As we, that are left, grow old…

Worn brown slippers pause their shuffle
as he peers past his weathered reflection
to a face forever stilled
in a smile of sweet affection.

Her teasing laugh plays through his mind
like a well-loved vinyl record,
clouded with static and scratches,
but for that, no less adored.

Faded carpet leads to a breakfast nook,
set with a single chair
against lightly patterned linoleum cracked
with the rigors of time and wear.

Habit has him reaching for oatmeal
that he sweetens just a smidgeon
with brown sugar even though the truth is
that taste is yet another lost religion.

Twisting the knob on the radio,
just to break the silence that bears weight,
he rubs blacking with a repurposed rag,
then suit and shoes are donned, tugged straight.

Stepping from the car, he nods and shakes hands
with reflexive courtesy born of age,
and plays his part with the unwelcome polish
of repetition on a tragic stage.

The bugle’s melancholic notes pierce
a weary heart, but men are stoic
and do not weep, do not show fear,
do not shame medals that claim heroic.

Back home, he removes the poppy
and replaces the medals with respect and care,
and sits down to another meal for one
in his solitary kitchen chair.

Memories play to a soundtrack
of the drone of an engine and the crack of guns,
and he refuses to feel self-pity
for he was one of the lucky ones.

Music Monday: Feel Inside (and stuff like that) by Flight of the Conchords

This song has the feels on so many levels.

Growing up in New Zealand we used to have these charity telethons on TV. Celebrities would entertain us, live, and people would ring in and pledge money for charity. The totals would be tallied live on the show, and the people or businesses donating would have their names mentioned. It was a real feel-good thing. The country coming together for charity but also having a laugh together. I presume they’ve had them in numerous other countries around the world. Anyway, they’re happy childhood memories.

Then there’s Red Nose Day which raises money for sick kids. When I was a kid, the song for Red Nose Day was always You Make The Whole World Smile.

That’s not my song for today though, that was just a wee bonus. *Laugh*

In 2012 they did a Red Nose Day telethon and as part of it, they asked Flight of the Conchords to write a new song. The duo interviewed a bunch of children, and then used the kids’ answers as the lyrics for the song. The kids were so cute, and their answers were hilarious, as only small children’s answers can be. Flight of the Conchords recorded the song with a bunch of New Zealand singers.

Unless you’re a major fan of the Flight of the Conchords, I’d skip to 5:08, skipping the scene where Rhys Darby talks the Flight of the Conchords into doing the song. I can’t stand Rhys Darby. He pisses me off. But if you’re a fan, feel free to watch it from the beginning.

Music Monday: Pokarekare Ana

It’s Music Monday again, a meme started by The Tattooed Book Geek.  Posting Whakaaria Mai last week reminded me of Pokarekare Ana.

This song doesn’t remind of a particular person or place, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not powerful or emotive.

Pokarekare Ana is a New Zealand love song. Most children are taught it at an early age here, at primary school level if not before. For most New Zealanders, it is a sort of New Zealand anthem, a reminder of home. A patriotic song, I guess. But it is in fact a love song.

It is believed to have been written by New Zealand soldiers during WWI, but no one can prove the true origins. The first person known to have a copy didn’t claim to have written it, only to have polished it up. He said it came from soldiers north of Auckland who were preparing for war in Europe.

If you search Youtube, you’ll find some beautiful versions. I’ve heard Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sing it live – the first concert I ever went to, in the Auckland Domain. There are also a bunch of amateur versions on Youtube.

This one, sung by ordinary everyday New Zealanders, gives you a glimpse of how powerful this song can be. All it takes is one voice to start. There’s another version on Youtube where you can hear an entire stadium singing it quietly, which is pretty moving too. But this one is an impromptu song to celebrate the legalisation of same sex marriage in New Zealand in 2013.

Music Monday: How Great Thou Art by Sir Howard Morrison

It’s Music Monday again, a meme started by The Tattooed Book Geek.

I first learned to sing Whakaaria Mai in primary school. I didn’t like it then, because it was pitched too high for me, and really difficult to sing. It may have also had something to do with my teacher who I hated. *Rolleyes* I also, possibly because of a lack of religious upbringing, had no idea it was the Maori version of How Great Thou Art. But years later, as an adult, I heard Sir Howard Morrison’s version and it just sent chills down my spine. So powerful. So emotive. It gets me every time.

Steve’s grandmother died in 2010. She was the first person I’d lost who I’d been close to since my grandfather had died in 1991. Two of Steve’s grandparents had passed away prior to Nana Rose, but although I thought they were lovely people who I cared for, I hadn’t been close to them. Nana Rose and I had spent hours scrapbooking together. And it was only when she’d passed away and they were planning the funeral that I found out her favourite hymn was How Great Thou Art. *Heart*

I can’t listen to this song and not feel moved. This version, sung by Sir Howard Morrison. It’s just awesome. I’m not religious anymore, but if I was, I’d want this played at my funeral. And even without being religious, it still gets me every time.

Book review of North to Nara by Amanda Marin

North to Nara by Amanda Marin

I’m not entirely sure when this story is set, but it appears to be America in some dystopian future.

Neve is a fairly ordinary girl, although she is sweet and compassionate. Through a series of events, she ends up meeting her Sufferer. Every week, citizens like Neve go to the Center of Compassion and transfer their suffering – physical and emotional – to another person, a Sufferer. It’s an anonymous exchange, designed to leave the citizen healthier and happier. Most people, including Neve, never think about the effect of the Suffering on the Sufferer. If the citizen is happier, healthier, and lives longer, what happens to the Sufferer? Those are all questions that Neve starts asking when she identifies both her previous Sufferer and her current one.

Micah is a wonderful character, and the author does a fantastic job of showing us the goodness in his heart, and how perfectly suited he was to the role of Sufferer. He simply cannot stop himself from helping others, even at risk to himself.

The author has done a tremendous amount of work in world building and creating a history for the world in which Neve and Micah live. My only problem with the book is that this history and world-building is fed to the reader by telling, not showing. There are chunks of ‘info dumping’ right through the book. It seems unnecessary. We could infer the vast majority of the required information from the scenes, and a lot of the information comes out naturally in scenes like the one in the courtroom.

If it weren’t for the ‘telling’ or ‘info dumping’, whatever you want to call it, I’d have given the book four stars. Micah’s character is excellent, and the plot is solid.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Music Monday: Bastard! by Kath Tait

It’s Music Monday (a meme started by The Tattooed Book Geek and I’m also joining in The Soundtrack of Your Life Challenge on Writing.com.  Their prompt this week is ‘emotionally raw’. Which is actually pretty tough for me. Music is a huge part of my life. I associate numerous songs with different events and occasions, and far more with individual people. But I had a happy childhood, and I’m one of those people who tends to be fairly emotionally level – I don’t have massive highs and lows, particularly lows.

Which isn’t to say that my life has been perfect. It hasn’t. But when I think of ‘emotionally raw’, my first thought is grief, and I don’t actually have a lot of experience with grief. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve lost grandparents, but none of my immediate family or friends.

The next thing that comes to mind for ‘emotionally raw’ is heartache, and I haven’t had to cope with much of that either. I met my husband when I was 19. I have a song that reminds me of the boy I called my boyfriend for two weeks when I was 14. I have a few songs that remind me of my boyfriend from age 14-16. And a couple that remind me of the boy I dated from 16-17. But none of them broke my heart.

I was hurt by a boy when I was 18, because we decided we liked each other, but then before we even really had a chance to be boyfriend and girlfriend, he told me we couldn’t be because “the thought of holding my hand made him want to vomit”. Turns out it was an unfortunate choice of words and he was basically terrified of being in a relationship. Which made far more sense when he later came out as being gay. *Rolleyes* I do have a song that reminds me of how hurt and upset I was at the time, before any of the explanations came out. It’s called ‘Bastard’ by Kath Tait, and it’s a bitchy little folk song.

I suppose that was emotionally raw for me at the time. Looking back, it was so inconsequential, but at the time it destroyed me. Isn’t that stupid? I’d never been dumped, and to have this sweet Christian boy tell me that the thought of holding my hand made him want to vomit… I still don’t even really understand the depth of my reaction. I’d been bullied before. Teased, I guess, is how I would have phrased it at the time, but call a spade a spade and all that. I’d been teased a lot for my weight, even though I look back at photos of myself and wish I could convince the younger me that I just wasn’t as overweight as I thought I was. Just because I wasn’t twiggy skinny like so many of my classmates…

Anyway, I didn’t know this boy well. I’d met him at a Christian camp where we were both working as leaders. I was relatively new to the whole Christian lifestyle, not having grown up with it, and he was a friend of a friend. I’d been single for probably a year or a bit more. I hated being single. All that bullying had left me with little self confidence in my looks and body, despite having had two steady boyfriends right throughout high school. I hated being single mostly because I worried no one would ever want the me who I was on the outside. And part of hating being single was a desperation to be with someone…anyone. I had crushes on the stupidest people. Not stupid like they were morons, stupid in that they were totally wrong for me. Crushes for the sake of crushes, in the hope that one of them would like me back, and it didn’t really matter which one, so long as someone did. I guess I was seeking confirmation that someone could find me attractive. So then for this boy to turn around and say what he did…

I remember telling my flatmates, and out of everything, I distinctly remember Vanessa (she was sister to two of my flatmates and I can’t even remember why she was there that day) saying “Wait, he actually used the word vomit?” After that, I remember doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen, which made my flatmates panic a little I think. *Rolleyes* I’m not very domesticated and for me to be voluntarily doing housework meant something was very wrong. *Laugh*

As I said, he was a friend of a friend, and one of my flatmates went to uni with his brother. They were talking about it, and as I understand it, the brother went home and said “You told her that the thought of holding her hand made you want to vomit?” and the guy realised how awful that sounded and rang me to apologise. We never spoke again, but my friends told me later that he came out as gay. It explained even more.

I don’t hold a grudge. He never meant to hurt my feelings, and it was such a non-relationship, it’s ridiculous that this isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about it. Does the memory still hurt me? No. Did it hurt me at the time? Yes.

You know, when I started this entry, I had no intention of writing about this incident or using that song. It’s not a great song. It made me laugh the first time I’d heard it, but it’s not a powerful or emotive song. But I’ve written quite a lot, so I guess this is what this week’s entry for Music Monday and Soundtrackers is going to be, huh? A bitchy little folk song for a boy who used an unfortunate turn of phrase to end a relationship that hadn’t even started yet, because he found himself in over his head and was trying to fix the situation before he got in any deeper.

You know what the worst of it is? I can’t even remember his name.