I cannot remember hugging a man from Taiwan before, but that is exactly what I found myself doing at around 1.20am the other morning. Don't worry, this is not some sordid confession, but rather an example of what World Cup fever does to people.
The New Zealand national team - the All Whites (Kiwi pronunciation emphasises the first syllable, so it is ALL Whites rather than All WHITES) - were appearing in the World Cup Finals for only the second time ever. After months of build up, we were watching the first game, and they were trailing by one goal as we entered the third minute of injury time. Suddenly a cross came in, an All White met the ball with a firm header, and yes, incredibly, we had scored. Delirium, hugs all round (me and Harrison), the dead being awoken at 1.20am.
Following teams like New Zealand, or Hull City back in England, will give you rare, very rare moments lke this. Maybe once every decade or two! New Zealand not losing in the World Cup - once in history (so far). Hull City appearing at Wembley - once in history. Hull City being promoted to the Premier League - once in history. But the joy and celebration when those rare occasions happen is something supporters of Brazil, or Manchester United or Chelsea will never come near to experiencing. I can see why God often seems to side with the underdog - it is so much more fun!
Emily was part of her school choir which performed as part of "the Big Sing" in Auckland Town Hall, and as proud parents of course we were thrilled to go and enjoy the evening. Her choir did really well, and I hope they feel their hard work - being in school at 8am each friday - paid off. They were great. We heard 23 choirs perform, most were good, some were amazing, one or two average. Then the Auckland Youth Choir (I think) sang three things. 'Things' is a technical musical term to describe noises as opposed to meaningful words, sounds as opposed to tunes, and a garbled mess of voices as opposed to beautiful harmonies. The result of a 'thing' is that incredibly talented angelically-voiced young people end up singing garbage art-farty stuff rather than using their talent to actually sing. I digress. The evening concluded with the awards ceremony, each choir being granted either "Highly Commended," Commended" or the patronising to the point of being insulting "Particpated". I knew that Emily's choir would get the lowest award. Firstly they attend a low decile (poor) school with a mixed reputation. Secondly, they were not all white angels, nor did they use the "we are all Maori" or "this is how we sing in the Pacific Islands" tactic - they were integrated, a mixed group of kids who love to sing together. And thirdly, they sang a proper song, with enthusiasm and emotion. Not at all what the musical elite appreciate. And I was right, they received the award that was more offensive than Simon Cowell at his worst. I wasn't the only person who left with a sense of injustice. I believe and encourage healthy competition. I do not support rewarding poor performances. But I am tired of some places being denied the opportunity to explode out of the shackles of their image or reputation. Can anything good come out of Avondale College? Or Nazareth? Oh yes!
Two BBC News headlines caught my eye this morning. One read "Why Marriage Matters", and the other "Feeling Grumpy is 'good for you'". I jokingly wondered if the two were directly linked...marriage is good because it makes you grumpy which is good for you...! And actually, I think I may be right. As Moni and I approach 25 years of marriage, I feel deeply grateful that we do so with a greater appreciation and understanding of one another then ever. I am sometimes astonished that this beautiful, amazing woman shares my life! And part of what I value about her most is that she not only copes with my (rare) grumpy moments, she even enjoys them - because we need people with whom we can be real, and unreasonable, and, well grumpy. So why doesn't that appear in the good marriage manual?