New Zealand

Seven years ago, my wife and I decided to leave the UK and to head out for pastures new. This was not a spontaneous decision, as we were leaving my aged father and my newly engaged daughter in Scotland, as well as many good friends and relatives.
I was fed up with the UK. All of these years of Labour governments and the corrosive influence of the EU had changed the society in which I had been brought up.

Basic values of decency and politeness had been eroded.
The traditional “British stiff upper lip” had been replaced with an almost desperate need to share emotions of all sorts. Look at the outpouring of “grief” when the Bimbo of Westminster (aka Diana, Princess of Wales)had been killed in her lover’s car.

No wonder HM The Queen had been taken aback by the emotional show, most of our generation were also upset. Not by the death, sad though it was, but by the outpouring of pseudo-emotion demanded by an increasingly hysterical media.

I wanted to live in a country where the government would mostly leave you alone.
I wanted to live in a country where emotions were treasured and private.
I wanted to live in a country where the bloody national team of the national game would occasionally actually win.

Oh yes. We also wanted to live in a country where the winters didn’t cause burst pipes, 2 metre snow-drifts and incipient hypothermia just sitting in a room.

Cold Scotland

I’m a teacher and I am only fluent in English, so to earn our daily bread I would have to choose a country where English (or a close analogue) was the chosen medium of communication.
This left either:

  • Canada
  • South Africa
  • USA
  • Australia
  • New Zealand

Our choice was based on many criteria, but essentially we decided that

Canada was just too cold in the winter, and had too many bad French influences(i.e. culture not food)

Very Cold Canada

South Africa was just too unstable, we didn’t know if it was going to survive in any recognisable form in the future

Unstable South Africa

The USA was a distinct possibility, but the more I read about their school structure, the more I realised I would have to move into the private school system to earn reasonable money and have a reasonable life expectancy, and I have an ingrained Scottish egalitarianistic horror of Private Education, where money is the sole criteria for entry.

Violent USA

Australia looked good.  Reasonable public school system, even though it seemed under some pressure.  Reasonable English used, though much abused and semi-degenerate in form and pronunciation.  Great weather, mild winters and nicely hot summers.  But then we had to consider sharks, toxic jellyfish, poisonous spiders, the most dangerous snakes in the world, brush fires and Fosters Beer.  I just found out that they have a sake-eating spider.  This is going too far, even for the Aussies.

A Bloody Snake-Eating Spider. When the spiders start eating the bloody poisonous snakes, stay away

New Zealand wasn’t on top of our list at the start.  I didn’t really know that much about it.  I knew it used to supply lamb and soldiers for the consumption of the British Empire and had two islands.  I knew it had been cruelly shafted by the UK on entry to the EU, and I was pretty certain that they spoke English of some sort.  Oh yes, I thought they had Maori.  Further investigation disclosed that NZ had:

Safe bucolic New Zealand

Gentle climate, mild winters in the North Island
Cows now outnumbered sheep, which still outnumbered people.
Soldiers were no longer cultivated, they had professional peacekeepers instead.
The public school system was fairly robust.

They did have Maori

English was spoken and the celebration of the language was fairly sophisticated.  They actually had theatres!

They had no poisonous spiders, jellyfish or snakes.

It had a stable but odd form of democratic government, currently in full Labour Nanny-mode (We know what’s best for you, so be reasonable and do as we say, or we’ll get really upset and might give you a hug.) But had a basically commonsense approach to people and government, which mostly precluded extremes.  The general population was polite, friendly and helpful. 
They were very broad-minded;
They had been the first to give women the vote.
They were trying to rectify ancient wrongs to their indigenous Peoples (bloody minded though some of them undoubtedly were)
They allowed same-sex marriages
They even had a Green party, and you can’t be more even-handed than that.  (I personally think that the Greens are OK, as long as they’re used as fuel in environmentally sensitive power stations)

We decided on New Zealand. You may say that the fact that sheep don’t bite was a deciding factor, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

We’ve been here for 6 ½ years now, and we have no intention of returning to the UK.

New Zealand is our home.

There are many, many factors I could use to explain our decision to stay and adopt NZ as our little home in the world, and I’ll try and summarise.

New Zealand is a beautiful and diverse country, populated by a low density of friendly, hospitable and diverse people.

All else is good, but the low numbers of people is great.  Imagine standing on the one of the best known beaches in New Zealand, on New Year’s Day, under a fluorescent blue sky with a warming sun, with clear blue waves washing ashore, and one other family in sight.  They were about 1.5 km away, and I had to use binoculars to see them.  They were doing the same we were, having a barbecue and playing in the waves.

90 Mile Beach

You can stick the ancient castles, broad green lawns of the stratified and class-riddled system of the UK.

We’re applying for NZ citizenship this year.

OH, oh I forgot.  We have the best Ice Cream in the world, and the cheapest.

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Calm at Work (revisited)

calm lake
I spent most of today tidying and sorting out my garage. Books and tools don’t always mix. I have 5 big 60 litre plastic storage boxes full of books, plus stacks lying on every shelf and ledge. My main problem is an underlying urge to keep every book. I enjoyed it once, why not again?
I had to be brutal. Long term companions had to go into the “get rid of” pile.

I ended up with every storage box full and back on the shelves. Plus 5 carrier bags full of books.

Plus a few in the undecided pile.
pile of old books
You know the category. Don’t really want to throw it out, don’t really want to read it again, maybe sentimental value. Like the first book of a favoured author, The book itself isn’t great, but it introduced you to a now-favoured author. Children’s favourite bed-time books.
Absolutely no literary merit.
Absolutely no way I’m going to throw it out. But it’s really crap. What to do.

Amongst this pile I came across the Little Book of Calm at Work. Published in 1996. Bought by my beloved. Unbelievably awful. But it could be adapted. Here’s a few, and please feel free to add any updates you wish in the comments. Remember this is a no-censorship blog.

Consort with the Calm.

Calm is catching. Enjoy being
around calm people – not for the
stimulation, but for the peaceful
feelings they spread.

And then grab the boring PC bastards and strangle the life out of their scrawny throats.

Turn on to water

Drink lots more water than you think
you need and not only will you have
better health, you will have increased
feelings of calm.

Also an incredible increase feelings of pressure in the bladder.
Has this idiot ever been stuck in front of a pack of screaming music-hating sub-humans with a bursting bladder?
You can’t go and have a pee. You have to stay and watch the little buggers every second, otherwise you end up with a wrecked classroom, two punchups and every key pulled off every keyboard. DON’T DRINK WATER BEFORE A CLASS.

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Women’s Own

The communing with nature room

Another commune with nature, another whimsical thought.

I picked up one of my beloved’s magazines from the rack. It was a traditional type of magazine, aimed I believe at ladies “of a certain age”. there are rafts of these things, given names like, Womens Weekly, Cleo, Elle, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, Womans Weekly, Womens Daily, Womans Own.
The design and layout may change, but the general format is pretty much the same.
There will be:

  • A section on knitting/crocheting or other soft material craft work
  • A section with a short story, usually with a pithy moral center.
  • A section with an interview of a well-known female personality
  • A section about recipes for various foods
  • A section about gardening
  • A section with a crossword and other simple mental pursuits.
  • A section with question and answers about health, with a subsection referring to emotional and relationship issues
  • A section about sexual matters/men’s perversions/preferences. (This is the section read most avidly by any casual male reader. In fact give most blokes one of these magazines, and some privacy and they will turn straight to this section)
  • A section about horoscopes
  • A section about special offers and a sort of classified area, all mixed together.(This is where you get the chairlift ads, and the offers about mystical objects. See my previous post from Gullible)
  • A section about home decor and interior design
  • A section on holidays (often has a special offer embedded in the article)
  • A section on book and film reviews
  • A big section on fashion and accessories

I may have missed some out, and the size of the section will vary according to each magazine’s perceived niche in the marketplace.

Most blokes have read one of these magazines at one time or another, mostly when there is absolutely nothing else to read. In a doctor’s surgery, dentist waiting room, hairdresser/barber etc. But it’s a struggle.
Given the choice between :

  1. A 20-year-old dog-eared copy of the Readers Digest
  2. A coffee-stained and torn-up copy of the Beano
  3. A Commando comic from the 70s
  4. Women’s Own, brand new and pristine.
  5. Car Sales Magazine
  6. Fishing/Hunting magazine

Most blokes would choose, in order, 6, 5, 1, 3, 2, 4.

Apart from letters/interviews about relationship problems or sexual deviancy, it mostly of non-interest to guys. It’s boring.
Oh, and before ladies think, “well at least the men read about the relationship problems, so it proves that men really do care about relationships with us.”
Not true.

Men read the relationship section for only two reasons.

The first is to check if any material of an overtly sexual nature has been published
The second is to try to figure out what the women are thinking vis-a-vis relationships. What is this whole relationship thing anyway? Honestly, most time we have absolutely no idea what thoughts (if such they are) are running through your pretty little head.

Best of Both Worlds

Guys magazine are much different, and fall into two main categories.
The specialist magazine
The Men’s Magazine

The specialist magazine contains hundreds of pieces of factual information about that particular speciality. Examples are Guns and Ammo, PC Home, Computer Games Monthly etc. These magazines are bought for educational purposes. Find out about the newest gadget, or how to fix a problem.

The other type of guy’s magazine is similar, but the main emphasis is on sex.
There may be many other sections on gadgets, holidays, interviews, jokes (always a joke section, normally of a suggestive hue)etc. Oh yes the naked or semi naked girl section, well sections mostly. Many pictures of young, mostly voluptuous girls, in various stages of dress and undress, draped artistically over cars, boats, motorcycles (always popular), computers, tanks and aeroplanes.
These images may be accompanied by some particularly asinine text, but I’m not quite sure, as I never read it anyway, and most guys won’t even be aware the text even exists.
Guys tend to focus on what they think is important. We may even tend to over-focus, which makes us less able to multi-task, but probably more able to focus on and fix problems. If you look at a bloke on a computer, he’ll be unaware of his surroundings to a greater or lesser extent. More focus.
Blokes automatically focus on girls.
Blokes actually focus on girl’s bits. Face, breasts, buttocks and legs. Sorry to disillusion you ladies out there, but blokes have brains hardwired to those areas. It’s why, even with the best of intentions, that blokes will keep looking/glancing at a girl’s breasts while they are having a conversation with them. The bigger, more roundly shaped, more visible the breasts, the more difficult it is for the bloke to maintain some sort of conversation.

Blokes just like looking at women’s bits. We can’t help it. We’re not trying to be rude or offensive, our eyes track automatically to those bits. Everytime.

So it’s apparent, from the contents of these types of magazines designed for women and the magazines for men, that there is a substantial and real difference between the sexes.
Sometimes I think it’s a small miracle that we even stay together long enough to breed, let alone bring up the kids.

But we do.
So even our major differences can be overcome, and mutual areas of interest can be developed.

The sex helps as well.

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Are you gullible badge

Find out, keep on reading

Sitting quietly in the smallest room in the house, I was contemplating nature, but getting bored. There’s a wicker basket of magazines conveniently to hand, and I idly picked one up to help with my meditation.
It was the English edition of Woman’s Weekly.
If you haven’t read this publication before, it is of ancient lineage, and really aimed at “Ladies of a certain age”.
You know the type. Knitting patterns, not too fancy recipes, adverts for stair lifts.
I was going to start the crossword, when I realised there was no pen in the basket.
Then I started to read the classified advert on the opposite page.
The heading was: Invite Angels Into Your Life
I discovered the following:

  • Angels are highly positive Cosmic beings and they will not usually step into a person’s life without first having been invited to do so. However once you request their friendship and invite them to bestow their angelic gifts, you will instantly see your fortune change for the better and sense that an angelic protective blanket has been wrapped around your life. The simplest way to invite angels into your life is to wear or carry this unique angelic prayer talisman.
  • This sacred pendant is made up of seven powerful Angelic talismans combined into one unique talismanic pendant.
  • There is a Secret meaning behind the holy words and divine symbols inscribed onto this unique angelic talisman.
  • ZAPHAEL – offers the gift of Knowledge & Inner Peace.
  • GABRIEL – enhances Intuition, brings inner happiness & peace of mind and guarantees safety in all travel.
  • HANIEL – brings success in all matters involving Love & matters of the Heart.
  • RAPHAEL – offers the blessings of Good Health, Financial Security & Divine Protection from all negative forces.
  • CHAMAEL – offers divine protection from all acts of Violence & War.
  • ZADKIEL – brings good fortune in all matters involving Competitions & Games of Chance.
  • MICHAEL – brings great success to all ventures involving your Career, Work, Business & Commerce.
  • and finally

  • The miraculous talisman was Hand crafted in Solid Sterling Silver.
  • and that

  • it was Only £19.00 ( £4.00 plus p&p)

Cheques, Postal Orders and Credit Card details would be gladly accepted via the internet or via a P.O. Box in Cornwall.

talisman of 7 angels

talisman of 7 angels

Firstly I was amused, “goodness, the things people think up.” “What next?” “Salvation on a Stick?”
Then I began to think.
This advert was in a full colour magazine with a circulation of over 340,000. Advertising in such a publication would not be cheap.
It’s £6200 per half page for one insertion.
That means that the people who make these pendants must expect to sell a lot.
After I had finished my commune with nature, I set up a spreadsheet.
Cost of pure silver (Per Troy Ounce) = £11.67
Sterling Silver = 92% SIlver
Weight of Talisman (Based on 5 pence coin)=0.18 Troy Ounce
Cost of Talisman = £1.93.

The advert says it’s hand crafted, which probably means a sterling silver blank is put in a hand compression machine, and then a loop is hand soldered on, probably 2 minutes per coin.
Assuming minimum wages of £5.93 per hour,
Labour cost = £0.20 per talisman

Assuming a total of other overheads at £0.50 (probable excessive)
Then each Talisman costs £2.63
Profit per Talisman = £16.37 (86% Profit Margin of gross, or 720% over cost price)

That means that just to cover the costs of this one advert, (and they probably need to make some money for themselves) they have to sell 379 per week.

I could not believe that there were that number of gullible idiots in the UK.
And then I went on the web.

There are millions of gullible idiots out there. There are discussion groups on the efficacy of this amulet versus that amulet. There are others discussing which crystal give the most powerful water for drinking, and another for bathing.
I respect everyone’s right to belive whatever they want.
But as I mentioned in an earlier post, don’t expect me to actually respect that belief.
To me, organised religion is just another example of people’s gullibility, but most of these sites really pander to many poor souls search for some sort of meaning to life.
And of course to make money from them.

I wonder what would happen if I set up a website selling magic soil from the fairy kingdom of Aoteroa.
Dug up with a blessed silver shovel freshly washed in the crystal purified waters of Waitupu Spring. Guaranteed to destroy any demons infesting wisdom teeth, and specially efficacious against the notorious dark angel RicardoProwsious, who attracts stray Cats.

Only $4.00 per gram, plus p&p.
Postal orders or cash only.
Send to P.O. Box 666, Wellington

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When I was a child, commercial flight was the preserve of the wealthy.  Flying from Singapore to the UK cost about 6 months pay.  The choice was either a De Havilland Comet or a Boeing 707.  Probably either BOAC, Panam or TWA.  People flew in comfort, and always well dressed.  Jackets and ties were mandatory.  You were treated as a civilised person, in comfortable seats, with plenty of leg-room.  You were served on plates.  Yes, real crockery and silverware.  And wine glasses, poured from full size cork-sealed bottles.

My first experience of flight was a charter holiday to Crete with 2 mates from work.  We flew from Glasgow to Heraklion in an old Boeing 707.  To those uninitiated into the history of powered flight, the Boeing 707 was with the Comet the first real plane for mass market tourism.

the DeHavilland Comet

The De Havilland Comet

Boeing 707-300

The flight was exciting, as we flew above the clouds at 890Km/hr. Even on a cheap charter in the early 70s, we were supplied with copious drinks (5 whiskies in 3 hours), good food (steak and chips) and NO SECURITY.  You just showed your ticket and walked on.  The only thing the aircrew were worried about was a drunken passenger or a stowaway.

My next flight was more mundane.  I had to get from Hamburg in Germany (where I was serving with the Royal Artillery as part of the British Army On the Rhine (BAOR) to Bergen in Norway.  I know this sounds quite an easy journey to arrange, but in those days (pre internet and Expedia), I had to go to James Cook Esq. who looked up all the possible flights and railway timetables from huge printed books.  The whole thing took about 2 hours to arrange, and the cost was considerable.  This was in the late 70s, and by now metal detectors were appearing in airports due to the hijacking of planes by the PLO.

I moved into medical/technical sales and engineering and now had to fly from Glasgow/Edinburgh to London and Birmingham on a monthly basis.  I became a blasé business traveller, and over the next 15 years flew all over Europe, Berlin, Stockholm, Oslo, Lyons, Marseilles, Dublin, Belfast (always with my trusty flak jacket), Cork, Manchester (always with my trusty raincoat), Birmingham and London.  Security tightened, legroom diminished, civility vanished, dress became casual and the food became plasticised. 

rowdy party on a jet

Drunks on a plane

I mention all this as we have just returned from a short holiday in Australia, flying with Qantas.  I am not especially annoyed with Qantas, which is bloody generous of me, as they managed to lose our luggage somewhere between Alice Springs and Sydney.

First security.  We had our jackets and bags X-rayed.  We took our shoes off, our belts off, displaying passports and boarding passes to all and sundry.  We had our pockets, bags, trousers, hands (and in my case, crotch) swabbed and tested for explosive residue. (all negative, including I am sorry to say my crotch).

After being shepherded onto the plane, we were squeezed into our seats.  I use the word squeezed advisedly, as my knees touched the seat in front when seated, and my hips were just touching the armrests on each side.  After take-off we got a drink. (Free alcohol between NZ and Aussie, but they are actually charging for beer and wine in domestic flights in Aussie)

  • Then the delights of food.  It was a hot “meal”
  • Choice of chicken or lamb. 
  • With a plastic mini-cup of water.
  • Green salad.
  • A bread roll. 
  • A bottle of wine.
  • A cup of coffee.
  •  A mini Toblerone. 

(On the domestic flights it was similar if slightly worse.  Sandwiches mostly, and no free wine)

We had so little elbow room, we had to lift the hot food tray to our lips to eat.

We didn’t want to drop our seats back, because it would squash the people behind.

And then the final indignity. 

We were offered desert. A TipTop trumpet.  A bloody ice cream cone.  Great to eat on a casual sunday day out on the beach with the family.  Not when sitting rigidly upright in a badly ventilated stuffy cabin, with no room to move, almost no room to un-peel the wrapper.

An ice cream cone.

I can hear the BOAC/PANAM/TWA stewardesses spinning in their chiffon lined coffins.

As it should be

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sleeping innocence

sleeping innocence

“Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care

The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

— William Shakespeare

With all of the soccer World Cup activity, many of my pupils (and our staff) were coming into school tired.

They had less than a couple of hours sleep, and their attention span was that of a hyperactive ferret on speed, but had the appearance of a Dormouse on Valium. This does not lend itself to good teaching and learning and I began to wonder about sleep itself.

I remember as a young boy, feeling hard-done by when I had to go to bed at my normal bedtime in summer. The days were long and bright and in Scotland (the land of my birth) it did not get really dark until about 11:00 pm. Going to bed while the sun was shining brightly outside seemed wrong. We played all day. We should have been exhausted, but all we wanted to do was go back out and play some more. 

I wasn’t tired!

It wasn’t fair!

Then my head hit the pillow, and next thing I knew it was morning and breakfast. Another day of play beckoned. (How is it that looking back, all of the summer days were hot and bright).

As an adolescent, my sleep habits changed. it was now a struggle to get out of bed. Come the weekend, getting up before noon was anathema. Moving into the teenage years, sleeps of 18 hours were not unusual. A constant lethargy seemed to hang about. Going to bed was something I really looked forward to. I actually dreamed about going to bed and sleeping.

I had great serial dreams. One night’s dream leading onto the next, like the serials we used to watch before the main feature of a Saturday matinée at the local cinema.

As a young adult in the army, coming off of a 48-72 hour exercise, frozen to the bone, wet, hungry, filthy and tired, I was desperate to get into my bunk. We had to clean and service the equipment first.

I was a Gunner, “service the guns before the men”.

I was an officer, make sure the men were taken care of first. Get them fed, arrange details for the next day, check the logistics and admin.

Then a quick feed for myself, a really hot shower (if there was any hot water left), a dousing in talc (we were usually covered in cuts and sores, and talc helped), then straight between the sheets. Clean but rough textured sheets, blankets we were sure had been used by horses in WWI, pillows stuffed with horsehair (possibly from the same horses, or more probably, the Crimea).


Deep, warm, dry, safe.

You can always tell an experienced soldier. You are never sure when your next opportunity may be. If there’s nothing else to do, duty’s done, get your head down for a kip.

I’ve never had a sleep like it.

Wake up refreshed, usually sore but alert.

As an older adult, sleep was still important, still looked forward to. I was married now, and had someone I trusted completely to share my sleep with. Warmer sleep, a warm body to cuddle into. Cold feet on my hot feet to warm. Uncomfortable at first, then the pleasure of feeling the cold feet warm up, the sighs of pleasure as my beautiful wife relaxed into me and we slept. Waking up to see her beautiful face relaxed and happy beside me.

Then to see our children asleep. Forget the alarums and excitements of the day. Forget the unpleasant scenes of childish tantrums and selfish behaviour. To see your child in a deep sleep is to see innocence unbound. Beauty uncluttered. Love overpowering.

As an even older adult, our children grown up and left, sleep is still a pleasure. Not unalloyed as before. Ancient aches, pains and bladder pressure stops that. It is more difficult to get back to that pleasant unconsciousness than it used to be. I cannot sleep for more than 8 hours at a time, but find that equally pleasant cat-naps are easier to attain, all through the day, especially during wet, gloomy, cold weekends. I still love to see my wife’s beautiful face beside me in the morning. We’ve both got older, more wrinkled, gravity pulls parts of us we hadn’t imagined. She’s still as beautiful to me as the day I first saw her 35 years ago. Changed, yes; but unchanged in her beauty.

Sleep gives us a break.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve gone to bed worried or depressed or angry or sad, and the next morning everything feels in proportion. I feel more balanced, more capable of facing the day.

That infuriatingly disruptive Year 10 class weren’t really so bad. There were a lot of really good kids in amongst the annoying ones. Even the annoying noisy ones had their good points. Let’s try a different strategy, new seating plan, co-constructed class rules, different rewards and punishments. in the words of my new country, “She’ll be right”.

So next time you’ve got some naughty kids in your class, just think.

Did they have a good night’s sleep?

Did they go to bed hungry?

Did they have a clean dry bed to sleep in, or any bed at all?

Did they go to sleep bruised and scared?

Did they work until late to get some income for food for the rest of the family?

Or did the little sods stay up until 5 o’clock watching the football?

Sleep on it.

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Smile back

The wise words of J-P’s recent post has made me think about smiling. 

I’m not talking about a full anthropological analysis of the facial grimace we call a smile, although it is rewarding to view the range of expressions that we would recognise from a Chimpanzee.  It is, I believe a signal to all other humans; I bear you no ill will, I wish to pass in peace, I am willing to fight if pushed.  This last bit may seem unusual, but examine the actual mechanics of the smile. 

The lips are pulled back
Teeth revealed
Eyes slightly narrowed 

These are all precursors to signals for an attack, they’re a warning.  This also enables the viewer to give the same warning back, thus showing mutual respect. 

So what you’re actually doing when you smile is saying (non-verbally of course); I am confident, I will not attack you now, but I am prepared to attack if you attack me. 

My niece, who is Chinese and lives in Singapore, attended Auckland University in 2001-2003.  When I emigrated to NZ in 2004, she warned me that the customs, immigration and biosecurity officers in NZ were unfriendly and uncooperative.  When I arrived, I found the opposite.  You could not have wished for a more approachable , professional and friendly greeting, than the ones I received from the officials at Auckland Airport. 

The difference was in a smile.  

My niece, although a really lovely person, has been raised in a culture which allows a stone-face (eg expressionless) approach to social interactions.  She does not smile at officials, or most people she meets.  (She actually has a lovely smile, and is a genuinely lovely and caring person.  But she does not smile at everyone, just family)  She got the same response from the Kiwis at the airport. 

When I arrived however, I had a huge grin plastered all over my face.  Partly jet-lag, partly in-flight refreshments of whisky and wine, but mostly because of finally being in a country I had always wanted to visit. 

The officials responded with their own smiles, and a pleasant dialogue ensued, everything in a positive and friendly manner.  The only difference was a smile. 

I found that I often got the same response to immigration officials in most countries I have visited. There are of course exceptions.  I remember the following: 

Arriving in Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow in the 1980s, when it was still the U.S.S.R., and being met by a completely unsmiling official.  I smiled, he didn’t. He actually looked in pain, with a permanent suspicious frown .  Mind you the border guard behind him with an AK-47 at port arms wasn’t smiling either. 

Arriving home from Greece to Glasgow Airport.  The customs guy seemed to have a really bad case of the piles.  His face radiated the signals for; I hate you all; I am in great pain; I wish to share the pain with you. He practically strip searched me on the spot.  I suspect that what really pissed him off was that it was in May, the weather in Glasgow had been cold and wet for weeks (quelle surprise!) and we were just back from a gloriously sunny holiday in Crete, and were all tanned nicely and in great spirits. I just think he was envious. 

Getting into LA International(LAX) from NZ.  Most of the police, customs and everyone in sight looked at me as if I was some piece of shit that was somehow walking , and please make a move so I can shoot you with this big pistol on my hip.  I smiled and they looked back even more suspiciously, obviously thinking, “what’s this dude smiling for, he’s obviously hiding something, I’m goin’ to have you sucker” or similar.  I stopped smiling, and the glares intensified.  Some days (almost every day in LAX) you just cannot win. 


When I trained as a teacher in Scotland in the 90s (1990s, I’m not that old), we were given the advice “Don’t smile until Christmas”.  The school year starts in most of Europe in August.  That means that it was recommended not to smile at the students for 5 months. 

I could not teach like that.  I like to build up a relationship with the students.  I am not there to be a mate, I am not paid to be their friend.  I can be friendly, but there’s a difference. 

However, I smile at the kids from day one. 

Surprise, surprise they usually smile back. 

Smile wait for flash

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