Every year Reader’s Digest publishes a Most Trusted Professions list and every year journalism hovers in the bottom 10. Last week a job search company named “newspaper journalist” as the worst job of 2015. Today the news cycle moves exceptionally fast and it is highly pressured. Journalism, good journalism, is fragile. Which is why it is important that we, as an industry, do our utmost not to stuff it up
Vagina. There. I've said it. There's no going back.
If the word offends you there's not a lot I can do. It's anatomically correct. It's a body part as much as an arm or an elbow. Besides, some time ago, in my journalism class, the tutor explained that our readers were not fluffy little bunnies who needed protection, they could handle words like "died" over euphemisms such as "passed away".
Some people have mothers that phone them for a catchup, a gossip, to organise a lunch date or to remind them it's Great Uncle Gilbert's birthday on the 17th. My mum texted me at work this week. The text read simply: "Please Google me dog's anal glands".
In my lifelong quest to be a Better Person I started walking to work this week. I'm a bit of a disgrace. I've been planning on cycling to work almost every day since January and only managed once - and that was when a cycling colleague pedalled by to pick me up and I had no way to wriggle out of it.
It's not the cycling that bothers me, although I had two hairy moments that day. One when I ended up in a real life (and riskier) game of Frogger across Bealey Ave, the other when a driver tried to U-turn into me.
Plus my colleague was a much faster cyclist and in keeping up the pace I ended up sitting at my desk sweating uncomfortably for the best part of my first working hour, regretting everything in my life and not feeling a single bit like a Better Person.
It took another three months to put the cycling fiasco behind me and hop on Shanks' pony. Even that seemed to take so much planning. For one, I'd have to get up earlier, and each night that I planned an early rise I'd have a terrible sleep and, almost without my knowledge, my arm would snake out of the bed and reset the alarm.
Fellow Mainlander columnist Mike Crean wrote something beautiful about walking to work a couple of years ago. He enjoyed it, he said: "Because walking frees the imagination. Driving and cycling require concentration. Walking waves the green flag for trains of thought to depart Brain Station, without any timetable."
I wanted to have free thoughts. So, finally, this week I was ready to ride. I had my big special running shoes and white sweat socks ready. I had a backpack with my work shoes all packed and ready to go.
The walking was fantastic. I could block out the rumbling of cars with radio playing in my ears; stop occasionally to take photos and look at social media - perish the thought of being unconnected for 30 minutes.
I was about 10 paces from the office when I realised I'd forgotten the bag with the normal shoes which meant I spent the day wearing a dress and enormous running shoes and white sweat socks. It was actually quite upsetting. I didn't even want to walk to the kitchen for a cup of tea. We had a planning meeting during which it was all I could do to hold my tongue and not say: "This week I'm working on A and B and THESE SHOES ARE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE."
Day two of walking to work seemed easier. The bag of normal shoes was placed in the doorway so there was no forgetting. It was a balmy morning, the stroll was gentle and I started to understand what Crean meant. I had time, my thoughts could flow.
The day passed without concern or the need to explain footwear choices. I popped the running shoes on and started walking home again.
The problem was that the temperature had dropped considerably since I'd walked in and I hadn't even considered a jacket. The bitter wind hit me straight in the chest and whipped across the little scratches that showed everyone I'd been squeezing my cat too hard again.
By day three I was running late to an interview so it was back to the car.
Being a Better Person takes diligence and a list. It also takes practise. But I'll be mounting Shanks' pony again next week with more confidence. Also with more shoes and more jackets.
- Originally published in The Press
Somewhere amongst all this silliness of the earthquakes, we've lost sight of our glorious past. We've become so acclimatised to road works, fields of rubble, potential asbestos poisoning and battles with various insurers and government agencies that I feel we've forgotten the Christchurch of old. The Christchurch of cold.
Allow some idioms to explain what I mean.
It's as cold as a witches tit and a welldigger's arse. It's brass monkeys. If the temperature was a vegetable it would be a cucumber. If it was of literary mind it would be as cold as a dead man's cheek.
I am more plain speaking. This week, it has been (insert your favourite expletive here) freezing.
I hope the mood has suitably been set. I am writing this on Wednesday evening. The MetService forecast says the next five out of six nights will reach zero degrees or below.
I am in a warm office for most of the day and it is, after all, winter so I ought not worry about the daytime. What I fear is the morning.
I fear the cold bathroom and my feet on the tiles but most of all I fear my car windscreen.
I know there are people who live in far harsher climes. There are people from Otago or Southland who can rightfully say I have not lived until I have experienced the hoarfrosts of Ranfurly or Kyeburn. (I use these examples because my mum lived there as a kid and if I had a layer of woollen gloves for every time I've heard about the hoarfrost I'd have ungainly hands indeed.)
Still, with all our new quake- related problems, we must never forget to complain heartily about our frosty mornings and icy windscreens. I find arriving to work on time a tough enough prospect without this added pressure.
Wednesday morning's example was a goodie. The frost was so thick it formed beautiful patterns on the windscreen.
I asked Twitter how many jugs a windscreen might need on this frosty day. "Three large" someone replied.
I tried to leave home by the back doors but I had to shove because they had frozen together. I had some recycling but I couldn't open the recycling bin because the lid was frozen closed too.
I didn't even attempt to open the car doors until those three large jugs of warm water had fully cleared the ice.
These days I make sure I know where my keys are because I've fallen into the trap of pouring water only to emerge from the house to find the screen frosting over again.
I once had a windscreen scraper with a red sleeve and white fur lining. It worked well but it always felt like I was doing something filthy with a Santa puppet. The credit card scrape can be fun but it's time consuming.
The cops are quite rightfully reminding us about windscreens this week. Drivers attempting to navigate roads by peering through a hole the size of a credit card will be nicked for 'obscured window' offences. It's a $150 fine. The serious side is that if you can't see properly, some poor cyclist will be swiped so consider that the moral of this lesson.
And with that, I must get to sleep. It's supposed to be minus 4deg overnight and I am beginning to fear the morning already. I've got a positive focus though. I will bring my cold toes back to bed for a couple of minutes after going to the bathroom in the morning and I will plant all ten of them on my boyfriend's electric-blanket-heated ribs.
The sound I hear after that, it's a more pleasurable sound than scraping ice off a windscreen.
- Originally published in The Press.