1. Ko ngati Pākehā te iwi, ko McKenzie te hapū, no te Moutere mangu no Kotirani. Ko te Oriental te waka. Ko Thomas Urquart McKenzie te tangata. No Rotorua ahau, engari kei Te Whanganui-a-Tara tōku kainga ināianei. Ko Tawatawa te maunga, ko Tapu Te Ranga te motu, ko Te Moana o Raukawa te moana, ko Tapu Te Ranga te marae.
2. My ancestors came from the Black Isle in Scotland, clan McKenzie (on my motherís side; clan Donald on my fatherís). The first of my tipuna landed at Pito-one in January 1840. I grew up in Rotorua, but now my home is Wellington.
3. I am a writer. This is not so much a hobby or a profession as deep need inside me. I donít know what I would do without writing.
4. I have had several poems published, in journals and little arty books, and one as part of a programme on BBC Radio 4.
5. I also have a large pile of rejection slips.
6. The poem that was on the Beeb, Concerto for Two Women, was a letter to my grandmother who died when I was two years old. We played Bachís concerto for two violins in D minor at her funeral. On the programme other people talked about the ways the concerto had touched them Ė Terry Waite spoke of how it helped him to survive the five years he spent imprisoned in Beirut.
7. Iím also working on a memoir about the time I spent in Costa Rica, some stories for children, and a young adult novel.
8. When I was a kid, I got so engrossed in books that I would cover them with plastic bags so I didnít have to stop reading them when I had a shower.
9. On my back I have a tattoo of two women dancing. I designed it myself. It only hurt round the edges.
10. Iíve been bitten by spiders twice. Once when I was a kid, on my birthday (I donít remember which birthday) a spider was inside the neck of a jersey when I put it on, and it bit me, and I sort of got trapped in the jersey and I think I screamed.
11. My favourite movie is Love and Other Catastrophes, which I first saw in Auckland with my best friend. That was the first time I ever saw two women kissing. It was a moment of realisation, everything fell into place, I thought thatís what I want to be when I grow up. We walked out of the movie theatre and my best friend said ďEeeew, it would have been so gross to be the girl who had to kiss another girl.Ē
12. When I am walking outside, I canít resist crushing leaves between my fingers and smelling them. My favourites to crush are fennel and manuka.
13. Iím at university doing a Tohu Maoritanga (diploma in Maori studies). Iíve also been studying physics, womenís studies, history of architecture, political science, media studies, print culture, creative writing, and 3D design, but Iíll emerge at the other end with a BA in English Literature. Go figure.
14. My Maori studies journey landed me in the kitchen for the university Matariki dinner. It was a grand occasion, with the Vice Chancellor, Pro VCs and heads of faculty as well as all the Maori staff. My role was to invent some recipes using native plants as herbs, design a menu, and act as head chef on the night. Iíve often thought about opening a restaurant, but itís much more fun to just pretend for a day.
15. I used to wish I had a dress made out of the sky.
16. I try really hard to be butch, but I fail dismally. I like pretty skirts.
17. One of the best weeks in my life was when I did volunteer work with Student Volunteer Optometrists Serving Humanity in Costa Rica. They do free eye tests and hand out donated glasses. I helped with the tests sometimes, but mostly I was just there to translate. The hardest thing I had to do was explain to a seven-year-old girl, in Spanish, that she was going to go blind.
18. Another best week in my life was when I was selected to be part of the first National Youth Shakespeare Production, and we deconstructed, twisted, remixed and performed Richard III. I learnt some great curses. During the performance I tripped over a box and the moment was caught on video.
19. I donít think the glass is half empty. I think itís full Ė half water and half air. Air is very important and shouldnít be taken lightly.
20. However, if the glass is designed specifically to hold water, itís also an inefficient use of resources - you only need half that much glass for that amount of water.
21. When I was about 11 people used to call me Janet Frame. This was because of my fuzzy hair, not because of my amazing literary talent. They also called me Rudolf because of my hayfever.
22. I was born in the eighties. In Lafayette Home Hospital, Indiana. I have duel citizenship, but my home is Aotearoa - Itís not my fault my dad did his post grad study in the USA.
23. For several years I was strictly vegan, for environmental reasons, health, animal rights, and spiritual reasons. At the moment Iím not... and Iím not sure how I feel about this but Iím too stressed with uni to exercise the will power and organisation required to live veganly amongst non-vegans.
24. I was 18 when I kissed a girl for the first time. I met her on the internet.
25. I was 12 the first time a boy kissed me. Then he didnít talk to me for two weeks, and then one day he said he thought we should break up.
26. Iím a visual artist as well as a writer, and Iíve had a couple of exhibitions, one solo and a few as part of groups of artists. I paint with acrylics because Iím too impatient to use oils. I paint expressionist works because Iím too impatient to do realism. I once sold a finger painting for $250. The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification rented one of my paintings and they hung it in their lobby. It was a delicate abstract. They said they thought it was a GE chicken. Unfortunately the subversive organic messages I painted into it had very little influence on the Commissionís report.
27. I was raped at the end of my seventh form year by a guy who was trying to ďproveĒ to everyone that I wasnít ďreally a lesbian.Ē This was not my first non-consensual sexual experience.
28. I really like my glasses. I hated my last pair, cos I sat on them so they were crooked and I felt self conscious about that. I tried to wear contacts when I played waterpolo, but I have cysts on my eyelids from my allergies, and it hurt too much.
29. Sometimes I cut myself. It calms me down when Iím really distressed. Sometimes it is a way of blocking out painful memories. Itís calming, and it proves I am alive. I havenít done it for a year, because it freaks people out, but itís a highly addictive behaviour, so I donít think I can ever say Iím truly free of it.
30. My favourite colours are green and blue. The green of the deepest part of lake Okataina, the green of glossy kawakawa leaves, the bright flash of a korimako. The blue of paua polished by the waves, the deep blue of the sky as the stars begin to appear.
31. My biggest fear is that people will hate me because I am messed up.
32. My other biggest fear is nuclear war. Or, for that matter, any war.
33. When I was 13 I came out as bisexual. Then I came out as a lesbian. Then I decided I was a theoretical lesbian but a practicing bisexual. Then I started calling myself trisexual because I kept falling in love with gay men, straight women, and trannies. Then I decided I didnít believe in sex or gender. Then I started dating an intersex transgender woman.
34. Iím not confused about my sexuality, but my doctor is.
35. In my family we always ate with chopsticks, unless we had soup (spoons) or Indian food (fingers).
36. When I was a teenager, I became a born again Christian. It was my teenage rebellion, the only thing I could do that would shock my parents. Theyíre still recovering. So am I.
37. Iím addicted to chocolate soymilk. Iím not using the term addiction lightly. I start off making it with one spoonful of chocolate powder and just once a day, and the next thing itís seven spoonfuls twelve times a day and I get chronic headaches, mood swings and grumpiness when I try and withdraw.
38. I used to be in the top 1% of the country for mathís and science. I donít know what happened.
39. In intermediate I was top of the school for woodwork and metalwork but I failed cooking because I refused to keep to the recipes.
40. A writer, Fiona Farrell, taught me how to spell my name the Celtic way, Fionnaigh, and I liked it so much I changed it legally. I also changed my last name, when I was about 7. Now I use my motherís motherís maiden name.
41. I got hypothermia once. At a rock concert. The band was Plankeye, who were my favourite Christian rock band at the time. They came to visit me in the first aid tent and I still have the t-shirt they autographed.
42. My great-great-great-grandfather was the ďHonourableĒ John Bryce, the Native Minister who rode into Parihaka on a white charger and arrested Te Whiti and Tohu. We have one of his books, and two antique Japanese vases he bought in London. His diary is in the national library. Itís pretty boring. He was in London, he had a cold, he was worried about money, he enjoyed seeing the first spring flowers. I find it hard to understand how someone so boring and normal could do such awful things.
43. Another great-great-great-grandfather was a publisher, and his son did typesetting for the evening post. I think perhaps this explains my addiction to letterpress.
44. My grandmotherís brother was a writer. He had a book published in the Oxford New Zealand Short Stories book in the World Classics series, 1953, alongside Katherine Mansfield, Frank Sargeson and Janet Frame. The woman he married is one of my favourite relatives, even though sheís not related.
45. If I had pets I would have weta. Theyíd live in the letterbox but Iíd let them roam about as they pleased. I would name them Aloysius Barley and Zeralda.
46. I used to play violin in a Ceilidh band.
47. I teach Sunday School. I told them I was raised by staunch atheists and Iím a queer anarchist and probably down in police files as an eco-terrorist and I donít even know if Iím a Christian, but they gave me the job anyway. I love it. I used to do some support work with kids with intellectual disabilities and mental health problems, and eventually Iíd like to do art therapy with children.
48. I once won a competition to redesign a local park. I created a huge controversy by suggesting that the phoenix palms looked out of place in a geothermal area (they were too formal) and should be moved to a different park and replaced with natives. There was a massive outcry! Angry letters in the paper! Words like ďmonstrousĒ ďhorrorĒ and ďhideousĒ were directed at 12 year old me Ė ďnot even a ratepayer,Ē as one horrified resident exclaimed. The council took my side and the palms were moved.
49. I was a serious child. When I was about 8-years-old I wrote very moralistic stories with passages like ď...and man saw his neighbours fighting, and man said Ďlet us come to an agreement and be friends.í And man threw down his weapons and he felt safer without them.Ē
50. While I was playing a witch in MacBeth I got warts on my nose and I couldnít get rid of them for years.
51. I did the Great Lake Cycle Challenge once Ė itís a 160km bike ride around lake Taupo. It took me 8 hours. Because I was too slow to ride with a bunch, I had to battle the wind. My dad had a tailwind going up the first big hill, but by the time I got there it was a headwind. Thereís a huge hill near the end of the ride, it goes on for kilometers and itís quite steep. When I got there it was the hottest part of the day and the tar on the road was melting - I got to the top and burst into tears. I won a spot prize Ė I think it was a drink bottle that glowed in the dark.
52. If I could magically change one thing about myself, I would probably want to lose weight. Even though I hate myself for wanting it, there is still a part of me that thinks I would be happier and people would like me if I were thin.
53. My hair is curly and very fine so it tangles easily if I let it grow. When I wake up in the morning it closely resembles that steel wool stuff you use to scrub the dishes. Once I had GE FREE shaved in the back of my head - but I only do that on election years.
54. I got kicked out of Costa Rica because they thought I was a lesbian. Well, OK, thatís a slight exaggeration. I was on an AFS exchange, and the pastor from my host motherís church was an ex-homosexual, but he was cured and had kids and stuff. Anyway, he found out I was friends with this gay guy, and within hours AFS was on the phone telling me that I couldnít have a girlfriend, or tell anyone I was a lesbian, or go to gay bars, or have any gay friends, or I would get sent home. So I quit the program and went to live in San Jose with my lesbian activist friend and her seven cats and her house full of books, but in the end I found it too hard in Costa Rica and I came home. (AFS never actually asked if I was a lesbian. Mind you, I donít know if it would have made any difference if I said, oh itís OK, donít worry; Iím bisexual).
55. I got kicked out of Weir House after a week, because I was ďdisturbing the Deputy Wardens.Ē
56. I once killed microscopic insects during a science experiment. At the time I had no moral qualms about this. My friend and I won a prize for the project.
57. I once played Kim Hill in a radio play. I gave a terrible performance, but thankfully the evidence was accidentally destroyed.
58. I have a brother, Tomas, who lives in Sweden, and a sister, Stťphanie, who lives in Switzerland. Theyíre not biologically related to me. But theyíre still my bro and sis. Steph is a journalist for La Libertť newspaper, Tomas is a doctor and he has worked in exciting places like Ghana and the Solomon Islands. He has a little baby, Noa.
59. The first word I learned to say was flower, but I said it ďdower.Ē
60. When I was 6 I got into heaps of trouble because this girl in my class wrote my name on the classroom wall in glue.
61. I always wear two rings. One was my grandmotherís engagement ring, one was a sixteenth birthday present from my other grandmother. Theyíre both very simple designs - I donít go in for those big flashy rings with huge stones jutting out in all directions.
62. Iíve never broken any bones. My own or anyone elseís.
63. Iíve been on Queer Nation four times, for a total of about 27 seconds.
64. I had a summer job doing Y2K testing for a company. I ran a test on the computer of the CEO, and when I tried to reboot the machine, it wouldnít turn on. The head of IT who was with me turned white as a ghost and started trembling. Youíd think Iíd broken Godís computer. We fixed the problem before the CEO got back, and my life was spared.
65. When I was little I used to lie awake at night worrying about whether the universe went on forever. How could anything go on forever. I mean, really, FOREVER. But if it stops, whatís after that?! Aaaaaaargh!!
66. Iím a very sensitive person. Iím allergic to practically everything. I ended up in hospital with anaphylaxis after eating three azuki beansprouts. I used to have to go to the doctor twice a week to get injections for my allergies, but now I give them to myself. I spent a lot of my childhood on steroids and antibiotics. When I phone the doctorís surgery the receptionists always know who I am before I even say my name, and if I died the pharmaceutical industry would probably collapse.
67. I love cycling down hills at night after rain.
68. When I was little I wanted to be a volcanologist or an astrophysicist. Then I wanted to be an architect, and I got as far as doing three years of a B.Arch before realising that actually I hated it.
69. I have lots of phobias surrounding breathing. I had to have a gastroscopy once and they started to put the tube down my throat and said ďjust relax and breathe through your nose.Ē But I panicked and forgot how to breathe through my nose, and they had to give me oxygen... It didnít help that they gave me drugs, because sedatives usually have the opposite effect on me.
70. When I was in primary school my father went to Kenya for a few weeks. In my memory it was a few months. Apparently I was a horrible child while he was gone, lots of tantrums, my mum was really worried... I donít remember any of that. I just remember the doll he brought me back. And that he left halfway through reading me The Hobbit.
71. Has gone AWOL.
72. I love Thai food. And most things about Thailand except that I hate hot humid weather Ė it makes me really grumpy and tired. Oh, and Bankok. Traffic. Too many people. Not to mention the heat.
73. Itís frightening how well I get on with my parents. We love the same music, the same movies, same food... Theyíre two of my best friends, and two of the people I admire most.
74. Iím scared of heights. I always get to a certain point, about 3.2 meters, and start shaking uncontrollably. But itís never stopped me from doing anything. Iíve done abseiling and rock climbing and rope courses and stuff Ė it usually takes me hours to work up the courage, and everyone gets annoyed with me, but I always do it in the end.
75. My greatest achievement at university so far is handing in a piece of origami for a politics course and getting 90%.
76. Iíve been held in police cells twice. I probably have a big fat file that says I am a dangerous mentally disturbed anarchist.
77. Iíve never been arrested for stenciling political messages on footpaths.
78. Once though, a friend and I were chased by a couple of guys in one of those street-cleaning trucks with the huge metal brushes spinning around in front. They followed us down Lampton Quay, and then we ran and hid in the railway station. About 20 minutes later they were still waiting outside the entrance so we had to sneak out a different way. Then the cops turned up. My friend saw them slowing down, so she yelled ďCOPS!Ē and started running away. Great - that didnít make us look suspicious at all. But no one got arrested and we all lived happily ever after.
79. If I canít check my email at least 3 times a day I start to get panicky.
80. Iím a member of the Green Party but I still consider myself an anarchist. To paraphrase Metiria Turei, sometimes I work within the establishment, but I am ďnot now nor ever its advocate.Ē
81. I went to a Steiner kindergarten. On my desk I have a photo of my kindergarten teacher, who I adored. I went to a very white very middle-class very nice primary school. Then I went to an intermediate school in the lowest socio-economic zone in Rotorua where most of the kids were Maori. Talk about culture shock. And the teachers were really strict. Theyíd stand at the gate handing out detentions to the kids who set foot in the school grounds with the wrong brand of white ankle socks.
82. I didnít have many friends in intermediate school. I think this is because I listened to Bartok and tie-dyed my own clothes and hung out in the library, while everyone else listened to pop music and wore surf ďlabelĒ clothes and played sports.
83. I probably inherited my geekiness from my parents. They used to take me up to Auckland for Philharmonia concerts and film festivals. I remember watching three subtitled films in a row and being very tired in the car on the way home and someone saying ďNo, the trainload of Polish refugees were in this film, not that one!Ē
84. Iím disappointed I didnít have a chance to use my hard hat and steel toe boots before I quit architecture school.
85. Iíve spent lots of money on library fines since I started university. I keep thinking about how many books I could buy if I still had that money...
86. When I was a kid I had a record of the Barrow Poets, and I loved it. But there was a poem on it that finished on the lines ďand when your heart begins to bleed, youíre dead, and dead, and dead indeed.Ē It terrified me. I didnít know how to stop the record player so one of my clearest memories of childhood is of running upstairs and hiding in the toilet until that poem finished.
87. On my 21st birthday I went to a marae to plant native trees. I planted makomako and kawakawa because they are my two favourite plants. Every year Iíll go back and plant more trees and one day when Iím old Iíll take children there to show them the beautiful forest.
88. I like to pretend I have a successful permacultural garden. In reality the weeds are winning. I seem to be capable of successfully growing parsley and Jerusalem artichokes, and the kinds of plants that pop up between cracks in concrete and thrive on neglect.
89. I blend my own herbal teas and I grow lots of my own herbs. Most herbs seem to survive in my garden. Theyíre fairly low maintenance.
90. I am usually The Responsible Person In The Flat who makes sure the bills are paid and the rent goes through, and the mould gets cleaned off the bathroom ceiling, and the oven gets fixed... This would be ok, except that Iím a disorganised, unreliable person.
91. Sometimes intense black despair overwhelms me. It feels like Iím drowning in it, like itís unbearable, it seems to go on for ever, I canít remember ever experiencing anything else. I cry for hours and it seems like Iíll never stop crying, but eventually I wear myself out. I want to hurt myself so much that I block out everything, cease to have ever existed. Thankfully the despair doesnít last forever, but sometimes I feel as though I am wearing so many masks, and underneath them all there is only the blackness waiting to well up over me.
92. I see this despair as the price I play for my creativity. I hope it will make me a more compassionate person. I wouldnít want to live without the darkness, because I wouldnít understand the light.
93. The first non-classical CD I bought was Earth and Sun and Moon by Midnight Oil. I think the second was by Chris de Burgh. My tastes have improved since then. The most recent addition to my music collection is Charlotte Yates Dead Fish Beach. I love singer/songwriters from Aotearoa Ė especially queer women singer/songwriters. I also love contemporary women poets from Aotearoa, but I am trying to extend myself and read things by men, foreigners and dead people.
94. I couldnít survive in a place without wide expanses of water. I grew up in a town surrounded by 16 lakes, and now I live in a city surrounded by the sea. I couldnít live somewhere without mountains either, I get claustrophobic in flat places. I couldnít live in Costa Rica because the air is so hazy, the distant mountains are never in focus. I think thatís because of the humidity, not pollution. If I had to live somewhere that wasnít Wellington Iíd choose Stockholm.
95. I have a running obsession with Tetrapak boxes. Theyíre made with about five layers and itís too hard to separate out the foil, cardboard and plastic, so you canít recycle them. It really bugs me, cos I go through a lot of soymilk. When I was studying architecture I tried to make soundproof bricks from Vitasoy cartons, but that wasnít a huge success. They do make good thermal blinds, because of the reflective properties of the foil. If you cut them open theyíre a pretty silver colour inside, and they take blind embossing really well, so for an assignment I made a set of letterpress postcards printed on the insides of Vitasoy boxes. Theyíre very groovy.
96. I do drag Ė not as a show, I just wear pants and a moustache around town occasionally. I like confusing people. Once a salesman called me ďsir,Ē but my voice is really high and gave me away and he ended up backing away with a panicked expression.
97. Iím reluctant to identify myself as a Christian, because the term is so loaded, but my spirituality is strongly influenced by some Christian traditions, and I do work for the Presbyterian church. But I feel comfortable in a Quaker meeting, or a Buddhist meditation sit. I donít believe in a God who is a bearded man peering down from the clouds, but I do believe in something that, for want of a better word, I call God. Something about the stars, and the spaces between stars, about droplets of rain, cool stones, an autumn leaf, the song of a birdÖ something about nucleic acids and atoms, blood, sweat, heart, lungs, mind, music and poetry, laughter and tears, awareness, passion, love... I feel close to God in prayer and meditation, in the forests, mountains and beaches, and in the company of friends.
98. Joining the hikoi to parliament to protest the foreshore and seabed legislation was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Simultaneously empowering and humbling, sad and joyous, intimate and huge.
99. I have two bikes, mountain and road. I donít use them as much as I used to. I donít do enough exercise these days. Iím going to start going to the gym and doing feldenkrais and making more time for prayer and meditation, and eating better... tomorrow. Really.
100. Iím very disorganised. On an average day I will lose my keys at least twice, turn up late for several appointments and accumulate a few more library fines. I think there are actually a lot of holes in the fabric of reality near to my house, and sometimes my keys fall through. And half of every pair of socks I own. And time is very flexible here, it keeps speeding up just to catch me out - it rushes straight to the last minute. Which is why, at a ridiculous hour of the night when any sensible person would have finished their essay and been tucked up in bed by now, the most urgent task I can think of is writing a list of a hundred things about myself.Posted by Fionnaigh at January 29, 2003 01:19 AM