The first time

I was going through my old Tumblr to find my go-to chocolate cake recipe, and stumbled upon this… my first ever IBD-related blog post, I suspect. 25 May 2011. I thought I’d post it here for posterity.

Those were the days… incredible pain on the daily, uncontrollable urgency, no painkillers, incapable of properly attending lectures. But also, relatively simple meds with less impact on my total system. No surgery, no steroids, no biologics. Not even my full-blown diagnosis yet. Anyway, without further ado, here’s 20-year-old Briar’s words about IBD:

Continue reading The first time

movement

This time a year ago, I was in Wellington. But I knew I’d be leaving it behind soon.

Now, I’m in Wellington again, but only for  few days. I’ve only been here a couple of hours and the weather is broody and windy and typical, but it really feels so good.

I hold tight to the knowledge that my new job has a Wellington office too, in case the opportunity to return comes up.

Wellington is where I fit in. It’s where the city’s pulse is as close to mine as any city could get. Auckland is ‘home’ – in the sense of it’s where I was born, where I grew up, where I currently live. Wellington is where everything makes more sense.

I’m sitting in Uther’s Mum’s lounge, surrounded by empty bookshelves and a piano. I have a sore throat, and the plane’s landing decent was the roughest I’ve ever experienced. But it’s still the place I want to be. I picture a future, and it’s here.

For now, though, life and work means Auckland. It could be worse.

I have no plans, except to absorb the essence of the place for a little while, and to see as many people as possible. It feels like it’s been no time at all.

honiara essays

I have a million things to still write about Honiara. Here is what will eventually (touch wood) eventuate:

  • My first foray into sports writing, by way of describing two separate volleyball matches between various teams made up of local folks working in the legal sector. The High Court has two dusty volleyball courts right next door. This is one of my favourite things about Honiara.
  • Writing something about Seif Ples and the amazing work that the women who work there do to help domestic violence victims in times of absolute crisis.
  • The food. Coconuts. Cold pineapple straight from the fridge. Banana loaf made with small slightly red, very sweet local varieties. Ngali nuts. Expat pizzas. Expensive savoured chocolate. Cocomon smoothies. Bush lime everywhere.
  • The clothing. The bale shop offerings in a rainbow of colours and shapes and all possibly treated with some kind of nasty chemical somewhere en route so everything needs to be adequately washed before wearing. The bizarre mix of t-shirts that turn up: Megadeth, Zumba, Spongebob, Marilyn Manson, ‘MAFIOSO’, Deadmaus, Cookie Monster.
  • Pijin. A village called Dereni, because it’s right beside a drain site. ‘Tanggio tumas’ raising a smile from locals in the market. ‘Rais blong yumi long Solomon’.
  • A drunk public servant called David from the far west of the island group describing how much they love Kiwis back home and how every year in August they celebrate New Zealand Landing Day, when Kiwi troops arrived there in WW2.
  • Lyndon and his awesome kids and entrepreneurial mind and amazing view out towards Central Province.
  • Everything on Savo.
  • The fact that I desperately want to go back.

coriander, basil, corn

The first plant I have ever successfully grown is a small pot of coriander.
I can’t even claim to have grown it, really, just not let it die. It’s in a giant teacup that I inherited when a flatmate four flats ago left to go overseas. I kept fruit in it, but my kitchen is tiny and the teacup was relocated to a bookshelf when a rice cooker took countertop precedence. There were still oranges and kiwifruit in it, and they sat there forgotten, gently moulding.

When I remembered, I put the bowl outside and it’s lived there ever since. The pot of coriander found a home there when I decided to take a punt on a live pottle rather than a sprig sealed in plastic for the same price. Some leaves have turned reddish, then brown, and I’ve plucked them when I remember. But fresh shoots of green appear, with that bright, right flavour, and the inclement Auckland summer showers are a pain for my washing but brilliant for my laissez-faire approach to gardening.

Today, I needed basil, and I brought home a pot that’s the Mediterranean twin of my coriander. We’ll see if this cycle of success can continue.

 

Over the fence, there is corn. Corn, in the middle of a backyard in Auckland. Corn, and a tree of unknown botanical origin, but one that monarch butterflies like to cling to in autumn. On one windy, terrifically unpleasant day, there was an orange and black blur and then a monarch perched on the boughs as they were buffeted in the the wind. Clinging on, holding tight and waiting for the storm to be over. There is a tree that bears fruit that I don’t recognise. There are sometimes tūī, which make me feel like maybe I could be back in Wellington, where the central suburbs are more rife with beautiful wildlife. This little pocket of Grey Lynn, near the park, is an anomaly for Auckland. I come from here, but maybe the emphasis should be on the ‘from’. The beaches, yes, the pōhutukawa, the jobs. But the people, the soul, the sparkle – it’s empty. Auckland doesn’t feel like anything, there’s no sense of collective spirit. Take me back to Wellington, where community feels real and the culture is more confident.

 

Tomorrow I start a new job. While there are always numerous factors that played into the decision to take it, many of them come down to a desire to both push myself and alleviate life and financial stress. Once that burden is taken away, I’m hoping I have the spare ergs at the end of each day to sit and write. Even if it’s just a blog entry prattling away about coriander and basil and my disdain for Auckland.

 

I don’t really follow sport, and neither does my sister, but once, our dad was watching a cricket game and she was around. ‘That’s Corey Anderson,’ Dad said of one player.

‘Corey Anderson?’ Merf asked. ‘Also known as Cilantro Kid?’

waiting. and then. and now.

I worked a regular forty hours last week. Then I hopped on a plane and went to Wellington and stayed up until 2:30am catching up with beautiful people.

I left their house at 7:20, walked down the hill from Brooklyn. So that I could get some early morning cold air into my lungs to wake me up.

I worked from 8am till 7pm, because that’s what you do in the festival. I caught up with other beautiful people afterwards. I realised at my sister’s that night that I hadn’t told her that Virgil was sick. That he was dying.

The next morning, I used a bookseller ticket to go in to the first session of the day. Paul Beavis was reading from his picture books. The audience was full of toddlers in costumes. My phone buzzed partway through. I checked it; it could have been the shop.

Virgil had died that morning.

I had at least eight hours of the day ahead. And a final catch-up with beautiful people.

I compartmentalised. I worked through the day. I cheerfully greeted people. I had gravy fries. We drove up Wright’s Hill and looked out across the city.

I went to the airport again. Flew home with Uther. Went to bed. Woke up. Went to work.

I read a Facebook post about funeral details. Someone commented asking if a particular vehicle they had seen near the house had been the sort of people who take bodies away taking Virgil away.

I think that was the really, truly, sinking in moment.

So now, I am allowing myself to feel the pain of loss. For myself, for Charlotte and the girls. For Maggie. For the rest of the family.

For the world, too. Because everyone who knew him loved him, of that I’m sure. You can’t not love that kind of spirit and humour and passion. The hours and hours I have spent around him seem woefully inadequate now. The last conversation, over two years ago – because my timing in moving to Wellington was not made for this eventuality.

Nothing could be, though, could it?

A Vigil

Someone who I hold very dear does not have much longer for this world.

It’s not uncommon to feel that the worst part of a break-up isn’t losing the other person (especially when time has provided a little perspective), it’s losing touch with their family. After the initial hurt of my last big break-up had mellowed, the thing that really stuck out was how much I was missing the rest of his family, who I had spent so much time with, adventures over to Devonport on the regular to see C and V and O.

My timing in going to Wellington didn’t help things. We were still in vague social media oriented contact, and before I left for Wellington (and after the break-up) we hung out – I talked with C and V about my plans in studying publishing, they talked about what was on the cards for them – I had some good cuddles with wee O, and we hovered as she stomped through the waves at Devonport Beach.

I only came back to Auckland twice while I was in Wellington, and they were both very brief visits. Weird work hours and very little holiday pay after a major Crohn’s issue last year meant that travel funds and timing were both less than flexible. I didn’t get a chance to catch up with the Devonport crowd. And I’m going to regret that for a long time.

Because I’m not going to see V again. He’s my ex’s brother-in-law, and one of my favourite people in the world.As a group we shared the same snarky brand of humour. I learned about writing, about gardens, about food from him. He had so many stories to share, and if you’ve read any of his writing but never met him, he’s just as delightful in person as on paper – more so, even. He told me to just pitch articles to places. To build up my writing. To follow that particular passion like he has. And I have. And I’ll be perpetually grateful to him for that.

He’s a wonderful father to his girls – O is magical, and I presume that Little V must be too, though I haven’t had a chance to meet her. That little house in Devonport is so full of love and warmth, and I can’t begin to imagine how the tone has changed. From what I have heard, he is still with them, but he is gravely ill.

I wanted to write to remember, and celebrate, and share something of someone who is a glorious human being.

And then, just in case you have anything that you can spare for a little family dealing with the hardest thing imaginable, there is a Give a Little page set up. Anything that you can contribute will help C and the girls deal with the costs to come.

I’ve had my first week at my new job, which has been great, but every evening I have come home and shut off. I know I’m lucky to be my age without having encountered much in the way of unexpected loss. But that knowledge doesn’t help right now. My heart aches for the family, for him, for everyone he has touched (and there are so many).

 

Little House Near the Dairy

Sometimes you shouldn’t go with the first pun that comes into your head, but so be it.

My partner Uther and I have just moved into our own place for the first time. Exciting! It’s nice and fresh and modern, hooray! It’s also very small. It’s a studio, sort of a detached granny flat, really. But we live within these walls and nobody else does, so it’s a good time.

house interior shotOr it will be, once we have it set up.

Small houses are a major Thing right now. So good work, self. We’re bang on trend. But small houses that are nice to live in and visually appealing take some work, I’m beginning to think. Especially when that small house needs to somehow fit somewhere in the range of 400 books, if possible. And a big TV. And two humans who occasionally need their own space.

I’ve never really ‘lifestyle’ blogged before, but since my new job is as a copywriter, I’m dabbling in all kinds of areas that I haven’t really touched before. And with my new job comes all manner of Great Life Developments. Everyone there eats really healthily. They do yoga on Friday lunchtimes. We’re organising an after work French lesson. I feel like I’m finally doing that Adulting thing. So it seems like a really good time to leap into something a bit different for blogging too. At least every now and then.

So, alongside the books and the music and the Crohn’s and the rambling creative pieces, stay tuned for more updates along the lines of Life on Ariki Street and Things From Briar’s Crockpot.

I think it’ll be a good time.

Salt Lick

last time
all of us
a smaller, self-contained, of the moment
kind of all of us
we sat at the water
she went into the ocean
her feet cautious then
enraptured
the elongated vowels of a toddler
whose life is
overwhelming/exciting/in danger
pick one
she’s not sure herself
trying to stamp down
the water as it licks her ankles
swift kicks and sun hats
and sandals up on the sand

we watched and laughed and talked and said
we’ll keep in touch

Shouts from the void…

I’ve been so dreadful at maintaining this lately. Life is busy, and it’s winter. Combine those two things with an eternally uncooperative immune system and chronic blah-blah-blah and I’ve been pretty exhausted when I’ve been in a position to write things. Which is a pain, both for my disposable income and my general creative juices.

So, an update:

In curly health news! I have written a thing for the Crohn’s & Colitis NZ website about my experience living with IBD. I also spoke last week at a meeting of Inner Wheel (a women’s branch of Rotary), along with Brian Poole, the chairman of CCNZ, about my experiences with Crohn’s and associated shenanigans. It was rather lovely, actually – and I won the raffle, which was a bonus.

In book news! I have been reading SO MUCH GOOD STUFF. The Man Booker Longlist has some excellent heft to it this year. I adored The Chimes, by very lovely kiwi Anna Smaill , and hope like hell that it wins – but at the same time, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is astounding. I haven’t felt that torn apart by a book in a long time – possibly ever. Part of me thinks that Yanagihara might be the first person to take the Booker, Pulitzer and the Bailey’s (formerly Orange) prizes. It’s only the second year that a person could really be eligible for all three. Maybe we should have a draw for the Booker and Bailey’s? Could we do that?

Of the ‘Booker dozen’ I have also read Lila by Marilynne Robinson, which was also excellent. I’ve also got Anne Enright’s The Green Road on my bedside stack, but after I’ve wrangled that one, I might wait until the shortlist is announced, just to pare down my list a little.

I’ve been continuing my radio reviews, still primarily on Newstalk ZB, but I’ve nipped over to Radio NZ once, and will hopefully do so again. So far, I’ve talked about The Mime Order (as previously mentioned), Aquarium by David Vann, The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent, The Villa at the Edge of the Empire by Fiona Farrell, The Age of Earthquakes by Douglas Coupland and, most recently, Mislaid by Nell Zink. All have been excellent, and have provoked interesting discussion in the studio. I’ll try to do some written bits and pieces on at least some of them at some point.

I’m also trying to stay on top of NZ books, naturally, and am about to get back into The Pale North by Hamish Clayton, after putting it on a brief hiatus while getting on top of things needing review or other immediate attention. I’ve also recently gotten through New Hokkaido by James McNaughton and The Predictions by Bianca Zander – and the previously mentioned The Chimes and The Villa at the Edge of the Empire are both NZ books too.

The second Rat Queens trade is out, and I’m verrrry slowly working my way through it, so as to make it last as long as possible.

And, most recently, I’ve just finished Margaret Atwood’s forthcoming novel The Heart Goes Last. Which I have mixed feelings on. I enjoyed it – I just didn’t adore it as much as I’d hoped I would. Again, I’ll try to write something of more substance soon. I think I was – we all were – spoiled with the expansive world and characters created in the Maddaddam trilogy – but The Heart Goes Last is standalone and tops out at just over 300 pages, and is accordingly much more limited in its scope.

My to-do list is full of exciting things. The Enright, I’ve already mentioned. I also have an ARC of the new Jonathan Franzen, which will be interesting as I’ve never actually done any Franzen before. But I’ve been hearing immensely good things. I still need to get around to reading my work-birthday-present book, Between You & Me by Mary Norris, which promises to be delightful. I also still need to bash through The Art of Asking out of a sense of curiosity and nostalgia. And there are a million other things on my to-do pile, but to try to note them all would be a waste of everyone’s time. Suffice it to say that I’ll get there, one day.

Also, in book/writing news, I wrote the content for the latest Unity newsletter, which was deeply satisfying to see come to fruition (I’d managed to forget the joys of the print production process already, but it was good to be reminded of how things operate). It’s all online in PDF form now, but you can also grab a print copy if you’re in Wellington or Auckland.

That ‘update’ turned much more in-depth than I’d intended. Ah, well. Consider yourselves informed.