Looks don’t matter


The name Megan Whelan will be familiar to anyone who listens to RNZ.

Her voice will be too.

Until I read this  I had no idea what she looked like and that didn’t matter.

I don’t remember the first time I realised I’m fat.

It might have been at 13, when someone left a pamphlet for a weightloss programme in my mailbox at boarding school. I can remember picking it up, excited that it might be a letter from my parents, only to feel hot shame, tears threatening to overflow, as I tried to hide the humiliating glossy pages from the girls around me.

It could have been at twenty, when an indoor netball opponent expressed surprise at my skill – because fat people can’t be athletic – and then anger when he realised I was running literal rings around him.

It could have been any number of small, slight, humiliations. The first time I realised that nothing in a clothes store would fit me, even with all the uncomfortable shapewear in the world. The first time someone yelled abuse from a car, calling me a fat bitch. The first time I ordered a salad, because I was too embarrassed to eat a burger in public. . .

How Megan looks still doesn’t matter.

Looks don’t matter on the radio and they shouldn’t matter in life.

Someone’s size, how they dress, the colour of their skin or hair . . .  those are all their business.

What matters isn’t how people look but how they are.

Megan’s story is also at RNZ from butt of the joke to kicking bullies’ butts.

She read an excerpt from it  on The Project.


366 days of gratitude


My mother was a gentle woman who had some very firm ideas. Among those was her belief in the importance of good manners in general and the saying of please and thank you in particular.

It was something she passed on by deeds rather than words, preferring to practice rather than preach and it surprised no-one who knew her that when I asked her if she had any message for people at her funeral she asked me to just say thank you.

Today I’m grateful for her good example and the many other people I encounter who remember their manners.

Grocery store commandments


Last month discussion with Simon Mercep on Critical Mass was sparked by the 10 commandments of the grocery store by Abbey Harris at Scary Mommy:

1. Thou shall not leave your cart in an empty parking spot. . .

2. Thou shall not walk down the center aisle of the parking lot. . .

3. Thou shall travel up and down the aisle like a civilized person. . . .

4. Thou shall obey the express line rules. . . .

5. Thou shalt not decide against the frozen pizza you picked up in the frozen foods section and then place it on the shelf next to the shampoo. . . .

6. Thou shall respect the invisible checkout line bubble of personal space. . . .

7. Thou shall treat the cashier with respect. . . .

8. Thou shall not stop at the exit to go over your receipt. . . .

9. Thou shall reconsider the self-checkout.  . .

10. Thou shall not stalk for a parking spot. . .

To which I would add:

11. Thou shalt ensure you and your trolley are not in the way of others, especially if you’ve stopped for a conversation.

12. Thou shalt move forward to allow the person behind you to start emptying her/his trolley as soon as you’ve emptied yours.

All of which comes down to minding your manners and being considerate of others.

If we all did that the supermarket and the world beyond it would be much better places.

Manners matter


A French cafe charges extra for people who forget their manners:

The cafe owner tells the Local that the tiered pricing structure started as a joke, a response to “very stressed” and “sometimes rude” lunch customers. “I know people say that French service can be rude,” he adds “but it’s also true that customers can be rude when they’re busy.” Apparently there has been an improvement in customer attitude. . .

Manners matter, courtesy counts and those little words please and thank you show people you aren’t taking them for granted.

The story doesn’t say if they follow through on the extra charge for those who don’t use them, but an improvement in attitude matters more than the money.

Air NZ service with smile


Labour list MP Andrew Little scored a SMOG – social media own goal – yesterday when he tweeted a complaint about service from Air New Zealand.

He did have the grace to later  admit he was wrong to send it and apologise.

Yesterday two colleagues and I were in a similar situation to Little.

We arrived at the airport at 4:15 for flights at 5:30 and 6:30.

We asked if we could change them for anything earlier and all three of us were given seats on a 5pm flight by a courteous, helpful and smiling Air New Zealand staff member.

That, in my experience, is how they always are.

Good manners and expensive typos


Discussion with Noelle McCarthy on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

* Good manners


* 10 very costly typos.


Don’t be the first


No seas el primero!

Citizen 1, Citizen 2, Citizen 3, Citizen 15, Citizen 1, “But this city is so dirty.”

So don’t be the first.

This advice doesn’t just apply to littering.

One person being being lazy, inconsiderate, rude . . .  provides a bad example from which others take permission to follow suit.

Fortunately the reverse is true and good behaviour from one person provides a good example which inspires others to do likewise.

Best seats


Today’s discussion on Critical Mass with Jim Mora was sparked by musical chairs – choosing the right seat.

Blogging at Big Mischief,  Alex Cornell goes through six possible seating arrangements and picks the best seat at each.

The desirability or otherwise of seats at a table can be modified by careful planning.

If architects and interior designers paid more attention to acoustics, got away from the fashion for hard surfaces and introduced more soft furnishings, it would be easier to converse comfortably while dining.

Round or small tables are fine for small numbers but oval or rectangular ones give more conversation options for bigger tables.

If you’ve got a rectangular table it’s better to put someone at the top and bottom if you’ve got even numbers and one person at either top or bottom for odd numbers.

The alternative of putting people only along the sides can leave those at the ends marooned with only the one beside them to chat with.

What’s appropriate, where’s the empathy?


If you’ve been at a 21st or wedding recently you might have been subjected to speeches with content you’d prefer not to have heard and that many would regard as inappropriate for the occasion and audience.

After one such speech, discussion on it ended with the observation – if people don’t know what’s appropriate at social occasions,  how do they behave at work?

The answer for 2Day FM, the radio station which recorded, mulled upon and then broadcast the phone conversation with a nurse about the Duchess of Cambridge’s health, is that they don’t know what’s appropriate there either.

The DJs who made the call couldn’t possibly have anticipated the nurse who first answered the phone would later commit suicide.

Nor could any of those who listened to it and okayed the broadcast.

However, during the vetting process someone should have questioned whether it was appropriate to phone a hospital to ask after the health of a patient, regardless of who she was, then broadcast the conversation with the nurse who gave the information.

Had that question been asked, the answer should have been no.

There’s nothing new about prank calls and they can be funny.

What’s funny is very much a matter of opinion, so too is what’s appropriate.

At Sciblogs, Michael Edmonds has some rules to judge  if a prank is acceptable:

1) The prank must not do any damage, physical or otherwise. If it creates a mess you get to clean it up

2) The person being “pranked” should find it funny (i.e. it must be someone you know and can anticipate a humorous reaction from)

3) The prank must not humiliate the person in any way

4) You must be okay with being pranked in return. If you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t dish it out.

Anyone with a reasonable degree of empathy would have realised that the call to the hospital wouldn’t have passed the first three tests.

The question to be asked is not just what’s appropriate, but also where’s the empathy?

Saturday’s smiles


This came in an email from an English friend.

I have no idea if it’s a true story, if it is I admire both the courage and the wit of the woman.

After a busy day he settled down in his train from Waterloo for a nap as far as his destination at Winchester , when the chap sitting near him hauled out his mobile.

“Hi darling it’s Peter, I’m on the train – yes, I know it’s the 6.30 not the 4.30 but I had a long meeting – no, not with that floozie from the typing pool, with the boss, no darling you’re the only one in my life – yes, I’m sure, cross my heart” etc., etc.

This was still going on at Wimbledon, when the young woman opposite, driven beyond endurance, yelled at the top of her voice, “Hey, Peter, turn that bloody phone off and come back to bed!!”

Maybe the baristas and motel staff  upset by people exhibiting an ignorance of cell phone etiquette could resort to similar tactics.

Orchestra silenced for phone


Conductor Alan Gilbert stopped the New York Philharmonic during the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony until a ringing phone was silenced.

The sound of phones ringing, and worse still people  answering them and conversing,  in inappropriate places at inappropriate times is not uncommon.

Maybe if more of us were like the conductor people might remember mobile etiquette and turn their phones off or at least mute them more often.

Good manners rule on marae


At last, board members of the Te Tii Marae have run out of patience with Titiwhai Harawira.

Titewhai Harawira faces a possible ban from Te Tii Marae after being accused of “rancidification of Maori protocols” at a recent Maori Party hui.

In an email to the Herald, seven board members from the lower marae at Waitangi said they were disappointed protocols such as manaakitanga (looking after people and agreeing to disagree), whanaungatanga (strengthening families) and kaitiakitanga (caring for resources or people) were becoming meaningless to “a pocket of Maori people”. . .

. . . The Te Tii email said the marae would not be a “dumping ground for personal agendas” any longer.

 “The political poncing and resultant rancidification of Maori protocols by bullies who want everything their own way by whatever foul means, are not traits that this particular board would wish to have our children and young adults perceive as being the Ngapuhi way forward.

 “The board’s priority is to preserve the dignity of the marae and trespass notices will be issued where the board considers it necessary to do so,” the trustees wrote.

 The best response to rudeness is good manners and reason, just like this.

Vulgarity has its place . . .


The BSA decision to censure TVNZ for allowing the F word to be heard during a documentary on the Aromoana massacre has led to strong arguments both in support and opposition.

I find myself conflicted on this. If ever there’s an appropriate place for that word it’s in a description of such a tragedy but whether the time for airing it in full rather than disguised with a bleep is in the early evening is debatable.

I was, however, surprised at the decision. Given what it’s possible to see and hear on television at times it wouldn’t be unreasonable for children to be watching or listening I’d  thought the F word might no longer be regarded as something from which little ears should be spared.

That it is gives me some hope that there are still some standards of language and behaviour to which society pays a little more than lip service.

A well placed oath can be very effective but it loses its power when it peppers sentences indiscriminately so as to become little more than coarser versions of ums and ahs.

There is a place for vulgarity but as Theodore Dalrymple points out it isn’t anywhere and everywhere:

. . . we have completely lost sight of the proper place of vulgarity in the moral and cultural economy. We have made it king when it should be court jester. It is funny and valuable only when it mocks pretensions to gentility and recalls cultivated people to the limitations of their earthbound condition. Without a contrast with something else, something that is not itself vulgar, it becomes merely unpleasant, crude and stupid. In these circumstances it exerts a corrosive effect on minds and manners because, while it takes no effort at all to be vulgar and unrefined where vulgarity and lack of refinement are almost universal, it takes effort to be urbane and refined.

TVNZ is appealing the decision. I suspect it won’t be hard for them to find plenty more examples where the word was used with a lot less provocation than mass murder to back up their case.

Should we start a support group?


My mother told me it was rude to read at the table.

The reasons for that are obvious when other people are present. We might not all be deipnosophists but we ought to at least try to carry out a conversation with our tablemates.

But I am not convinced by the arguments against reading while eating when dining alone.

There is a risk that the food might not end up where it’s intended and cause a mess on the reading matter, the diner or table but practice makes perfect (even with spaghetti).

There is also the risk that one who has to read while eating might then feel compelled to eat while reading which could lead to unhealthy consumption. But a good book is a wonderful distraction to assist with resisting the temptation to overindulgence of the culinary kind.

There is also the argument that the diner ought to savour the dinner and not be distracted from taste and texture by texts. That is the most compelling, but if I can multi-task I can also multi-taste, feeding mind and body at a single sitting.

The reading eater doth protest too much youthinks?

Maybe, but at least I’m not alone.  Dim Post can’t eat without distraction either.

Should we start a support group or just admit that eating and reading are two of life’s great pleasure and, good manners or not, combining the two enhances both?

Minding Ps & Qs minimising Fs & Cs


“Society is getting more violent. People react more stongly to an incident [than in the past]. ” Why is that? “Manners have gone out the window.”

Judge Josephine Bouchier said this in a Listener interview, Bouchier’s Law. In the same issue Brian O’Flaherty bemoans the degradation of language in reign of error and concludes:

Ah, Terry [Snow, former Listener editor], why do we bother? Because we’re pedantic? Nah. Because someone has to uphold the idea of a common comprehension. You might fry tomayto while I boil tomahto but as long as we both know it’s a red fruit, communication exists; and where communication is lies understanding. Understanding has prevented lots of wars, excluding those sparked by religion and greed.

“I think Terry would agree we don’t care so much about the words, and probably wouldn’t care at all if they didn’t underpin that understanding. But they do. Nothing else does.”

Could there be a link between increasing violence, loss of manners and falling standards of language?

A woman working with violent prisoners noticed how limited their vocabularies were. They were never peeved, tetchy, irritated, annoyed, aggravated or even furious they were always at force 10 which was expressed in almost incomprehensible sentences in which the F and C words starred.

“If you can’t name your feelings, how do you recognise them and if you can’t recognise them how can you control them?” she asked.

The man jailed for swearing at a judge probably still doesn’t understand why.

Incomprehension begets frustration. Just think of people dealing with someone who doesn’t speak their language who try speaking more slowly and loudly in the mistaken impression that will help.

Frustration can easily turn to anger and anger can turn to violence.

Where do manners fit in? At the heart of good manners lie respect for, and consideration of, other people and self-restriant. An excuse me is much less confrontational than a shove, a sorry beats a shrug and a whoops with a smile is more likely to get a smile in return than an expletive.

Too simple? Yes. The causes of increasing violence are more complex than declining standards of language and manners, but they are part of the puzzle.

If we took better care of how we spoke and had a better command of the vocabulary with which we speak we’d find it easier to understand and be understood. 

As part of that, if we minded our Ps and Qs it would help to reduce the Fs and Cs which are part of the violent language which leads to violent acts.

Move along please


Going through the x-ray at airports reminds me of trying to get sheep through a gate.

If the ones at the front would move further away the rest of the flock could follow. But too often the leaders mill around, not willing to lead.

At airports, it’s not usually that anyone’s unwilling to move – most people want to get where they’re going as quickly as possible. The problem is they get caught in a traffic jam caused by people stopping to pack computers or other belongings.

If  the people who needed to pack would pick everything up and move to the far end of the converyor belt, it would enable those following behind to get their bits and pieces too. Instead of which many stop to pack right by the x-ray and get in the way of everyone coming behind them.

It’s probably only a few moments delay and maybe I should learn to breathe deeply, but it’s very tempting to say, “move along please.”

The job would be so much easier if it wasn’t for the voters


I could feel sorry for Gordon Brown.

It can’t be easy being pleasant to people day in and day out, especially when you think they’re talking rot.

There probably aren’t many people in public life who haven’t thought that someone who speaks to them is a bigot.

Sometimes they’d be right.

And who, in public life or not, hasn’t said something about someone in private, that they wouldn’t want repeated to a wider audience?

But regardless of what they think or feel about what’s said to them,  good MPs respect their constituents.

Several years ago I spent most of two days in the National Party’s tent at the Upper Clutha A&P Show. I observed with silent admiration as Jacqui Dean, then the new MP for Otago, listened respectfully to people who gave her the benefits of their opinion on a wide range of matters, not necessarily with the benefit of facts or reason.

After one particularly obtuse bloke had finally stopped haranguing her while she listened attentively, I asked her if she wasn’t sometimes tempted to be a little less restrained.

She smiled and said something to the effect of:  “Whether or not I agree with them, whether or not they vote for me, they’re my constituents and they deserve to be treated politely.”

Good driving manners


I gradually approached three vehicles in front of me. They were travelling at speeds varying from 80 to 90 kph, I was going a wee bit faster.

They were also travelling far enough apart that it was possible to pass one at a time.

If more drivers of slower vehicles showed such courtesy driving would be more pelasant, and safer.

Reasons for putting loo seat down


An Australian bloke found a 3 metre carpet python curled up in his toilet bowl.

It wouldn’t have happened if he’d put the seat down.

Conversation on a country telephone


Scene one, a farm house at evening.

The phone rings.

A woman answers: “Hello X speaking.”

Caller off stage : “Gid’day is Y there?”

Woman: “No, could I help?”

Caller: “Nah, thanks, I’ll ring him back.”

Scene 2 same place, the following morning.

The phone rings.

A woman answers: “Hello X speaking.”

Caller off stage : “Gid’day is Y there?”

Woman: “No, is there anything I could do?”

Caller: “Nah, thanks, I’ll ring him back.”

Scene 3, same place, later that day.

The phone rings.

A woman answers: “Hello X speaking.”

Caller off stage : “Gid’day is Y there?”

Woman: “No, could I take a message?”

Caller: “Nah, thanks, I’ll ring him back.”

Scene 4, same place the following evening.

The phone rings.

A man answers, “Hello Y speaking.”

Caller Off Stage “Gidday, it’s Z here, I was wondering . . . ”

Man:  “It’s no use asking me, you’ll have to speak to X, she always handles that.”

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