Continuing on from my first post (which you can read here) – herewith my next five tips in the Top Ten Tips for holidaying in Samoa series:
Tip # 6 – Take some good snorkelling equipment. The snorkelling is awesome in Samoa – you just need to head out to the beach at your resort to see all sorts of amazing fish, corals and sea life – even turtles (and ugghhhhh barracudas: man-sized ones!) I do think you need a good mask though – one that doesn’t keep filling up with water because there’s nothing more annoying (or more tiring) than having to sort your mask out because the water gets in and hurts your eyes (the water seems to be super-salty in Samoa.) I don’t think you need to spend a fortune – just find one that works well! I recommend going to see the giant clams if you get a chance. Just be careful you don’t stand on them ‘cos they can close very fast and you certainly don’t want your foot stuck in one that’s for sure!
We saw turtles outside our resort at Stevensons in Savaii and they are beautiful, graceful animals. We also went a couple of villages out from Stevensons and found a reef that was like swimming over the edge of a 5-story building! Amazing, but slightly scary for me – I’m not 100% fussed on being surrounded by that much water – I’m more of a swimming pool kind of girl! But anyway – I do recommend snorkelling and swimming in Samoa whenever the opportunity arises!
Tip # 7 – Take your watch off and expect things to happen on “island time”. And I mean that in a good way. The first night we waited over two hours for our dinner – which was extremely agitating after a long day’s travelling. Day two, we waited at least an hour and a half – which was far less stressful than on the first night. By day three, we were fully relaxed and treating the inevitable long wait as an opportunity to try every cocktail on the menu! The point of all this is that things tend to happen pretty slowly in Samoa and if you try to hurry them along, you’re a) wasting your time and b) missing the point! Enjoy!
Tip # 8 – Samoa is very reasonable – you can have a fantastic holiday for cheap as chips. Depending where you go of course. If you stay at the super-flash resorts, things are a bit pricier, but then the pay-off for that is that the pool and amenities are generally amazing. I’ll talk about where we stayed later on, but can I say, we stayed at Stevensons for a week and it was glorious. Every bit as glorious as the flasher resorts we stayed at first and after, but in a different way.
Food and drinks are cheap – for a couple you could get a pretty decent main meal and a couple of drinks each for around 60 tala – which is about $NZ34 which wouldn’t happen in New Zealand now would it?! Our little family of three averaged around 150-250 tala a day which included lunches, dinners, drinks and activities. Our breakfasts were part of our accomodation package, so we didn’t have to pay for them. Samoan beer is about 6 tala (5 at Happy Hour) and a cocktail was generally around 11 tala at Happy Hour prices. #suchfun
Excursions and activities were pretty cheap too; the most expensive we did was the To-Sua Ocean Trench (which was AMAZING) at 20 tala and the same for the Giant Clam swimming experience. Other things we did were around 5 tala each or we just paid a minimal amount for the carload (we had a 12-seater van.)
Tip # 9 – Expect to see pigs, dogs and chickens EVERYWHERE! They’re pretty cute too. I’ve heard some people hate this, but I found it quite endearing.
Tip # 10 – The people are awesome. I’ve saved the best till last here really! Samoan people are fabulous – they’re so happy and cheerful and willing to help you with anything you want or need. They quite often have so little, but like I said, they are among the most happy people I’ve met. Just goes to show … maybe money’s not everything right?!
I hope you’ve enjoyed Mumpty’s Top 10 Travel Tips for Samoa. While we were there we stayed at three places and I would highly recommend each of them for entirely different reasons.
We stayed first at Saletoga Sands Resort for four nights. Saletoga (pronounced Saletonga) is a beautiful resort with an incredible pool and first class snorkelling right outside your fale’s front door.
Our beachfront villa was perfect and the restaurants and bar were lovely. We were lucky enough to watch a Fiafia Night which included a traditional buffet dinner and the Fiafia and fire show. So cool – I highly recommend you do one of these if you get the opportunity.
After Saletoga we took the ferry across to Savaii where we stayed at Stevensons Resort for a week. Stevensons is probably not as fancy as Saletoga Sands, but it has a charm all of its own and I enjoyed it every bit as much. Our little family of three stayed in the Nikolai suite and it was huge! All rocks and tapa cloths and bright blue accents – maybe not what you’d want at home, but very island-style and we loved it! Stevensons was a lot cheaper to stay at than Saletoga in terms of food and drinks, so that was nice too.
We did lots of day trips from Stevensons and had a wonderful time at the blow holes, various swimmings holes and markets – all sorts. You name it, we did it! We also went to the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks which I wouldn’t recommend – not worth the trip was the general consensus of our group.
Stevensons also put on a super-fun Fiafia Night and they also went to an incredible effort for our parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary dinner, with stunning exotic flower lays for everyone, a beautifully decorated table and a cake as well.
And then for our final night in Paradise, we stayed at The Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort – and it was GLORIOUS! For one, it was the night before Mumpty’s birthday and as she was going to be travelling home the next day, she chose to celebrate the night before. Which called for cocktails and champagne and having Happy Birthday sung to her by half-naked Samoan men! And the best part of all? She went for a late night swim and had this ENTIRE, GORGEOUS swimming pool all to herself for an hour. Not another soul in sight. It was an AMAZING way to end her holiday. A-MAZING.
So that, my friends, is Mumpty’s roundup of her Samoan getaway. Would she go back? Hell yes!
Hope you enjoyed my Samoan round-up …
Mumpty and her extended family (a group of 15) recently enjoyed an AMAZING holiday in Samoa to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of our parents. We were there from the 26th of September to the 7th of October (Mumpty’s birthday, btw!) – the “dry season” runs from May to October, so we were pretty disappointed (aka grumpy!) to see this on our weather app:
Ugggghhhh. But never fear! Because despite the app predicting relentless rain, thunder and even lightening for our entire visit, we ACTUALLY got HEAPS of sun. Sure, it rained every now and then (mostly at night) – but it was warm and refreshing and within 20 minutes it had buggered off!
But anyway; I digress. Herewith Mumpty’s Top 10 Tips (in no particular order – in fact, in a completely random order) …
Tip # 1 – Get cash out in New Zealand and exchange it when you get to Samoa. That’s assuming you’re from New Zealand of course – if you’re not, don’t come here first to get money – that would be silly – and expensive. Although, New Zealand is a very beautiful country, so you probably should consider it. Anyway, we got money out in New Zealand and when we got through Customs in Samoa there were three options outside the airport to exchange money. The ANZ booth had the biggest queue and that was because they had the best rate, so we waited 20 minutes or so for them to change our money for us. There is an ANZ ATM 5 minutes down the road at The Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort if you get stuck – I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you got cash out there – apparently the ANZ ATM’s exchange rates are pretty good too. Do your research though because Lord knows Mumpty is no financial expert. But that is what worked for us. Oh – and get a decent amount out at a time because you get charged a foreign currency fee every time you use the ATM and that can get expensive. I got out $NZ500 and that exchanged to 894 tala if that helps. You don’t really need that much cash though – just enough for entry fees and the like. Most of your expenses will get charged to your room anyway and you just pay when you check out.
Tip # 2 – Expect your hair to be a nightmare. Obviously this is an extremely important travel tip. Unless you are blessed with hair that turns to glorious ringlets in the presence of salt water and humidity (like my daughter’s) or hair that returns itself to sleek and glossy (like my niece’s) then you must be prepared for THE FUZZ. Uggghhhhh. As vain as this may sound, there aren’t many things that make Mumpty feel less glamorous and more frumpy than fuzzy hair. But fuzzy hair I had for the entire holiday and really – I pretty much got over it in the end. It may have even cured my need to have access to power for my GHD while camping – but shhhhh – I’m not admitting that yet – in case it’s simply not true. Anyway – this was Mumpty’s hair reality in Samoa:
Suffice to say, Mumpty does not “do” beach glam and so there was a lot of hat-wearing in Samoa (which caused hat-hair problems, but they seemed pale in comparison to THE FUZZ.) Also, did you know pigtails are TOTALLY appropriate for a 48-year-old in Samoa? Because they are.
Tip # 3 – Take Immodium and an assortment of other drugs – and when I say drugs, I mean the totally innocent stuff you get from the supermarket/chemist back home. Obviously. OK, so we were told not to trust the water; don’t eat the salads as they’ve been washed in water etc etc, but really, I reckon nearly everyone is going to get some level of stomach upset in Samoa, no matter what you do. It just happens. Well – it happened to our whole family anyway! You could say we all “lost our confidence” for a while there – and by that I mean we lost confidence in our ability to be too far away from the toilet. Sorry if that’s TMI – in fact I know it is – but #sorrynotsorry
Immodium (or whatever else they call it) is pretty much a necessity I believe – particularly if you have to travel or fly that day. It helps to avoid any potentially embarrassing or messy situations! Also … Panadol is handy in case you get a headache from dehydration – it’s not always easy to find medication over there.
Handy tip: the bigger resorts seem to have a little stash of things travellers need: Panadol, ear drops (lots of travellers get sore ears from swimming apparently), Immodium etc.
Also take Zovirax if you ever get coldsores; the sun will bring those suckers out and you want to avoid them like the plague if you can. And maybe an antiseptic cream – any little cuts you may get from the coral and stuff seem to get infected really easily.
So yep – pack the drugs! Mumpty bought a little arsenal of stuff, thinking she wouldn’t need it, and lo and behold … we used pretty much all of it! Disclaimer: its best to keep any medication in its original packaging and make sure you declare it to Customs.
Tip # 4 – Go to the To-Sua Trench. Because … AMAZING. Seriously.
There is, of course, the not-so-small issue of the 20 metre ladder to get down there. It blows Mumpty away that she did it without crying or falling off (although in fairness, the death grip I had on those rungs was so strong it would have taken a hurricane to dislodge me!) But once you’ve survived the ladder and you’re in the water; the place is phenomenal. It’s 30 metres deep in parts and is crystal-clear and absolutely beautiful. I’m not really even that much of a swimmer to be honest, but I stayed in there for a good hour or so – probably longer. It cost 20 tala each and it was worth EVERY cent. Visit their website here.
Tip # 5 – Be careful, because there are no H&S rules in Samoa! (As you can tell that by the ladder at the To-Sua Trench!) If that was in New Zealand there’d be a safety briefing first; you’d have to sign a waiver and you’d be wearing a harness! Well, maybe not all that, but you certainly wouldn’t just all fire over the edge and off you go like you do in Samoa! And speaking of being careful … you know how I said there are no H&S rules in Samoa? Well as a result of that, we experienced probably our most scary parenting moment EVER. Our 12-year-old daughter misjudged her footing; slipped and fell off a 3.5 metre (unfenced) deck onto small but sharp little rocks. And survived – intact – and without injury. Apart from the 15 minutes where she couldn’t move and we thought she was paralysed. Yeah – that. Ugggghhhhhh. But all’s well that ends well – we are very grateful she’s OK and there was a doctor on hand to check her out and ensure her spinal cord was OK before she decided to move.
Of course, there was also that one time (at Band Camp!) that we heard a little “pop” and wouldn’t you know it, our brakes completely failed at the top of a hill with 13 of us in the van. But that’s another story, for another time!
OK … so I’ve just realised this post has got looonnnnnnng. Too long to add another 5 top tips, so I’m going to cut it here and make another post with the last 5 tips. UPDATE: I’ve linked it here.
Soakin’ it up in Samoa …
A few weeks back I was thinking about my friends, the women I’ve met and and some of the other fabulous women you see and read about in the media. It struck me then how inspirational many of them have been to me in one way or another, and so I decided to do a little series on my blog, acknowledging some of these gorgeous women.
When thinking about the questions I wanted to ask, I decided I needed to put a couple of rules in place – only so as to ensure I got diverse answers! You’ll see what I mean when you see the rules!
1) You can’t choose your children as your greatest achievement – even though they are!
2) You can’t choose your Mum or Dad as your most inspirational person, even though they may well be!
So … I am very honoured to introduce, as the very first inspirational woman in my series, the fabulous Paula Penfold.
Paula is an award-winning producer and journalist for TV3 – you’ll probably recognise her from TV3’s current affairs programme, 3rd Degree (8.30pm, Wednesdays, TV3.)
Q1. In 10 words or less, what are you most proud of?
A. Being able to speak for people who don’t have a voice.
Q2. Can you give me two habits that make you successful at what you do?
A. I’d like to be able to say “have lots of self-belief”, but unfortunately I think it’s the opposite: continual self-doubt makes me keep trying hard! But I do also still care deeply and believe in the job that I do and the stories I tell.
Q3. What do you do for yourself that helps keep you going?
A. They’re completely paradoxical – exercise and chardonnay!
Q4. What’s the first name that pops into your head when I ask who inspires you?
A. Mike McRoberts, my husband.
A. Because he’s the best journalist I know. He’s a brilliant writer and a fearless reporter who is genuinely concerned about the people in the stories he does. I’ve learnt so much from him.
Why I find Paula so inspiring …
I went to intermediate school with Paula and back then, admired her perfect blend of “cool kid” and “brainiest kid in the class.” Plus, when all the other girls wore pants as their school uniform, Paula wore a skirt, and I thought that was sassy! I’ve so enjoyed watching this gorgeous ex-Hamilton girl forge a formidable career over the years. To me, and to many other women, she is inspirational.
Thanks so much for your answers Paula – they made me tear up a bit!
Follow Paula on Twitter … @paulapenfold
In 2015, for the first time ever, I entered a writing competition! It was something I’d always thought about doing, but never actually done – so I did it! Although I didn’t get anywhere, I still kinda like my story and it made me, my sister and my Mum cry – so I feel like there must be something to it. Anyway … the theme was Hero and it was only allowed to be 2,500 words. I had about three months to write it in, and I wrote it about five days out from the deadline in about two hours. Silly. But see what you think …
Since then I have entered twice more and plan to keep entering, because it’s fun writing to a theme and writing is my happy place. Anyway – I’m re-posting this because something I saw yesterday reminded me of it. I hope you enjoy.
When I was thirteen, it made me sad. When I was fourteen, it made me angry. From about sixteen onwards, I just ceased to care. Looking back, that seems incredibly callus, but I guess that’s what you’re like when you’re young, right? It’s all about you.
Imogen was my sister – is my sister – for a while we weren’t close, but you’ll find out about that soon. Mum says when we were little we played together all the time, even though Imogen was five years older than me. I don’t remember playing with her to be honest – I wish I did –we’ve lost enough time already. Mum said our favourite game was to dress up and pretend to be famous ballerinas. Normal childhood stuff for a couple of sisters I suppose – it’s just that when we’d grown up, only one of us could be a ballerina, and that was me. You need legs to be a ballerina …
When I was thirteen and Imogen was eighteen, she didn’t have much time for me. I was still obsessed with ballet and she was “grown up” – or so she said. She never seemed that grown up to me, in fact most of the time she seemed far from it, but I had my life to lead, full of gymnastics and ballet exams and she had hers – full of boys and phone calls to her friends. I was angry with her for giving up dancing though – that was the one thing I admired her for – she was a really, really good dancer. I used to love it when my class finished and I could rush downstairs to her studio and watch her teaching her troupe. She was graceful, beautiful and happy, and at those times, I was proud of my sister.
But then Imogen met Ben and that’s when we grew apart. Ben was scruffy and rude and smelt of cigarettes. I hated him; Imogen loved him. Mum and Dad hated him too – they were always pleading with Imogen to stop seeing him and to find a boyfriend who was interested in her life and who treated her well. Like all parents I guess, they wanted him to treat Imogen like a princess; Imogen seemed happy with far less. Inevitably I suppose, Mum and Dad banned him from the house and Imogen of course, moved out. That was the last I saw of her for nearly a year.
For the first few weeks, Mum and Dad just carried on as normal, but I could tell they were worried. Mum jumped every time the phone rung and I’d catch Dad constantly watching the driveway, both of them expecting her to realise how stupid she’d been and to come home. But she never did.
It was five months before they finally found her; holed up in a grotty, damp little house in Auckland where she and Ben lived with six other losers. Mum and Dad were horrified to see how she was living, but even more so, they were horrified at how much she’d changed. Imogen was a beautiful girl when she left – raven-haired with green eyes and a lithe dancer’s body, she had a fresh, wholesome look. With her pale, alabaster skin, she was always being told she looked like a china doll. Now, Mum said with tears rolling down her face, she was skinny to the point of emaciation, her hair was dirty and dull and her skin had broken out. Mum said she just wanted Dad to pick her up, put her in the car and take her home with them. Despite Mum and Dad’s pleading though, Imogen wouldn’t leave and told them to go away and never contact her again. Dad tried to talk to Ben about it, but I don’t imagine that conversation went well. Actually, if I’d been able to speak to Imogen at that time, I probably would have told her how disgusted I was with her and how sad and upset she was making Mum and Dad. If you ask me, she was just downright selfish and stupid, and I didn’t miss her at all. But I know Mum and Dad did.
Life carried on, as usual, for another seven months – Mum and Dad still tried desperately to stay in touch with Imogen and they made several trips to Auckland to see her. The last time they went though, Imogen and Ben had gone and their flat mates didn’t know where to – or so they said. One of them though – Julie I think her name was – told Mum that Imogen needed help; Ben was abusive and they were both addicted to meth, which was basically Mum and Dad’s worst fears realised in one hit.
Not long after that, the phone call came. That awful phone call in the dead of night that every parent dreads. It was the hospital – Imogen had been in a serious car accident and was not expected to make it through till morning. It turned out she’d come home that evening and found Ben comatose on the bed with a needle sticking out of his arm. Panicked, she and her flat mate had put him in the car and Imogen had been driving him to the hospital when she lost control and veered across the lanes, hitting the median barrier hard and rolling the car. Ben was dead and Imogen was seriously injured. The really sad thing, the doctors said, was that Ben was dead long before she hit the median barrier; her frantic dash to the hospital was already in vain. Why didn’t she just call an ambulance you ask? Apparently drug-addled brains don’t work that way.
Imogen did make it through that first night – barely. And she made it through the next few touch-and-go nights as well. She lost both her legs below the knee though and has a big, jagged scar that goes from the bottom of her chin, across her cheek and stops just under her right eye. She says she’s more like a china doll now than she used to be, except this china doll has lost its legs and has a crack across its face. She says flaws can be beautiful though and now I think she’s right. Back then I wasn’t so sure.
Life was pretty dark for Imogen in those first few months, as you would expect. Mum moved to Auckland to be close to her when she left the hospital and went to the rehab centre. Dad and I stayed home in Cambridge and tried to carry on as best we could. We’d drive to Auckland every Friday night and come home early Monday morning. That was the way we kept our family together and that was the way we tried to help Imogen heal. And Imogen needed to heal – not just physically, actually the physical bit was the easiest I think – she needed to heal mentally. I sat with her for hours, talking and reading to her in those first horrible weeks, while she struggled to come to terms with what had happened. She told me one day Ben had “shattered her soul” and she’d welcomed the drugs because they made her life bearable. I asked her why she hadn’t just called Mum and Dad to come and get her and take her away from it all, but she said she was scared of Ben and what he might do to us if she ever left him. He was violent, she said, and angry all the time. He was also mean and sadistic. The really weird thing though, and she couldn’t explain why when I asked her, was that she still loved him.
So, like I said at the start, I was thirteen and this whole thing with Imogen made me really sad – sad for her, sad for Mum and Dad – even sad for me, really. But you know what? When I turned fourteen it started to make me angry. We were doing everything we could for Imogen and Imogen just wasn’t getting any better. In fact, she was getting worse – she was just awful; nasty, uncooperative and ungrateful for all the support and help she got from Mum and Dad and the doctors and nurses. For a while I tried to be sympathetic, but then I turned sixteen and I stopped being sad and angry – actually, I just stopped caring.
It was around that time I stopped visiting too. I had been trying to get out of the weekly trip to Auckland for a while, but this particular weekend I had a really important show rehearsal and Dad finally relented and let me stay home in Cambridge. From then on, I stopped visiting and Mum and Dad stopped talking to me about her. Sure, they’d mention her in passing now and again, but I never asked about her – it was almost like I didn’t have a sister any more. Looking back, I guess I didn’t really. The sister I’d had; that beautiful, dancing china doll had gone; to be replaced with a moody, scowling shadow of her former self. It seemed that Imogen had disappeared into the shadows and was afraid to come out into the light.
So I carried on, without my sister; and I hardly noticed. My world was full of dancing and performing – I’d moved to Auckland by that stage to take advantage of the opportunities to perform that just weren’t available in Hamilton. I spent my days practicing and my evenings either performing or working in a local bar to pay my way – being a dancer in New Zealand is not easy financially, that’s for sure. It never occurred to me to visit Imogen – in fact, by the time Mum and Dad bought her to see my show, I hadn’t seen her for seven years.
I was the principal dancer in the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it was my third performance when Mum and Dad bought Imogen along to watch the show. Mum had sent me a text earlier in the day to say she and Dad were coming to the evening’s performance – she didn’t mention Imogen – I learned later it was because Imogen didn’t want to come and Mum wasn’t sure she’d be able to talk her into it. Anyway, as I glanced into the audience it was a shock to see Imogen there at the end of the row in her wheelchair – and you know what? In that brief moment when I caught her eye, she wasn’t scowling – in fact, she looked happy. That night, I danced my little heart out; I danced for Mum and Dad, but mostly I danced for my china doll sister who could no longer dance herself, even if she’d wanted to. When we came onstage for the curtain call I could see tears rolling down Imogen’s cheeks, but she was clapping and laughing and I couldn’t believe it. Mum told me later she and Dad hadn’t seen Imogen happy since the accident – it was like those shadows she’d been living behind had been blown away and Imogen had taken one great leap into the sunshine.
All of a sudden then – at the age of 23 – I had a sister again. And it was awesome – she was awesome. When I asked her about her sudden change of attitude to life, Imogen said that while she was watching me dance on stage, she’d suddenly realised her life didn’t have to be over. She may not be able to dance, but she could teach and she could laugh and she could love. And that, she thought, might just be enough.
Imogen never did anything by half; before long she had moved back to Cambridge, got herself a little flat and was back teaching again at the local dance school. She was spending more and more time on her prosthetic legs and less and less time in her wheelchair, and slowly but surely, her sparkle returned and my beautiful china doll sister was back.
Sure she was a little bit flawed, but that made her even more special to me. I realised how much I’d actually missed her all those years when I was telling myself I didn’t care. We talked about that, and she said she was surprised I’d stuck around as long as I did. Knowing she forgives me for it makes me feel better, but I’m still very sad we missed those seven years of our lives.
Do you know what Imogen does now? She’s the ambassador for a charitable foundation known as “No Drugs For Our Youth” – she travels around the country visiting secondary schools, telling them her story and pleading with them not to get involved with drugs in any way, shape or form – ever. At the start of every session she tells the kids she has a little sister; a little sister who is her hero and who showed her that life was precious. If only she knew – all I did was dance.
Imogen – my fragile, flawed, china doll sister. My hero.
I hope you enjoyed …
I am so privileged to have the most amazing group of female friends and family. I originally posted this a couple of years ago now, but when I was browsing back through my old posts, I decided they are STILL amazing and so I thought I would post it again!
I think you are very much influenced by the people you spend the most time with, so although I try not to be judgmental of anyone and the decisions they make, I’m also aware my time is precious to me and so I choose to spend it with people I admire and love.
So … my gorgeous, clever and insanely talented friends include (in no particular order):
♥ Burlesque performers and showgirls, who sweat nervous bullets before they go on stage and then rock that stage like they were born to be there!
♥ A woman who had an idea one night; created a Facebook group based on that idea and is now the proud overseer of a 43,000-strong group and an accompanying, wildly-successful blog. Her greatest achievement in that regard? Creating an ahurutanga – a safe environment where no one feels judged.
♥ A woman who, with four young children, creates cakes like this (see below) out of her home kitchen! (She also has a double degree and is a trained architect.)
♥ Cancer survivors.
♥ Mentors who help women develop confidence and a positive body image through dance and just generally being sassy!
♥ Amazing mothers who put the hugest amount of time, effort and love into growing beautiful humans – the most important job in the world.
♥ Book editors/proofreaders.
♥ Earthquake survivors.
♥ Business woman who moonlight as sexy pinup and alternative models!
♥ Internationally acclaimed body painter and makeup artists.
♥ Women who write for a living (my dream job!)
♥ Women following their passion and doing what they love to do.
♥ Widows who are brave and strong and are doing an incredible job of bringing up their children alone.
♥ Makeup artists and hairdressers – again, they make women feel beautiful.
♥ My sisters … because they are amazing.
♥ My Mum … because she is incredible and inspirational and wonderful.
♥ My daughter – because she is my world and makes my life SO special.
♥ Grandmothers who give tirelessly of their time and love – not just to their own family, but to others as well.
♥ Photographers who create gorgeous images that make other women realise their own beauty.
So to all of you, and I hope you recognise yourself in there somewhere …
My friends are awesome …
On 9 January 2008, this beautiful and intelligent woman, with a wonderful childhood behind her and a promising adult life ahead of her, was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend … in her own home, while her mother was there.
Now – 8 years later – one NZ woman still dies every 26 days at the hand of a violent partner – which means that over 100 women have died since Sophie’s murder. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world.
Recently I attended “An Evening with Lesley Elliott.” Lesley is not only Sophie’s mother, she is an incredibly brave and strong woman who has made it Sophie’s legacy to raise the awareness of all young women, and their families and friends, of the signs of partner abuse through the Sophie Elliott Foundation.
Lesley says at the time of Sophie’s murder, neither she nor Sophie really understood that Sophie was in an abusive relationship. She didn’t like Clayton Weatherston and neither did any of Sophie’s friends, but they didn’t realise Sophie was actually in danger – until it was far too late.
Now Lesley travels the length and breadth of the country helping make young women and their families aware of the signs of abuse that she and Sophie missed.
I implore you to visit the Sophie Elliott Foundation website and to find out more about what they do – there are all sorts of valuable resources on there and I have singled out a few that really hit home for me with a young daughter who ***OMG we’re not ready for that*** will be dating in the not-too-distant future.
Check out the “Power & Control Dating Wheel” below – it summarises the characteristics of an out-of-control relationship
Power and control – he told Sophie she wasn’t bright enough (she earned a first class honors degree in Economics); needed to lose weight and inferred she wasn’t good-looking enough for him. This was Sophie below – hardly overweight was she? And although I wouldn’t grace him with a photo here, let’s just say he was way out of his league with Sophie in the first place.
Possessiveness – he wanted to know where Sophie was at all times, yet didn’t feel she needed to know anything about his whereabouts.
Isolates you – he isolated Sophie from her friends – none of whom liked him. I’d like to say here – if your family and friends don’t like him, there’s a good chance you shouldn’t be in a relationship with him.
Threats – he was emotionally and verbally abusive to Sophie on numerous occasions.
Suicide threats – I don’t know about this one, as of course I never knew Sophie and am only going on what Lesley told us at the meeting, but men who make suicide threats and say things like “If you leave me, I will hurt myself” are often only trying to manipulate you to suit themselves.
Changeable/volatile behaviour – Sophie never knew whether he really liked her or not. He was into the relationship one day, then cold as ice the next. Nothing was ever his fault – it was always Sophie’s. Lesley said Sophie couldn’t understand him, and always wanted to try and change him.
Sexual – on one occasion, only days before Sophie’s murder, he tried to force her to have sex with him. Thankfully Sophie escaped, but sadly, didn’t press charges.
Physical abuse – nothing needs to be said here, considering Sophie is no longer with us.
Communication – he was haphazard and unreliable – he wouldn’t reply to Sophie’s texts for hours and wouldn’t always answer her calls. She felt insecure because of that behaviour.
According to the Sophie Elliott Foundation website, 15-24 year old women are at the most risk of psychological, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a partner.
PLEASE – visit the website and familiarise yourself with the early signs of an abusive relationship – so that both you and your daughter are aware of them. There’s also a page that talks about the characteristics of a healthy -v- an unhealthy relationship (which includes a quiz to check the status of your relationship; the reasons people stay in a violent relationship; common excuses for violence; what to do for help and contacts for help.
The Sophie Elliott Foundation, in association with the New Zealand Police, also runs a full-day educational course for Year 12 students called Loves-Me-Not (a play on the “He loves me; he loves me not” game.) The course is very interactive and is designed to make students aware of what a healthy relationship looks and feels like.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Lesley Elliott – no one would blame her if she just sat back and grieved for Sophie – and of course she and her family will do that for the rest of their lives. What is amazing about Lesley is that over and over again, she re-lives that horrible day and she does it so that other families won’t have to.
Sophie and Lesley were very close, and if two highly-intelligent women like that weren’t able to see the signs of an abusive and dangerous relationship, then there are going to be others in the same situation. The signs often start subtly and build from there. In the book that students receive free of charge via the Loves-Me-Not course , there are two blank pages; one to write down what you see as the characteristics of a healthy relationship and the other to revisit and write down the characteristics of your current relationship as a comparison. If it doesn’t compare well – get help.
Thank God for the Lesley Elliott’s of this world – they are courageous enough to try to make change in the face of an horrific personal situation. It’s just unbearably sad they were put in that situation in the first place.
Do yourself and your family a favour … visit the website and educate yourself so that neither you, nor your daughter, ever end up like Sophie.
That is Sophie’s legacy.
Prevention via education …
Many of you will have seen this “un-Photoshopped/untouched” image of Cindy Crawford that’s been making it’s way around the internet lately. Whilst I applaud Cindy for this, let’s not forget she is a supermodel who has made exorbitant amounts of money from her face and body FOR YEARS, so even without retouching, her “look” is quite unobtainable for most women.
When I originally planned this post, it was going to be a sneaky little share of some apps that you can use to de-wrinkle, brighten and smooth yourself out! When I came across them I squealed with delight; used them on a couple of photos (see below) and then realised that actually, I didn’t really want to do that any more, because that isn’t me – I do have wrinkles, blemishes and teeth that aren’t glaringly white, but you know what? I don’t hate those things. And I’m 46 – and I’m not embarrassed about that – so they are pretty much a fact of life.
Anyway … this post is actually going to contradict itself a bit! Firstly I’m going to mention three little apps you can use if you want to enhance yourself a bit for your photos – and why not? That’s your decision. But the other part of the post is going to talk about whether or not these apps (and Photoshop) are actually destroying your self-esteem without you even knowing it.
Ok … so the first app is called FaceTune – you can get it for free in the App Store. See how my skin is so much smoother on the right? The blemishes are minimised; the dark shadows under my eyes aren’t nearly as apparent and my neck looks miraculously younger and less lined? So that’s FaceTune for you! I did try to suggest the two images weren’t that different, but my daughter rapidly assured me they were!
Another app that does a similar job is moreBeaute (again, free from the App Store) … this one allows you to adjust brightness, smoothness, detail and tone via the use of a slider and you can view an instant “before and after” to help you make the adjustments. Kinda cool … and here’s another example (and yes, it does feel strange putting these massive pictures of myself on here!) …
So those are two apps you can use for your face shots. But … there is another, I believe, almost frightening app that allows you to “plastic surgery-ise” your body as well! Now this one I have never used – as in, I’ve never uploaded a photo having used it. However … I did download it for a play and goodness, if you knew what you were doing with that particular app, you really can edit the hell out of yourself! This app is called Plastic Surgery Simulator, and I just got the free “lite” version which only allows you to shrink or expand things – and I’ll leave it to your imagination as to which bits you’d want to expand! Anyway – bearing in mind this is the lite version and I don’t really know how to use it, here is a before and after of what you can do with this type of app:
OK, this photo is embarrassing – I took it to show off that I was in Auckland in a swanky hotel, however can you see how much I’ve managed to shrink my waist? And I don’t even really know how to use that app! Now I know it’s kind of obvious if you know what you’re looking for and you have the “before” to compare with, but if you didn’t … I could just about get away with that right? And imagine if I’d FaceTuned my face as well? I’d be barely recognisable from the original! Of course there are all sorts of filters and things on Instagram too, and artful ways of cropping things to maybe get rid of that squashed arm that makes you look obese, or cropping your photos off at the forehead so those pesky wrinkles don’t show etc – they’re all tricks of the trade and are fair and reasonable things to do I suppose!
So – as you can see, these apps can do pretty good, and relatively subtle (or not!) things to your photos. But as I said earlier, I am also going to look at whether or not these apps and Photoshop are ruining your self-esteem without you even knowing it.
Have you ever looked at a girl you admire and marvelled at her tiny waist or her flawless skin or the fact she doesn’t have any wrinkles and there’s never a hair out of place? Sometimes, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is! And all power to her if that’s what she wants to do – but you wonder how she feels about meeting people in real life (IRL) knowing full well she doesn’t really look like her photos.
And as for Photoshop – you only have to look at these images below to see that even the girls who are a) genetically blessed; b) have had their hair and makeup done by professionals and c) are shot by professional photographers, with the most sophisticated equipment under the right lighting and with all the other tricks of the trade – they STILL get Photoshopped at the end. So realistically, even THEY don’t look like them! I mean just look at this shot!
So where do you sit on this issue? Do you think “why not, each to their own” or “oh my gosh – we have to stop this for our daughter’s sakes?”
My thoughts are that it’s been going on for years now and I don’t know that we can ever stop it. So I’m trying to act “locally” by sitting my ten-year-old daughter down and showing her these “before-and-afters” so that she knows that what you see, is not necessarily reality. And I will keep doing that. The other thing I try really hard not to do, is to moan about my weight, or if I’m having a bad hair day or whatever, in front of her. Sometimes I slip up, and in those cases I try to make a joke about it and flounce off saying “oh well – it could be a lot worse!”
I believe the pinup and burlesque “scenes” have a pretty good attitude to body acceptance and that’s one of the reasons I love them so much. They celebrate curves and angles and everything in between. And don’t forget – lean girls can have their feelings hurt just as easily as bigger girls. We’re all beautiful and whatever the body you have, it’s yours and you need to love it and treat it right.
Let me know what you think about all this – either by leaving a comment, or by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Love, laughter lines and generous waists …
Extra for experts: check out this video – amazing and frightening all in one go!
Imagine if you will, someone who, on one of her Facebook pages describes herself as a “retired locomotive engineer” and on the other, as an “entertainer” – more accurately, a burlesque entertainer.
From who she was, to who she is; this is the story of Miss Chevious Cinders and how she became the Grand Dame of New Zealand burlesque.
When she’s not “in character” as Miss Chevious Cinders, she is simply known as Cindy. Born in Takapuna, Auckland in 1936 (yes, she’s 78!) and bought up by her grandparents, Cindy says she always knew she was “different.” And different she is … in the very best of ways!
Cindy now lives her life as a transsexual woman and is actively involved in the NZ burlesque scene. She says she has never been happier, but it wasn’t always that way …
As early as the mid-60’s, Cindy says she was cross-dressing, but only in the privacy of her home – she took photos, but developed them herself, scared to take them anywhere in case she was found out. She started working for the railways in March 1954, where she fired steam locomotives and drove steam, diesel and electrical trains until her retirement in November 1990. Cindy lived in the NZ Rail Hostel for thirteen years, and in 1965 went to her first “vice versa” party where she said she “had a lot of fun.” In 1975 she met her future wife whom she married three years later and fathered two girls – Cindy thought her cross-dressing days were over. Unfortunately for Cindy’s marriage however, they weren’t – she returned to her cross-dressing ways; got found out and got kicked out in January 1994!
During that period, Cindy started to cross-dress more often and when she discovered the internet and typed in “cross-dressing” on her computer, a whole new world opened up for her. She joined transgender groups, re-named herself Cindy and met her long-time friend, Dot. Cindy and Dot started going out together dressed as women, mostly after dark, and mostly to the late night pictures. Cindy felt she’d worked out what had been “bugging” her all those years and in 2002 started hormone treatment as the first step in her journey to becoming a woman. A year later she officially changed her name to Karen Cindy Jane and after selling her home in 2004, found herself with some available funds and decided to pursue sexual reassignment surgery in Thailand. She and Dot flew over on the 20th of March 2005; Cindy had the surgery and they had a holiday together in Thailand. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now, nearly ten years later, Cindy has firmly established herself as one of the most colourful and loveable characters on the NZ burlesque scene and is actively involved in the pride movement too. She says all transgender people really want is acceptance; not to be treated differently or to be changed, but just to be accepted and loved for who they are.
Cindy credits her happiness in the last few years since she had her sexual reassignment surgery to the level of acceptance she’s found from the people in the community she’s created for herself. As a woman who has accepted and embraced her true self, Cindy is finally living the life she deserves. She’s one of the lucky ones too – her family have accepted her as she is and she enjoys the company of her two daughters and eight grandchildren, who call her Gran.
At 78 years old, Cindy is showing no sign of slowing down! She’s a regular performer on the burlesque scene, and not just in Glamilton either – Cindy travels all over the country, and often overseas as well, to perform and to be an extremely supportive and enthusiastic audience member. There probably hasn’t been a major burlesque show in the country that Cindy’s missed for a long time and there’s a photo of her and nearly every international burlesque performer who’s ever visited NZ on her “wall of fame.”
She attends workshops too and this year was invited to perform at the NZ Burlesque Festival in the Promenade event – a performance for which she was proud to receive a standing ovation from her adoring audience. Her Pink Panther routine has reached almost iconic status here in New Zealand, and has been performed for many lucky audiences – I’ve personally seen it several times, and each time, it makes me happy and so proud to be a friend of Cindy’s.
Cindy’s Facebook status updates show a woman on a mission! She’s hopping a bus to a show in Palmerston one minute; then she’s back for a few days, then catching a plane to Australia to attend a festival somewhere. Then she’s off up to Auckland to watch a show and attend a workshop, then back home. She shows up regularly at burlesque class and often has a new set of fans, or another addition to her costume wardrobe to show us!
She appeared in the “Bring Back Burlesque Christmas Show” at the Riverlea Theatre in 2013 and has overseas trips and plans booked all the way out to April next year!
At the NZ Burlesque Festival this month, Cindy earned the title of “Industry Groupie” which was an honour very fitting indeed! Aside from her groupie activities, she spends time with her friends and family and the boys down at the Workingman’s Club! Phewww … I can only dream of having that much energy now, much less at 78!
So all in all, Cindy would say it’s been a good life so far and there’s still lots more fun to be had; lots more shows and workshops to attend and lots more international burlesque stars to be photographed with!
Acceptance and love … they really do make the world go round … and characters like Cindy, aka Miss Chevious Cinders, add that extra layer of sparkle and character.
Extra for experts:
If you’d like to watch the short film Cindy has made about her transition from male to female, you can click here.
Click here to watch Cindy’s peformance at the 2014 NZ Burlesque Festival in Palmerston North.
Love (and acceptance!) …
A little while ago, Mumpty wrote some fictional stories on a few of her favourite Auckland burlesquers. And this Friday night, she’s done a wee update. Do enjoy …
Remember that saying:
Always be you …
unless you can be a fierce, intergalactic alien queen.
Then, always be a fierce, intergalactic alien queen.
No? Seriously? Well, it was inspired by Duchess deBerry, known simply to her nearest and dearest as The Duchess.
The Duchess had always been interested in space travel and so when her dear friend Sir Richard Branson (who rather fancied her) offered her the opportunity to accompany him on one of the first Virgin Airways trips to the moon, she jumped at the chance. What antipodean temptress wouldn’t really?
Soon after the initial excitement had died down though, The Duchess’s mind turned to more practical matters – what would she wear on the moon? She had no intention of wearing one of those ridiculous Michelin suits that’s for sure, but her current wardrobe didn’t inspire either. As always though, The Duchess had a plan, and that plan involved her illustrious pals at Asphyxia Couture and a brief to put together a little something something for her soiree on the moon.
She rather liked what they came up with – it was certainly a statement piece, but practical too she thought. Her hands were free and she had plenty of things to tie moon rocks and that kind of thing onto. Sure, she could have done with a handbag, and it might get a bit chilly, but she wasn’t going to be outside on the moon for long periods of time was she? She assumed she’d be able to pop in and out of the space shuttle at will – I mean even though she wasn’t paying for it, this was a commercial flight, and surely Sir Richard wouldn’t allow a passenger to get cold on the moon? That would be ridiculous.
No, this little number was perfect and The Duchess shivered with delight as she settled down happily into the seat beside Sir Richard, gratefully accepting the glass of Cristal he handed her. #suchfun
Lilly Loca: disrupted
Lilly Loca, as we know, is a time traveller. Just last year in fact, she travelled from 1920’s New York to 2016 in Auckland, where she spends a great deal of time pirouetting seductively on stages around that fair city wearing the showgirl’s version of an itsty-bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot-bikini and a purple-hued “do” Ru Paul would be proud to own. But that isn’t enough for Lilly’s outrageous soul, so in an age where “disruption” is a buzz word in business circles, Lilly has decided to try a bit of disruption herself, and thus Gary Krumbert has emerged onto the scene.
When I say Gary has emerged onto the scene, I mean more that he has BURST onto the scene and not in a glamorous, overnight-sensation kind of way; but in a more clumsy, goofy kind of way. Because that’s the kind of guy Gary is; he’s a goofy drag king, born of the always glamorous, and sometimes androgynous, Lilly Loca. He’s been around a while, but more recently has begun to make his presence known.
One might be forgiven for assuming Gary is the quieter side of the Loca/Krumbert duo, and indeed he does tend to fly under the radar a bit. I think his slightly nerdy persona engenders a level of trust in people that allows him to get under their skin without them really even knowing it.
For Gary is most certainly not the quieter side of the duo. Recently a naive judge referred to him as the “Veteran Virgin King” – well, let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth. Gary, in fact, is quite inspired by that raunchy, ginger-bearded Tudor King of old, King Henry the VIIIth. So much so, in fact, that he has a set of silk stockings and a hat set with a feather on a jaunty angle that he brings out on certain occasions, and it really does drive the ladies quite mad with lust; as you can imagine I’m sure.
So this one time, at Drag Camp, Gary did something quite naughty – even for Gary. He TOOK Lilly Loca’s rainbow-hued “do” and used it onstage as a “costume piece” shall we say. To make the situation much, much worse, the costume piece was a merkin (uuuuuuuggghhhhhh – I know, right!) Lilly, as you can imagine, was LIVID when she recognised it from her front-row seat in the audience. She leapt out of her seat, scaled the stage and advanced upon Gary with a look in her eye that inspired sheer terror in his. Such terror, in fact, that he scuttled offstage at the speed of light with Lilly’s “do” flapping between his legs and Lilly in hot pursuit. The audience squirmed uncomfortably as a loud slap, a shrill squeal and a muffled thump could be heard backstage. A few more thumps and squeals occurred and a couple of audience members burst into titters of barely suppressed nervous laughter, before the EMCEE Felicity Frockaccino hastily took over and began to belt out a rather raucous version of “I will survive” in a trembling vibrato.
Rumour has it Gary was EXTREMELY lucky to get away with just a broken leg and he’s currently overseas on an extended vacay while his poor, battered body recuperates. Reliable sources say he’ll be back when the heat dies down and Lilly has calmed her farm. #suchfun
When last we left Leda Petit, she was doing well as a secret assassin, making money by the bushel and lurking in bars, drinking champagne out of shoes and fraternising alluringly with her marks before she made her final, lethal move.
But things have gone rather downhill since then …
Sadly, our Leda has become a little too fond of the high-rolling lifestyle she can now afford as a result of her prodigious “hit” rate. It’s a never-ending cycle of a whiskey here, a cigar there – a line of coke up her nose; “but never before lunchtime darling – I have standards.”
One particularly snipey member of the Auckland paparazzi could almost be excused for comparing Leda’s behaviour to that of Amy Winehouse at her worst. But really, that would be unfair – as she says, Leda has standards, and she would NEVER go on stage and deliver a less than stellar performance like Amy did on the odd occasion.
Yes, while these days Leda is having a lot more fun than your average punter, she is also getting the job done. I mean really, when you think about it, she’s living a glamorous Old Hollywood lifestyle that rivals that of Frank Sinatra and his cronies. Of course, she’s doing it Her Way (do you see what I did there?) and I have it on good authority that despite the heavy nights and the early morning stumbles home to her apartment, Leda can be relied upon to be bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to mingle come midnight when the “respectable” bars open and Leda’s marks await. Why look …
See what I mean? She really is a consummate professional, our Leda. #suchfun
Yours in updated curious creatures …