoy. Not long before 8 p.m., an hour after the Night Shelter would normally open, I got a phone call to inform me that none of our supervisors had turned up at the Night Shelter and there was a group of people waiting in the freezing air to get in. (It was a mix up in the rosters) After making a couple of phone calls in vain, we headed to the Night Shelter, about 15k from our home. We encountered a speeding ambulance on the way and discovered it turning into the Night Shelter drive with us when we arrived. One of the elderly men waiting had not had his medication and was succumbing to the cold. We let this group of six or seven people in, turned up the heat and between us and the Ambulance guys sorted out the ailing gentleman. He was a sad picture, the hospital had sent him on his way when he had nowhere to go. The health system had failed him. There was a well known criminal among the group, abrasive and annoying. The others were a sad looking lot, the sad vulnerable people, spat out the back end of our economy/society. We even had the police turn up, somebody had phoned them about this group of homeless people unable to get access to the shelter. One of our supervisors did turn up and offered to stay the night looking after the group. But again we came home feeling sad at the hopelessness of these lives. 

We hurt because they are hurting and hopeless. Jesus longed for people to have abundant life. We all want fulfilling lives. By comparison, these poor people have a "nothing" existence, muddling through life, going from crisis to crisis. Yesterday was a heavy day, and sometimes it feels overwhelming.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What does a duck say?

Recently turned 3 Waiheke Island grand daughter .
I just turned 1yr today.
Creative way of using the swing.
Full concentration.
Walking on Waiheke is always nice.
I love the old trees on Waiheke Island.

Just an amusing anecdote. Well I found it funny. We are spending about a week catching up on son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren on Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand. I discovered the "q" sound is hard for a just-turned-three little girl to make. I was singing with her the song, "Old MacDonald had a farm" and of course that song has you making animal sounds for "Dog" "Cow" etc.  We went on to talk about various animals and the noises they make. "What does a cow say?" "Moo". "What does a cat say?" "Meow""What does a lion say?" "Roar" ... the answers came quickly and correctly, even when I suggested another sound she was quick to correct me. but... "What does a duck say?" "Fuck!" ... or that is what it sounded like. "QUack" I corrected. "Fuck" she repeated confident that she was saying just what I had said. I attempted to correct the pronunciation a couple more times but then gave up. She had no idea what she was saying... she was innocently saying "Quack" as far as she was concerned... so I left her in her innocence. It was so strange this little button confidently saying "Fuck" and hard not to laugh.  I moved on to another animal and it's noise. Grand-parenting has its funny side.