• Robert Cooze, Guitarist
  • Simon Diprose, Self-taught Cook
  • Anne-Constance Palmeri

Lifelong Learning

This month we aim to inspire and encourage readers to expand their learning. 

Winter can be a great time to find a new focus, try a new exercise regime, or learn a new skill. Rather than zoning out online, or watching television box sets, why not fill the darker evenings with something more life enhancing? Though the days, or more specifically nights, of evening classes held at schools and colleges are long gone, there is plenty of opportunity to learn beyond school age here on the Shore. Joining a group or programme in the arts, sports, technology or languages, provides an opportunity to engage with others, develop a new skill or rekindle interests from years gone by.

Here we chat to some local people who have recently learned something new. We hope they inspire you to ‘give it a go’ this winter…


Sue Wenham

Sue Wenham is an active 46-year-old mum of four children aged 8-14 years living in Torbay.  She owns her own physiotherapy clinic where she specialises in the treatment of headaches and migraines.

Channel Magazine: Please tell us about a new skill you’ve learnt in recent years.

Sue Wenham: I've been learning singing, and along with it so much more including music theory, reading music, head voice and chest voice, different breathing techniques, and ;ots of practice drills to improve the use  and tone of my voice.

CM: When and why did you start?

SW: I started lessons in February as a challenge to myself. All my children do some form of music and my girls sing lots, which I love. I have wanted to join them but didn’t have the skill or confidence to do so. (I've been told for years, by my dearly beloved sisters, brothers, children, husband, friends - and myself - that I couldn’t hold a tune/sing/hum.)  So I decided it was time to give it a go and see if Sally [Barratt-Boyes] could help me/prove us wrong.  I thought I’d give a few lessons a go. Once I started I realised how enjoyable and empowering it is to open up and sing so I have continued.

CM: What excites you most about it, and why?

SW: Now when one of my daughters is playing the piano, or we are listening to the radio I join them singing and it feels good. They now never ask me to stop – they let me join in and support me. Having stepped way, way out of my comfort zone I have done it, succeeded in making progress and it has given me huge confidence.

CM: What have you found most difficult in taking up this new skill?

SW: The most difficult thing was getting over myself, and not worrying about what others thought. Really, who cares if I do hit a bad note? – and if they do, tough!

CM: What advice would you give anyone else thinking of learning this too?

SW: I would say go and have lessons (at least a few) with a singing coach/teacher as they should be able to help you find your voice, and then SING!!


Simon Diprose

Simon Diprose is a 48 year old Devonport father of two. He is business development manager for PageProof.com – a North Shore-based software company with clients worldwide.

Channel Magazine: Please tell us about a new skill you've learnt in recent times.

Simon Diprose: I’ve taught myself to cook and have started exploring the wonderful world of charcuterie, learning to make my own bacon and pancetta, and hopefully many more products by the time I’m finished.

CM: When and why did you start doing this?

SD: In 2008 I realised I couldn’t cook beyond being basically functional and I could and should do better. I downloaded Jamie Oliver's app with recipes and how-tos, and started the journey. I now have a fully-developed obsession with cook books which have opened me up to a whole new world of flavours, techniques and knowledge. Food and its preparation have become a passion.

CM: What excites/interests you most about it, and why?

SD: The variety and the challenge. Each year I set myself a goal to master something new. 2017 was the year of charcuterie; this year it’s pasta and dumplings. I love the learning and discovery and I love thinking ahead to what the next year could be.

CM: What have you found most difficult in taking up this new skill

SD: Working out and obtaining the best tools/equipment/ingredients for the task at hand and having the budget to do it properly! Charcuterie can be demanding and the thing I’ve found most challenging is Auckland's humidity. I’ve been researching how to make a humidity/temperature-controlled chamber out of a small fridge. This is an ongoing project.

CM: What advice would you give anyone else thinking of learning this too?

SD: Read everything. Research everything. There are many resources available online and some amazing cookbooks. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration, recipes and ideas.  I also talk at length with local butchers. I’ve found them to be incredibly knowledgeable and very passionate about their craft.  People are inspiring.  Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to fail.


Robert Cooze

Glenfield resident Robert Cooze is a Kiwi by birth and says his family has so many places of origin there is only New Zealand as a place to call home.

Channel Magazine:  Please tell us about a new skill you've learnt in recent times

Robert Cooze: Writing music using a guitar: taking an idea or a snippet of music and fleshing it out into a song or a piece of coherent music. We all have this ability, but to actually realise it and perform, record and or write it down, you need a little theory to make the end result more coherent.

CM: When and why did you start doing this?

RC: I started lessons about five years ago soon after I built my first electric guitar. I did a year of guitar playing when I was at school as an 8/9 year old but stopped for reasons I have now forgotten.

CM:  What excites/interests you most about it, and why?

RC: The whole tactile connection to music; when the string is plucked it starts to propagate a wave within its structure which stops where the string is fretted with the fretting hand. At this point the whole instrument is alive and resonating. It truly is the origin of the music. Oh, the sound of it is way cool too.

CM:  What have you found most difficult in taking up this new skill?

RC: Time - putting the hours in. Without time there is no muscle memory and less dexterity. In the beginning there is minor discomfort when the fingers must do what is unnatural. Some of my songs have taken years to write and others have taken less than a week.

CM: What advice would you give anyone else thinking of learning this too?

RC: If you have a passion, just do it. But do it for yourself and not for what others expect. Find a good and easy guitar to begin with. If you start off with uninspiring instruments that are hard to play then it is a hard road getting started. And if you want to learn how to play the current Top 20 hits then do that. Same with classic rock, metal or classical.


Anne-Constance Palmeri

Anne-Constance Palmeri is a French mum of three teens who lives in Belmont and runs her own my business from her lab on Barry's Point Road, Takapuna. She previously ran Chateaubriant cafe in Cheltenham.

Channel Magazine: Please tell us about a new skill you’ve learnt in recent years.

AP: I enrolled at Aromaflex Academy to get my International Aromatherapy Certificate last year. I love to learn how we can essential oils to take care of our health. I find it fascinating that our skin can carry vitamins and minerals, helping us with the nutrients we need. Our skin is the mirror of our inner body.

CM: Why did you start doing this?

AP: When we sold Chateaubriant, I decided to use my knowledge of naturopathy and became qualified in aromatherapy to create my own range of natural skincare with eco-friendly packaging. As a teenager growing up in France I loved perfume, especially Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior... I love the message the scent can leave on your skin. I didn't end up becoming a perfume creator or "nose" but I haven't ended up too far away from that childhood dream; using oil for health and mixing scents for my own Sianna Skincare range. The perfect deal!

CM: What excites/interests you most about it, and why?

AP: It is exciting to see all the benefits we can get using natural ingredients - the properties they contain are amazing!
Knowing how the body works, you can choose essential oils to treat emotional and physical problems - and you can customise a blend depending on the condition. I find it so exciting to be able to help my family and others by mixing up concoctions that improve issues like sleep, eczema, dry skin, shaving rash, wind burn, or acne. I've been enjoying practising on my family with their skin concerns!  

CM: What have you found most difficult in taking up this new skill?

AP: The most difficult part in taking up this new skill is finding the time to fit it in amongst family time and business time. It is quite challenging to try to find a good balance. When you are passionate about something, you would like spend all your time learning about it or working on it, but real-life needs to continue on!

CM: What advice would you give anyone else thinking of learning this too?

AP: My advice concerns all type of learning. As I say to my children, don’t choose your job based on me or your dad - choose it because you want it, because you LOVE it, because you found your passion. Then when you wake up the morning, you're happy about the day ahead of you and you return home in the evening delighted because you had a wonderful day doing something you love!