Monthly Archives: April 2010

Day 3 – Frustration

Hmmm…. despite commitments to the contrary, the cabinets are not all installed, and not much more will be done until Monday. A plasterer will be coming in tomorrow to tidy up the walls ready for tiling, but otherwise, nothing will be happening for the next few days. And that’s as it should be – tradies are entitled to their weekends.

Take a look at my pantry.

(Description: Table covered with bottles and jars and tins and packets – standard pantry contents)

One table is covered with food stuffs, the other is covered with crockery, we have no stove, no sink, no dishwasher. All that we have is some promising gaps in the kitchen where such appliances will go, on Monday, or so I’m told.

Mr Strange Land is philosophical about the delays. But he is not the person who (mostly) does all the food organising and preparing around here, he has an office elsewhere to escape to, and even better for him, he’s heading out of the country for a few days, and by the time he gets back, it should all be done.

So here’s where we’re at. If you find it frustrating not finding out any more just yet, I promise you that your frustration is nothing, a mere soupçon, a bagatelle, compared to mine.

(Description: kitchen cupboards, covered with long bench, angular piece of wood on top of bench, at far end, various cabinets, general air of half-way there)

Earlier posts in this series: Day 1 – The problem, Day 2 – Deconstruction

Friday Feminist – Maria Lugones (2)

Extract 3 in a series of 3: extract 1, extract 2

You are ill at ease in our world. You are ill at ease in our world in a very different way than we are ill at ease in yours. You are not of our world and again, you are not of our world in a very different way than we are not of yours. In the intimacy of a personal relationship we appear to you many times to be wholly there, to have broken through or to have dissipated the barriers that separate us because you are Anglo and we are raza. When we let go of the psychic state that I referred to above in the direction of sympathy, we appear to ourselves equally whole in your presence but our intimacy is thoroughly incomplete. When we are in your world many times you remake us in your own image, although sometimes you clearly and explicitly acknowledge that we are not wholly there in our being with you. When we are in your world we ourselves feel the discomfort of having our own being Hispanas disfigured or not understood. And yet, we have had to be in your world and learn its ways. We have to participate in it, make a living in it, live in it, be mistreated in it, be ignored in it, and, rarely, be appreciated in it. In learning to do these things or in learning to suffer them or in learning to enjoy what is to be enjoyed or in learning to understand your conception of us, we have had to learn your culture and thus your language and self-conceptions. But there is nothing that necessitates that you understand our world: understand, that is, not as an observer who understands things, but as a participant, as someone who has a stake in them understanding them. So your being ill at ease in our world lacks the features of our being ill at ease in yours precisely because you can leave and you can always tell yourselves that you will be soon out of there and because the wholeness of your selves is never touched by us, we have no tendence=y to remake you in our image.

Elizabeth V. Spelman, “Have we got a theory for you! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism and the Demand for ‘The Woman’s Voice’ ” by Maria C. Lugones and Elizabeth V. Spelman, in Women’s Studies International Forum, 1983

Day 2 – Deconstruction

This is what my kitchen looks like today.

(Description: long narrow empty room, completely husked, with only electric cables and capped off pipes showing.)

Earlier post in this series: Day 1 – The problem

Day 1 – The problem

I have had … issues … with the kitchen in our house since the day we moved in. It’s a long, especially narrow galley kitchen, and the people who put it in about 20 years ago made some curious design decisions.

For starters, there’s the wall oven. It’s a gas oven – I love gas hobs, but not gas ovens – and in recent months it has started to do dubious things like switching itself off while I’m cooking something. Also, it needs cleaning. It has a tall narrow cupboard to one side of it, which has been good for nothing but the broom. In between the oven and the bench is a narrow space of about 40cm, just enough to open the door on the grill oven and the warming draw, but far too small to enable me to position myself right in front of the oven when I am putting baking trays in and out.

Along one wall is a pantry cupboard, about 35cm wide, and a side bench and more cupboards. Good enough storage, but the bench is too narrow to serve as anything other than a repository for packets of tea, and for two larger appliances, my Kenwood mixer, and my food processor. I use both of these appliances a lot, so I keep them out on the bench permanently, instead of having to lift them in and out of cupboards every time I use them.

Because the cupboard and the pantry are 35cm wide, the bench on the other side of the galley had to be narrower than usual, to leave a wide enough walk way. That entailed a long and narrow hob, which takes up 110cm of bench space (compared to a more usual 60cm, or even 90cm). The extractor fan sticks right out over the hob, at just such a height that if you are stirring a pot on the back of the hob, and you are a little inattentive when you straighten up, you will crack your head on it. I have done so far too many times, and I’m surprised that you haven’t all heard my bellows of pain.

The sink has metal draining racks on either side, taking up yet more bench space to no good effect. And down the other end, at last, a proper bench. But it is constrained by a heavy half-wall at one end, which I think is probably part of the original structure of the house. It’s about 30cm wide – all dead space. The bench itself is only 140cm long, and some of that space is taken up by the kettle and the coffee grinder. Yes, I know well organised cooks ought to be able to manage in very small spaces, and indeed, I can, but I also have three children who are all learning to cook, and there is simply not enough space for them.

Behind the bench, on the same wall as the pantry, ‘though there is a door in between, is a small cupboard, at just the right height to catch Ms Eleven’s head as she walks around the corner. It wasn’t a problem when we moved into the house, but she has grown since then. We’ve kept a footstool underneath the cupboard, partly so the height challenged among us have easier access to the higher shelves in the kitchen, and partly to provide a small physical obstacle between Ms Eleven’s head and the cupboard.

It was possibly a well-designed kitchen 20 years ago. But I have found it very, very frustrating – difficult to work in, and full of compromise solutions. As the oven clock says whenever there has been a power outage:


Making a difference, already

Kelly Vincent’s seat in the South Australian parliament was confirmed just 20 days ago, and already, she is making a difference. Vincent stood on the Dignity for Disability ticket, and she is both the youngest woman ever elected in Australia, and the first person with visible disabilities elected to the South Australian parliament. She uses a wheelchair, and she has first hand knowledge of just how long some people are forced to wait to get wheelchairs in South Australia; she waited for her own chair for two years, and some people have been on the waiting list for even longer. She says that there are about 600 South Australians waiting for wheel chairs. That’s 600 people who can’t go out, can’t move around their homes, can’t go shopping, can’t engage in the usual activities of everyday life, because the government can’t find the money in its budget to meet their needs.

But it seems that since Vincent was elected, the money and the motivation has been found.

Disability Minister Jennifer Rankine says Cabinet has approved $7.5 million of funding to help clear the waiting list.

“There are people requiring, if you like, pretty standard equipment and we’ll be issuing that as quickly as we can,” she said.

“Obviously when people need specialised, custom-built equipment that does take a little longer, but we’ll be rolling that out as quick as we can.”

First win for Vincent!

I’m sure her presence in the House has helped in a couple of ways. The first way is obvious; the ruling Labor party may need her vote. The second is the politics of presence. When there were no people with disabilities in the parliament, it was hard for their voices to be heard, hard to communicate their needs, hard for politicians to understand just how life might for for people with difficulties. Now Vincent is right there, in the House, and there as an advocate for people with difficulties. As each piece of legislation is formulated and debated, she is able to let other parliamentarians know how things really are experienced by people with disabilities. Their experiences and needs become salient in any policy making as something that is always acknowledged, always considered, always given due weight. That can only result in an improvement to policy making and legislation. It’s a long term victory for Vincent and the people she represents.

Yes, I know I’m a bit rosy-hued about this. There will be setbacks and challenges, and it will take plenty of time and hard work to effect long term change for people with disabilities. But what a tremendous start for Vincent.

ANZAC Biscuits

There are rules about ANZAC biscuits. More particularly, there are rules about the use of the word “ANZAC”, in both Australia and New Zealand. In general, you can’t. Fortunately, those responsible for making the rules noticed that New Zealand and Australian women had been baking ANZAC biscuits for decades. We are permitted to continue to use the word in connection with the biscuits, provided the biscuits conform, more or less, to the approved recipe.

ANZAC biscuits are a delicious golden oaty biscuit. Tradition has it that they were baked and sent to soldiers serving in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during the Great War. They are good keepers – hence their suitability for shipping overseas. And they are very easy to make.

This is the recipe that has been in my family for at least 60 years, if not longer. I got it from my mother, and she from her mother. It’s a very easy recipe, so much so that it’s child’s play in our house.

Start by heating your oven to about 180 degrees Celsius (about 350 Fahrenheit), and grease two baking slides with butter, or line them with baking paper.

In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of coconut, 1 cup of rolled oats, and 1 cup of sugar.

Melt together 125 grams (4oz) of butter, and a large tablespoon of golden syrup (that means about 20mls – a modern tablespoon is 15mls, but when my grandmother first started making these biscuits, tablespoons were 20mls).

Next comes the fun bit. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 2 tablespoons of very hot water. When the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved, pour the water into the butter and golden syrup mix, and watch as it froths and foams.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour the butter, golden syrup and baking soda in, and mix through. The mix will be quite heavy to stir, so if you have deputised your children to make them, you may need to lend a hand at this stage.

Take teaspoonsful of the mix (large ones), roll them into balls, and using a fork, press them down on the baking slides, leaving room for spreading. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown.

When you take the biscuits out of the oven, leave them to rest on the baking slide for 5 minutes, before putting them on cooling racks. When they are cool, put them in an airtight tin.

This recipe should yield about 45 biscuits. But that’s before you eat any of the uncooked mix (because it’s very yummy), or eat any of the still warm biscuits (even yummier). When I was a girl, I used to love eating them with a glass of milk. I would dip them into the milk, and then crunch into the biscuit, enjoying the contrast between the creaminess of the milk, and the hokey pokey crunch of the biscuit. These days, I make myself a cup of coffee (plunger coffee, made with freshly ground beans), get a couple of Anzacs out of the tin, and sit down with the paper for a mid-morning break. They go into my girls’ school lunches, and I’m always happy to be able to get some out when friends drop by. Somehow, they mean comfort to me, far more so than any other biscuits I make. Made and eaten with love.

Cross posted

Hating on teh wiminz and teh gayz

Former Labour MP, John “front bum” Tamihere really doesn’t like women. And gays. Apparently it’s the women’s faction and the gay faction in the Labour party who are writing the party’s policies these days, and this is a bad thing.

By default, Labour’s politics are now determined by its well-organised factions – the women’s and gay divisions of the party.

It has drafted in a number of MPs who have studied poverty and the working class but have never come from those areas of difficulty.

The party, as a consequence, no longer had a robust debate and a wonderful test of the conflict of ideas required to shape answers for such questions as, “What do we stand for, who are we, and how are we going to apply what we stand for?”

What a stunning piece of analysis! One which completely ignores the demographics of the NZ Labour party hierarchy, which would be overwhelmingly heterosexual, and largely male. Of course there are more women and gay people in the Labour party hierarchy compared to say, the National party hierarchy, but that’s because the Labour party has always been more hospitable to marginalised people than the National party. (‘Though that’s not saying a lot.) Even so, the leader, the president, the finance spokesperson in the Labour party are all white, married men. The positions of power in the party are held by white married men. I’m thinking that they probably have quite an influence on policy.

Here’s some news for you, John. These days, women are allowed to vote. These days, gays and lesbians don’t have to disguise themselves behind a front of heterosexuality. To be sure, there’s a long way to go in terms of accepting gay and lesbian and queer and trans and bisexual people as they are, but in New Zealand and in many other countries around the world, it is much more possible for people who are not part of the straight norm to be out, in public, and (this is a shocker, John – you may find it hard to cope) even in public office.

The NZ Labour party is going through a period of re-negotiating an understanding of itself, working out new ways to serve New Zealand. Noticeably, it wants to do the best for all New Zealanders, not just those who are deemed fit by the mindset of mid-twentieth century power structures. That means that women and gay people get to have a say too. What is so bad about that?

Thank goodness John Tamihere is no longer in power, and his only platform is a newspaper column and talk-back radio, with its reach of hundreds.