Daffodils in March, not September. Home at last.

It was going to be the start of a new chapter for our family. You know how the story goes — the current life isn’t right and the itchy feet can’t be soothed, so you turn things upside down. Happy faces on Wanted Down Under tell you it’s going to be just fine. Be brave. Just do it. And we did.

If I’m going to do something, I give it my all, and I did that too. But over the years, I watched my identity fade away until  I lost sight of who I was. Feeling powerless and distanced from the people I loved, I reached my lowest point. I thought there was no going back.

Life had been so different twelve years earlier when we moved to New Zealand. I had been excited about starting the new life we had glimpsed from a campervan the year before. A holidaymaker’s dream, we had enjoyed a whistle-stop tour of North and South Island and filled our cameras with the best of New Zealand.

On North Island we were charmed by Auckland’s Sky Tower views, Bay of Islands’ magical dolphins, Coromandel’s hot water beach, and Rotorua’s Maori culture and volcanic lakes.

A trip across the Cook Strait on the interisland ferry took us to South Island where we were soothed by Marlborough Sounds’ serenity and Tasman’s cobalt bays. We drove down the wild West Coast with mile upon mile of breakers and driftwood and not a soul in sight. In Hokitika, jade carvings, so exquisite, whispered native stories bound up in this rugged land. Inland, we were dazzled by Wanaka’s autumn splendour, Queenstown’s mountain backdrop, Glenorchy’s Dart River, Milford Sound’s surreal fiords, and Arthur’s Pass snaking the Southern Alps to Christchurch. We soaked up 100% Pure New Zealand, entranced by the peace and beauty of the place.

But living in another country is a different story and ours didn’t have a happy ending. We weren’t without blame. We uprooted ourselves from a small market town in the UK and transplanted our lives to a sprawling city on the other side of the world.

I had spent so many hours finding out about Auckland life that I was quite the expert. I could tell you about each suburb’s housing, schooling, sports facilities, nature reserves, and demographics, and I’d become so familiar with real estate, I could have started a new career if I’d had the gift of the gab. Where to Live in Auckland even told me how long people lived in a suburb before moving away. I found out that people rarely moved from the East Coast Bays on Auckland’s North Shore—it sounded perfect for our family. We could have our English life but with warmer summers and a safer place for our children in their teenage years. Apart from the obvious emotional wrench of leaving family and friends, I never even considered there would be downsides.

One day we were saying goodbye at Heathrow airport and the next, we were in the land of the long white cloud. We were immigrants fresh off the plane. It felt surreal.

My husband’s employer arranged for us to stay in a motel in Takapuna, a beachside town on the North Shore. As we drove over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, the sea below dotted with boats, the glinting glass of the city behind us, and the promise of golden sands stretching north up the coast, I felt giddy with optimism. I would always feel a sense of hope crossing that bridge, even when my life took on the greyness that sometimes dulled that view.

My husband started his new job a few days after we arrived. I set to work registering our children in local schools, finding a doctor and dentist, and scouring the North Shore Property Press each week. We lived out of suitcases and spent every weekend in other people’s houses in a busy schedule of ‘open-homes’. In England, seeing one property in a weekend had always felt like a major achievement. Even the process of buying a house was fast in New Zealand.

Four weeks after falling in love with a single-level brick and cedar house, our children started new schools and we moved into our first Kiwi home, camping on air beds until our shipping container arrived. Not only did we have a garden with lawns and flowerbeds, but we had tropical palms and ponga trees! The bush was ours to hide in, meander through, and tame if we wanted. With the sun on our backs, life felt good. From our deck, we looked across the tropical bush to distant glittering seas, the scent of hibiscus and frangipani so sweet and promising. When our container arrived, we unwrapped our hopes and put our expectations in place with the furniture.

But after the immigrant’s honeymoon, the cost of living hit us hard. There’s only so much you can find out from websites and books. Food, in particular, was expensive. We moved several times in the next twelve years in a chain of events that would change our lives for the worse.

If I could go back in time and change one decision, it wouldn’t be the one that took us to New Zealand. It would be the decision to sell our first house, which had become a much-loved family home even with its 70s flaws. I had never felt so emotional about selling a house before. I wish we had tried harder to make it work.

We moved to a rented house close by where we planned to stay until our new house was built, but six months later the owner was selling up and we had to move out—two days before Christmas. For nine months we lived in a soulless box built on a slope with the occasional shaft of sunlight and a knife-wielding maniac in the rented house opposite.

Our new house was finally finished eighteen months after selling our house in the bush. But over the next two years, the upheaval of three moves in three years, our daughter’s unhappiness and loneliness, and my husband’s stressful role in a redundancy process pushed us to the limits. Our son seemed to be coping, but he threw himself into study and sport, so it was hard to tell. We had no support but each other.

During a period of extended leave, my husband decided to leave his job to make a fresh start working together. My optimism returned, and my energy too. Yet we seemed to have learned nothing from the mistake we made in selling our first Kiwi home. I told myself I wasn’t so attached to the East Coast Bays that I couldn’t move away. We had moved to New Zealand, hadn’t we? Moving to the south of North Island would be easy, no worries.

But more of me was invested in our new house than I dared admit, even to myself. I had watched it go up from the first turn of the earth, stopping each day after dropping our children at school and making sure things were going to plan. I had hoped that by building a house from scratch on the plot with protected trees that nobody wanted except us, we might be able to put down our own roots. But some people find it harder than others.

Living on the North Shore had always felt like being on holiday. I experienced a wave of happiness every time I drove back from Takapuna, winding around the bays on the coast road with views across to Rangitoto Island. I could never quite believe this place was home—it was so beautiful, yet alien. And that was the problem. It wasn’t our home. Each year we said we would give it more time but each year the fish-out-of-water feeling remained. We argued constantly. Our family house had become an unhappy home and our children suffered because we couldn’t sort ourselves out. What had we done to our family?

The next new start was a radical one. It was heart-breaking to sell our new house, and for less than we paid for it, but we didn’t want to miss a business opportunity that another buyer was ready to take if we couldn’t meet the deadline. Caught up in the sales hype, we sunk a big chunk of money into a stylish Belgian chocolate café franchise in a city surrounded by barren farmland as far as the eye could see. Looking back, we realise how foolish we were to trust a slick salesman with a briefcase of dirty yet legal tricks, but at the time, his enthusiasm had hooked and blinded us when we were vulnerable.

Not far from the city centre, there was a Victorian park by the river. It was a peaceful place of English and Kiwi fusion, a blend of tidy borders and wild bush that became my haven, a place to breathe. The prevailing local culture of mediocrity, materialism and conservatism could be quite suffocating. I remember a customer telling me why she was moving away. “Living here sucks the life out of me,” she said. Her words seemed over-dramatic at the time. I had only just moved to the city, excited about opening our store in a new part of the shopping centre. But six long years later, the place had almost sucked the life out of me.

In the first few months, shoppers couldn’t get enough of the new-store novelty. They came from far and wide—even the Prime Minister popped in to mingle with the locals for a bit of PR. Then reality kicked in for us. The rent we were paying had been set during a retail peak but with the effects of an economic downturn and customers looking for cheap shit piled high, trade fell away as people sought the biggest bang for their buck. The franchise’s trademark quality was irrelevant in the shopping mall with fortnightly half-price sales and wall-to-wall bargains. We had no way of knowing this new section of the centre would quickly turn into a trade war zone. Some retailers had plenty of wriggle room on pricing, but when your rent is sky high and you’re selling premium Belgian chocolate, there’s nowhere to move.

We tried to sell the store, half-heartedly at first. We didn’t want to give up, so we changed the food menu and created our own posters and specials. Right from the start, we had always been there serving our customers and making them feel welcome, our smiles hiding our misery. We served and cooked and cleaned, and mucked in with our young team. We listened to our customer’s life stories and we cared. The store was the focus of our lives. But as we propped up the business, we watched the money left over from our house sale dwindle to nothing. We had a run of potential buyers, but their feet turned cold—no doubt they were excited, as we had been, but not so much that emotion blocked out the numbers.

The extortionate rent we had no control over was killing our business and us. I was becoming more anxious, more depressed. A couple of years earlier, when we knew the situation was hopeless, and even before we were forced to move out of a rented house yet again, I started drinking. Not much by some measures but enough to have an impact. It was so unlike me. I was a health nut. But I no longer had friends to share the ups and downs. The more I drank, the more helpless and lonely I felt.

By this time, our son was studying in the US—it had been his dream, but I missed him more than I could have imagined. On top of that, my mum could no longer make the long flight to New Zealand because of her health. One October, eight years after emigrating, I made my first trip back to the UK. I drove on tiny roads, walked along windswept beaches, and tried to watch birds through thick fog. But it was home. I missed the people, the places and the culture. By New Year’s Eve, filled with cheap fizz, the despair and hopelessness had become overwhelming. Maybe it was just a cry for help, I don’t know, but I was right on the edge.

Ashamed but resolute, I stopped drinking—a promise to our children. I found ways of coping—running in the park and studying for an English degree. I worked in the café, I studied hard, and I ran. I kept my head above water, although I knew it wouldn’t take much to go under again.

With little money left, we could no longer afford for our son to come home during university breaks. It got to the point where we hadn’t seen him for over two years. Our daughter took a short-term contract after finishing her master’s degree, so she no longer worked in the café. I missed her smile and her support. It seemed impossible to take a break from the café—even our day off together was often scuppered by staff sickness. With so little freedom, it was like being in prison, except every day, we watched other people lead normal lives. I would feel jealous of mums having coffee with their son after football, or planning a road trip with their daughter. They seemed unaware of how special that was.

“After six to nine months you’ll be managing the business rather than working in it,” the franchise rep had told us. He ran a thriving franchise, so with hard work, we could be successful too, he said. But six years later, we were still very much café assistants. He forgot to mention his foul play, and we weren’t the only victims as it turned out.

Feeling trapped and more alone than ever, I started to put my grief into words. Desperate to connect with others, I posted on Medium where the unexpected and heartfelt responses gave me comfort. It was a tiny boost.

I reached out to our family doctor, who knew our situation. “What would you do if you won a significant sum of money?” he asked. I usually refuse to take part in pointless fantasising, but perhaps he had a good reason to ask. I said I would give some of it to the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust and the Kakapo Recovery Programme.

“Yes, that’s fine, but what would you do for yourself?” I told him would go home to England. With genuine care, he told me that’s what I should do. He made it seem so simple. Of course, it wasn’t, but it was a turning point. My doctor had given me clarity, and in a sense, permission too.

I had two more appointments with a counsellor and we talked about the barriers to making it happen. For the first time in years, I felt empowered to act rather than wait for something to change. I worried that my husband would say it was impossible, but he had finally had enough too.

We had no choice but to liquidate. It was a devastating time—our staff were like family. We couldn’t tell anyone in advance, which made it worse. I value honesty and yet here I was with information that would affect staff and customers. It felt so wrong, but I had to keep quiet if I wanted to get home. I was in survival mode, saving my sanity.

We borrowed money for the shipping container and flights. We had just one month to arrange the transportation of our possessions, quarantine our pet bird, clear and clean the rented house, and clear the store on the last trading day without anyone knowing, such is the gut-wrenching nature of liquidation. My husband couldn’t be there on our final trading day because he was recovering from a biopsy. Telling the girls working that night that the store was closing was devastating.

With the other shops closed for the night and staff long gone, I felt like a criminal loading stock into a van with my daughter and her two friends. We had been advised to remove all perishable goods from the premises. We gave the stuff away to food banks, including boxes of luxury chocolate callets. It all felt unreal. I think the security staff, who had got to know our struggle over the years, probably guessed what was happening. They had seen other stores close over the years. I didn’t feel the relief I should have felt that it was finally all over. Instead, I felt overwhelming grief and loss. We had failed to give our children a happy life in New Zealand. We would soon be homeless.

In the final week, our precious cockatiel who had been with us for many years had a serious health scare and we thought he might not be able to come with us. I couldn’t leave without him, but neither could I imagine staying after all that had happened. It was the most stressful week of my life. I wasn’t sleeping. I thought I would crack.

It wasn’t how we wanted to leave a country that had given us many wonderful experiences in earlier years, especially with wildlife. When we opened the store, our plan was to sell up after two years and take a final campervan tour of our favourite wild places before moving back to the UK in time for the Olympic Games in London. I had been part of the UK team in the Los Angeles games. What a chance to see the games in our home country. The thought had kept me going, but the games came and went.

If we hadn’t closed the store, we would have missed our son’s master’s graduation too. It was unthinkable. He had been studying in London for two years but the campus and the library where he spent much of his time were a blank for us. We had waited four years until his bachelor’s graduation to see the Penn campus in Philadelphia that had been such a special place for him. Being there with him in the ‘city of brotherly love’, taking in the university’s history and meeting his fraternity brothers, we could finally understand why. We had to be in London for this graduation. Our family had to be together again.

We set the date. Our parents were so relieved they could finally expect us home. When we left they were healthy but now their age and ill-health made returning home more urgent.

I felt no sadness leaving the city known as the suicide capital of New Zealand. I did feel tearful though when our domestic flight arrived in Auckland, and even now as I write, I feel emotional. I think back to when we first arrived—to the blue sky and palm-lined avenue leading from the airport to our new life. I hope one day I can look at our family photos and not see the ghosts.

The 23-hour flight to London via Los Angeles was the longest of journeys as our little bird travelled alone in cargo. To my relief, he had seemed better the last two days before the flight but saying goodbye to him at the pet transportation depot had felt like betrayal. Every jolt and judder snatched at my stomach as I worried about him. Heathrow couldn’t come quickly enough.

There was no-one to meet us in Arrivals but after the stressful circumstances in which we left, we were relieved to have a quiet homecoming. At the Animal Reception Centre, Rocky was there to greet us so loudly that everyone could hear. It was the best welcome. Our tough little bird had made it home with us.

Living in another country gave our family new experiences and helped us grow in many ways, but financially we lost everything. I’m anxious about a future that looks nothing like we imagined at this stage of our lives. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve replayed the decisions we made and thought about how the outcome could have been so different. I’ve gone through a range of emotions—anger, resentment, regret, helplessness and grief—but it doesn’t change things. We lost our house and we have scars, but we came home with Rocky, each other, and resilience. We can start re-building. Happiness isn’t a place you arrive at, it’s a feeling you create in your heart.

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

Catch 22 for the last 55 Maui dolphins

By Tracy Brighten  September 2014

The set net ban zone will only be extended if Maui dolphins are seen beyond the protected area, but the chance of seeing dolphins is slim while habitat is unprotected

NZ dolphins in gillnet

The campaign to save the critically endangered Maui, endemic to New Zealand, has escalated into an international affair. While environmental groups, marine scientists, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the New Zealand seafood industry are caught in a blame game, with the Department of Conservation mediating, cause of dolphin death is crucial.

DoC sends all Maui and Hector’s dolphins that are intact enough for analysis to Massey University, where Veterinary Pathologist Dr Wendi Roe performs the post-mortems.

As Roe dissects a savoury muffin, her lunch between meetings, she apologises before getting straight into the discussion on post-mortems.   Roe acknowledges the difficulty in identifying bycatch victims.

“There’s nothing specific, that you can say ‘that animal has drowned in a fishing net’… there’s nothing you can see, no test that you can do, that is 100 percent diagnostic of drowning.”

Even if a dolphin is caught in a net, Roe makes sure there is no other explanation.

Roe is reflective. “When you see them come in they’re beautiful, and they’re intact, and that’s sad.” But she doesn’t get emotional about them. “As a species, yes, but not individuals.”

When a dolphin is on the table, Roe has a job to do.

As a pathologist, she’s interested in how they died. Information gleaned from an individual helps prevent others from dying. In her office, she keeps files of dolphin reports on her bookshelf and a tall filing cabinet dominates the wall behind her. A wall map plots colour-coded sightings from Kaipara Harbour to Hawera.

The Maui is a sub-species of the Hector’s dolphin that inhabits South Island. Up to 1.6m long, these tiny dolphins with distinct rounded dorsal fin are among the world’s smallest, and with numbers estimated at only 55 adults over one year old, Maui dolphins are also the world’s rarest.

According to pathology reports held by DoC, dolphin W12-16Ch was a young female Hector’s; a bycatch victim with ‘encircling linear impressions (net marks) over her melon on both sides, and short linear lacerations on the leading edge of the right flipper,’ but an otherwise healthy dolphin.

Considering Maui and Hector’s biology – a female does not reach reproductive maturity until 7 to 9 years old, giving birth to one calf every 2 to 4 years – the loss of a female is significant to species’ survival, particularly Maui dolphins with only 20 breeding females left.

The number of dolphins dying in gillnets is likely to be underestimated. There is no incentive for fishermen to report bycatch, because they risk further protective measures that will affect their livelihood. Beachcast dolphins are generally reported by the public, but as Roe points out, beaches are not busy during winter months. Bodies may be quickly washed away by storms.

However, in the joint DoC and MPI 2012 Maui’s Dolphin Threat Assessment, fishing-related activities were nonetheless identified as the main threat, causing 95.5% of human-related mortalities. The remaining 4.5% was attributed to oil and mining activities, vessel traffic, pollution and disease.

Otago University marine experts Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson predict functional Maui extinction within two decades. The population can sustain one death in 10-23 years, yet the estimated death rate from bycatch alone is 3-4 per year.

Nylon gillnetting is so fine it is almost invisible, and dolphins become entangled. Interviewed by journalist Zoe Helene, Slooten describes what happens.

“A dolphin caught in a net struggles madly to try to escape. At the end of this struggle, the dolphin suffocates. It would take up to five minutes or so to die.”

Like humans, dolphins are social mammals. Slooten recalls, “We’ve seen one dolphin that had died in a gillnet that was covered in fresh toothrakes, many of which were bleeding. It seems that the other dolphins in the group tried to get this dolphin out of the net and failed.”

While acknowledging that the Maui’s dolphin Threat Management Plan revision in 2013 provides some extra protection from set nets, Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell wants more. “The set net ban needs to be extended to all regions where these nationally-critical Maui’s dolphins are found. That includes all harbours and offshore to the 100m depth contour.”

There is international support too. At the International Whaling Commission meeting in September, 26 countries voted for total protection of Maui dolphins from fishing-related threats.

But resistance is strong. New Zealand’s fifth largest export earner, the seafood industry is a dominant player in the conservation game. In January’s contribution to The Fishing Paper, Seafood New Zealand is critical of protection zones in the absence of sightings. “The government has brought in yet more fishing restrictions to protect the pods of phantom Maui’s said to be resident off the Taranaki coast.”

They argue that fishing has a temporary impact on the environment, unlike farming’s permanent impact. But extinction is permanent and dolphin numbers are decreasing as the debate continues.

While the prospect of Maui dolphin extinction is unthinkable, Roe is looking beyond Maui at Hector’s swimming in their wake.

Since the 2012 Threat Assessment, research led by Roe published in Veterinary Parasitology in 2013, identifies another threat. Roe examined Toxoplasma gondii infection in Hector’s and Maui dolphins received by Massey between 2007 and 2011. Toxoplasmosis was identified as the cause of death in 7 of 28 dolphins, including 2 of 3 Maui dolphins. Studies on other species have identified indirect effects on populations, through changes in behaviour, reproduction, and predation risk.

Roe has been frustrated by the slow acknowledgement of the role of disease in declining populations. She smiles and nods at the suggestion that her research hasn’t had as much publicity as bycatch research, and explains that a lot of the research on dolphins worldwide may be biased.

“There are lots of people who research because they want to prove that they’re all dying in the fishing industry, or they want to prove that none of them are dying in the fishing industry.”

Her research was initially seen to excuse the fishing industry by directing the focus away from fishing-related mortality towards toxoplasmosis as the killer.

Roe points out that her findings relate only to dolphins washed up on the beach. She supports scientists’ findings on fishing impacts, but is keen to see disease mortality included in population modelling.

“I strongly believe we need to have strict controls on fishing zones and fishing nets, but the situation is even more important than we thought, because there’s more than one thing killing them.” Roe’s voice is soft, but authoritative.

When asked about Government attitude to Maui extinction, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is clear in his written response. “Our position is that if there are sightings beyond the protected area then we will review the boundaries, but in 900 fishing trips, there have been no observations of Maui dolphins in these areas.”

The observer program on commercial fishing boats leaving Taranaki is well-intentioned, but watching murky coastal waters for tiny dolphins must require uninterrupted concentration and 20/20 vision.

Barbara Maas, NABU International’s Head of Endangered Species Conservation, criticises economic-driven decisions on protection zones that “reflect fishing interests rather than match Maui’s dolphin distribution.” Maas recently told Agence France-Press that having exhausted the scientific arguments, NABU, supported by 100 conservation groups, is proposing a boycott of New Zealand seafood.

Roe is not interested in extremist action, but believes collaboration is key to Maui and Hector’s dolphin conservation. She is involved in the Maui’s dolphin Research Advisory Group, a DoC and MPI initiative that held its first meeting last June. Including representatives from central government, regional councils, the fishing industry, environmental groups, scientific researchers, and iwi, the aim is to inform Maui conservation decisions through further research and population monitoring.

Roe’s current research is to identify how toxoplasma gondii is transmitted to dolphins. The most likely route into the marine environment is via contamination of fresh-water run-off. Oocysts, or spores, carrying the parasite and shed in cat faeces can contaminate coastal waters via feral cat populations, and storm water via domestic cat populations. Hector’s and Maui dolphins forage in harbours and estuaries and could ingest oocysts from water, or from eating fish and squid.

Declining to speculate about Maui survival, Roe sees their plight as a warning for Hector’s.

“I’m probably a little bit back-to-front on this,” she says, believing resources are best directed at looking after those there are more of.

It may be too late for Maui dolphins with our Government fixed in its position on protection zones like the set nets trapping them, but their endangered relative, Hector’s, could pull through.

“There are lots of lessons we can learn about what we should be doing now. It would be nice to react before there are 55 left.”

Note: DoC now uses “Maui”, but “Maui’s” has been preserved in quotes, document and group names

Image credit: S. Dawson (from NABU International website)

Curriculum Vitae


To use my skills in research, written communication, and customer service to assist a publication, sustainable business, non-profit or education organisation in meeting objectives and representing their brand.


Bachelor of Arts English major (A grade average/3.7 GPA).
Massey University, New Zealand. 2008-2014.
Papers included: English Literature papers plus Health Writing, Creative Writing, Advanced Creative Writing, Life Writing, Travel Writing, Speech Writing, Feature Writing, Editing & Publishing, Investigative Journalism, Professional & E-Business Writing, Business Communication, Philosophy for Children, Environmental Philosophy
Sports Massage Therapy Diploma (Distinction).
London School of Sports Massage, UK. 2001.
Montessori Early Years Education Diploma (Distinction).
London School of Modern Montessori, UK. 1994.
Cambridge GCSE ‘A’ levels: English (A), History (B), French (B).
Goffs Grammar School, Hertfordshire, UK. 1980.


Massey Extramural Scholarship recipient, 2014.
Massey Top Extramural Student in Business Communication, 2014.
Massey Certificate of Excellence in Professional & E-Business Writing, 2014.
Massey Top Extramural Student in Investigative Reporting, 2013.
Massey Top Extramural Student in Speech Writing, 2013.
Massey Pro-chancellor’s Extramural Speech Writing Award, 2013.
Member of Great Britain Olympic athletics squad (4x400m relay), Los Angeles, 1984. 

Written communication experience

  • Science writing. Scientific research communicated in clear, concise and comprehensible prose
  • News and feature writing. Researched articles on conservation, environment, and animal welfare
  • Creative writing. Short stories and poetry
  • Creative non-fiction. Travel stories, health news briefs, health reports, and speeches
  • Academic writing. Expository, analytical and argumentative essays
  • Business writing. E-mails, memos, letters, event proposal, product comparison report, and recommendation report
  • Revising, editing & proofreading. Revising, editing and proofreading university assignments for relevance, clarity and accuracy. Proofreading son’s university Honours thesis and daughter’s Master’s thesis 
  • Forum discussion. Online forums where tone is critical to effective communication
  • E-mail. External communication with café franchisor, retail centre management, suppliers, and customers in café management role. Internal communication with café staff members
  • Work plans. Business plan, study plans, I.T. system test plans, massage treatment plans
  • Social media. Maintain Facebook and Twitter accounts for article and news communication

Oral communication experience

  • Customer service. Ensure friendly and attentive communication, engaging in genuine conversation. Manage potential conflict by accepting feedback as valuable without accepting responsibility regardless
  • Franchise inspection. Listen to inspection feedback and effectively communicate operational issues
  • Staff performance. Praise staff members as appropriate, correcting poor performance privately
  • Sports massage treatment. Inform client of problem, treatment and rehabilitation with sensitivity and clarity

Research experience

  • Immigration to NZ. Research on immigration requirements, health, MAFF regulations, and Auckland schools and housing
  • Franchise business purchase. Research on the franchise process and individual franchises
  • News and features for news websites. Research on conservation, environment and animal welfare issues
  • Undergraduate study. Research on English literature, Western philosophy, conservation, and mental health. Synthesise large volumes of information into a coherent summary with accurate referencing

Business & Management experience

  • Problem solving. Resolve customer queries & complaints, product damage in transit, franchisor issues, and staff performance issues. Look for positive and co-operative solutions for a win-win result
  • Planning & organising. Food menu. New products. Weekly specials. Stock rotation. Ordering
  • Recruiting & training. Job advertisements. Interviews. Trials. Training
  • Rostering. Plan for staff, public, and school holidays, as well as seasonal and local events that affect trade 
  • Merchandising. Source, price, and display products, with attention to seasonal demands
  • Advertising. Promote new products, specials and seasonal products in-store and on Facebook

Computer experience

  • Proficient in the use of Microsoft Word to create documents such as letters, reports and assignments
  • Proficient in the use of Excel to create spreadsheets such as retail product price tables, work plans and rosters
  • Proficient in the use of search engines for research purposes

Employment History

Owner, manager and café assistant. Full-time. 2010-present
Theobroma Chocolate Lounge, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
News writer. 2015-present
The News Hub website.
Science writer. 2015-present
Voluntary basis for Science Nutshell website.
Contract Computer Analyst/Programmer. Part-time. 2005-2006
Progressive Enterprises Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand.
Assignment marker. Part-time. 2003
London School of Sports Massage, UK.
Sports & Remedial Massage Therapist. Full-time. 2001-2003
Self-employed, Bedfordshire, UK.
Contract Computer Analyst/Programmer. Part-time. 1998-1999
Computer Corporation of America, Slough, Berkshire, UK.
Montessori Early Years Education Assistant. Part-time. 1993-1994
Little Cheverells Montessori School, Markyate, Hertfordshire, UK.
Volunteer young athletes coach. 2001-2003
Bedford Athletics Club, Bedfordshire, UK.
Volunteer parent fundraiser and classroom helper. 1995-1999
Firs Lower School Parent Teachers Association, Ampthill, Bedfordshire, UK.
Stay-at-home mother. 1990-2010
Contract Computer Analyst/Programmer. Full-time
Thames Television, 1988-1990. Reuters, 1987. Shell Oil, 1986-1987. London, UK.
Computer Analyst/Programmer. Full-time
Thomson Holidays. 1986-1987. United Dominions Trust, 1985-1986. Tesco Stores PLC, 1980-1985.

References and academic transcript available 

Health Writing

Thank you to Dr Raquel Harper for passing on your experience and skills, and showing how I might combine my long standing interest in health with my love for writing.

What Are Mates For?

Re-take on Albert Square

“Thanks for coming Linda. I could really do with a friend right now.”

“You look terrible Sharon. What’s up?”

“Well, just as I’m getting back on my feet after Phil hired two thugs to smash my spleen, and Shirley nearly killed Phil on our wedding day and I found out he’d slept with her, and Phil was arrested for the crash that killed Emma and put Ronnie in a coma, and Ben handed over the Arches to Max, and Abbie moved in and rifled through my drawers, the scriptwriters have dug up my real mum to haunt me.”

“I’m just gonna knit my eyebows and pout for a bit, but carry on Sharon.”

“Well, I’m in a pickle now. I’m not likely to get work elsewhere – not like Ian who’s got some decent acting under his belt now he’s been given some believable scenes to play. Except Bobby being the killer of course. God knows where that came from.”

“True Sharon. But you’ve got a better deal than me. I admit I used to have it easy, looking glamourous with Mick following me like a lapdog. But that’s all changed. I’ve been raped by my brother-in-law and now Mick’s done him over; I can’t hold a wedding at the Vic without a shoot up, babies born in the loo, or the bride and groom disappearing while we carry on celebrating; and worst of all, I’m pregnant and it’s spoiling the line of my dresses.”

“That’s what I like about you Linda.”

“What’s that?”

“You’ve got a knack for helping me see when I’m well off.”

“Well, what are mates for, eh?”



Silent rows of empty seats, no comfort here
White coat exudes sterility, dictates efficiency
Ultrasound eye coldly penetrates, threatens to confirm
Black screen darker than a moonless sky, endless
Sentence passed with alarming deficiency
No room here for sentiment or sympathy.
Scarlet statistics stain the whiteboard, blaming maturity
Expectant eyes pleading for leniency, helpless
Textbook theory delivered with tactless timing
Guilty of dancing too fast. No music now.

Lemon Muffins

Tea with Lemon

Jane carefully measured two and a quarter cups of self-raising flour into the bowl. She had made these lemon muffins so many times before. Half a cup of white sugar…. a pinch of salt – where had she put the salt? It was the only time she used salt in cooking. It wasn’t healthy. In the other bowl, one cup of semi-skimmed milk, half a cup of canola oil, one free-range egg and the grated rind of two large lemons.

She loved the smell of grated lemon. It was a feeling-alive smell. Tears swelled, slipped and dropped into the bowl. Jane shook the dry ingredients into the wet and folded gently, turning over her loneliness with each spatula of mix. Her mobile phone cut through the rhythm of her folding.

She had a text message. “Hi Mum. Social tomorrow night at the business school. It’s $6. Can I go.“ Of course he could go. Money was tight, but he mustn’t miss out.

William was often on a healthy eating mission, but his share of muffins rarely lasted to the next day. Not like Eleanor. She would leave at least one in the tin and then forget. It had been a family ritual. Lemon muffins with mugs of tea on the front porch. With William at university, it was only the three of them now. But Eleanor was often away too.

Jane sprayed the muffin tin with canola oil and scooped up twelve equal spoonfuls of mixture. Twenty minutes in the oven. She had enough time to wash. It was early afternoon and changing out of the clothes she had slept in might give her reason not to waste the rest of the day.

Image credit: Tea with Lemon via Pixabay CC0

Iced Coffee

Well stuff you, Kerri said under her breath as she strode back to the coffee machine.

Would you believe it? Kerri pushed hard on the lever of the coffee grinder. I stick her Iced Coffee on the table and she goes ‘Where’s my straw?’ No bloody manners. Rude as hell. Duh, open your eyes, it’s in your drink, I wanted to sayBut I didn’t. The boss’ll go crazy if I speak my mind.

“It’s in your drink madam.”

“Where’s the cream?” she snaps and she’s poking the blob of ice cream with the straw now. I want to say, You’re fat enough as it is. I’m doing you a favour. But I bite my lip. I’m doing really well with my anger management. My boss had a go at me about customer service, so I’ve been working on it.

“We don’t make it with cream according to our recipe, but you can pay for cream if you like.”

She’s staring at me with eagle eyes. “You charge for cream? That’s outrageous. I don’t charge for cream in my cafe.”

I’m keeping my cool. “I’ll give you some cream and I won’t charge you, but we do usually charge.” The boss is gonna be real pleased with me. I’m pretty proud of how I’m handling this. I take the Iced Coffee away and I squirt a bit of cream on top – not much coz she hasn’t paid – and I take it back. “Enjoy your drink madam.”

I’m just clearing a table nearby, grabbing soggy wet wipes and sugar sticks that’ve been ripped open by some shit-bag, when she yells out, “This is disgusting,” at the top of her voice, so other customers can hear – that’s what really gets me. I go over to see what the hell’s wrong this time. I’m feeling like she’s just come in for a moan. We get them sometimes. Whatever turns them on, it sure does piss me off. I smile.

“Sorry madam. What’s wrong?” She fixes me with those eyes again and I don’t feel so confident.

“This isn’t real cream,” she says.

“Can I get the manager for you?” I ask, but she waves me away with her craggy claw saying she’s never coming here again.

“Good riddance!” I call after her. “Go feast on some other sucker.”

Creative Writing

A few years ago, I discovered a new pleasure – creative writing. I’ve found it rewarding on a personal level even if my work is never published. I did make the long-list for the 2015 Fish Publishing Short Memoir Prize with Searching for Ruru, and the short-list for the 2016 Fish Publishing Short Memoir Prize with Happy as a Pig. Pretty exciting!

Thank you to my creative writing tutors Dr Thom Conroy and Mary McCallum for your teaching, feedback and enthusiasm that led me into the wonderful world of short stories and memoirs, to Dr Jack Ross for an unexpected and eye-opening journey in travel writing, and to Dr Doreen D’Cruz for her literature of women paper that helped my own writing.

My favourite short story authors are Andre Dubus and Amy Bloom for their precise language, and for the way they draw me into their character’s worlds, predicaments, and minds. I’ll keep writing and revising, holding them up as my light to work by.

I’ve included some vignettes and poetic attempts for a quick read here.

I’ve also written short stories – Broken Wing and Top Dog, and memoirs – Searching for Ruru, Happy as a Pig, and Dressed Down.

Image credit: Tracy’s Bookshelf  by David Brighten

Feature Writing

Thank you to Dr Elizabeth Gray for excellent tutorials on business writing, and editing and publishing that have helped me to revise my writing for clarity, conciseness, and accuracy.