Sunday, September 29, 2013

The too-hard (food) basket

After two good days (by my standards) at work, I crashed again on Friday. No energy at all. I also had a lot of sinus pain. At least it was Friday. Finding out that next Friday night's six-monthly awards dinner/party will be held on a moving boat didn't help either. The desirability to me of any work event is dictated by how easy it is to escape. Plus I've signed up for quite a hard tramp, starting early on Saturday, and the last thing I need is a hangover.

I'm skeptical about this paleo diet which I haven't yet started. My "different" doctor had these five words to say about it: "It will change your life." Well yes, not being able to eat such basic foods as grain or even most types of potato is life-changing. What makes it so hard for me is the very reason my doctor suggested I follow the diet: my depression, which makes everything take longer, which means I can't afford to spend extra time on food preparation (which might mean I'm half an hour late for work). Also how am I supposed to explain the reasons for my diet to other people? It's very strict, and even if you've followed the rules to the letter for 29 days out of 30, you're deemed to have failed. I don't understand this: we're not talking about smoking here. Still, I haven't dismissed the idea entirely, and I plan to make a start next weekend (this will mean my 30 days include five weekends; it's much easier for me to control my diet when I'm not going to work).

On Friday's Millionaire Hot Seat (yes I watched that rubbish again), one contestant mentioned an autistic relative, saying that autism "is a disease with no cure". He wouldn't win any prizes for political correctness with that comment. Although to be fair, if you think about where the word "disease" comes from, autism makes life hard enough to certainly be a dis-ease. This morning's Attitude programme was devoted to Jimmy, a 22-year-old member of the Auckland group who I briefly met last week. You can instantly tell that he's on the spectrum. His big passion is films, and (all credit to him) he was keen to find work. He got a voluntary job at the Auckland Film Festival, ushering people to their seats in his typically brusque style. "Today I want you to smile," he was told. He then repeatedly got lost as he delivered flyers to shops and cafés. Jimmy's 18-year-old brother also has Asperger's; their mother said it was hard talking about her sons and having to explain everything. Their dad seemed quite outgoing and had a very good sense of humour.

It's that abrupt way of talking that I find most off-putting when I meet people on the spectrum. Tom was like that when I first got to know him. It was almost like talking to a robot. He's improved a lot in the last few months.

Yesterday I met Phil at the Café Breton in town. He was staying in Wellington for the weekend. I didn't mention that I was in Auckland last weekend (he might have thought I didn't care about him); he told me all about the big storm which I pretended not to know much about. The café was run by people from Brittany (hence the name) and I ordered my crêpe in French. It was close to the TSB Arena where the WOW (World of WearableArt) show was happening. It's the second-largest event in Wellington's calendar. There were crowds of people, mostly women in their late forties or older. That's a very different demographic to the one attracted to Wellington's biggest annual event. Phil talked about his struggle to buy property in the crazy Auckland market. He recently went to an auction for a place numbered 44 (that's "double death" in Chinese so he thought he might have stood a chance) but the bids got so high that he didn't even stay till the end. It sounded like my experiences in 2009, with an added $150,000 or so. As I sat at a café in central Auckland last weekend, I saw someone poring over the Chinese version of the Property Press (I didn't know that existed) and making phone calls. It's time they put a stop to foreign property ownership in NZ. Imagine a Kiwi trying to buy a place in Beijing or Shanghai.

Last Sunday's warm weather in Auckland took me by surprise after the storm we'd had hours earlier. I had a sinking feeling after talking to Mandy who updated me on various gossip from our ex-colleagues. She said she has no desire to keep in touch with them either, but feels obliged to from a professional perspective. I'm so glad I'm out of all of that. When she got back to her study I walked along Takapuna Beach, as I did most lunchtimes for about three years. I bumped into a woman who I used to see on the bus when I lived in Bayswater in 2004 (she had an intellectual disability and had supported employment) - I don't think she recognised me.

Judith Collins wants to revamp NZ's antiquated and horribly inefficient judicial system. About bloody time. Judges and lawyers do very nicely out of the current system.

I thought I heard on the radio yesterday that it was the tenth anniversary of Johnny Cash's death. This was actually a couple of weeks ago, not that it really matters. Here's the video of Hurt, which he did shortly before he died. It's hard to watch without getting a bit choked up.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A stormy trip to Auckland

Hooray! It's over! The America's Cup regatta came to an end in this morning's 19th race of the best-of-17 series, with the limitless resources of Oracle winning out. It's remarkable how many Kiwis got so emotionally (and irrationally) involved in it all. It wasn't NZ v USA or anything close to that, it was a battle between two mega-corporations. I kept hearing "we've been penalised" and "we've got no chance now", and even the mayor of San Francisco said "we won!". You can just about get away with "we" when a national team like the All Blacks are playing, but how can you get that attached to a brand? Today I got a long and very emotive text from Brendan (a friend from Auckland) who normally shows no interest in sport at all. He was "totally disgusted", calling Oracle's comeback a "conspiracy" and saying, in all caps, "MONEY TALKS". I totally agree with his last point. I only learnt yesterday that Larry Ellison (Mr Oracle) is the world's fifth-richest man. As for Dean Barker, he took defeat extremely well I thought. I hope the NZ government cut their funding for the next America's Cup challenge to zero. Imagine if that money was spent on mental health services instead.

The piece in the Press on the America's Cup by the ever-brilliant Joe Bennett sums it all up rather nicely. Two more of Bennett's columns caught my eye. First there was this one about personalised plates. It's weird, people pay hundreds of dollars to get hard-to-decipher vowel-free combinations because they provide an ego-boost. Not so long ago I was following a car with a plate that read (or so I thought) NOTLGB. Hmmm, what's LGB? Is that, like, gay? So you're straight? As I got closer I noticed it wasn't a B on the end, it was an 8. NOTLG8. Huh? I sat right behind him until it finally clicked. "No tailgate". But I had to get so damn close to figure that out. Then there's this piece which touches on a subject dear to my heart, all that nauseating marketing speak (I'm guilty sometimes too: I talk about "issues" too much). As he says, words matter. He's obviously a voracious reader; that's one reason why he writes so well.

Well I left Wellington eventually on Friday night. We had a downpour and a rare thunderstorm; one of the planes on the ground was struck by lightning. There were a lot of cancellations as a result, and it was complete chaos in the terminal building. The departure boards were worse than useless (they only showed a handful of flights and gave dodgy information about those) and the staff were very unhelpful. I spoke to one woman who told me all flights were suspended for the evening and I'd need to queue up to get put on a plane the next day. I had my phone on me and, as a rare treat, I'd bought an internet data package. According to my phone, that woman was telling porkies and I was good to go from gate 11. After a 90-minute delay we did indeed take off from gate 11. The plane was packed - people had been rebooked on my flight from earlier (cancelled) flights. The flight was fine. My phone was a godsend: I knew exactly which bus to get on and where, and I arrived at the motel a few minutes after midnight.

On Saturday I met up with Richard in Newmarket before the autism group. I hadn't seen him in over a year. I still prefer the set-up of the Auckland group to the way they run it here in Wellington. There you're able to get up, walk about, and have conversations in twos and threes. Richard will try and talk to just about everybody, which is great. As I chatted to some new people (there was one woman I really liked) I bemoaned the fact that I wouldn't see them for at least six months, possibly longer, possibly ever. There's a bigger spread of ages at the Auckland group: in Wellington they're mostly twenty-somethings.

A big thunderstorm came through on Saturday night (I could have been luckier with the weather). The rain was torrential and I was kept awake for hours. Between two and four, the fork lightning got further away, then closer again. In the morning I popped over to the Shore to meet up with Mandy, who is now five months pregnant. So that gave us an obvious topic of conversation. She was also studying for yet another exam. I don't know how she still manages it (she reckoned the prospect of a new baby gave her extra motivation). Her partner holds a senior position at the same company; in her (serious) words he gets paid far too much. They bought an apartment in Birkdale, a stone's throw from the cold, damp flat I lived in for a year. Its value has already shot up in the short time they've owned the place. Mandy asked if I would ever consider having a family. Never say never, I said. I think I'd be OK at the dad bit up to the age of five, but not much use after that.

On Monday I caught up with the ex-facilitator of the Wellington autism group.  We had lunch at the swanky new section of Britomart. She's pretty happy with her lot now - her husband's got a good job while hers (at a school) is rewarding and almost free of stress. It's all very different to their situation when they lived in Wellington. Later I met Richard again, at his new flat in Onehunga. He showed me his drawings, mostly of fantastical figures, then played me some songs on the guitar. It must be nice to have his level of creativity. Things are looking up for Richard - he's far happier with his current flatting situation than some of his previous arrangements.

I didn't get to see Bazza while I was up there, or (despite my best efforts) Brendan, which isn't his real name, or either of his two previous real names. The wet and windy weather made Tuesday a bit of a write-off. I couldn't really go anywhere or do anything before my flight except read my book. I was pessimistic about my flight but it took off with only a short delay. Our approach and landing was a bit bumpy but unremarkable by Wellington standards. So I was back to work yesterday, and I surprised myself (and probably my boss too) by how on the ball I was.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It's no choke

I'm back in Wellington now. I'll hopefully talk about Auckland in my next post.

So after this morning's race it's now 8-6, and the horribly overused word "choke" is rearing its ugly head. But to liken this turn of events to Greg Norman's collapse in the 1996 Masters is comparing apples with oranges. After each race they can make adjustments to the boat and personnel. Given the sort of money Oracle have at their disposal, things can change dramatically. The scheduling continues to defy common sense - the first race was postponed just long enough that a second race couldn't take place.

Check out this song (and video) from Mumford & Sons. I'm not sure I "get" the video (none of the people in it are band members) but I really like the song. I think it's brilliant that they've done so well - in 2013 it's an unlikely success story.

Monday, September 23, 2013

America's Cock

I've spent a pleasant long weekend in Auckland. Today I had lunch with the lady who used to facilitate the Wellington autism group. We only touched on the America's Cup in our chat. I've thought all along that the whole thing is a bit of a crock - she went one better by calling it a cock.

The telly in my motel room is missing (of all channels) TV1, so no America's Cock watching for me. I don't care enough to go down to Shed 10 to watch it, so I've been making do with the (very informative) radio commentary. As yet another crazy rule is invoked with each passing race, the series descends deeper into farce. Too much wind, not enough wind, the wrong type of wind. Then the time-limit rule. When the commentators got wind (!) of that rule, I assumed that whoever was ahead at the 40-minute mark (Emirates in this case) would be declared the winner. But no, the race was deemed to be null and void. Utterly ludicrous. What's more, nobody on either boat knew anything about the rule. This morning a whale was lurking close to the course - what a shame it didn't stop the race; that would have capped things off nicely.

So, with the score at 8-5, what will happen next? My guess is that  Emirates will be docked a couple of points for using an illegal jib-doobrie, and that'll make it 6-5. They'll then trade blows over the next few races to leave things tantalisingly poised at 8-8, at which time they'll dig out a rule requiring a two-point margin to win (this is used in other sports and would be way more sensible than many of the other rules we've recently found out about). Some time next month, with the score at 14-13, the total loss of productivity from people watching the races will have exceeded the potential benefits to the country of hosting the next series.

As for the all the money we NZ taxpayers have pumped into this campaign, don't get me started. Please just let it be over. Go Team ... er ... Emirates!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


I hardly feel amazingly wonderful now, but compared to a week ago I'm much better. For over a week I wasn't good at all. Going through my old blog posts, I can see that my brain has filtered out some of my worst experiences.

Last night Dad told me about his latest big scare. He had a blood test for prostate cancer (PSA test) and the result was alarmingly high. He flies to the UK next week and they were going to put off his actual check (for lumps) until he got back but he insisted he had the check before then. Although his prostate is enlarged they didn't detect cancer,so he feels he's dodged a bullet there, but he'll have more tests in early November. Prostate cancer isn't easy to treat but you can survive with it for years - there seems to be a lot of variation in how aggressive it is. Dad isn't looking forward to the flight - it takes a lot out of him. He said he'd never go direct again.

Tuesday's second America's Cup race really was exciting - no doubt about that - and after today's race the Kiwi team have several match points up their sleeve. So as long as they don't capsize they should be OK. It'll be a real boon to Auckland if they can host it again. The races, and everything that goes on in between them, have received wall-to-wall coverage in NZ. But in San Francisco most people are aware that there's some kind of, y'know, boat race, and that's about it.

In contrast to the yachting, New Zealand's Davis Cup promotion tie in the Philippines received very little coverage at all, but it was a drama-filled contest that finished in the early hours of the morning, local time. The Kiwis somehow got over the line, with Michael Venus coming from two sets down to beat Treat Huey (great name) in the deciding match. I can't quite decide whether I should get back to playing tennis again. The exercise would be hugely beneficial to me I'm sure.

On Monday I played board games with Tracy and Tom. The first game we tried was a card game where you had to put various inventions in chronological order. It was more interesting than it sounds. I guessed reasonably well, making up for how little I actually knew. The other game was what they call a "programming" game. You roll dice which you then put in an ordered sequence to direct a robot through a rather complicated course. I got confused and kept rolling "backwards" when I needed to go forwards, or vice-versa, and didn't get very far.

I'm going to Auckland tomorrow. I still have to pack. I've got quite a few people I want to catch up with. When I get back I'll be thinking about flatmates.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The big switchover (I could do with one)

I never thought digital-only telly would come to New Zealand, but in two weeks they'll be switching off our analogue signal. I remember my grandmother grappling with digital TV on one of my visits to the UK; they really should have waited for all the old people to die before making such a confusing change. I'm not a big telly watcher (my flaky undigital reception might have had something to do with that) and the whole digital thing just wasn't a high priority for me. Plus I didn't want to spend the money. Last week, despite feeling like crap, I forced myself to at least think about it, and this morning (having browsed PriceSpy) I bought a 32-inch Samsung TV from Noel Leeming for $400. I was in and out within five minutes before all that light and noise completely engulfed me, although when I saw an 80-incher on display I felt like asking them if they had anything bigger than that. Installing and tuning my new TV was surprisingly painless. I had visions of, well, no vision, but instead I've got a really sharp picture.

This morning's first America's Cup race (the NZ boat almost capsized) was the lead news item at 9am. It's a shame I missed the race - it seems to me that, just like in Formula One, the exciting bits are when someone crashes (or nearly crashes). I turned on the (old) TV in time for the second race. Right, I still don't know whether it's a jive or a jibe but I'm going to watch this and it's going to be great. But it was abandoned half-way through due to high winds. The commentators thought that was farcical and I was inclined to agree. They then had some expert on, trying to explain things for people like me. He said, "the pre-start is the most exciting part of the race." What?! Imagine if the warm-up was the best part of a tennis match. When we stayed in NZ in the summer of 1986-87, there was some America's Cup series between the Stars & Stripes and a Kiwi boat called KZ7. They played Rod Stewart's Sailing over and over. My older cousins, who sailed all summer, were right into the yachting. I was too young to have a clue what was happening. Many years later I still don't have a clue.

It was a superb day yesterday (I was secretly hoping it would be the exact opposite) and although I had little energy I went for a walk, trying to make the most of the weather. I stopped for a coffee and ended up talking to a 72-year-old woman (what's the cut-off beyond which women happily tell you their age?) who knew a lot about Syria and other conflicts, and was pessimistic about the future of the planet and its people.

Last week was exhausting. Everything had slowed down considerably. It took me noticeably longer to walk to and from work. Normally I'm a reasonably fast walker but people were streaming past me. And as for the bit in between the two walks, well that had almost ground to a halt. I sat at my desk, shaking, unable to remember what I'd done 30 seconds or two minutes before. I was constantly having to backtrack. Work kept piling up in my queue. I was unable to prioritise: my depression had taken over everything and become Priority A and B and C and D.

It was my old boss's last week, so we had leaving lunches and drinks on Thursday and Friday. That was all I needed. At least when I'm at my desk I can sort of pretend. Friday's drinks after work were particularly horrible; we went to the Green Man - several hectares of floor space crammed with people, some of whom I was supposed to interact with. I wasn't there for long. I spent some time with two blokes from work - they both knew me from our work involvements but they didn't know each other, until they got talking about guitars and bands and karaoke, and after a while it was clear that they were getting on like a house on fire, so I left them to it, and soon left the Green Man altogether.

When I got to work on Thursday my payslip was in my inbox so I checked my bank and credit card statements. What's that $65 for? Ah yes, now that name rings a bell, didn't I look at that site ( when I was trying to find that 56 Up movie? But I don't remember giving out my credit card details (I don't do that willy-nilly) and I sure as hell didn't sign up for paid movies. A quick Google gave me the answer. I'd been scammed by those bastards at, and if I did nothing I'd get charged $65 every month. Wow. I went to the bank and got my credit card cancelled for a $10 fee. So 56 Up became 75 Down. I was given a "disputed transaction" form to fill in - I haven't done so yet and don't fancy my chances of getting that money back.

The first time I felt like this, where life went by in slow motion and took on a grey, metallic tinge, was in Lyon back in 2001. Just like then, the last thing I want to do is see or talk to anybody, and almost everything I do is a function of my depression. Dad had a call from her sister who is going through a bad depressive spell too, probably worse than mine. After talking about her, I then mentioned my latest bout. Dad said that with the possibilities my app might still give me, my mood should instead be elevated. My parents have been really supportive with anything app-related and I do appreciate that.

I'm going to Auckland this Friday night. I'll be staying till Tuesday. It's a well-timed trip for me. After last week, I desperately need to get away. Spending time with people who don't freak me out will be a welcome change. When I get back I plan to start my new diet (it won't be easy) and advertise for a flatmate.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Is this for real?

Work. Oh god. It's happening again. For a while I go along merrily (well, not exactly, but I sort of chug along in third gear) and then, bam, all of a sudden I plummet off a cliff. I took Tuesday afternoon off sick. Just before I left I drafted an email to my new boss saying that these latest changes aren't going to work for me. It seemed a better option than pretending everything was fine - I haven't had much luck with that strategy in the past. I sent the email when I got to work this morning. Despite my best efforts I didn't get much done today. I had all the usual physical symptoms. It took me an age to do anything, and I promptly forgot whatever I'd just done. We have a system where - bizarrely - you have to type gibberish at a certain point, and I must have stared at the "jsrttrsjtsr" (or whatever it was) for several minutes without even realising it. I looked at the vacant bank of desks behind me - heck, soon there are bound to be people sitting there, and then it really will be game over. I remembered ducking to avoid a flying pigeon as I was walking down the street - I know the event happened in the last few days, but I don't know if it was real or whether I dreamt it. I think it was real - I'd say I'm 70-80% sure. I improved a bit in the last hour of the day, probably because I knew it was the last hour, and have felt better since I got home.

Canterbury has been hit hard by the storms. My parents' power was out from 5pm yesterday until 6:30 this evening. They can cope with a power outage quite well. They've got gas and have a steady supply of water from the stream. Their biggest worry was all the meat in the freezer - probably half a cow at least.

It's official - a copy of the yellow sticker arrived in my letter box on Monday. Another copy will soon be attached to the building.

On Monday I heard this song emanating from Cosmic on Cuba Street. It's by Fever Ray, a Swedish artist I hadn't heard of before. I managed to catch just enough lyrics to jot them down and Google them when I got home. It's a pretty good song on YouTube but much better coming from proper speakers. I've started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (although I haven't read any this week) - with that and Fever Ray, I'd quite like to go to Sweden.

Rafael Nadal's serious purple patch has taken a lot of people by surprise. I've heard suggestions that he might be juiced up. He's now won 13 grand slams, just one behind Sampras and four behind Federer. It's incredible that 30 of the last 42 majors have been won by just two men (Djokovic has bagged half of the remaining dozen). Serena Williams, like Federer, now has 17 slams, but unlike Federer I can see her adding another three or four to that tally.

After badminton on Sunday we went for a short walk. It was a stunning day (quite the opposite of today) and I took this photo:

Monday, September 9, 2013


It's been an exhausting day. My old boss leaves at the end of the week. The responsibility for a task that he used to do, which is actually several tasks, has fallen on me. As luck would have it I'm taking over just as there's this major launch, the likes of which haven't happened in years, and I still don't know what I'm doing. Nor do I particularly care. Today I was supposed to provide time frames for when I would have my various tasks done, so that they could "socialise the project". That's some serious BS there, folks. I then provided some time frames which were also BS. Saying how long it would take me was a bit trying to say how long it would take me to drive somewhere I've never been before, with the added bonus that I neither know nor care where the destination is. We then had a meeting where it became obvious to everyone that I didn't have a clue, and that's when I felt really stupid. The word "collateral" was used in that meeting to mean, as far as I could tell, "printed documents". That threw me a bit - we weren't caught in the crossfire of a battle, nor were we taking out a loan. I talked to my old boss after the meeting - I told him that I didn't really know what I was doing and there's only so much feeling stupid that I can handle. He said we'll need to scope out this and scope out that, and I just wanted to go home, open the freezer and scope out some ice cream.

I had my counselling appointment in my lunch break. She was very helpful and got me to think about things like I've never done before. I felt that I was able to put my finger on why I don't really have relationships. When I interact with someone, it is to exchange information or opinions, and not a lot else. But when other (more socially adept) people interact, they also make connections. That's what I'm not doing and don't really know how to. (There's certainly humour involved when I interact though, and I wonder what that's all about, because a lot of people on the autistic spectrum don't - or very rarely - use humour. Maybe my humour is different to that of most neurotypicals. I don't know.)

Another thing that came up was my constant looking at the clock or watch. I'm almost obsessive about the passing of time. My near-obsession doesn't have much to do with being punctual, it's more a concern about life passing me by without doing anything meaningful.

After work, instead of burying my face in a bowl of ice cream, I attended the autism group. It's getting too big now: I think there were 27 people including the facilitators. There was a new guy who went by the name of "Mr Ronald". This might sound cruel but Mr Ronald (forty? fifty? it was extremely hard to pick his age) reminded me of Gollum - he had verbal tics, and would often bend over double and cough and sneeze and blow his nose. Poor chap, basically. We weren't in the same subgroup so I didn't get to see much of him. After tonight I'm actually quite glad to be in Auckland in two weeks.

So Serena won yet another grand slam. To win the third set so emphatically after everything that went on in the second is the mark of a champion.

Some very positive sports news - after the ridiculous decision to drop wrestling from the 2016 Olympics, it'll be back for the 2020 Games, which we now know will be held in Tokyo.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

On-court exertions

I played badminton today with the anxiety group. It was more enjoyable than I expected. We played a lot of short doubles games to eleven. Near the start of the session we had a game consisting of many long rallies - I felt like I was really getting a workout. I need more of that.

Maybe I could get all that exertion if I joined a tennis club. Andy Murray was upset in straight sets in the quarter-finals of the US Open, much to the delight of one of my colleagues who said Murray was arrogant. His on-court demeanour isn't always that endearing I agree, but I've never found him arrogant, in fact quite the opposite.

Tony Abbott has been elected as Australian prime minister. When your name is that close to the start of the phone book, what can you expect? (Various studies have shown that people with surnames alphabetically near the beginning are over-represented at the upper echelons of politics. And just think of the last three British prime ministers - Blair, Brown and Cameron.) On that loose language-related theme, I heard that the words "selfie" and "twerking" have been added to the online version of the Oxford dictionary. I took my first ever deliberate selfie today. Until a few weeks ago I didn't know it had a special name. As for twerking, I can't say I'll be doing that any time soon.

Last week Campbell Live did a story about a young woman who was causing all kinds of mayhem at her flat; when the landlord sensibly gave her an eviction notice, she responded by trashing the place. Kerre McIvor (or Woodham as she used to be) has written a piece about it here. "It was probably the hardest she'd worked in her life" - ha! I feel very sorry for the landlord who was to trying to help a young family but got that help chucked back in his face, and there's nothing he can do about it. Some people, like this woman, seem to have a total disregard for anybody else. She should be put in jail.

Mum and Dad arrived home at one o'clock on Friday morning. They've since been to Dunedin as well. Dad flies to the UK on the 25th.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Not so hot

My parents have been lucky with the weather on their visits to Wellington, but their luck ran out this time. Yesterday things turned particularly nasty. I said goodbye to Mum and Dad this morning as they drove off to catch the 8am ferry but it was cancelled and they were soon back on my doorstep. They caught the next ferry early this afternoon and are probably still driving home now.

Last night we went to the "Splash" watercolour exhibition at the cathedral. It was officially opened by Bill English, who encouraged people to buy on the night, but very few red dots appeared. Among the well-known professional artists, and people like Dad who's professional but not well-known in New Zealand, were a lot of dabblers. My parents, especially Mum, found the whole thing a bit disappointing. The market for watercolours isn't what it was. The average age of the clientèle (if you could call it that) was very high: younger and middle-aged people no longer seem to be interested. The show runs for two weeks though, so Dad might still sell something.

After the exhibition we ate at an inexpensive Malaysian restaurant. Just like last time we went there,  a big group was celebrating someone's birthday. Loudly. We walked home in the strong southerly and near-horizontal rain.

Talking of paintings, I now have one of Dad's originals on my wall. It's one of two paintings of Wales that Dad did for my brother and I when we were small. He's given me a print of the other painting, which appeared on the cover of my grandmother's book. I've been looking forward to having some of Dad's work. I also now have two family photos, and an old edition of Risk (early seventies?) but the most practical addition to my flat is a dining table. It's the one we had when I was growing up - Dad paid eight quid for it at an auction.

Mum and Dad did a few bits of DIY such as painting the window sills (which needed doing) and generally moving stuff around (which really didn't). Mum would ask me what I thought of the position of this or that and I just said, "if you're happy, I'm happy." It's funny, I live here and I pay the mortgage (well, try to) but it often feels like it's my parents' place rather than mine. I don't mean to sound ungrateful - I do care about what this place looks like, just not as much as they do.

As usual I had tried to debate the pros and cons of property ownership with my parents, and got nowhere. They're blinkered on the issue. They're always looking at houses, leafing through the  Property Press, peering through real estate agents' windows. And more recently, actually purchasing properties (they now own three). At least Mum can see that the property market is harder to negotiate than it once was, but Dad views it as a guaranteed path to prosperity. "The best time to buy is always now." I have bought a spacious, well-designed, well-kitted-out flat in a handy location. But it's also caused me a lot of stress and I've felt little of this sense of freedom that your own place is meant to provide. All this seismic stuff obviously hasn't helped, but there's this pressure to keep this place looking a certain way (how my parents think it should look?) that didn't exist when I wasn't living in my own place. It's perverse isn't it? It's comparable to the difference between a temporary job (pressure off) and a big, scary permanent one (pressure most definitely on). There's also the issue of being in a body corporate, which does impose real restrictions like not being allowed pets.

On Monday night my parents stayed with my aunt and uncle in Palmerston North. Tracy was well enough to invite Tom and me over to play board games that evening. Tracy's mum was there, and the state of her flat made me feel envious. There was stuff everywhere and her mum couldn't have cared less. She also has a cat which would be nice. We played two games. The first was called Biblios. You had to collect sets of coloured cards, some of which would be auctioned off at the end of the game. The rules were simple but there were a lot of strategic decisions to make; if I'd thought more carefully, or been luckier, I might have won. The second game was Takenoko, that bloody panda game, and again I drew all the wrong colours and finished last. When I got home I unpacked the Risk, colour-sorted the hundreds of blocks (representing armies) and tried to figure out the game. I found the world map quite funny. I never knew the Ukraine was so damn big, or that South America consists of only four countries. New Zealand has conveniently been left off the map altogether. Would I be right in guessing that most non-Russian Risk players have never heard of Irkutsk, Yakutsk or Kamchatka outside Risk?

On Tuesday night I played Scrabble with Mum and Dad. I recently bought an egg timer (I'll soon be eating a lot of eggs) and thought it would be a useful addition to the game because Mum is quite competitive and can take an age to put down a word. Unfortunately an egg timer doesn't really work because you have to wait for it to drain. Shortly after abandoning the timer Mum took almost ten minutes to make PORN. It's been worse. Mum was annoyed that she hadn't drawn an S and I'd had two. Oh no, I thought as I picked the last remaining S. To make life easier for everybody I "uncheated" by swapping it for another letter when no-one was looking, and she got the last S. Mum disallowed my EX (for 25) near the end of the game, I let her have her way even though it's most definitely a word these days, and I was stuck with the X at the end. I still won with a score of 215.

Apart from the economic benefits it could bring Auckland (and New Zealand) should Team NZ win, I really don't care about the America's Cup. It's all about big money and big egos. I heard the American team start on minus two points (due to their "cheating") and therefore need to win 11 of the 17 races to claim victory, but surely it's 10, right?

I left work a little early today, went to the gym, and watched Millionaire Hot Seat. Compared to the original Millionaire, which is an extremely well-designed game show, Hot Seat leaves me cold. Today there was a woman who went on an impressive run of right answers (many of them educated guesses), only to fall at the last hurdle. Her wrong answer saved the TV company $99,000, and I'm guessing that's why Hot Seat was introduced.