The small comfort of chocolate

Chocolate can be the gift we choose to give to say sorry or to offer comfort or thanks.

I chose it today for the staff on the checkout at the supermarket as – albeit small – compensation for the racist abuse they suffer from customers. Usually it is sneaky abuse, bullying in effect, as they know the staff member must remain polite or risk losing their job. ‘The customer is always right’. Except when they are not right.

Yesterday, as I packed my groceries, I was saddened to overhear a checkout operator quietly telling a supervisor that a customer had said to her, “You are not welcome here”. She seemed embarrassed to have to report the incident; her face was flushed above her mask.

How much worse it must feel not to be able to stand up for yourself when a deliberately hurtful lie is directed at you. Does reporting it make you feel better, or worse? What could the supervisor do anyway, after the event?

I wrote a letter to the management and staff of the supermarket to express my dismay and sympathy. I suggested a standard response to such attacks by customers could be used such as, “We are sorry you feel that way. We hope you will be kinder to our staff in the future.” This could be a polite way of showing that the whole work place is united in not tolerating racism (by using ‘we’) and would call out the customer for their bad behaviour (they had not been kind). It could help the staff member to feel that they had stood up to the bully without risking their job – and by being the better person.

If I had overheard the hurtful remark, I would have been less restrained, I imagine – but that would not change anything or be helpful. However, I bet the customer spoke for only the checkout operator to hear. (I picture the offending customer going home to listen to more of the talk-back radio which ‘justifies’ their cruelty, and never pausing to consider whether or not they are making a useful contribution to society.)

In the multi-cultural school where I worked (54 different countries of origin in one count), we valued cultural – and other – diversity and were as vigilant as we could be to ensure the work place was safe for staff and students. It was a somewhat more closed environment than a supermarket, however. It shocked me how our students regularly suffered racist abuse on the street.

There’s no amount of chocolate to comfort for that.

Cheeky visitor

We don’t have a cat anymore, but this one often visits as if he is staking out his territory. He makes the chooks nervous. They have chased off dogs much bigger than he is, but the cat has a tendency to sneak up on them in a teasing sort of way. They don’t much like being taken by surprise. In the photo he is sitting on the table they like to shelter under in wet weather. Psychological point-scoring, I’d say.

I used to shoo him away until I found he could be useful. We had another visitor.

This little chap darted out from under the deck to get the last of the chooks’ breakfast. This explained why I had often seen the cat sitting on the deck, peering over the side. So now, I’m quite happy to let the cat cruise through, past the compost bins and wood pile which are favourite haunts of rats, skirt around the garden and leave via the garage roof.

Today, the cat left traces of a detour into the house. I found muddy cat-prints in the bath, with a trail of paw prints going across the window sill where he seems to have departed through the open window.

I hope he won’t become so bold and familiar that he brings inside a rat he has caught. My sister’s family has two cats. Yesterday, she found a rat in their living room, alive and hiding under the curtains. Heroically, they did a ‘catch and release’.

My, how you’ve grown!

McLaren was a tiny puppy when my brother first met him.

Before long, McLaren had his first day at work – that is, as a companion dog in my brother’s office – and came to visit us in the evening.

He was playful, exploratory, and full of personality.

And very small.

Six weeks later, his ears are standing up, and he almost takes up the whole of the dog bed!

It looks as if he may turn out to be a dog who likes to watch tv.

Take the plunge

The Terraces, Central Christchurch – not a spot for swimming, unless you are an eel!

Today I read a blog post about ‘wild swimming’, which is swimming in the sea (or lake or river, I guess) at all times of the year. It is reportedly very good for well being, which reminded me of feeling an energetic glow after cold-water swimming when I was younger (much). Nowadays, I loll about in the hot pools at New Brighton, if anything.

I had a somewhat similar energetic glow after successfully biking to and from Addington on Tuesday. I have nominated Tuesday as my ‘adventure-exploration’ day. A day when I discover new parts of the city while getting lots of exercise.

My first Tuesday exploration (last week) was along the South Frame greenway from Montreal Street to High Street, passing through Kahikitea Common, Matai Common and Evolution Square. There were gardens, street art and interesting work and leisure places including, next to a car dealers, a tiny, hole-in-the-wall cafe called Parts and Labour: “From flat tyres to flat whites, we now have all of your needs covered.” I had delicious minestrone soup at the Bohemian Bakery, then walked homeward via Welles Street where I stopped in at GoodFor, Sustainable Pantry.

This Tuesday a friend suggested we explore Addington. There was a cafe filled with house plants which she was keen to visit. I hesitated because it is further away; would I have to take the car? But a map search showed I could get there on the new cycle lanes. My friend and I, approaching from different parts of town, each made it to our meeting place in 20 minutes.

We explored the historic Addington Cemetery (eventually finding Kate Sheppard’s grave), had lunch at the house-plant cafe, were kindly admitted (!) to Addington Jail (now a backpackers), and found the barely recognisable, restored, Wood’s Mill building.

The success of both adventure Tuesdays will give me the courage to dive in for more!