John Armstrong: There are moments in a country’s history which transcend the ordinary

There are moments in a country’s history which transcend the ordinary; moments when the stars are in alignment with one another to produce the truly extraordinary.

The birth of the Prime Minister’s first child has been such a moment.

Source: 1 NEWS

Everyone knew it was going to happen. Everyone was aware of when it was likely to happen. 

Yet, if anything, the outpouring of goodwill towards Jacinda Ardern, Clarke Gayford and their daughter has been exponentially greater than that which greeted the announcement of her surprise pregnancy back in January.

Ardern is the very embodiment of how a modern society seeks to unshackle women in order to harvest their potential contribution to the greater good to the maximum possible.

The former PM spoke on TVNZ1’s Breakfast about the birth of Jacinda Ardern’s baby girl. Source: Breakfast

It is impossible to measure Ardern’s influence as a role model. But it will already have been vast.

Yet, she is incurably modest about it all. And she does not seek to exploit her success and the consequent high regard in which she is held to ram a message about gender equality down people’s throats.

Her success speaks for itself.

New Zealanders have reciprocated by displaying a pride in their prime minister not witnessed since the 1980s when David Lange refused to buckle to bullying by the Americans to get Labour to drop its anti-nuclear policy.

The prevalent mood yesterday in the hours between Ardern’s early morning dash to Auckland Hospital and her announcement of the birth was summed by the man who will hold the reins of state in her absence from the political stage for the next six weeks.

Mr Peters is stepping up to the top job for six weeks while Jacinda Ardern grapples with motherhood. Source: 1 NEWS

Winston Peters said it all without saying very much. It was a happy day, declared the Acting Prime Minister.

Right on, Winston. Spot on, Winston.

1 NEWS reporter Paul Hobbs is at Auckland Hospital where Jacinda Ardern spent the night after giving birth. Source: Breakfast

That was as succinct a statement as you are likely to hear from a politician, but it was apt in its brevity. 

D-Day - as in Delivery Day - was Ardern’s and Gayford’s day. A happy day for them - and a happy day for a country which could do with more happy days.

There is no question there is much awry with the land once called God’s Own country.

But the country was yesterday wearing a collective smile as broad as the brim on a Texas ten-gallon hat. And nothing is going to wipe away that grin for quite a few days to come.

The contentment was not quite akin to that which would have been felt by Hillary's ascent of Everest and New Zealand grabbing the America's Cup all rolled into one. But it was not far off.

The Finance Minister says the pair “are going to be the most wonderful parents”. Source: 1 NEWS

No matter one’s political leanings, it was near impossible not to succumb to the euphoria.

The symptoms of Babymania were easy to spot. As the afternoon dragged on with no news, there was the ever more frequent clicking on news organisations’ websites in the desperate hunt for even the tiniest bit of info, while at the same time listening intently to reporters camped outside Auckland Hospital express embarrassment at having nothing to report.

Meanwhile, some news outlets seriously afflicted by the syndrome were already crowning the child as “First Baby” in order to fill the news vacuum despite that title long having been claimed by the current occupant of the White House in Washington who is 72 years the senior of Ardern’s child.

Not even Donald Trump would have been capable of puncturing that mood of contentment enveloping New Zealand - a contentment intensified by the copious amounts of international media coverage of the birth.

New Zealanders are suckers for recognition on the world stage - even if it means being mercilessly lampooned as the international community’s version of the village idiot.

That was the treatment meted out to Sir Bill English by the accomplished satirist and American TV show host John Oliver in the wake of the former prime minister’s admission of his creating the gastronomic atrocity which is his spaghetti pizza.

The reversal of traditional roles in the Ardern-Gayford household paints New Zealand as close to being the epitome of a modern and progressive society - a veritable Scandinavia of the South Seas. 

The spaghetti pizza would seem to be about as far away as you could get from things Scandinavian.

That might not be quite so, however. It may be a culinary abomination, but the spaghetti pizza is the product of the busy English household comprised of two parents holding down what have been very much more than full-time jobs plus their six children.

The National Party leader and former PM stepped down today after entering Parliament in 1990. Source: 1 NEWS

Ardern most definitely will not be taking culinary advice from Dipton’s answer to Domino’s. She could do a lot worse, however, than take some inspiration from someone who for many years managed to juggle the responsibilities of fatherhood with the responsibilities of Finance Minister and ultimately Prime Minister - and who managed to survive the experience seemingly pretty much intact in body and mind.

Such an easy-to-make meal as spaghetti pizza is the kind of compromise which Mt Albert’s newest set of parents are going to have to make in order to preserve their own good humour and even their sanity.

There is no escaping that. Perfection in parenthood are words that are easy to say. But from the day a child enters this world, obstacles are thrown in the way which confines the existence of perfect parents solely to the unreal world of advertising where guilt over parental failure is ruthlessly exploited to make a buck.

Ardern combining two of the hardest jobs going - namely mother of the nation and mother of child - has more than a few people fearing that regardless of the help she can get with basic parenting tasks, she is taking on too much.

Associated with that concern is the worry that she will set a standard for being the perfect mother which is too high to meet. 

She can count on one thing. Everyone is an expert when it comes to raising children. One slip or misstep and more than a few tonnes of bricks will come crashing down upon her.

She will already not have been short of advice from all and sundry as she travelled the country in recent months. 

The dominant theme of that advice, however, has been for her to ignore advice and work out her own way of doing things.

As only the second prime minister to have a child born while in office, she has no other choice but to do just that.



'Hobbies may help people with dementia,' says psychiatrist as Morris Minor enthusiast hits the road

It's World Alzheimer's Day, and as one Auckland man with the dementia told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp of his love of Morris Minor cars, a psychiatrist said hobbies may help people with the disorder.

Diagnosed with early onset dementia in his fifties, Jeff Atwell's 'Morrie' has also been his medicine, his wife Doreen Atwell said. 

"Wonderful medicine. It's better than any tablet you can take, the best medicine that Jeff could have had," she said.

Psychiatrist Dr Gary Cheung psychiatrist said hobbies may help people with dementia. 

"We are doing some research on a treatment called cognitive stimulation therapy at the moment," Dr Cheung said.

But hobbies don't only help the ill.

"I think there's plenty of research out there now showing doing activities with other people, or exercising with other people, is more beneficial than doing them alone," Dr Cheung said.

When Jeff and Doreen go driving, romantic memories ride along.

"We met at the old Papatoe Dance Hall. Bill Sevesi's band there was great," Jeff recalled.

They courted in Jeff's first 'Morrie Minor' and have been married almost 54 years.

"He sold it when he went into business before we got married to buy a van that was more practical," Doreen said.

We just did it. It's only recently that dementia and hobbies have been linked - Doreen Atwell

When Jeff saw a doer-upper Morris Minor convertible in the paper several decades later, it was irresistible.

Aged just 54, Jeff was diagnosed with young onset dementia, and 20 years on he moves slowly and needs a cane. 

He's had three strokes. But the bigger problems aren't so easy to see.

"Forgetfulness, that's one of the big things. Forgetting people's names," he said.

Jeff and Doreen made a decision to live for life and get the convertible back on the road.

"We just did it. It's only recently that dementia and hobbies have been linked," Doreen said.

The couple have thanked Dementia Auckland for helping them with Jeff's condition. 

And if you're in doubt about Dementia, as Doreen was when she noticed changes in Jeff 20 years ago, get in touch with your doctor. 

Jeff Attwell was diagnosed with the condition in his early fifties. Source: Seven Sharp

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Kiwi pilot and his interloping crew wow Reno Air Races at bone-rattling speeds

Graeme Frew admits he's got an addiction – one that gets him travelling at speeds of 580km/h just 15 metres off the ground.

The Blenheim pilot and his crew of Kiwi interlopers took on some of the world's best at the Reno Air Races in the US earlier this week with their Russian Yak Fighter plane called Full Noise.

The crew brought over their plane in a shipping container and assembled it again just two days before the first race – something organisers say have never been done.

The Americans fell in love with Frew and Full Noise so TVNZ1's Seven Sharp caught up with the adrenaline junkies to see how they pulled it off.

Watch the video above for more.

Seven Sharp’s Michael Holland was at the event in Nevada. Source: Seven Sharp


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Brexit could be good news for Kiwis wanting to live and work in the UK

Brexit could be good news for New Zealanders wanting to live and work in the UK.

Negotiations are on going between Britain and the European Union with Britain due the leave the EU on March 29 next year.

Cathy Allen is a speech and language therapist who is reluctantly heading back to New Zealand after being unable to extend a visa despite Britain's National Health Service's best efforts to keep her.

"I've been trying for the last six months every month and the reason it hasn't gone through is just that there's visa caps."

But the UK Government's own advisers are now recommending the highly skilled migrant cap should be scrapped.

Ms Allen said if that happens, "It'd be a lot easier, I'd be able to stay here 3-5 years."


There are just eight weeks to work through the deadlock on key issues. Source: 1 NEWS


Christchurch woman who built home for disabled brother 'astounded' at $23k consent bill

For years Kiwis have been putting up with council fees when building new homes, but one Christchurch woman thinks she has figures that shows it's getting out of control.

Liz Armon built a house for her retired, disabled brother David in south-east Christchurch – a one bedroom, open plan living house she wanted David to feel at home in.

The house cost $67,000 to build but then came Christchurch City Council's fees on top – an extra $23,000.

"I was absolutely astounded," Ms Armon said.

"Twenty-three thousand in total for consent costs when I had anticipated it being $1,500 after speaking to the council initially."

The hefty bill was made up of a development levy, consent fees, a flood level survey, with neighbouring Selwyn District Council carving some off the top as well.

"I can't understand why any council wouldn't want to support elderly people or families in need," Ms Armon said.

As it turns out, those main council taxes are made up of lots of smaller taxes for inspection fees, processing times and contributions for future parks and public transport in the area.

The council added the $12,500 development levy Ms Armon paid was actually a bargain with levies for houses in other subdivisions "typically" $20,000 to $30,000.

We take a look at a Christchurch woman’s eye-watering council bill. Source: Seven Sharp