Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I'll shout it to the blue summer sky, and we may never meet again (Hunters and Collectors)

Last week was my 'farewell from Cognition and from school' week and loads of people said lovely things about me. It was cool!

I was telling Jade about my farewells and she said, "It's like your birthday". She's right.

Thursday especially felt like that - centre of attention, pressies, speeches, smiles and joy all around. It was great.

Lots of favourite moments topped off by Salem (one of the Arabic teachers) shaking my hand as he left school, saying, "Goodbye Warren, have a good life". It was so genuine, so heartfelt and so simple I got a tad misty eyed as I walked away - I do confess.

Ma'a salaama to Mohammed...

...and the housekeeping team - Hakim, Morgan and Divan.

The Cognition Dream Team (now and always) said bon voyage to me and SWMBO at our favourite haunt - Shakespeare's in the Al Ain Mall.

Davego and family,Jan, Sue, Gavin, Hisham, Pete and Nola.

David, Pete, Davego, Sue and the birthday boy.

SWMBO with Davego, karen and family
And that's it for the Arabian adventure.

So long to all my friends. I have met so many wonderful, inspirational people and I know I will miss many things about my life here but it is time to shed another skin and get started on the next bit. Who knows what's next and that's exciting!

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Love is understanding, don't you know that this is true (The Monkees)

For Pete's sake: during PJ's reply to the previous post he included the following apposite observations:
The sort of culture I am complaining about does not conflict with what you value – notably kiwiana. Nor does it conflict with the higher culture asserted by Frank Lloyd Wright (I even listen to Schubert). It is more to do with modes of behaviour and social expectation...In that sense, cultural expectation does in my estimation do more harm than good. If a group of NZ Peruvians flock together because they like to play their Andean flutes, I have no objection. However, if they denigrate Westerners’ tendency to be punctual, calling it“emotionally cold”, that is different (this is an actual example, from when I was in Peru in1981).
A more relevant quote from Orwell would perhaps be his account of travels in Morocco, in which he wonders about what Western travellers value when they go to a poor country.  Orwell upbraids them for valuing “local colour” (for example, oxcarts instead of cars), while we should want them to develop. He doesn’t mention culture per se, but his observation simply that he would agree with me. He and I are both universalists.  
This is the point: a couple of generations ago, being a universalist meant that you cared; nowadays you show you care by being a relativist. I regard this as an oddshift. For example, many Maori leaders of the past wanted Maori people to be more Western; nowadays that notion would be derided as seeking to become “brown pakehas”.
His statement that he's a 'universalist' got me thinking. I know very little about being a universalist, aside from the religious idea that all people will gain salvation and that Robert Fulghum was (is?) a Unitarian minister.

I asked PJ for clarification and he sent the following:

What I mean is the belief that solutions to problems do not usually vary according to location or social/cultural group. It suggests that, for example, what benefits pakeha benefits Maori, so there is little point seeking a specific Maori solution to their socioeconomic problems. We are all human beings with similar aspirations. 

Broadly speaking, the political left used to be universalist in this way. Michael Joseph Savage would have thought the new left's relativist, culturally sensitive ideas very odd. This shift in what it means to care about the downtrodden has been well explained in Nick Cohen's book What's Left - one of the best books on modern politics you'll ever read. He shines some light on other things, notably the religion of anti-Americanism.

I have no problems with this view and would say that I am also have a 'universalist' outlook. Being in the Arabic school for 16 months has shown me that the 'solutions' to education here are the same as for Maori and Pakeha in Nu Zild and are the same for the students I taught in the UK.

The same approaches based on establishing a positive relationship work in each of those different cultural contexts.

Less than a week now until we fly back to NZ from the sandpit. SWMBO and I are both getting a triffle antsy about things and we're really looking forward to starting the next chapter of our adventure back in the Hawke's Bay.

Love and peace to all - Wozza

Monday, March 19, 2012

Into the great wide open, under them skies of blue (Tom Petty)

SWMBO and I have been busy sorting out the stuff to bring back to NZ next week and the stuff to donate to friends in the building and elsewhere. Of course, we've also been shopping for the new house.

Inspired by Patrick and Randy's London home in the shire we are aiming at a theme for each room. I love the way they have their red room (TV lounge), a blue room (spare bedroom), white music room, modern stainless steel sleek kitchen and so on.

Their red room has red curtains, red wall coverings, red sofa, red ornaments. It's red red red all over and it looks spectacular! Not only that but it's very cosy and a great lounge/living space. It shouldn't work really - all that red is an initial jolt to the senses - but it does!

Unfortunately we are like many people who accumulate a variety of different styles of furniture over a number of years. We have collected art work from exotic locations on our travels, along with loads of knick knacks and ornaments, so that over the years rooms have taken on a jumbled jumbo sale type of look.

Before SWMBO gives me a slap I should say that I am obviously over exaggerating and she has impeccable taste for interior design and colour co-ordination. It is me who is to blame for an eventual mish mash of styles.

BUT - I have acknowledged that I have a problem and the solution is the coherant thematic way forward for our home in Otane.

We have so far settled on a rustic theme for the lounge (in my mind this means autumnal colours to go with our oak furniture); the master bedroom is to be gold and white with a definite Arabian theme going on; the first spare bedroom has a regency look (yes all the regency furniture will find a home there).

That leaves the third bedroom and my music room/enclave/extension/studio (I dislike the concept of 'man cave' so forget that one). Incidentally, the music area is henceforth to be known as...(I'm open to suggestions - the room needs a name).

I have been given free rein to furnish the music room as I like so look out!

Love and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams (Culture Club)

Dear PJ

Many thanks for sending your article on culture. A most interesting topic that I’m drawn to from both a schooling context (school cultures are fascinating) and from a pakeha Nu Zild point of view. As you point out I’m also super keen on pop music.

So pull up a chair, reach for a cokerama and a slice of Pav. and consider my response.

Clearly you’re not writing about 'culture' in terms of your taste in high (fine arts) or low culture (the Blue Mink song Melting Pot would be an example of low culture of course).

Nor were you appraising culture as it relates to language and custom I don't think.

Instead you consider culture in terms of national identity, as in Nu Zilders supposedly have a shared culture (a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that shape and influence us).
Equally as clearly, your basic reaction to this notion is poppycock, fiddlesticks and 'is not'.
Instead, because modern Nu Zild is such a diverse place, you see a 'brave new cultureless world'.

Okay so…my two cents:

Short version:

Are we headed for a brave new cultureless world? No I don’t believe so.
Long version:
NZ icon - Jeanette Thomas
If I think about NZ culture I tend to think of kiwiana (buzzy bees, pavlova, Footrot Flats, Phar Lapp, weetbix kids), iconic kiwi personalities (Barry Crump, Tim Finn, Ginette MacDonald, Ed Hillary, Fred Dagg, Billy T, Jeanette Thomas, Patrick Cameron, Mayor Tim et al), men-in-black sports heroes (‘Pinetree’ Meads, Jack Lovelock, ‘Buck’ Shelford, Waka Nathan, Mark Todd, Don Clarke, the 1972 Olympic rowing 8), national disasters (Wahine, 1981 Springbok tour, Gallipoli, Cave Creek, Pike River, Erebus, various devastating earthquakes), national successes (1987 and 2011 Rugby World Cups, 1982 and 2010 World Cup Soccer teams), great NZ music (Split Enz, Bambino Beats, Daggy and the Dickheads) various holidays/commemorations (ANZAC, Waitangi) and, of course, there is Kapa Haka.

Bambino Beats
Is that eclectic mix shared by all Aucklanders? Um...no, it’s not. Probably only an aging minority could relate to my list. Auckland houses the largest congregation of humans in NZ and as a bunch they are probably the most diverse ethnically speaking (I'm guessing here). So it’s very unlikely.

Is it shared by my neighbours in Waipukurau and Otane? Yes! Pretty much exclusively. Why? Because the rural heartland is definitely neither a large congregation nor is it like Auckland in any demographic way.

As a middle class, middle aged pakeha, I think that cultural history binds me towards my neighbours in many ways. We share some things, in much the same way that Muslims share some things. It does give us (for good or otherwise) a cultural identity.

Whenever I meet other NZers in my work in the Middle East, who also tend towards middle age and middle class status, we immediately have a shared history, shared work ethic, and a similar perspective on the world.

NZ is small, isolated, and, to the rest of the world, inconsequential. The tyranny of distance has meant that we do emerge with a real sense of culture, not a fake one. Gandhi thought 'a nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people'. I think that’s right and it is constantly evolving.

The NZ culture is a cross pollinated mix that resides in all New Zealanders (including you PJ) - whatever they sound or look like. For me, it exists, it’s real and it's useful. We don’t all have to share aspects of my own cultural makeup. We are different but equal, as you originally thought.

My paternal great grandfather brought my grandfather from Rochdale (just north of Manchester) to NZ when he was a young boy. My mother’s side of the family includes aspects of other celtic origins but was essentially of pioneer King Country stock. Where ever I go I take that mixture with me. By a fluke I was born in NZ and started off life wanting to kick a ball like Don Clarke. When I return to Rochdale I immediately feel home but I'm not a Brit and I don't share a British history aside from the legacy that NZ was left with.
Having suggested that cultural identity doesn't really exist anymore, you then appear to want a bob each way and contend that 'cultural identity does more harm than good'. I'm not sure why you think that but George Orwell would be inclined to agree.

In his essay on the sporting spirit George writes:

I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn't know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.

For me, you and old George are overstating things somewhat. I definitely feel my cultural identity far more when I am away from home. My latent cultural baggage seems to well up and become more obviously part of me. Maybe because of the stark juxtaposition with the Muslim culture that exists all around me. When the world cup was on, it bound me together with fellow kiwis in a very positive way. When I saw the scenes in NZ at the Viaduct Basin I felt a real kinship with a disparate bunch of ethnicities and age groups. All bound by that All Black victory. We were all together, sharing the cultural moment that will continue to link us in the future.

The final words belong to Frank Lloyd Wright (quasi subject of  the great Paul Simon farewell song to Art Garfunkel – hey I needed one arcane pop reference);
Noble life demands a noble architecture for noble uses of noble men. Lack of culture means what it has always meant: ignoble civilization and therefore imminent downfall.

It continues to be fine and hot at this end!

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Here comes my baby, here she comes now (The Tremeloes)

Did you feel that slight shift in the planet's rotation on Friday? That was the world returning to its normal axis.

Yes SWMBO returned to the sandpit last week. It didn't take long before the Al Ain Malls experienced the return of Marm Jacky (who ever had 'shoes' as the first purchase in the sweepstake can collect their winnings!).

So, so good to have TLOML back at Yellow Jimi. The solo routine is definitely NOT for me!!!

It was also fantastic to get Adam's news - that as Bambino Beats he has signed a record deal with a U.K. label - Cult Classic Records - to further expand his digital audience.

We (the whanau) can all bask in his reflected glory. Great effort Adam - looking forward to your next release (and a mention on your wikipedia entry in the near future).


Love and peace - Wozza

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Thou 'as nae need to worry, lass, there'll never be another fer me. Since time began, there's ne'er been man who could love as I love thee (From 'The Wensley Lass')

This is a big week at Wozza's place because SWMBO will be winging her way back to the sandpit at the end of it.

SWMBO has very high standards so...

Gotta throw out the plants that did nae make it captain, make sure the cupboards are depleted of junk, gotta get the vacuuming done, make another carrot cake (I promised) and gotta generally make sure the place is ship shape and Bristol fashion.

Actually not all the above is strictly true. I won't be doing any vacuuming fer a start (not, I hasten to add, because I dislike vacuuming intensely, I do, but that's not the reason. Presangi has already done a spring clean) and there is no junk food anywhere to be found.

I've actually been pretty good eating-wise and after an initial feeling in January of - Wahey I can buy loads of potato crisps and SWMBO'll never know - I decided that healthy was the way to go.
Consequently I've lost 4kgs in weight through regular exercise, smaller portions, cutting down big time on between meal snacks, eating NZ Jazz apples and Italian kiwifruit, and absolutely no potato crisps. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nuttin.

SWMBO arrives early on Friday morning my time (5.30) and will be here in Al Ain until we fly back to Nu Zild at the end of March.

Love and peace and big smiles - Wozza

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Women hold up half the sky (Mao Tse-Tung)

On Saturdays, around lunch time, I am to be found reading The National while sipping a cappuccino and munching on an almond cookie in a cafe at Al Jimi Mall. I'm there so that Presangi (who does some cleaning in the apartments) can work without me walking all over the newly cleaned floors.

Some great stories in today's edition that I feel the urge to tell you about.

!) Sport section - a great story about Wadha Al Bader, a triathlon athlete from Kuwait. You know this is a great story because it came BEFORE the Premiere League previews and it held my attention.

Wadha is a gutsy young woman who has an awesome attitude. She hasn't been doing triathlons long and has to train in a man made lagoon in southern Kuwait (with only massive jellyfish for company) because she couldn't find a pool that would allow her to train.

She's in Abu Dhabi for an international triathlon competition.

Here's the full story; it's worth a read I promise - http://www.thenational.ae/sport/other-sport/kuwaiti-cant-image-my-life-without-triathlons

2) The weekend edition comes with a nifty little supplement. This one had a great series of interviews with seven women who are in positions of power and/or influence. Some seriously cool women!

My favourite bits: Nawal Al Hosany was asked 'what defines your leadership style?' Her answer: Junior staff need mentoring, while senior experienced staff should be empowered. Wooah - wonder if any of my bosses were reading this? I wouldn't think so.

Catherine Fulconis is asked, 'what is your source of inspiration?'. Her answer: I'm curious.

Again - here's the full guff: http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/seven-powerful-women-on-top-of-their-own-fields-share-their-secrets

3) In the same supplement I came across an interesting quote from Margaret Thatcher - Being powerful is like being a lady.If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, March 1, 2012

You're an idiot babe (Blind Boy Grunt)

I'm currently watching hilarious episodes of An Idiot Abroad.

It is a TV show from the fevered minds of Ricky Jervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington. The idea - send Karl off to see the seven new wonders of the world and just film his trials and tribulations (which are often set up by Jervais/Merchant). Simple huh! Genius more like.

Karl Pilkington is a terrific entertainer and he has an interesting take on the world but he's an idiot alright.

A taxi driver in Mexico chats to Karl about Karl's girlfriend (the long suffering Suzanne). He asks Karl if she has a nice body. Karl says, "She used to have".

What an idiot!!!!

So much so that it got me wondering whether Suzanne actually exists. In this interweb world it is certainly weird that there doesn't appear to be any conclusive picture of her anywhere (a cartoon one doesn't count!). I'm pretty sure, therefore, that she's an imaginary comic foil device.

For instance in the show I've just watched with Karl in Mexico he supposedly takes a call from Suzanne just as he is marvelling at the wonder of Chichen Itza. She wants Karl to tell her how to operate the DVD!! Great comic moment!

Anyway the show is hilarious because Karl is such a fish out of water. Here's a teaser.