Thoughts: Focus on the Positive


Over on Facebook I’ve been posting a ‘Good Thing of the Day’ each day this year.

Why?

It has occurred to me that we spend far to much time thinking and worrying about the bad things. And not only the bad things that actually happen and impact us but also the imaginary bad things we dream up that could possibly happen. 

Some of you know that the last couple of years for me have been fairly challenging. 
Thankfully I am wired that I tend to not let these challenges occupy my head too much, but there are definitely times when the dark twin comes out of the shadows and reveals himself. 

I have learned to focus only on the things that I can control and change, and I am actively engaged in this process at present. I have zero control over the actions of others. I have total control over how I respond (note: not react).

My positivity posts are designed to reinforce one idea: That no matter how crappy your day is, there has to be One Good Thing that you can find. I have found it to be incredibly useful for me to take a few minutes, disengage from the busy-ness and simply reflect. Reflect on the people met. The conversations had. The tasks completed. The new thing tried. The successes. The opportunities.

The more I’ve done this, the more my outlook has changed. It gets easier to see the good things in my life, and easier to acknowledge these good things. It gets easier to be grateful for the good things. And easier to express my gratitude.

Will I continue to do this? Yes. Will I continue to post to Facebook at the risk of being boring and repetitive? Probably. I don’t have an endless supply of cat GIFs after all.

Thoughts: A Weekend in New Plymouth *updated*

Katherine needed to be in New Plymouth for work today so we decided to make a long weekend of it and see what this place has to offer.

I have roots here. My grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins lived here so I remember as a child being bundled into the Holden Kingswood and coming up from Palmerston North to do the visitations. EVERY holiday (it seemed). The weird thing for me is that I have strong memories of certain places – Pukekura Park, the miniature railway enthusiasts club on Gilbert St, the building where Bennetts (?) Bookshop once inhabited (and I was unjustly accused of shoplifting by an undercover store detective – oh the outrage of a 7 year old boy) and yet I have little or no memory of the waterfront.

I wonder if my parents were just doing the family thing and the idea of taking us kids out and exploring was a bit much? Who knows. I might ask them next time I see them…

Ah the reminiscing.

OK. What was I talking about? That’s right: exploring New Plymouth.

First recommendation. Don’t get a hire car. Catch a taxi into town and then get amongst it all on foot. We would have missed so much if we drove everywhere and we would have developed a much different perspective.

We walked along the Coastal Walkway. We hired bikes and rode along the Coastal Walkway. We found pop-up markets, and farmers markets, and were able to get a good feel for this place. People were/are friendly. You couldn’t walk past someone without a smile or a ‘good morning’. People were chatty.

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We walked from the CBD to Paritutu Rock. We climbed Paritutu Rock. I was determined to do this as I don’t recall having every done it in my youth.

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We were taken by the Len Lye centre at the Govett Brewster gallery. I loved the kinetic sculpture on display as well as the other exhibits. Definitely a must-see.

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We managed to see the last evening of the annual Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park. It was cool seeing what they create and nice to see the locals getting out and about.

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One thing that struck me is that there is a pride here. And a definite style. Many shops had fantastic interior fitouts and the eateries looked great and served up equally great food. We didn’t have one bad experience.

A quick review:

Joe’s Garage – as you’d expect. US diner fare in a cool setting. Good coffee.

The Black Harp – Irish pub. Good food, drink, music and sports on the big screen.

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Peggy Gordons – Irish bar. Same deal. Good food, drink, music and sports on the big screen. This one definitely is one for the locals.

Frederics – Bar. Good food, big craft beer selection. More than one type of gin. Nice vibe.

Kathakali – Southern Indian fare. Great vibe. Authentic flavours. I was really impressed by this restaurant.

Monica’s Eatery – we went here for breakfast on two days. Loved the ambience and the food was good. Excellent coffee too.

Manou’s Café – If we had not been walking we would not have found this place. It’s awesome. Rustic. Nautical. Views of the boat ramp and is right on the water. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in town. It’s right next to a hire company where you can obtain SUPs and Kayaks and go explore.

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Prohibition – I loved this burger joint. Everything about the decor and the food was terrific. It would certainly give the best of Auckland burger makers a run for their money.

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And my favourite? Social Kitchen. This was utterly fantastic. It’s meat. It’s social dining and shared plates. It’s flavours. It’s ambience. It’s great music playing. We had their spiced goat (I’ve not eaten goat before) and it was sublime. I like my food and this restaurant ticked all my boxes. It could even be making a run for my ‘favourite ever place to eat’ trophy. It’s that good.

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We realised early on that New Plymouth eateries are popular, probably because they’re excellent. You need to book. Otherwise you won’t get in to the places you’ve been recommended.

We stayed at the State Hotel. It was really nice. The decor was eclectic and the weird thing was you never really saw anybody unless you happened across the cleaning staff. Its central location was perfect for us. Definitely recommended.

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I have really enjoyed my time in New Plymouth. That’s now two of my childhood towns visited in recent weeks, and quite frankly New Plymouth makes Palmerston North look even worse. I’m now not sure why my parents left here and didn’t return.

New Plymouth has so much to offer, and it was nice seeing that even the youth here are excited about their town.

I haven’t mentioned the housing prices – they’re really good – so if you’re considering getting the hell out of Auckland you could do a lot worse.

Not bad, New Plymouth. Not bad at all.

UPDATE:

All flights out of NPL were cancelled yesterday so we had to stay another night. (terrible, I know!!).

The State Hotel was fully booked so we went to the King and Queen Hotel Suites. This place is magical. From the second we arrived we were transported to relaxation. I am so impressed with its decor, vibe and staffing. All top-grade.

I have no hesitation in recommending this as a quality place to stay.

The hospitality group behind much of the redevelopment and establishment of hotels, bars and restaurants in the West End of New Plymouth need to be acknowledged and applauded. Their investment in this town is invaluable.

 

 

 

Thoughts: Camping 2017

For the last five or so years, I have instituted a bit of a ritual: taking my kids away to a campsite somewhere in New Zealand for a week. The idea is simply to get closer to them and to expose them to what this country has to offer outside of hotel rooms and big cities.

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They do look forward to it and we have successfully found that necessary balance between device-time and interacting with each other and the surroundings we find ourselves in.

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This year was a bit different. I decided to book a site at the Waitomo Top 10. The idea was to explore the glow worm caves and several others. I’m a bit mean actually: my daughter (11) hasn’t ever been all that comfortable in underground tunnels (for example, those found on North Head in Auckland) so I thought this might be a good way to encourage her to deal with her fears.

 

What I hadn’t considered is that her fears weren’t limited to tunnels. It turns out that her list includes tunnels, caves, dark, bugs, wetas, sounds of water, drips… and we managed to find all those things in one tidy package.

 

So when one of our guides told us that he did things that no other guide did, such as turning off all the lights, the look of betrayal my daughter gave me was quite special. I laughed.

 

She coped admirably and grudgingly admits that there were aspects of the adventuring she enjoyed. Stalactites and stalagmites made the list.

 

Katherine and her daughter joined us for two nights which was fun. It created a change in our usual dynamic which isn’t a bad thing. Change is good as they say.

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Waitomo. What can I say? Majestic natural wonderlands underground. And more to to point, the organisations overseeing these treasures have created something great. I have harboured a default position where I suspect New Zealand tourism businesses do things a bit on the cheap and end up with an overpriced experience for tourists that ultimately is a bit shit. I’m happy to say that in the case of Waitomo, this perception is dead wrong. I felt pride in what we (Kiwis) are showing people here.

 

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I also love getting off the beaten track a bit. We went to Marokopa on the West coast (47kms West of Waitomo) to see what was there. Not that much in truth, but there is a seaside community, great fishing off the bar, coffees available en route and some beautiful scenery. I loved it. The kids… well, not so much.

 

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That being said, I love seeing how my kids are growing and maturing. Each year they’re a little bit less useless and more autonomous. They’re not requiring my help with keeping them entertained quite as much. They’re able to (and actually take personal responsibility for) their showers, doing dishes, hanging togs and towels etc.

 
The Waitomo Top 10 is also pretty cool. It’s not as big as other campsites we’ve visited, and the population is more transient. There’s not much to do beyond visiting the caves. In hindsight I think perhaps 2 nights there and then somewhere else may have been a better option.

 
It was so good seeing close up how important tourism is to our country. In the course of the week I’ve had decent conversations with people from France, Germany, Australia, the US and more. All are here with a sense of wonderment. All are here to experience something quite unique in the world, and they were getting it.

 
An aside: I note that Mercedes pretty much owns the campervan market. They’re doing something right!

 

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All up, a very good week. A chance to reconnect with my kids and spend time with them outside of routine. It’s valuable. And there is nothing better than getting just a little bit feral before addressing the new work year.

 

That being said, I am ready for it now!

Thoughts: A Quick Return Home

In January I headed to Palmerston North for a family wedding. 
Palmerston North is my home town. I haven’t actually been there for about six years, and before that there was at least a ten year gap between visits. 

It was interesting to see my childhood home. The schools I attended. Driving around my old paper route and noting little change in the houses I used to deliver to. Seeing the lawns I used to mow relatively unscathed by the passage of time.


I was struck by a sense of malaise. 

There’s a gradual deterioration that those living day to day in this place don’t seem to notice, as it happens under their noses. It seems that house owners are neglecting their assets. Homes that I remember being quite lovely in my youth are now run down. This may be the curse of absentee landlords taking advantage of student rents? 


Perhaps arriving in to town on a rainy, bleak day coloured my perception. Palmy is quite lovely on a good day. 

In January there is also an absence of students, which would account for a lack of vibe and the low energy ebb.

I also do not understand the non-sensical paid carparking at the Plaza. It serves little purpose and it’s badly organised.

There are some good things to note. I was impressed with a bar called Brewers Apprentice (their playlist included Wang Chung). I loved the short travel times between destinations. I love that it’s really, really flat (perfect for running and cycling) and I love that there is a low cost of entry to home ownership. I found that people were friendly and conversational.

The wedding service was in Feilding. I was impressed with that town. It seems to be starting to get ‘gentrified’. Wide streets, nice shops and eateries and still only minutes from Palmerston North airport. 

Feilding triggered a fun memory. I remember riding my bike from PN to Feilding to see a girl I liked. She worked in a dairy. I bought a milkshake. I was too shy to say anything about that, so I rode home. 

I really didn’t do my teenage years right in retrospect.

It was nice to get back there, on balance. I don’t think I’m going to rush back anytime soon though. I think the myopic optimistic memories of youth are best left intact.

Thoughts: Personal Grooming and Domestic Bliss

Ok ok. You all know that guys are gross, right? They move in and your clinically clean and tidy world is utterly disrupted. But you put up with it, because for some reason, you quite like having their stupid faces around.

But here’s the big un-asked, non-discussed question which every guy needs to know the answer to, but is afraid to ask:

Nail clipping. What’s the deal? Surely EVERYONE does it, but why is it a problem when us guys say that we are going to do it?

We get complaints when our nails are long and unkempt. We get complaints when they’re looking a bit rough. So when we actually want to do something about it, it’s gross and disgusting? Really?

So, to help the cause of partner harmony, please advise me (us) on the following:

– when should we clip (and under what circumstances)

– where should we clip (and under what circumstances)

– when do you clip (and under what circumstances)

– where do you clip (and under what circumstances)

And why is it gross to talk about it? 

Thoughts: Fathers Day and Family

I’ve been percolating and processing a little bit over the last couple of weeks.

I didn’t have my kids with me on actual Fathers Day which I am kind of ok about. I’m used to it now I guess. The sum total of contact was a ‘Happy Fathers Day’ text from my son and a ‘Happy Farters Day’ text from my daughter.

I did find it a bit hard seeing the outpouring of happy dads across all social platforms, but I took comfort from the fact that I’d have my kids the following week to make up for it.

On the actual day I popped in to see my 84 yr old dad. Gave him a card which reflects my sense of humour. I even wrote some lovely thoughts inside.

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A week later I took my kids over to visit, and I noticed that of all the cards he’d received for Father’s Day, my card was the only one not displayed. He was worried that it might offend my sister. Cool. Boring Simon from here on in I suppose.

A few other things occured at that visit that got me thinking that family really isn’t that important to me.

On Sunday, I lay in bed anticipating a little bit of celebration and attention from my kids. Nope. Maybe my expectations were too high. OOMA made a great effort but it was like pulling teeth to get my kids to do anything.

I’m starting to wonder if I’m actually a good father. Do I do a good job? Do my kids actually care? Or have they been put off me a bit through changes in circumstance (both with me and with their mother). I don’t know.

It’s very disconcerting that they’re getting to the age where they need me in a different way.

I guess I can just steer the course.

Watch this space.

Thoughts: The Art Of Receiving Compliments

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I’ve noticed something over the last few years. It seems to me that people are gradually losing the art of receiving compliments.

It could well be isolated within  this New Zealand society I live it, and I haven’t been immersed in other cultures to test this observation, so feel free to let me know either way.

I am one who compliments. I love acknowledging good work, success, and achievement. I love acknowledging when someone has made an effort with their personal appearance and is proud of it. I do my best to lift someone up – even if it’s just a little bit.

As a dad, I know it is incredibly important to compliment my kids. Every little achievement should be noticed and applauded. Even when their team consistently loses by 8 goals, finding the great in the gloom makes a difference.

But even my kids are losing the art of receiving compliments.

My 10 yr old daughter recently won a game of Cluedo against four others. I sent her a text later that day to say I was proud of her winning. Her reply “Yup. Why r u texting me it’s very random”.

Sigh.

I’ve noticed that when I say to someone “You’re looking great” that more often than not the response is along the lines “Yeah… nah” or “I’m fat” or “I’m getting old”. (applies equally to both genders!)

I’ve noticed that if I compliment a female that is significantly younger than me (say, between 20-25) the response is more likely to be guarded than thankful.

This makes me sad.

Are there cultural norms in play here? Are there limitations to who I can compliment or acknowledge that I’m unaware of?

Has society changed to the point where people are now suspicious of someones motives in the first instance if that someone is being nice or kind?

Or is it simply that people have adopted the idea that ‘Not caring about what others think’ to its fullness – which impacts the acceptance of positive as well as protecting from the negative.

I’ve lived a life of thinking of others. I have a personal ethos that I want people to feel better about themselves or be slightly better off having met me. It’s an ethos in which I’m always available to help others if at all possible. (Of course this has caused a few issues where I’ve been taken advantage of, but that’s not common). I want to add to people.

Is this outward-thinking way of life something that has run its course? Does it no longer have a place? Am I actually a dinosaur?

I’m hoping that once again people can learn to just say “Thank you” when complimented. Without qualification or putting a negative spin on it.

Or should I just give up?

Thoughts?