My Mother has Dementia

My mother was diagnosed with dementia almost two years ago. My father found her spooning marmalade into a wine glass. That, along with her slurred words, her frustrated struggle to form coherent sentences, and her propensity to sleep most of the day were early clues. After a puzzling few months during which none of us […]

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The Memory of Place

For the last 21 years I have holidayed at the same beach on the Coromandel (a peninsula in New Zealand’s upper North Island, beloved by Kiwis for its beaches and holiday homes and summer activities). Eighteen of those summers were spent with my ex-partner and his family, with my daughter added to the mix when […]

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Look at the World

I named my blog after the New Zealand bellbird (in Māori, korimako) – and not just because my last name is Bell. I have always loved birds: for their beauty and intense fragility, the sense of freedom they represent, and for their song. The bellbird is particularly gorgeous. The explorer Captain Cook wrote of its […]

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Fear, change, and how to combat the hate

And I know I am solid and sound;To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow;All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.-Walt Whitman I’m thinking today about the enormous upheavals we have all experienced this year, and about my own fear of uncertainty, and the challenge of change. […]

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Walk The Track With Me

A while ago I wrote about walking the Milford Track solo. It’s one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and one of the most famous walks in the world. Today and for the next three Fridays it’s being published on Stuff.co.nz: https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/back-your-backyard/122592580/the-milford-chronicles-taking-on-one-of-the-worlds-most-famous-walks-solo COVID-19 has smashed any possibility of international travel for the forseeable future, and Kiwis […]

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Loving and losing our children

New Zealand’s appalling youth suicide rate is in the news again, as is our impotency in the face of it. A new UNICEF report has found New Zealand’s youth suicide rate – teenagers between 15 and 19 – to be the highest of a long list of 41 OECD and EU countries. The usual culprits […]

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When You Are 50

When You Are 50 When you are 50, you are reborn. The same skin, the same face, the same body, but different. You are in the next half, now. You cannot waste a moment. When you are 50, you love this face, this skin you’re in. You love that quick temper, that wild laugh, those […]

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A Letter to my Daughter

To my daughter, This is your last week of primary school. I couldn’t let it go by without writing to you. It’s what I do to process my thoughts and feelings; to line things up in my mind until they make sense and form some sort of pattern; to express what sometimes cannot be said […]

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A Writer in Ireland: Part Four

In Crossmaglen the fire burns true The patriotic flame will never die And when you hear the battle cry It will be the fighting men of Crossmaglen. -“The Fighting Men of Crossmaglen”, IRA ballad, 1970s Armagh and Crossmaglen After a wildly comfortable night in a country B & B just outside Armagh (I had it […]

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A Writer in Ireland: Part Three

Newry Nestled between the Ring of Gullion and the spectacular Mourne Mountains, Newry doesn’t make many headlines these days. I drove into the city with a load of wet washing drying on the back seat and vague memories of grey stone and dullness and necessity. Over the next two days, however, I was to become […]

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