Friday, September 5, 2014

Walking away from a hill of beans

My daughter’s favourite movie is Shrek 2.

She’s seen the first and third movies, and Shrek the Halls, but for her there’s only one Shrek.

(Parental disclaimer: She doesn’t watch TV normally, but she’s been sick a lot this winter year [day care], and sometimes you’re all just better off with a DVD on in the background.)

Lia is as likely to ask to watch ‘Ona’ (as in Princess Fiona) as she is ‘Shrek’ and when Fiona’s not on screen she’ll say/moan/shout ‘Ona, Ona, Ona’ until she appears.

When watching the first Shrek, she’s moaning half the movie before her kickass princess arrives.

(Thought experiment: What if the sequel to Shrek was called Fiona?)

Her absolute favourite moment in cinematic history is the half-minute snippet of Butterfly Boucher’s cover of “Changes” (with a cameo from Mr Bowie) during Shrek 2. It’s an insipid version. I tried playing her the original the other day but it left her cold. For her, Boucher’s the original and Bowie’s the pretender (kinda how I feel about Bowie’s version of Iggy Pop’s ‘China Girl’).

My daughter will sing “Ch-ch-ch-changes” at odd moments during the day.

I’m spreading Marmite on her toast: “Ch-ch-ch-changes”.

We’re walking down to the garage: “Ch-ch-ch-changes”.

We’re waiting for the bath to fill: “Ch-ch-ch-changes”.

And things are changing.

I’ve quit writing my column in the Dominion Post’s Your Weekend lift out. Tomorrow’s my last dispatch, four years since my first. 104 columns later, I feel like I never got better, never got being a columnist. The restrictions of the form (500 words a fortnight, submission 2 weeks before publication) were still restrictive. The challenge of juggling my other writing, my day job, my family — both in terms of finding time to do everything, but how and when to mine these other lives for the column — was still challenging.

I’m writing a longer thing about the frustrations and frustrations (no typo) of being a print-first columnist that should appear online in the next wee while… but big picture: I hope to free up four 5am-7am slots a fortnight for fiction. For writing books. Because that’s what I really want to be doing.

It’s been nice to be paid, regularly, for words, but I’m steadily moving up the ladder at work (the word ‘Manager’ features in my job title — “Ch-ch-ch-changes”) so the money isn’t as important.

Although... there’s another baby on the way — “Ch-ch-ch-changes” ­— and Marisa wants a bigger house — “Ch-ch-ch-changes” — and I’m not sure I can write another novel while working full time…


Two years ago I wrote about my time as I columnist to that point. Turns out that was the exact midpoint of my “career”.

That post included a list of what my 52 columns had covered. Well, here’s the second half:

53.   The bump list, fatherhood, Aliens
54.   Road rules, advertising, cultural amnesia
55.   Getting glasses, Cats Protection League, superpowers
56.   Sign language, grocery shopping, silence
57.   Palmerston North, guitar solos, the poet James Brown
58.   Antenatal classes, THE VIDEO, gingernuts
59.   Apocalypse, The Netherlands, televangelists
60.   Due dates, Tom Petty, house alarms
61.   A baby!, quinoa, yellow pohutukawa
62.   Chivalry, Louis L’Amour, Whangamomona
63.   Valentine’s day, Dwight Schrute, Walter Benjamin
64.   Supermarkets, flatting, the great wildebeest migration
65.   Landfills, Second Treasures, Richard Dean Anderson
66.   Flying, the parents room, dodged bullets
67.   Cycling, Wellington, cholesterol
68.   Obstacle courses, Lisa Carrington, Kronum
69.   Internet piracy, Pablo Honey, Spotify
70.   Haircuts, GrabOne, ‘Sexyback’
71.   Winter, fantasy football, sperm
72.   Golf, great uncles, hipflasks
73.   Smartphones, shouty TV shows, the capital of Myanmar
74.   Parenthood, sea fog, editing a novel
75.   Dentists, Norm Peterson, “sticktoitiveness”
76.   Whinging, Whittaker’s L&P Slab, couriers
77.   Father’s day, itineraries, Bulgarians
78.   Fashion, Iowa City, tie-dye
79.   Rodeo, praying cowboys, deep-fried oreos
80.   The Midwest, bathroom graffiti, extirpation
81.   New Orleans, Local Natives, Louis Armstrong
82.   Working parents, the Father of Rocket Science, Eugenics
83.   Halloween, pumpkin season, Matariki
84.   Washington DC, Independence Day, Toad the Wet Sprocket
85.   Professional wrestling, Shane Howarth, collecting quarters
86.   Compact living, the Keret House, tiny house porn
87.   Aging, the periodic table, Tim Duncan
88.   The man card, Russell Packer, kitset furniture
89.   Dieting parents, Tyler the Creator, toddlers
90.   Reality TV, Undercover Boss Uncovered, frankenbiting
91.   Subtlemobs, Kenny Loggins, community
92.   Hospitals, parenthood, Stoicitis
93.   Americans, black sheep, Antarctica
94.   Office moves, standing desks, A Dictionary of Lift Users
95.   Professional wrestling, community halls, The Ultimate Warrior
96.   Direct democracy, Aaron Gilmore, Switzerland
97.   My (early) thirties, baking, wives
98.   Football world cup, GDP per capita, Martin Devlin’s hair
99.   Day care, germ sponges, the social lives of toddlers
100.  Time travel, Back to the Future II, true believers
101.  Rodney Hide, afternoon tea, shoelaces
102.  Crap teachers, quitting, interpretive dance
103.  Weeds, holly leaved senecio, apocalypse
*spoiler alert*
104.  Macauley’s New Zealander, apocalypse, Clifton Carpark


There's a bunch of things that I could have, and should have, written about over the last four years that I didn't because of the column. Maybe this blog will burst back into life. Maybe I'll just post Spotify playlists once a month and add a few hasty thoughts about books I've read. 

We shall see.

Until then, here's a playlist: