Monday, November 26, 2007

Fruits of labour

A few weeks ago, while playing on the reserve in front of our house, Josiah and Tessa made the first sighting of a tui on our small suburban property. The tui was checking out the miniature flax in our front garden. Geoff and I missed it, but I shared the second sighting with the children a day or two later. We've had so many tui visits since then, both to the miniature flax in front and to a larger flax on the bank in the photo above that runs along one side of our property, that we've lost count now. A flock of wax-eyes, regular visitors for the last couple of years, enjoy the flax too. One tui looked remarkably silly with its face covered in flax pollen, like a toddler who's just eaten an ice cream.

Unlike a certain lemon tree which is smaller than when we planted it three or four years ago, our native trees have thrived. We don't seem to have a photo of our bank as it was when we first moved here - with nothing but weeds growing on it - to compare to the photo above taken last week, but here is one of the first photos we took of the bank, taken in 2001, shortly after our initial planting.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chivalry lives!

Got a nail in one of the car's tyres on the way home from picking up the kids at climbing this evening. That's the second time this year we've had a nail in a tyre, and the second time in my life. If we hadn't had the previous nail, with Geoff in the car that time, I would have ignored the rhythmical pupupupupupupupupu sound the nail made hitting the road as we travelled along, except for maybe driving more slowly - I would have told Geoff about it when I got home, not having a clue what it signified. But that first time, when Geoff heard the rhythmical sound, he pulled over, ran his hands around each tyre till he found the nail, then changed the offending tyre. So I supposed I should do the same.

I've changed a tyre at least twice before. We got a flat tyre while on holiday in Nelson when I was about seven months pregnant with Josiah. I had never changed a tyre and we thought that knowing how to could be a useful skill for me so Geoff directed and I changed the tyre. I wondered what passers by thought, seeing a heavily pregnant woman changing a car tyre while a fit young man stood by watching and issuing instructions.

Remembering an occasion as a child when my mother, my sister and I had got a flat tyre on a country road somewhere near Queenstown and a gentleman and his son had stopped and changed the tyre for us, I wondered if anyone would stop to help me this evening. No one did as I got the jack set up, and I was thinking, times have changed - it's recognised now, that women are competent to deal with these things. Then I found that I couldn't loosen the nuts that hold the tyre on by pushing on the lever designed for the job: I had to jump on it, which must have made me appear anything but competent. Immediately, two cars pulled over and two men, so young I doubt they have any more experience changing tyres than I do though I'm sure they have more strength, offered assistance. By that time, I had the nuts loosened so was able to thank them for stopping but decline their help. Later, when I had the spare tyre on and had replaced the nuts but not tightened them, a third car stopped and another man offered his help. This time, I accepted gratefully: it had occurred to me that if the nuts are supposed to be so tight that I have to jump on the lever to loosen them, then I would have to do that to tighten them too, and I wasn't sure that was particularly sensible - it would be very hard to judge how firmly to jump ;)

We made it home. It's nice to know people are willing to stop to help a stranger out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Jury Service

I was on a jury for two days last week, a fascinating experience. Our "accused" was charged with "injuring with intent to injure": he had given someone a black eye. The evidence supporting the charge was flimsy; we all agreed that there was considerably more than "reasonable doubt", and found him not guilty.

We were told by the judge at the end of the first day that we were not permitted to discuss the case with anyone that evening because our decision must not be influenced by the comments of people we respect but must be based solely on our consideration together as a jury of the evidence presented. I had an idea that even after a case was over jury members were restricted in how much they could say to others so, knowing I would want to write something about being on jury service in this blog, I asked the jury attendant if discussing the case with others was permissible after it was over. He said that would depend on the outcome of the trial and that if the judge did not give us any instructions regarding this, I should ask the judge. Consequently, when the trial ended and the judge dismissed us without instructions, I raised my hand, overcoming the momentary embarrassment at interrupting proceedings, and said I had a question. The judge's response surprised me and was not entirely helpful. He said that he did not encourage us to tell others about the case but that it was understood that jury members would talk through their experience with family and friends. He then laughed and added, "I wouldn't contact the media," at which the entire courtroom burst into laughter. I was left nonplussed. However informal, I suppose a blog is the media, in that it is available to the public. But in the face of that laughter, I didn't like to bring this up!

Given that I specifically asked the judge what was "allowed" and he made no reference to any stipulated restrictions, I gather there are no legal restrictions. It wouldn't seem right to provide details that might identify anyone involved with the case but other than that I presume I can write freely.

The stand out way in which this real court case differed from those in the movies was the amount repetition! In the movies, witnesses' testimony is always conveniently to the point and informative. In reality, the Crown lawyer asked questions that took a witness over and over what happened, jumping back and forth in time, then the defense lawyer repeated the entire process. When it came to summing up, both lawyers repeated their main points three or four times, then the judge felt the need to repeat those points several times again! Being a long-winded sort of person myself, I now know, I should have been a lawyer!

The next issue of interest for me was how relieved I was to be able to find the accused not guilty. It hadn't occurred to me that I would dislike to find someone guilty of a crime, but I suspect now that such aversion would be common. Maybe in a case where there is overwhelming evidence that the accused did commit the crime I would feel differently.

Another aspect to take me by surprise was how rewarding I found the whole business. I was part of seeing justice done! I helped save a (probably) innocent person from jail! (Although, my mother tells me you don't go to jail for crimes of this nature.) People often describe parenting as a "rewarding" role; I have probably done so myself at some time in the past. But I don't know that it is rewarding in terms of according satisfaction of achievement of good. When my children are clever or kind or thoughtful or skillful (and they often are), I see that as their achievement. When they are rude or hurtful or careless, on the other hand, I share responsibility with them: it's my job to teach them how to behave well. When they are happy, I take that for granted; when they are unhappy, I feel at least partly answerable. I think this is one of the very tough things about being a full time parent - not having ownership of the positive outcomes of our "work". The wonderful sense of having done something good by serving on this jury reminds me of how necessary it is that full time parents protect themselves from feelings of low worth, taking note of the good things we do for our children and the things we do that contribute to our children's development of virtues and skills, even though we can't claim those virtues and skills as our achievement. Next time you see a parent you think is doing a good job, please tell them!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Be the Change

Greenpeace, Oxfam and Forest and Bird recently launched Be the Change, a fun site designed to assist people to take action in their own lives against climate change. I was pretty much glued to it for several evenings last week, reading all the discussion. It's nice knowing there are lots of other people making changes similar to those I'm making.

As I read through the "Pledges", I signed up for a bunch of them, which was maybe a bit rash ;) Some I signed up for just because I think they are worthy suggestions but, if I'm honest, it's cheating for me to claim them as pledges when I've already done all I intend to for now in those areas: Eat more greens for example - I don't think I could eat more greens than I do already. Geoff is vegan due to food intolerances and we all eat a vegan diet at home because that's easiest (except when I sneak an occasional Picnic bar or Cookie Time cookie into the house).

Other pledges are things I definitely want to improve in: Switch off at the wall, Buy local. I've been meaning for a while to go around the house taking note of what is plugged in and whether it needs to be. I haven't got around to looking into buying local yet, except for choosing New Zealand fruit and vegies over imports at the supermarket and buying clothes and other non-food items secondhand as much as possible. I'm not convinced that buying local is always the best choice for the environment: tomatoes grown locally in a heated glasshouse could conceivably have a larger ecological footprint than tomatoes grown in a warmer climate and transported in bulk - as long as they are not transported by plane! I'm sure that in many cases, buying local is best and I do plan to make more of an effort in this area. One suggestion often made in connection with buying local is to grow your own and this is something I'm enjoying slowly learning about.

I've gleaned several tips from the discussion at Be the Change. One of the pledge suggestions is to give up ironing, which shouldn't be hard for me: our iron comes out of the cupboard about twice a year. One of the tips on the ironing discussion is to hang crumpled shirts in the bathroom while someone's having a shower - apparantly that smoothes any creases out. So maybe we will be able to dispense with our iron altogether.