Denise Irvine: A little positivity goes a long way

New Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern’s wide smile reflects her promise of ‘‘relentless positivity’’.
HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES

New Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern’s wide smile reflects her promise of ‘‘relentless positivity’’.

OPINION: Today I am channelling the glowing new Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern and going for the positive.

I don't have to try too hard on this, having been blessed with a wonderfully optimistic father who could have rivalled Jacinda in cheerfulness any old time. Dad had known hardship in his life but his default position was forever positive. Every day had the potential to be a good one in his book.

Sometimes it's difficult to see the silver linings. Especially first thing in the morning, when it is my habit to read the newspapers and news websites, check out what's happening in the world. So much bleakness: The challenging issues of poverty, child abuse, homelessness and housing costs at home, and Trump, terrorist attacks, Syria, and millions of displaced and distressed people abroad. To name but a few things.

In the lower reaches of the news there is trouble of a different nature: an unending parade of health warnings about substances that may be harmful to your person. Sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy products and caffeine get a regular thrashing. A new study says yeast-based spreads like Marmite and Vegemite are okay – they may actually alleviate stress and anxiety. Tuck in quickly before this gets reversed.

The other morning I read a piece about the carnage caused by dust mites in bedding. It was grim stuff on a sunny morning; it prompted me to hang a comfy Woolrest underlay over the balcony to air (and banish any mites that may be lurking in its fluffy pile).

I forgot about it, the sunshine turned to sleet, I arrived home to a sodden, woolly mass that was impossible to get dry. A commercial laundry came to the rescue, but it was a costly exercise. Should never have got out of bed that morning, let alone attempted to do some housework on the back of a scaremongering report.

So, moving briskly to a few positives – big and little – from the past couple of weeks:

Jacinda Ardern, of course, the woman with the widest smile of anyone I've ever seen. My father would have liked Jacinda. He'd have enjoyed her natural warmth, her quick wit, her sound intellect and instinct, and her small-town Waikato heritage. I reckon she'll shake up the nature of this election.

Theatre at the Hamilton Hotel, corner Victoria Street and Sapper Moore-Jones Place. It is early days on this proposal and more detail is needed, especially on the potential restoration of the hotel façade and also on what will happen to the mothballed Founders Theatre. But I admire the bold vision to fashion a new performing arts centre in this heritage site, slap in the heart of the CBD. The plan, from project partners Hamilton City Council and philanthropic outfit Momentum Waikato, has drawn positive and negative outpourings. Keep an open mind. It may be magnificent.

In a 5.30am conversation with Penny, aged five. It starts in whispers: Nana, are you awake? No, Penny, it's still sleeping time. You are awake, you just talked to me and it's light outside. Penny pulls back the bedroom curtain to reveal a pitch black sky. Jumps into bed for hugs, accompanied by an armload of soft toys. Confidently demonstrates how she can count to 100, recounts the long and tangled plot of the Beauty and the Beast movie, and tells me how much she loves me staying at her house. "I'll come in early tomorrow morning."

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The Big Sick. An uplifting little movie, currently screening in Hamilton. It's about love, family, culture and illness. It'll warm your heart.

The Mount in winter (and summer). A wind-assisted walk on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world is guaranteed to whack away the winter cobwebs. The Mount village is much more upmarket from what it was when I began holidaying there as a teenager. Its finest asset, the vast sweep of white sand and blue surf, is unchanged. Still working its Pacific magic on all comers.

Joe Bennett's ragu. I like columnist Joe Bennett's work. He's clever and insightful, and he can take a very simple thing and turn it into a literary gem. Like he did recently with a lump of mince (Waikato Times, August 2). His recipe for slow-cooked Italian ragu (with many asides) drew me in, had me quickly foraging in the freezer for a packet of mince. I followed most of his instructions. My red wine may not have been the throat skinner – "a wine of violence" – that was called for, but I certainly did the butter bit and added a goodly dollop of non-Italian Worcestershire Sauce. It was a damn fine effort. Thanks, Joe.

At the edge of a new land. The story of a Pakistani refugee family, now settled in Hamilton, as told in last weekend's Sunday Star-Times by journalist Adam Dudding. It was sensitively and soundly reported, and beautifully photographed. There is still good news to read. It will be online if you missed it.

Have a happy weekend.

 - Stuff

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