Tragic week for so many

Arrowtown book buyer Miranda Spary continues her regular column about her recommendations for a good read and life as she sees it ...

It's always appalling when something terrible has happened to you and the rest of the world carries on regardless of your pain and sadness.

This week has been so full of tragedy for so many people.

I can't stop thinking about Julianne Kramer's and Emma Taylor's family and friends, and I can't even imagine how Argentinian Carolina Patron Costas' family are coping after the news their beautiful daughter died in a car crash on Malaghans Rd.

Sad times indeed.

But there's been good news as well.

I'm still on cloud nine after Barack Obama's win last week.

Honestly, I couldn't see how he could have lost unless every black American, every Hispanic American, every gay American, every immigrant and every intelligent woman failed to vote.

That doesn't leave many people on the other team!

Jim Bolger, the former New Zealand prime minister spoke at a United World College meeting at the Queenstown Resort College a few years back and commented that every year, less and less of the world power is held by old, rich, white, Christian, English-speaking males, and while the younger generation already knows it, the older one struggles to accept it.

We were in Dunedin at the weekend picking up the two stragglers still at Otago. If you ever have a day thinking your house is a bit messy and dirty, a quick trip to a Dunedin student flat will straighten out your worries. If any family lived in houses as grotty as these, the landlords would be in terrible trouble. But students love it.

I suppose it's nice knowing however dire the straits you find yourself in in the future, you will never live in such primitive conditions again.

Although with the job market for graduates getting weaker and weaker, the upgrade to more salubrious surroundings might get slower and harder.

Of course they could copy my darling and me and just move back in with the parents.

Flatting with the pensioners is proving jolly good fun, although given that my darling and my parents are all a bit deaf, it's often tricky following a conversation.

It's a lot like the hilarious stories in David Lodge's Deaf Sentence, one of my favourite novels.

The Wakatipu is just getting better and smarter and more exciting all the time.

Ginger Meggs, the Christchurch hairdressing icon, has come to town in a sexy little space at the back of Seletti in Beach St. Do go and look at the ceiling - it's fabulous! And clever Jane Shaw, whose Provisions cafe has made so many Arrowtown locals happy, is now going to be doing her cheery thing at the Frankton Marina for everyone on the other side of the Shotover.

And it's been great meeting Adam Feeley, our new council CEO - I've got the hugest respect for anyone who puts themselves in the public firing line and I feel really confident having someone with his qualifications and experience will make the elected officers' jobs and everyone's life in the Wakatipu happier and easier.

I've realised that one of the biggest things I've missed while I've been away is daily trivia and gossip and nonsense. I don't speak anything like enough Turkish to eavesdrop effectively and hearing everything in English again is a joy.

At the dentist on Monday, the receptionist was giggling as a lady had rung and just as the phone was answered, a pneumatic drill started up in the street outside. The patient had to be reassured it wasn't the dentist making that noise. Jamie Hopkirk is the gentlest dentist on the planet and the thought of him frightening patients makes me giggle as well.

Eavesdropping is only one of my numerous bad habits, but I'm not going to give it up any time soon - I'm addicted to other people's conversations.

Habits are what make us the people we are, and habits are also what help lots of businesses make lots of money. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is all about why we do the things we do, and it makes for alarming reading.

Harnessing customers' habits is lucrative and the case studies are fascinating - we really are creatures of habit. I hoped there would be some hints on how to change bad habits into good ones, but I'm not convinced that my brain would consider a nice brisk walk or a cosy chat as a replacement for something sweet at afternoon tea time.

This book is no match for Malcolm Gladwell's brilliant The Tipping Point about how trends start, but it's still worthwhile.

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