Thursday, April 26, 2012


I have never felt quite as dislocated as this week. There were several reasons for this. One was that New Zealand equivalent of Remembrance Sunday occurs in the bright sunshine of an April day (I am still in my flipflops: five months and counting since I landed: my feet will have forgotten how it feels to have socks on, rather as I have forgotten how it is to have a whole week without any medical appointments for my boys). It is weird to remember the fallen soldiers in sunny weather. You lose the sense of forlorn cold empathy as you shiver through a wet and windy Memorial service in November Britain, the cold freezing your bones so that you end up thinking that perhaps being blown to bits wasn't all bad if it meant you didn't have to live through another European winter. Another reason is that ANZAC day is very much about the past - about the wars that are finished and done with. Whereas the UK Remembrance Sunday services tend to be much more immediate, with the lists of soldiers dying in Iraq and Afghanistan on everyone's mind. Strange, too, was the announcement by the Royal Servicemen's Association that they needed more veterans to support, they had plenty of money left and not enough wounded soldiers to give it to. I don't quite know what they were expecting in response to this complaint. Perhaps a dutiful invasion of Australia or Indonesia to ensure the supply of wounded-and-disabled-for-life was kept to a respectable high? By contrast, in the UK fundraising for our many injured and undersupported young soldiers is ongoing, an all-year-round affair. You can't go to the pub or a rugby league match without being asked to put your hands in your pockets for better wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs than the NHS is likely to provide to anyone, ever.

Before I had a disabled child I didn't really see why charities for disabled children and ex-servicepeople were needed. Because surely that was what the NHS was for? Feel free to laugh hollowly at my naivety. Before I had a disabled child I also thought that stuff like a broken leg was a big deal, and wondered how I would cope if it happened to my child. This week, when my youngest fell off a ladder and we limped into the Kiwi equivalent of Casualty for an X-ray (shamefacedly, several hours later) I realised how totally unbothered I was. It's a leg. It's not a bad break. It's going to get better, and in the interim he isn't in too much pain or discomfort. There is a clear and sensible treatment path and even more importantly there is no real uncertainty about the outcome. As opposed to, well, all the other stuff, where you worry and agonise and angst and THINK about it all the time, because there is no real certainty, no clearly defined treatment programme, and certainly no cure.

Anyway, because it was ANZAC day I ended up chatting over the fence to our lovely next door neighbour about biscuits. How you made them, how long they kept, that sort of stuff. I think it unlikely that our family will be in a position to test the claim that they survived transportation to Europe in WW1, in fact we'll be lucky if they last the week. From there we moved seamlessly to schools, and kindies. To my surprise she told me that they were having a problem with her kid's teacher at our school. Kid has attention deficit difficulties, that kinda stuff. I was astonished, because the school have seemed so good to me. The Principal was good, she agreed. It was just this one teacher, who kept saying the boy was doing fine. I couldn't quite make out what the problem was for a bit, and then she said "I mean, we're not that dark, but - you know, there isn't THAT much Maori in us -" I must have still looked blank because she explained, that she and the other Maori mums in the school were finding this teacher very patronising, dismissive and racist, patronising to the parents and dismissive of their "dark" kids.

I was shocked, and appalled, and profoundly relieved that she had told me. On an entirely selfish level I thought "Thank goodness I know that." Because, of course, if someone is prejudiced in one way they will be prejudiced in another. I can almost guarantee that this teacher will be rubbish at dealing with Special Needs kids too.

ANZAC Day. To rememer the fallen, yes, but also look anew at the casualties of today.

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