For the Storytellers

This year I’ve done something different – I’ve signed up to #NaNoWriMo. Which is simply to say that I intend to take telling stories seriously. And this is why…


In the beginning there was the word.

Stories are important. We need more of them, and more storytellers.

There’s a recent kerfuffle in the blogging world which goes like this: blogging is dead, long live brand relationships and instant celebrity.

Us, old bloggers – those of us who are clawed and long-toothed – say ‘bollocks’ to the kerfuffle. We’ve seen it all before, and we understand that the real point of ‘blogging’ as with writing anything, is to tell the story. It’s the stories that encourage faith and hope, stories that share the love and stories that help us to go on.

I’ve known stories that once told, have saved a life.

I’ve known stories that have been carved from the storyteller’s own soul and shared with their readers in such a beautiful way it was almost self-sacrifice. Stories that remind us of our own strength, and our own humour – even if at times that humour is as black as the challenge we are facing.

We’ll always have time to read stories like that.

And here’s to the storytellers who believe in the power of stories. To the Parable tellers, and the oral historians. To the teachers and entertainers. To the pastors and caregivers. Storytellers all.

So even though I hear constant threat of blogging’s imminent demise, I don’t listen. I know that we will always have time to read – whether on a kindle, or an ipad or a good old-fashioned pages-smelling-of-dust, book.

Even though our news feeds are full of beautiful blogs, adorned with pastel-perfect pictures of pretty things, there are those blogs that aren’t simply eye-candy – blogs that are real. Blogs where you can almost see the blood from the rent vein, on the page.

Interestingly, these blogs remain well-read. We respect the blogger’s sacrifice of privacy, of time, of tears.

Some of the most beautiful and inspiring blogs I’ve read are from bloggers I’ve known for ages. Have a read of  Kirsty’s blog. I dare you to not come away smiling with admiration. Or check out Bruce (no, not like that!) and the beautiful words he’s managed to craft as he’s shared his family’s crisis. Who knew a fart could be such a miraculous thing?

For relatable words drawn from the humdrum and blogged so achingly realistically try Mrs Woog for size. To my mind, this is talent; the ability to draw out something interesting from the mundane everyday. This is a type of Sartre writing for the present day.

And there are others – Bronnie the journo who writes about her fractured heart and family and throws in a little everyday chaos for some good laughs, Simone who shares the joy of her family and faith without fudging over the difficulties and Dan and Audrey share the stories from people who would otherwise not have a voice, and manage to travel wide, and live deep.

These people, these storytellers are our Greek chorus and our Maori elders. They are the Plutarchs of our generation. They are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John from the New Testament and the Brothers Grimm. Sure, they type rather than speak, they organise widgets and plugins and they have their sponsors, who help pay the bills so that they can tell their stories.

But the raison d’etre is not all about the brands they represent. It’s about the stories they tell, the people they meet, the twists in the tale that makes their life seem so coherently written, even if only when read back. These people are my everyday heroes and heroines, and I want to be just like them.

When people bemoan the death of blogging, I smile a little.

Perhaps, what they mean is a death of a certain stage in worldwide blogging, a stage when we were all fresh and new and made newbie mistakes and when there was a fragile freshness – something that made being part of the blogging scene absolutely irresistible I might add.

But the death of telling stories? I fear the story of [that] demise is very much exaggerated. (Apologies Mark Twain).

Words are more powerful than swords, and words that are cut out from the writer’s heart of their own life, and laid bare on the screen for us to read… well, that’s priceless.

Do you think #bloggingisdead ?

Share with us in the comments below your favourite bloggers so we can all hear and share their stories.

As for me, back to the keyboard, NaNoWriMo and the rent veins.

The post about nothing

The ordinary is beautiful.

The ordinary is beautiful.

I was a big Seinfeld fan back in the day. The show about nothing seemed a perfect idea, because after all, it wasn’t really about nothing was it.

It was about nothing significant. Nothing special. Nothing out of the ordinary.

It was just ordinary life with its twists and foibles and injustices and humour…always humour. In that sense it was about everything. Every life.

This post is about nothing.

It’s about nothing special, show-stopping or incredible.

It’s about the everyday.

I haven’t blogged for a while. Actually, I have blogged but it’s been in my mind as I drove around Auckland, or diced onions or watched TV on a lazy Sunday night. I just haven’t committed this ‘nothing’ to my keyboard.

Sure, I’ve had challenges. My laptop blew up. Poof! Our house in the UK took forever to settle (bloody lawyers!) and the stress was overwhelming. After three weeks of phone calls to England in the wee hours of the morning we were walking dead. Then when it did settle, the lawyers held onto our sale proceeds for seven days! What did Shakespeare say ‘first kill all the lawyers…’

The dog’s  greyer around the muzzle, the kids have exams, my Englishman has been better, then worse, then better – recovery isn’t a straight line – and we all seem to go up and down with him. I guess it’s company. After all, who better to offer empathy than someone who also suffers from visits from the black dog from time to time?

We visited the local Buddhist temple – Fo Guang Shan – to steal some quiet and admire the spring flowers.


I took time to grab the stunning sunsets from our spot on the hill.

Another ordinary sunset.

Another ordinary sunset.

And to pick the Spring flowers from our rambling au naturel (messy) cottage garden.

The ordinary glory of Spring flowers, happens every year.

The ordinary glory of Spring flowers, happens every year.

But I’m not using any of these as excuses. I haven’t blogged for a while because I didn’t want to be visible. I just wanted to get on with my ‘nothing’. I didn’t want empathy, or advice or help or even attention. I just wanted to get on with it. After all whilst it’s nothing to you, it’s been my sharp sharded reality for a few months now.

We’ve had visitors staying – a nice local family with a dying dog. We had a rental inspection, and I almost internally combusted trying to clean the carpet on my hands and knees. It’s Spring, so weatherwise (as with all things it seems) it’s two steps forward one step back.

There’s been dinners with friends and early morning writing sessions on ‘From Pavlova to Pork Pie’ which is coming along, albeit slowly.

Last week, school finished early for a teacher’s meeting and as Miss Fliss made her way home a school-mate was killed on the Pakuranga Highway.

It struck me that his day started ordinarily, probably with cereal – six Weetbix and half a bottle of milk, if he’s anything like my teens – then a ride on his new motorbike to school.

And then it ended.

It all ended.

Although we didn’t know him, my mother-heart sobbed.

I grabbed my kids and ‘checked in with them’ – probably too casually. I sent prayers and thoughts and strength to his grieving family and all the while I wondered about this mystery.

How all our lives are nothing, and yet simultaneously, something.

Something incredibly precious.

Tell your people you love them. Grab this nothing-day and make it matter. Suck the marrow out of life and chew on its bones. All that ‘nothing’ is worth so much. It’s so fragile and beautiful and fleeting and yet so deeply etched with meaning.

Today, I’m going to live as I’ve written. Today, I’m going to live my nothing, as if it’s the most special gift I’ve ever been given.

Will you?

Life is ordinary, and yet everything.

Life is ordinary, and yet everything.





Being Human


I’ve been watching the excellent UK Series Humans recently – yes, we’re a little late to get these things at the arse end of the world – and, like good books and great films, it’s really made me think.

humansWhat makes us human?

In the series, a race of synthetic humans with Artificial Intelligence are helping out, doing all the work that humans don’t want to do. They’re the mugs who do the cleaning and cooking, and wiping and nappy changing. They’re the cogs in the manufacturing machine, doing the grunt work that real humans have become too evolved to even contemplate.

This new race of Synths, are a breed of sub-humans, available to fulfil the whims, vices and sexual proclivities of the ruling human classes, but as they increasingly take over the work load, problems arise.

Can human beings really trust them?

How intelligent are they?

Are they ‘theys’ at all or merely ‘its’?

As the series progresses various relationships form between Synths and their human masters. At times it appears that the Synths are indeed more ‘human’ than the humans, as they battle to care for each other and to protect their ungrateful owners.

I’ve been watching the series with increasing dread as the true nature of humans – flawed and damaged – is revealed. Themes of slavery are appearing all over the place as humans refuse to accept responsibility for their (sometimes despicable) actions. There’s echoes of Gulliver’s Travels to the Land of the Houyhnhnms and the superior, reasonable more-human-like horses.

Mild-mannered Joe screams at this wife ‘She’s just a sex toy’ in defence of his activation of the adult mode setting on his household Synth Anita. His teenage kids attend a party where the resident Synth is over-powered so that the middle class kids can have a free pass at getting their jollies.

As it becomes obvious that there are indeed Synths who can feel, both love and anger the story takes a darker twist.

Vicious mobs of humans form to rail against the Synths taking their jobs, their women and eventually taking over.

“They’re coming between us,” they cry.

“Why get to know someone if you can pay a dolly for sex?”

“Why take time with your children if a dolly can take better care of your children than you can?”

The major emphasis, as it has been in racism over centuries, is the effective dehumanisation of one group so that they can be eliminated or rendered subservient by the dominant group in power. Witness the Nuremburg rallies, or slavery, or even the atrocities in Bosnia, Rwanda, Syria and Kurdish Iraq.

The easiest way to enforce control is to dehumanise a population – focus on the differences between us and them, and create a polarising distance that enables prejudice.

If they are not of our kind then we need not empathise. As Shylock said ‘Do we not bleed?’

*I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

De-humanisation enables us to get away with hatred. It ensures we can fight or even kill for our own without remorse.

And that’s ok, we tell ourselves. Because they’re not human, like us. In Humans, they’re not, of course, they’re Synths. Yet, if the beings can feel anger, pain, empathy, love and bleed like humans, (albeit blue blood) what makes them not human?

Is it the absence of spirit, or soul?

That essence of life that you can’t see but you can certainly detect is missing, when it’s gone. Is spirit what makes us human? Is that the difference between us and the rest of creation?

And, if so, where does that come from?


*Merchant of Venice – Act 3, Scene 1