Marvellous Mugs

It’s not easy being green. Especially if you’re green space on prime coastal land.

Everyone wants a piece of your grass. Which is why I’m loving the fact that the economy seems to have derailed and developers are taking a hiding.

We can all head back to our favourite summer haunts; those coastal communities that we pine for when we’re in dingy apartments overseas, knowing we might get to appreciate them for a few more summers. Until credit becomes cheap again and we get swamped with another round of unsustainable coastal developments with the inevitable sewerage problems that ratepayers have to fork out for 10 years down the track. By which time the developers will have gone bust and be living in Queensland, where, ironically the same kind of developments have been banned for the last 20 years because of the environmental mayhem they engender.

We take it for granted that we will always have access to our stunning coasts, not realising how tenuous our collective hold on that access is.

A few years ago I landed in Buenos Aires to start a new job. Armed with a geographical map I hit the streets and headed for the river to get a look at what wildlife I’d be sharing the city with. What I didn’t know was that I would need a socio-economic map to reach the water. I walked forever, rebuffed by armed guards denying me access to the walled sanctuaries of gated communities that lined the river. Prime land belonged to the rich and my geographical map was useless in terms of navigating the city. Apparently, an unhealthy relationship between developers and local councils had resulted in huge chunks of land (some of it publicly owned) being sold and gated off from the community. But hey – that’s South America and this is a whole world away. Isn’t it? Later, when the economy went into a nosedive, 5 story hulks of rusting metal were left creaking in the wind as developers walked away. Sound familiar?

When the market runs hot all there is between our precious coast and the naked avarice of developers is the protests of local iwi and a few hardcore environmentalists. These ‘concerned citizens’ are often left to argue the toss with the minions of the developers (the surveyors, lawyers and full-time PR boys) who have money and a whole lot of time on their side. That is their job.

It’s the developers job to either seduce or play bulrush with council bodies (sometimes in publicly excluded meetings), then play trivial pursuit in the courts to define the limits of the Resource Management Act.

Anyone doubting their motives is usually working two jobs and has to get the kids fed before sitting down to wrestle with the Public Works Act. For free. Unlike developers, their politics is not intrinsically linked to their business concerns or even their day jobs.

Theoretically it’s the job of council to protect our coasts but in a hot property market it seems this job is given hobby status and is handed to retired nature enthusiasts.

If there is one silver lining to the recession it’s that we’re all going to get a breather from rabid development – a chance to re-group and ask ourselves what we really want our country to look like in 10 or 100 years time.

Chesterton, in his ‘Songs of Education’ lamented the loss of the village green over 100 years ago in England. He wrote; “The people they left the land, the land, but they went on working hard;
And the village green that had got mislaid, turned up in the squire's back-yard:
But twenty men of us all got work on a bit of his motor car;
And we all became, with the world's acclaim,
The marvellous mugs we are.”

While we might be smarting from the loss of work, not on his motorcar but perhaps in his latest housing development – it may be preferrable to be able to go for a swim with our families at our favourite beach this Christmas than to get a handshake and the last cheque and have the gates to that beach locked to us forever.

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I know now why no one from South America has ever made it to the moon

I think I know why no one from South America has ever made it to the moon.

It’s a little known historical fact that a few years ago there was, a Latin Lunar (tic) Mission. They nearly finished the rocket but someone’s cousin took off a door for a barbeque grill. The captain went to kill a cow and get wine but never came back because the girl at the bottle shop was, well, available. The rocket was then taken for a test drive to impress some blonde. The captain returned and realised that the bottle shop girl was also the blond of test drive fame and an unholy shouting match broke out accompanied by extreme gesturing. Someone pulled out a gun and shot it in the air, as is often done in South America, for use as a random yet dangerous form of punctuation. Imagine; an aerial exclamation mark. No one is hurt but the returning bullet kills a cow so they take all the doors off the rocket and have a decent farewell barbeque.

If this is not true, then I must have hallucinated it while trying to get to Cape Reinga with 4 carloads of Latins. All agreed animatedly on the route and then proceeded to speed valiantly in 4 different directions with unopened maps while I was left breast-feeding a baby on the side of the road. Pointing bleakly… to the map. I’m still in therapy. Nobody, incidentally, made it to Cape Reinga.

Having a map of any description is apparently a very anglo ( pakeha) thing to do. We’re big on maps, individual achievement and business plans. All laughable fetishes to most South Americans. History seems to have taught them that family, consensus and community are better long term options.

Sitting down with a reformed budget, I had to first nail the Latin to the kitchen table. While I read it out and he screamed uncontrollably offering to iron the sheets in order to get out of any financial planning, I reflected on how nice it might be for couples who share the same interests, language and culture to get on with the individualistic goal of accumulating rental properties and nice sofas, realising at the same moment that if we had a rental property someone’s cousin would be living in it rent free until their work permit came through and if we had a nice sofa someone else would be sleeping on it while they got over their break up/break down or just their need to take a break.

I forget too that the mad Latin has seen his country change currency more often than a good girl changes her knickers and inflation rates of up to 800%.

I also forget that he’s seen governments come and go that can randomly take people off the street, and banks can close overnight taking your money with them.

Plans, he says, just encourage God to notice. He goes for contrived ignorance of any information that may necessitate planning, waiting until an inevitable crisis appears, and in the fashion of a histrionic conquistador manages to save the day with a lot of sword waving and faintly scary shouting.

I prefer paying the bills in time and checking a tide chart before getting pipis. But hey – I’m pakeha.

His favourite saying his ‘We’re at the dance – so lets dance’.

I remember a gaucho telling me this on a horse trek. The sky was throwing lightening bolts and hailstones the size of golf balls and thanks to the gauchos’ penchant for containing their wealth in silver saddlery, we were sitting on a ridgeline on moving lightning conductors. I looked to him for some feasible options. “We’re at the dance so we’ll dance!” he yelled, and laughing like a maniac took off into the head of the storm. All very impressive except there was no need to have even been asking about options if someone had just checked a weather forecast. But then, if you waited for OSH checks and financial forecasts in South America you’d never get out of bed in the morning.

I guess it’s all a matter of balance when you’re living with two cultures, so here’s the plan. Plan like a pakeha, live like a Latin and order a bucket load of valium online in preparation for the Holiday season.

We may not get to the moon (or Coromandel) but at least it’ll feel that way.

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Busy Bodies Unite!

Last week I crossed the threshold from youth to old biddydom and became – the local busy body.

I managed to be both embarrassing and very uncool, something my youth obsessed generation strive very hard not to be.

Seeing a neighbour’s girl out in a suuped up car with boys I didn’t recognise, I did what every self- respecting busy body would do – I came home and checked she’d been dropped off (she had) and later rang her Mum.

I hope in a few years’ time if her Mum sees my girl running round town in a flash car with blokes – she’ll be doing the same for me.

You hope they’ll be responsible – you hope you’ve taught them right but sometimes it’s really handy to have a bit of back up. Most kids are lucky if they can remember to take the right books to school on a given day, can they really make the right decisions after three alcopops (sounds like lollipop – where’s the harm?) and whatever legal party pills (everyone likes a party don’t they?) are on offer. Because the truth is that my generation has no real problem with the idea of drugs; we were the inheritors of the idea that recreation and drugs were intrinsically linked.

If I had been truly representative in my worry about the possible combinations of ‘young girl/ boys/ fast cars and possible alcohol or drug use’, I would have thrown the girl a pack of condoms and a crash helmet, given the boys an espresso and said ‘you go girl!’ Mistakenly, I would have assumed that experimentation was just part of the rich fabric of adolescence in New Zealand and that pushing your physical and mental boundaries is an intrinsic rite of initiation into adulthood.

The addled view that taking drugs was just another way of pushing limits for those who couldn't afford Outward Bound, is lunacy in the face of new drugs that make Attila the Hun look like Barbie on a picnic.

A point amply demonstrated by a Ministry of Health brochure, reprinted in May last year entitled ‘Dance Party Goers – What U Should Know’. It contains such gems as: “The crystal form of methamphetamine, known as ice or pure, is very potent. Most people find that speed makes their mouth dry and their jaw tense (chewing gum helps).”Or this; “If someone gets spooked (while taking LSD), try to take their mind off what is frightening them. It is important to remind them that it is just the drug and it will end soon.”

Obviously written by someone who hasn’t spent an afternoon coaxing their flatmate off the motorway overpass because he thinks the daisies are gnawing his flesh.

There is a handy checklist for party goers; ‘tickets, money, condoms and lube, water and identification in case, it thoughtfully adds (“people need to know who you are if something goes wrong.”) Like – you die. For example. Why don’t we just pop a pre-printed toe-tag into their wallets before they leave home?

I used this brochure to get my students to read ‘between the lines’. Their task was to choose a part of the text and write down what they’d inferred from it in 5 words or less. One wrote ‘Stay Healthy While Taking Drugs!’ Stunning in its oxymoronic elegance. After reading; ‘If you choose to take drugs, only take a small amount and wait for it take effect before taking the rest. Illegal drugs do not have a consistent quality, so each tablet may have a different effect,’ one student wrote; “Choose reputable dealers. Check Quality.”

While most students would see through this as PC lunacy, kids are always going to pick up on the background hum of what is inferred from a culture that is inherently permissive towards drug use. Last Thursday Mike Sabin and his anti drug company Methcon had me sobering up to the horrors of P and my own ignorance and attitudes. P, as he put it, is in a whole other league than Cheech, Chong and Cheezles. What he showed us was nothing short of a 21st Century equivalent of a reintroduction of chemically induced slavery.

Busy bodies Unite. It’s time to stick our noses in. Where are the TV ad campaigns? Who’s dealing in our neighbourhood? Where are our kids?

Related Links
MethCon Group drug education

National Drug Policy Youth Party Safe Campaign
NZ national drug policy

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Dancy Dresses

With the unfurling of the first pohutukawa blossoms and the sound of cicadas over the weekend I’ve no mind to dwell on drugs, police shootings, or the aftermath of the election. Of more pressing social and political import is the beginning of the “Dancy Dress” season.

With a five year old I’m learning all the goodness beauty and truth lost over the last 20 years through modern education and the workforce, and one of the truly beautiful aspects of rediscovery is the healing powers of a great dancy dress.
image of dancy dress
My girl has a box of them and although I spent the 80’s with no hair in purple dungarees trying to prove that deliberate ugliness is a sign of true feminist worth, (none of the boys noticed they were too busy looking at our tits), the powers of the dancy dress have not yet relinquished their hold on my heart. A personal favourite is the purple tulle number with the fake crystals hanging off the bottom and the just budding fairy wings on the back. The full splendour of this number is undercut by the fact that the five year old often accessorises it with a bow and arrow, and shoots butterflies in it- slightly less bucolic than ideal but hey, it’s all about compromise.

With a good dancy dress you can jump higher, spring further and skip faster. Ice-cream tastes better and more flowers can be sniffed. Puddles appear more enticing and may contain rare creatures. In a blue torn fabric sea nymph dancy dress you might suddenly smell salt and need to go to the beach – and we have discovered by careful scientific experimentation that fish and chips eaten at the beach in this number are 5 times crunchier. A dancy dress is the antidote to a cold boring afternoon and broccoli.

Not all dresses are dancy however. To enter the sacred halls of dancyness, you may not be grey, black or beige. You must have one, or preferably all of the following criteria; you must be partly diaphanous and either clink, jingle or rustle when moving. You should almost always have the arms bare and you should definitely shimmer at some point. There must be a frill. Or five. You would also need to hold yourself together while on a five year old wrestling with the giant wolf (aka the huntaway) and making flower mudcakes. You could not dissolve in water or take umbrage at jelly crystals. You may frequently harbour snails, dead bees and moss if you have pockets. You would have a relatively short but magical existence.

The benefits of dancy dresses are far reaching – hey if rugby players can get depressed there must be hoards of blokes who could benefit from a healthy bit of drag. Now that GP’s hand out green prescriptions perhaps it’s time to slow up on prozac and sew up a bit of tulle.

Have you noticed that it’s hard to get really angry in a great dress? Our domestic violence rates would undoubtedly decrease and internationally, ours would be a happier planet if more people knew about the miraculous healing powers of a good frock. Would Mugabe really be able to run over people’s homes if he gave the orders in a Mother Hubbard floral outfit? Would his minions be able to carry them out in gold froufrou skirts? I’m serious. This could really work on a local level as well although there are some politicians who shouldn’t be offered the option of a dancy work dress for their sheer exuberance and over zealous embracement of the idea. Rodney and John Carter spring to mind – although I have it on good authority that John would have to come under the Scary Hairy Fairy dress category. Rate payer meetings would be more scintillating with a bit of sparkle and could arguably stimulate participant’s artistic sides to help provide better creative outcomes for Whangarei. Stan would look fabulous in a bit of gossamer – and a dragonfly handbag. The mayoral outfit already comes with some serious bling and it’s only a short step from drab to fab Stan.

Forget the economy and the statistics and get your glitter gear on. A sunny day and a great dancy dress, as any 5 year old can tell you, is all you really need.

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Boring is Good

I’m bored. With the school holidays around the corner parents everywhere dread these two words. The thing is, I know how kids feel. I’m bored too. Where have all the politicians gone? Where’s Rodney’s jacket? I’m missing South American politics. No, really. Rodney would have a field day over there. Except of course he wouldn’t live long. He’d be found hanging with his hands behind his back and a suicide note written in someone else’s handwriting, in his mouth. Whistle blowers don’t blow hard for very long, not in Argentina anyway. And when will we catch Phil Goff in a midnight tryst with cocaine and taxi boys? I’m not holding my breath. All our politicians are such wowsers when it comes to serious corruption and silliness they give us so little to work with.

Can you imagine, seeing Jeanette Fitzsimmons on the cover of North and South in nothing more than a kakapo feather shawl? You know you’ll never live to see the day but Argentina’s ex-president and still serving senator Menem’s, Environment minister posed nude for a magazine. Save for the fox fur throw around her shoulders, a species it transpired, on the verge of extinction. His minister of finance used public funds for … I kid you not, a bum implant and then there was Menem himself, claiming he’d been stung by a bee when his collagen lip fillers went all Angelina Jolie on him. And we get all excited about a bit of exuberance on electoral spending and a pair of publicly funded undies all those years ago. We are so politically Presbyterian it’s just not funny.

And what are the chances of catching Key selling guns to Somalian pirates? Depressingly slim one would imagine.
The Argentimes 1/11/2008

This week Menem goes to trial for selling anti-tank missiles and artillery, to Croatia, among other insane nations, in the nineties. This was ironically, when Argentina ( represented at that point by Menem), was one of the nations considered independent enough of the civil war in Yugoslavia to act on behalf of the U.N. to help broker a peace deal. This is akin to getting Imelda Marcos to act as a counsellor for a guy who has a compulsive shoe fetish. You just know it will end in tears.

It’s also about the same time that some naughty whistle blower discovered that the serial numbers on the arms in Menem’s factory all had duplicate numbers and then mysteriously the factory (and an entire block of residential and commercial buildings) blew up leaving little trace of, well, anything at all. I was the only person in Argentina who believed that it was an accident. I was teaching English at a military air base at the time. The pilots all did well, and as a treat one of the head honchos with lots of stripey bits on his shoulders took me on a tour of the base. He introduced me to the weaponry research lab and then into an area with lots of computer screens. “This guy controls all the explosive material that is stored around Argentina – he knows how much is where and how old it is. It’s a very important job!” said stripey shoulders.

Now, according to my husband, my Spanish has the delicacy of ‘knife wounds inflicted by a psycho-maniac’. A point, while unfair, I should have considered when I asked, “So, if there are such good systems in place for managing this stuff, how did so much of it get stored somewhere so dangerous when that factory in Cordoba blew up?” The computer screen guy turned into a gibbering wreck, Mr. Stripey shoulders barked “See her Out!” and ended our brief, if slightly unpleasant tour by storming out, and the old guy who’d been opening doors for us doubled over in badly concealed mirth and looked like he was going to wet himself. “Que?” I said, “I just wanted to know.” “So do we all – it’s a good question, just not a good idea to ask it” he shrugged.

And that’s the thing about boring western democracies. You get to ask what you like. I like boring. Boring, especially in politicians, is good.

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Raising the Dead

The Japanese have been busy. Mr Wakayama has been taking dead mice, frozen for 16 years, and cloning them. The idea is to bring to life the odd woolly mammoth or two and maybe move on to Tyrannosaurus Rex once he gets his hand in. But who gave him Roger Douglas’s genomes? There Roger was, (or was it his clone – he certainly didn’t look any older), on election night wetting his lips and rubbing his paws and as John Campbell interviewed him live, looking at his watch and seeming to be in a very great hurry. He obviously had places to go. Things to do.

I gave an involuntary scream and headed for the drinks cabinet. How could he have hopped out of the political deep freeze and resuscitated himself to such a remarkable degree in such a short space of time? It certainly seemed like a throw back to a distant and dark political past but here he was, large as life and relishing, in a ghoulish kind of way the delivery of the news that none of us knew HOW BAD IT ALL IS and if we’d let him have his economic pruning shears back and he’d have just one little snip. Or six.

Rodney was sulking on Saturday night however when it became obvious that Mr. Key was going to keep Rodney’s favourite clone on a very short lead.

You have to be grateful for small mercies. I have distant memories of sitting eating strawberries in the square at the bottom of Queen Street with the mobile fruit cart guy. We were the only objects of colour – Stefan; in his embroidered jacket and me in some variation of a Pipi Longstocking ensemble (you get the picture), in a sea of blue and grey suits that had gathered to pay homage to Rodger Dodger in their lunch break. As he climbed to the podium and began to rant, an audible sigh of pleasure rippled through the crowd and in his closing slogans most of the suits were raising their right hands and shouting vigorous agreement. The fruit guy, laughing in disgust, threw up his hands shouting, “I left Romania to get away from thes kind of sheet!” He wasn’t holding up any linen. As the suits turned to glare, I made a mental note to self to buy a suit and understand the share market so that I may survive the revolution.

It’s a funny old dance at the centre of New Zealand politics. Rodney, all trussed up in lycra accuses Key of dancing to the left of Helen, close enough to have been mistaken for Helen’s boyfriend it seems. The last few days of electioneering showed Helen and John in a tense embrace not unlike the Argentine tango, legs crossing the political divide, jostling for advantage to see who will capitulate first. No one claps on a tango floor. As cosy as it all started to look –tango should never be confused with a dance of love.

And let’s face it. National are not good on the sidelines, where they’ve been relegated these last 9 years. Traditionally, once they’re on the floor they’re hard to prize off and Mr. Key looks like the kind of guy who needs a caller for the steps so we could well be into fiscal line dancing for the next few years. We had a brief step to the left and now a jump to the right. Put your hands on your hips and pull your belts in tight. Mr. Key and Rodney may do the pelvic thrust – until we go insane. Let’s do the time warp again. Or maybe not.

While the Japanese may have been hauling woolly mammoth relics from the New Zealand political deep freeze and cloning them, Helen’s competent tango has forced the far right into the centre of the dance floor again. We may not be dealing with the same beast as the National party of the nineties. I’m prepared to polish off my white vinyl cowboy boots as long as Rodger doesn’t get to do the calling and Rodney stays far away from any wardrobe management decisions.

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Be careful what you wish for

Excuses. You’ve got to love them. Years of asking for homework from teenagers has developed a keen appreciation of the fine art of invention and deflection that is required to evade any sense of accountability. This week’s favourite however would have to go to the defendant who asserted that; “There was no way, your honour, that I killed that girl, because I was off my trolley buying more drugs at the time.”

Blinding. I’m thinking of trying this on my husband; “No, I had absolutely nothing to do with breaking your drill bit while trying a bit of DIY at home because I was having sex with the pizza boy at the time.” I’m not liking my chances with this one and I suppose the first demeanour must be sufficiently more appalling than the excuse in order to justify the logic. However the fact that he thought this would be a legitimate alibi in the first place, suggests a level of everyday criminality so deeply entrenched and pervasive as to be entirely foreign to most people. He wasn’t just living in an almost permanently chemically altered state, he was from a whole other planet.

Law and order is emerging as the chief concern of the vast majority of the voting public this election and various parties are offering a lolly scramble of more policemen, tougher sentencing and inevitably, yet more jails, but a crack down on ‘law and order’ is not going to help the people (or their victims) who have spent years living in an entirely lawless and disordered world. What are we asking for when we say we want a heavier hand with ‘law and order’ and who do we expect to enforce it? The police are in the unenviable (and often life-threatening) position of dealing with people whose moral compass is in a Bermuda Triangle of drugs, booze and firearms who are a danger to themselves and everyone else.

When faced with a rise in crime and lawlessness, culminating in violent terrorist acts, the citizens of Argentina took to the streets in the ‘70’s and begged the government for a crackdown on law and order. They got it. They also got 20 years of a military police force who later became the front soldiers in the ‘Dirty War’ against its own citizens. While ordinary garden variety muggings, rapes and shootings disappeared from the streets, the armed military went about systematically ‘dealing with’ any form of opposition they encountered.

I feel sorry for the policeman who had to make the call to shoot the woman in Whangarei, but he was only acting on policy and procedure, set by government and in the end, initiated by what the public wants.

‘Be careful what you wish for’ the saying goes but especially applies to such an ephemeral idea as ‘law and order’. When we ask for ‘more law and order’ in the land, are we really asking for a permanently armed police force equipped with the power and the authority to deal with this growing criminal underclass? And is ‘dealing with’ code for ‘just taking them out’? It seems so.

There has been little questioning of the need to shoot dead a woman here in Whangarei, so deranged that she thought she could point a gun at police with impunity. I would have thought that such a highly trained team as the armed defenders squad would have been able to aim somewhere other than her chest in order to disarm her. But do we really expect the police to have to deal with all the fall out of a growing social problem?

We all know that something has to be done about the invasive hold P is gaining over our community but what? And by whom? If that same policeman were to ask me what I was doing on a personal or community level to help restore ‘law and order’ I don’t know what I could tell him. I guess I’m running out of excuses.

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Don’t Scare the Horses

While everyone else is spending a fortune on presenting a slick media image, smiling gratefully as they swallow rotten fish and getting scary with the make-up, Jeanette Fitsimmons is seen planting trees with some guy who looks like he’s been hiding from the hairdresser along with Shrek the Sheep and subsisting on locusts and juniper berries for the last 50 years. I’m really sorry if this guy is your husband Jeanette, I’d love to share some turnip wine with him at some stage but you’ll have to put as much distance between you and him as other politicians put between themselves and their trusts until after the election. Or get him a suit – this is politics and we’re not playing now.

Television 3 23/10/08

Politics is not science and it’s not about reality either, the dark arts of public relations are required to create a persona worthy of public worship and respect in order for an election to be won. It’s why early Chinese emperors employed full time portrait painters – it didn’t matter that the paintings bore little resemblance to themselves, hardly anyone would ever see the actual emperor, in the same way we are unlikely to see many politicians again in the flesh after voting day.

The image was a tool far more powerful than reality and the big guns in politics know this. It’s why we know how much John Key’s suits cost. In the States, the Democrats have tried to highlight the fact that Sarah’s suits have cost more than the GDP of small countries and the Republican attitude has been … ‘ and so?” They know it will be worth it because if people actually listened to anything she said there is no way you would leave the woman in charge of your cat for the weekend let alone your country’s foreign policy. No – they know that when people vote they are buying a package and Sarah Palin is about as gift wrapped and consumable as a bow-tied Christmas present.

For the most part, an electorate is a deeply conservative beast and everyone is justifiably interested in how much money they will have in their pocket in the coming few years. For all those people who still believe that the economy floats in a disembodied state completely separated from the planet that we live on, seeing guys in tie-dyed tshirts, planting trees just scares them. All that needs to be done then is for another politician to intone the words ‘slowdown in the economy’ in the same way that religious fundamentalists talk about Armageddon and there goes any chance of getting any serious environmental voice into government.

In 1996, inspired by all the talk of Taiwan being an ‘Economic Miracle’ and how the New Zealand economy should be following suit; I took a job there to see what all the fuss was about. On the first day my classes were cancelled (there had been a pollution warning that morning - if the kids had to walk from air-conditioned home to school, doctors were concerned they’d keel over) I walked to the local market to buy some food.

There I found boxes of frozen salmon from Alaska. Fruit from the States was on sale, and local shrimps that had been farmed on inland salt water lagoons that had contaminated the water table. When I went to the supermarket there were 9 aisles of bottled water from Fiji to Norway but I certainly couldn’t turn on my tap and have a glass. The only local food I could buy were peanuts and greens but my flatmate didn’t recommend this either as it had been locally grown greens that had resulted in closing down the local school cafeteria from severe food poisoning. Because several of the children were now totally paralysed the overuse of insecticide was being investigated rather than an ordinary bacterial infection. Taiwan started to look less like an economic miracle and more like an environmental disaster and the two Mercedes in every driveway started to lose their glamour.

It’s not that fringe anymore to think that a healthy environment is fundamental to the long-term viability of our economy. Which is why I’d like Jeanette to get down and dirty at this point - and not in the tree planting kind of way. Hide Shrek-man. Get a suit. Whatever it takes.

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Keeping it Kiwi

When you’re really down a big black political hole and no one’s listening – there’s only one thing for it. Pull the race card. Make the whole thing about a generic cosmic battle between US and THEM. Winnie, bless his pinstriped socks has done it again and despite the wearisome predictability I’m always surprised at how good it all sounds. “Let’s make New Zealand for New Zealanders”.

Fair enough. Except who decides who’s a New Zealander and what would the criteria be?

If the Maori party said exactly the same thing would it be talking about the same New Zealanders as the Grey Power Tauranga set that this speech was aimed at? Would they be allowed to pass this off as just another benign immigration policy (on which they reserved the right to act retrospectively by at least, lets say – ooh 160 odd years), or would they get lambasted in the media for being inflammatory? It’s a cheap shot and everyone knows it, but politicians wouldn’t pull the race card if, in some dark, sad corner of our collective psyche, it didn’t work often enough to make it worth it for them.

Meeting a friend recently for lunch I commented on her fabulous hair, cut she said, by a new immigrant named, exotically; Lola. Admiring Lola’s courage in starting over in a new country without much English, my friend was taken aback when a po-faced rather elderly grudge next to her sniffed that it was not Lola but her employer who should be commended on taking ‘such an enormous risk’ in employing someone ‘foreign’. Watching Lola cut hair was obviously all the job interview that’d been needed. Big risk or big business? I know why she was employed and I know it had nothing to do with charity.

What reason then for the Edmonds Sure to Rise, Perm and Set Kiwi citizen to think otherwise?

Latent racism? Surely not. Not here. We’re nice. And friendly. Just as long as you don’t want to be our friend.

Is it the charity of allowing ‘one of them’ to become ‘one of the sacred us’? Do we feel threatened by letting the outside in? Have we really been inbreeding that long? We, (and here I’m talking the pakeha, gringo, waiguoren ‘we’) secretly think, in our old boys clubs, that we are the owners of Godzone and woe betide anyone who wants to share a bit of it.

It’s the arrogance and precarious logic of a desperate newcomer. ‘We’ let ‘them’ in to pick fruit or look after our elderly or even have enough in their bank account but will get upset if they buy local businesses and then employ us.

We make it almost impossible for dentists and nurses to register in New Zealand and force them to do expensive English tests that most professional kiwis would fail if they weren’t given the expensive tutoring. And then we wonder why we are haemorrhaging immigrant nurses, dentists and doctors to Australia and the States both of which have a far more rational registration system for immigrant professionals and indeed pay better. Much better to make the system expensive, obtuse and unachievable and then we get to pay highly qualified nurses a ‘caregivers’ salary and hope that their numbers can bolster up our creaking health system.

No surprise either that the Indian community have just discovered that even after 4 generations of living here they don’t get promotions, don’t get paid as well as their pakeha colleagues and can’t break that glass ceiling into management. I guess they can always buy a dairy and pretend they didn’t really want to be the CEO after all.

Being constantly locked out tends to get people antsy after awhile. It irritates, exasperates and eventually infuriates those on the receiving end and can get really ugly after a generation or two. It can lead to ethnic rioting and extremely bad haircuts by women called Lola.

Time for a little prayer in Godzone . How about, “God of Nations at thy feet, in the bonds of love we meet.” Or would that really be too risky? Don’t want too much cross-cultural love happening because then WE would be… THEM.

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The lost art of the pick up line

Observing the courtship and mating rituals of juvenile Northlanders is perhaps not yet a tourist attraction here in Whangarei but sitting in Cameron mall in the school holidays did give me some insight into the behaviour of adolescent Kiwis at extraordinary close range. A privilege – perhaps, and while not necessarily a pleasure it was certainly entertainment.

The young males of the species congregate in groups faces hidden in dark hoods, one hand clutching their bollocks (it was difficult to determine if this is a deliberate ploy to suggest male virility or an awkward attempt to keep their oversized pants from ending up around their ankles) flipping skate-boards and doing the gangster strut which involves bouncing on the balls of your feet and rolling from the hips like you’ve got bollocks the size of planet Jupiter. One young brave did manage to shout to one of the passing gaggles of girls “Show us yer tits”. This was met with the colourful rejoinder “Get a dog up yer”. Later that day I witnessed one young female delivering a mean right hook to another whom she accused of ‘hooking up with’ her man. I began to miss South America. Sure, you’ll get mugged at gun point and your child will get kidnapped but at least it will be done with social grace.

Latin women often complain that living in New Zealand makes them feel unattractive and invisible because the men, well… they just don’t look. Really look. At least not at anything that doesn’t have an outboard motor attached to it. The kind of sighing, fondling, low whistling and general appreciation of form and grace that is usually associated here in New Zealand with the annual Boat Show is readily witnessed on every street corner of South America as men lounge languidly and appreciate women who seem to be the only ones who actually have a job. Whereas Latin men are the optical equivalent of Benny Hill on E – Latin women get as much visual engagement from Kiwi blokes as from your average ostrich.

Piropos; very roughly translated as chat up lines, are an entire art form in themselves in South America. Men have a repertoire at hand just to get a woman to give them some attention for 5 seconds. And the charming thing is that they expect to be rejected which takes all the tension out of the exchange. A grade 6 bad hair day can instantly be transformed as a complete stranger tells you he could drown in your eyes. You would be expected to reply with a smile, that it would therefore be unwise to dive in.”

This harmless flattery and banter is part of the social lubricant that keeps everything ticking in South America – and performs the same function as alcohol seems to here.

In a highly sophisticated Coleman’s Mustard poll (a barbeque in my backyard), the Latin contingent came to the conclusion that New Zealand has a problem with anti-social binge drinking because young men don’t know how to talk to or pick up women and the girls don’t know how to accept a compliment, continuing the banter for long enough to really observe the lad in question so that she can come to a decision on whether or not he has sufficient character and social grace for her to risk meeting up for a coffee with him later.

Latin men spend hours tutoring their protégés on the ancient art of the conquest of a woman’s heart and equally, mothers train their daughters in the often not so gentle art of deflection and self protection. Battered by gale force electioneering and the seduction of my vote – I just wish some of that training could go on those young men and women in Cameron Mall. They may not get lucky but they’d probably feel a whole lot better about themselves and wouldn’t need such vast amounts of alcohol just to make friends and talk to the opposite sex.

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Solo Tasking

How exactly is it that blokes have evolved to solo-task to the exclusion of absolute bedlam exploding around them?

My bloke was able to read all about his favourite Argentine football team (hardly urgent one would think) on the internet while Jehovah’s Witness knocked at our door, the dog dug up my new flower garden, the 5 year old was shouting ‘I won’t cut myself with this sharp knife I’ll just cut the dog because he’s being naughty’ and I was chopping firewood hoping the rice wasn’t burning. After the rice did burn, the dog got rescued, the knife confiscated and the Jehovahs ran screaming from our house having witnessed something they clearly wished they hadn’t , I was treated to a lecture from my relaxed not recalcitrant husband on how I’m always leaving everything half finished.

I considered running screaming after the Jehovah’s myself if only they promised to lock me in a white soundproof temple with zero stimulus and wholesome but uplifting reading material.

I remember finishing things. I remember having a brain. Having been brought up with Catholic guilt and mixed this with Buddhist karma and interconnectedness philosophy I suspect somewhere that this is entirely my own fault. Like and the Middle East Crisis, and the return of plastic beads and bubble skirts.

I admire male focus hunt and kill dedication to a solitary task. It’s how you win wars and file the chaos that ensues around the war as ‘collateral damage’, then relax and watch the footy. It allows no guilt. There is no fear in solo tasking that something else of a higher priority (the child drowning in the bath, garden fire creeping over to the neighbour’s villa) is going unsupervised or unfinished somewhere. It must be bliss. I know I should start something heroic and single-mindedly finish it and exclude all the messy mindless chatter of everyday life. Like my child and husband for example. I admire those women whose life can be seen in a body of serious literature or galleries of illuminated statements on life and the universe. It seems much more impressive than a half-finished pile of washed dishes or folded clothes.

Which is why I’ve decided to dedicate myself to the construction of something impressive. A cathedral would be nice – Whangarei needs one of those. Or a giant statue of Jesus or Catwoman that would lean imposingly from Mt Parihaka like that one in Brazil. I could take a lifetime to do it and take time off from my silent chipping of stone to do press releases and get invited to gallery openings. It could happen. But I know it won’t.

Single mindedness has its place but sometimes I just have to accept that things may go unfinished. Failing that there’s always delegation but I missed those seminars along with the dress for success ones and how to marry a millionaire so I’m not the one to ask, although I read an article on it once. When I tried it I couldn’t distinguish it from the version my mother had tried 30 years ago. Back then it was called nagging.

Failing all of this, when my household once again looks like a Richard Scary painting where all the animals are on P and some woman in a scarf knocks at my door, I will smile. I will take her hand and together we will skip past my garden stopping briefly for me to pick a taro leaf with which I will clad my locks, and we will go far far away to a happy place where all projects are finished, all children washed and serene and partners prefer weeding to reading about football. Read More......

Eating Godwits

After 11,000 kilometres you’d think the humble godwit would be worthy of our respect, even awe. Not our dinner plates.

I’d always thought of them as the quintessential NZ battler braving the real winds of international free trade. And here Kingi Ihaka, bless his gastronomic magnificence, is heralding the return of the godwit with the return of the godwit burger.

Television 3 News : 10 September 2008

Apparently there are ‘squillions’ of them where he comes from up North. They said that about passenger pigeons at one point too. Apparently, “Godwits need to ‘pay their dues’. I suppose he has got a point. I mean, they really are a pack of avionic bludgers. Fly in, feed up and bugger off again. What do they think our sand spits are? A hotel? No he is right. Godwits owe us. Big time. Every year they fly half-way round the world to help themselves to a free buffet on our coasts and when was the last time you got a thank you note from a godwit? Although to be honest I could say the same of babies. They just hang around and eat for the first few years of life without much pay back and I don’t see them featuring on any menus. Yet.

Unlike babies, godwits are organic, local and free and it’s so ‘now’ to go all feral and forage your food from the surroundings. I get it. But so do the indigenous people of Alaska. Their average annual kill is up to 1,900 birds. Apparently this is mainly by subsistence farmers and to be fair, I’d be doing the same if I had no other option to feed the kids. On the east coast of China however the estimated take is up to 3000 migrating godwits per year, where, thankfully, the rise in the average price of live waders (mostly godwits) at market, has greatly exceeded increases in inflation and average incomes, making it more than worthwhile for the hunters to continue. What a relief. If the stock market goes into a nose dive we can always fall back on godwits then.

Is nothing sacred? Not really. Your sacred cow could well be my Big Mac. Sarah Palin eats caribou.
That’s Santa’s reindeer last time I checked. Rudolf, Dancer, Blitzen. It’s all just lunch to Sarah. But then, that is not surprising once you realise she thought it was a good thing to be compared to a pit bull. Is it a mitigating factor if the pit bull is in drag?

But aren’t there some creatures that are just too embarrassing to hunt? Are there some that just deserve a break? We’re not talking the world’s most ferocious beast here. What’s a godwit going to do to fight back? Fix you with their beady eye? Can it possibly contribute to your sense of manhood and well-being to hunt one? How many would you need for a decent feed? Apparently they are not particularly bright birds and are as street wise and cunning as your average pipi judging by some old hunting journals where young boys enticed them into range and continued shooting until they ‘had quite a bag’.

In the New Zealand Railways Magazine Te Maire Rakau writes in 1938, about 10 years before the ban on harvesting godwits; “We read and sometimes hear that godwits make good eating, and no one could find fault with a marooned sailor adding godwits to his diet of shell fish and seaweed. But why it is that well fed men with beef and potatoes abounding should want to eat godwits, is beyond my understanding. It would appear that there are some men whose sole reaction to anything is to wonder how it would fraternise with their own gastronomical apparatus. Kill, skin and eat. Is that their only appreciation?” Guess so. Still.

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Barrack Obama

I’m happy that John Key is feeling he’s like NZ’s Barrack Obama.

I was wishing we had one of those. I feel quite a lot like Barrack Obama myself. Except I’m not black. And I’m a woman. I don’t know anything about politics either… which makes me think that perhaps I must be more like John Key. It’s fun being other people my daughter once spent a whole summer entitled ‘XaXa Pocohontas’. Xa Xa didn’t have to listen to me, or eat her dinner which meant before long she had to be exorcised – there was a certain amount of convenience to be had by being someone else and we all tired of it before she did. I wonder what the fringe benefits of being an Antipodean version of someone else would be? The sense that you’re part of the real ‘world’ and not some second rate Oceanic version? I wonder who Helen would like to be? She’s been looking more like Winston (Churchill that is) in the last year of the second World War lately although she wears pants better than he did but I’d like to see her with a cigar and bowler hat.

I get quite spooked watching Parliament sometimes, I swear that Rodney Hide is channelling the Ompaloompahs and Winston’s Spirit Guide is the Cheshire Cat. Winnie must be feeling like he’s slipped down that rabbit hole over the last few weeks – all those evil geniis have managed to slip out of the wine box and somewhere in the shadows are goading their minions to go for Winston’s throat. National have been baying for his blood – I guess the merchant bankers in big boy pants whom he never managed to actually get but had the audacity to point the finger at, haven’t forgotten. For a party who seem happy to swallow rotten fish to get where they want to go, it has to be pretty bad for them to publicly state that they will never ever pinky promise get into bed with Winston. As a voter I’m feeling like the virgin bride in an arranged marriage. As Lockwood smiles lovingly at me through gritted teeth I see him eyeing up the family chattels and heirlooms and keeping a mental tally. At this point in the election nuptial arrangements I’m not sure if I’m an asset or a liability once I’ve signed up till death or the next election do us part. I’m scanning the horizon for an open window and a saddled up horse waiting outside.

The sad thing is, as evasive and annoying as Winnie can be with the media I can’t see what the problem is. Really. Now if I were a bank account and wanted to be something else – what would I choose to be? I know. A trust! I’d give myself a new name – like Spencer or Waimate and readily accept any libations offered. Isn’t that what all political parties do? What everyone who can afford to does? Here’s a riddle that the Cheshire Cat might ask; “When is my money not my money?” “When in it’s in a trust.” Why have we all suddenly got so shocked?

I still remember standing in the Victoria Quadrant over 20 years ago watching Lockwood Smith looking like a supercilious Tuatara, sign a written declaration stating that if user pays was introduced into the Universities, he would resign. I believed him. The next year half of my mates left uni because they couldn’t afford the user pays fees and didn’t trust the government loan system.

The last time I checked, Lockwood was still knocking around parliament. When he wasn’t in Dargaville that is, scratching his Murray Bulls.

Standing for something and doing something entirely different is all just part of the job description. Being a New Zealand version of someone else is just taking it to that next level.

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Neo Nasties

What do Neo Nazis actually do in their free time? Apart from tagging local schools with swastikas that is.

Do they hang out with their K.K.K cousins in white nighties and pointy hats? Can you go skateboarding in gear like that? Do they rustle up a barbeque and decide who they’re going to hate next while they have a few beers and morris dance around a confederate flag in the back yard? How do you know a Neo Nazi when you meet one?

I remember when my cousin became a Nazi in the early nineties. No one told my grandfather, an ambulance driver during the war, and, although a pacifist would have beaten him within an inch of his life if he’d even got a whiff of a swastika on him.

Trying to get to the bottom of his new found fascism I was intrigued to find that it had evolved in an absence of any knowledge of the Nazi legacy whatsoever.

Being empathetic in an anthropological kind of a way I asked if I could join him for a weekend of Naziness, and, excited by the prospect of a few festive days of contrived hatred, I suggested inviting all his hateyist friends round to decide who we were going to mob. Could we start perhaps with all those old pakeha guys who mow their lawns on Sunday mornings when normal people are sleeping. Disappointed to discover these weren’t primary targets, I did learn that Asians and anyone of a different colour was. This would now have to include Rodney Hyde I suppose, unless there are exceptions made for tanning clinics and the reflections from yellow coats. Now that I had the idea, I asked him if we should start by hating the Thai exchange student who was living with me. Apparently not. This was because she was nice. And we knew her.

This whole Neo Nastiness thing was a lot trickier than I’d anticipated. So. We needed to find some ‘not nice’ Asian people that we didn’t know. How would we devise a test to see if a complete stranger was nice or not before we beat him up, I wondered. He accused me of making this whole Nazi deal sound silly, something he was already doing a pretty good job of himself. He said it was about respecting our ancestors and culture. I asked him if he’d realised that most of our ancestors were Jewish. This was not going well. “They’re my friends.” He said of his new skinhead mates. Lame, but there it was.

His first pay check it transpired had gone on his first ever leather jacket, which was promptly taken off him on the bleak streets of Palmerston North when he was beaten senseless by a group of mob prospects. The local skinheads down the road had heard about it and gone and dished out some brutal form of street justice and with self-esteem restored – hey presto! Instant belonging! Friendship! Respect. And everything else that comes with being part of that club, or, ordinarily, a decent job.

I don’t think we need to get our knickers in a twist about the rise of neo-nastiness just because someone’s tagged a few swastikas round the place. Poverty, an underclass of unskilled, uneducated young men who don’t know how to use their time and energy is the real issue.

Taggers don’t belong to surf clubs, they don’t have a mountain bike and they’ve probably hardly ever been to a beach.

The next time you see some kid tagging, don’t tell him off or call the police. Take him fishing. You’ll be doing a lot more than just catching fish.

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Mary Kate and Ashley

Do Burqas come in a Size 5?

I still haven’t been forgiven for refusing to go to my debutante ball on the grounds that it was an archaic sacrificial ritual to advertise the fact that I was now on the mating market. I was obviously a lot of fun to be around in those days and I think Dad just wanted to see me in a dress for once.

But lately I’ve started to feel nostalgic for those days of anticipation when girls got excited about having permission to wear a bit of lipstick and some pale pink nail polish when they went out. We no longer need debutante balls to introduce our grown up daughters to society it seems – society just comes in and kidnaps them before we get the chance.

Take the fact that my just turned 5 year old wants a bra.

mary-kate and ashley olsen

I blame it on Mary Kate and Ashley and their range of pre –school lingerie. Being rich and anorexic means they have now become the cultural heroines of a generation of tweenagers and can sell what they like to their ever younger wannabes.

Since when did clueless and emaciated become something to strive towards?

After taking the 5 year old to church and realising that she was not singing the hymns but was belting out ‘Don’t you wish your girlfriend was HOT like me” with some rather adult moves thrown in, I began to wonder if convents still existed and if I could send her to one and visit her every Christmas.

I wondered if it was actually OK to keep her in those cute short dresses or perhaps an Islamic Burqa may be more appropriate. Maybe Pumpkin Patch did them with little embroidered hibiscus eye visor thingys for summer.

I revised the one hour a day rule of TV and decided we’d have to bury it in the back yard and be done with it – although the bra idea had come from the 9 year old next door who had one. This was amply demonstrated when the bra toting 9 year old showed up for a family barbeque – in full face make-up, a miniskirt, an expensive cell phone and French acrylic nails. I sent her home to put on something that included jeans and a jersey. She came back in jeans, knee high boots and a see-through top.

I scanned my relatives and friends for any paedophilic tendencies that had previously gone unnoticed.

I was feeling like the goat keeper on Komodo Island; everything that moves is a potential predator when you are looking after the (jail) bait. The thing is she’s tall. She looks quite mature and she’s drop dead gorgeous - I’d probably ask her out for a beer if I were a bloke. The Barbie collection may be a clue once you got back to her house but it seems fashionable at the moment to keep women in the arrested development of baby doll dresses and mindless giggling. It’s hard for anorexics to hold up their end of a conversation at the best of times and starvation makes you short so - who’s to know?

I’m not advocating that we lock up our daughters instead of potential predators just that we get at least a running chance of protecting them without marketing boys stamping them with precocious sexuality as they come out of the womb.

Mary Kate and Ashley need to stick to cute socks and headbands – not bras, and I hate to go back to my eighties feminist roots but don’t girls need some role models that aren’t named after hotels and who can actually stand up in a gust of wind? In the meantime I’m off to find a size 5 Burqa, I may be gone awhile.

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I love boys

I love boys. They’re so damn… easy.

Take the boobs on bikes parade down Queen Street. Where there are boobs there will be boys – they will show up and buy any product you throw at them while they are transfixed by breasts (unless of course we’re talking gay boys but then they don’t count because you can hold a conversation with a gay boy and know that they will never look at your tits.)

The protest and the parade in Auckland today.
Pictures: AFP Sydney Morning Herald Online 20/08/2008

I’m surprised the annual boat show hasn’t clicked on to this idea - we could have ‘Boobs on Boats’ and ‘Hooters on Scooters’ where have the marketing boys been all this time?

What I don’t get is what is OK about showing the mammary glands of some mad Mum from Christchurch that is not Ok about some gay boy’s torso. The fashion flair and fun of the now banned Hero Parade is far more festive than the rather dull display of women with labia implants and projectile boosies astride a bike. And yet, as I write this sarcastically, I can hear a sigh of ‘that sounds so great’ from most of the straight blokes I know.

Personally I’m pretty scared by some of Steve Crowe’s show ponies. Drag queens are more subtle about their appendages; those aren’t breasts, they’re architectural devices designed, not to attract attention, but to go out and attack if blokes aren’t looking hard enough.

I have one thing to say to Steve. And that is: “Show us you whanger.”

Yes. It’s time to Free Willy. I’m about to launch my new venture ‘Willys on Wheels’ down the main street of Whangarei and I would like him to feature, although we may have to work on his look.

Is it de rigueur for a porn king to look like a penis trussed up in a performance enhancing black condom?

The parade will feature boys with paper bags over their heads in fetching costumes arranged around their appendages. I’m thinking …. Floats! The local florist could have a floral arrangement on her bloke and we could get the polytech to design a Kiwiana section with Pukeko Plonkers and Buzzy Bee Balls. It could be so good for the community. The only problem being; only blokes will show up. Women may want to be objectified if they are porn stars but basically we’re not hard wired for ogling.

Asking a twenty year old porn star with the critical thinking skills to rival Sponge bob, how she feels about the industry is hardly adding to the debate.

Saying that it’s fine for kids to watch some free, police escorted boob advertising for a porn-fest because kids are breastfed is, well, classic Steve Crowe. It’s not about freedom of expression. It’s not about the boobs. It’s not even about a bit of adult erotica.

Porn isn’t sexy because there is no charm in it, in the same way that the pokies aren’t entertainment because there’s no fun in it. It’s all; up, down, in, out, money in, put it out…as Kevin Ireland puts it in his poem entitled ‘Porn’, ‘it’s all too much of a hard grind’.

I know all the arguments; it’s a well paid job with great career prospects until at least the age of 23. The carnal carnage that is left behind in the demand that porn feeds has been documented well enough. I hope the Women’s Centre and other groups had some success in marching ahead of the boobs as they handed out their information sheets. I suspect however, that more blokes would have listened if they’d taken their tops off first.

If Steve is allowed to hawk his seedy wares in any way he likes then bring back the Hero Parade. At least it had style.

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Dear Mr. Predator

“In a sense I've failed – I get on very well with everyone, even those, dare I say it, at the bottom of the food chain. I should have thanked them.”Quoted by a retiring MP on his failure to give an appropriate valedictory speech other than to hold up a card saying 'Bye Bye'.

Dear Mr. Predator,

I hope you don't mind me addressing you as a predator – it's just that I assume from your comments that you must be somewhere near the top rungs of the food chain and I don't know what else to call you.

I'm deeply grateful that you remembered us little people and while I know we were just an afterthought it was nice that you remembered all the work we do for you; the real people. Important people like politicians, lawyers, developers and corporate lords like yourselves rarely suffer from an underwhelming ego and it was nice of you to spare a thought for the bottom feeders like me. It's hard work down here and as we cooked your dinners, washed your knickers and taught your kids to read (you being so busy and all) we marvelled that despite all your money and and your wives' surgical enhancements, you still played around and she was still a mean drunk. I'm talking generically of course. I guess being at the top of the food chain doesn't necessarily make you happy but as we waited on your tables at 3am in the morning we whistled in amazement and sighed “Man. You guys really do rule.” You are the new heroes it seems.

I spent a fortune on getting my only son through university, dreamt he'd find a cure for something. Thought he might turn out to be of some use to someone other than himself but now he says he wants to speculate on the markets. Whatever that means. Kids are bound to disappoint. I guess he wants to be just like you. I know what you guys do is really important.

You've told me so a hundred times and sorry for asking but.. .what is it exactly that you guys actually do? Here at the bottom of the food chain I know exactly what we do. Hospitals, schools and restaurants are full of us humble bottom dwellers. Our incomes are nearly always very active – if not bloody exhausting. Just ask any nurse or primary school teacher or better still go and fill her shoes for a day. You might be surprised – she wouldn't know a passive income if it bit her on the bum and don't try telling her about your investment portfolio woes either it's unlikely she'll be feeling your pain. You see – she has to perform or get fired – that's how it works down here. I don't really get it myself – but how come you guys can fail spectacularly and then get a performance bonus or an 'exit package' worth millions? The only exit package we see is the last pay cheque.

Still, I hear some of you are finding yourselves in a bit of a tight squeeze lately. Last I heard you were asking for a bailout – what happened to 'let the market rule?' Isn't the market the great leveller? You always talked about the level playing field like it meant you were going to drive a bulldozer over anyone that got in your way with their petty regulations but what do I know?

I'm still waiting for some kind of wealth to start dribbling down from you guys up on the top rungs – remember the 'trickle down' theory? I did wonder why it was that the bottom dwellers only deserved a drip or two when what I'd have preferred is a decent slice of the pie. Still we didn't have access to cheap and easy credit to build our own empires over the last 15 years and you guys certainly weren't supporting the great leveller of capital gains tax so now, not only are you guys at the top – and we're at the bottom - there's not so much a gap as a gaping chasm between us. Still, that' s all behind me now – I'll be retired in a couple of weeks. I'm sure glad that I listened to that nice finance manager who got me to invest in.. what was it? Stocks? Bonds? I can't remember now – I was too busy with my two jobs and the boss's daughter being on P, it was all I could do to keep a track of their family silver and keep the house tidy after her parties.

I'm looking forward to putting my feet up down here at the bottom of the food chain. I think I deserve it and it's nice to know that I have been appreciated.

Yours sincerely,
Mrs Bottomfeeder.

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Is motherhood the new Everest

If motherhood were an NCEA subject in the middle classes it would have achievement standards whereby anyone not receiving an excellence would immediately be removed from the gene pool.

As I watch the last of my close friends flap home from Europe to reproduce I am amazed at how monumental motherhood has become.

Too busy to breed, we were the generation that forgot to have babies. We travelled, drank rather a lot and came home at about 38 and realised we’d better get busy or we’d have no one to pass the fabulous skills and knowledge we’d acquired, on to, like; where the best bars in South East Asia are and how to leave a lover in 5 different languages.

It’s odd then to watch my mates armed with baby Einstein CDs and a library of expert opinion, fly into motherhood with all the unruffled self assurance of a seagull into a pane of glass. These are women who’ve run hotel chains, and suddenly decide they need a specialist’s guide to raise their own offspring.

Motherhood has become deeply competitive in wealthier circles and for some unfathomable reason almost entirely humourless.

Motherhood everest

The more earnest you appear to be, the better you seem to fare on the motherometer.

I’m still stinging from the ray gun looks when I suggested at one coffee morning that I’d found gin and cough medicine a great tonic for getting the little one off to sleep which was a blessing seeing as she had seemed pretty restless now that I was off the heroin. I was joking. Honest.

After a baby ‘workshop’ where they’d waved silk scarves and got the babies doing cartwheels to ‘stimulate’ their vestibular system she rang in tears saying she’d also been trying to follow some book which sounded like it should be re-titled “Every Fascists Guide to Motherhood”.

Stressed because her baby didn’t follow THE ROUTINE (which prescribed when ‘Mother’ had to take a shower and what kind of curtains baby had to have), she was now feeling guilty about hair follicles in the child’s ears.
It had to stop.

Throwing her a copy of ‘Mummies who Drink’ I advised stopping the coffee group and starting a vodka circle.

While other babies may love controlled crying, (which in my experience consisted of hours of the baby crying uncontrollably), ours had been spawned by rank individualists, and therefore have their own agenda.
Work with it.

Being 12 weeks old, it was unlikely baby was about to defect from her jurisdiction anytime soon by joining a Chinese circus so the need for a double handspring was minimal. Her vestibular system will be sufficiently stimulated by hanging bat like in a technique I like to call “Commando Breastfeeding”. This is where you run home from work, leap the back fence and either breastfeed while getting everything ready to go to your second job or latch baby on while you drive there. Don’t look this one up. It’s not in any books.

As a paid up member of I passed on the list I’d written to myself when I was trying to pass myself off as a Mum until the real one showed up:

1. Never admit to not knowing how many weeks old your baby is or what milestones they have supposed to have galloped past. Make it up. Don’t say your baby sleeps through the night when they are only 3 days old. It’s bad form.

2. When you go back to work and the guy at the café asks; “What did you have?”, say ‘a boy’ or a ‘girl’, instead of biting his head off for forgetting the espresso order.

3. When your child comes home, clicks her milo cup against yours, and says ‘Cheers Bro’, and these are her first words, then pretends to smoke her crayons - find other home care arrangements.

See? It’s a snitch.

Trust your instincts. Burn the Books.

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The Blog - Scrub Buzz

Scrub Buzz - Inside Out
The Scrub Buzz Blog written by Nickie Muir, includes a weekly newspaper column "Inside Out" and occassional random musings about the complexities of cross-culture relationships or life with a eight year old. The writings poke a stick at current news and happenings in New Zealand, with an opinion which is sometimes cheeky, funny or irreverent, but usually with a poignant thought for contemplation.

The word Scrubb Buzz can be explained by its two definitions...

Scrubber: A domestic animal gone feral and is running round the ‘scrub’, the backwoods the wild, ‘uncleared’ land. An untitled woman of common birth.

Scrubbuzzer: Common cicada – often found in the scrub making an inordinate noise for its size. Symbol in South America and many parts of Asia for change and re-birth valued for its ability to spend a winter underground, transform itself and come up singing when the sun comes out.

Scrubbuzz Blog was a venture between two New Zealand scrubbers made good. One from Paraparaumu and the other from Paremoremo who ended up in a varsity flat together in Allenby Terrace, when Wellington was a dismal outpost of the Soviet Union and glitter was severely rationed. There was still a Bolshevik Club in Aro Valley in those days and second hand army coats were the height of fashion. In contrast they became underground dealers in glitter, painted a giant mural of a naked woman late one night and spent a ridiculous amount of time making paper mache art works, canoeing around water fountains and, in Nickie’s case – writing poetry. Nickie majored in pointlessness and inappropriate boyfriends while Michelle entered the corporate world and had a swivelly chair and a special area marked ‘Quality Thinking’, where Nickie used to visit and jump across the line saying things like ‘Quality Thought’. ‘Crap Thought’. ‘Quality Thought’. Until Michelle got rid of her by taking her to lunch. Through death, divorce, birth and Brazillians (the people, not the hairdo) letters and the odd box of collections of leaves and photos they’ve chartered the course of a friendship and not a few projects, countries, ideas and lifestyles that, quite frankly could best be described as bonkers. We figure we’ve done it … so you don’t have to.

founders & editor
Michelle is the IT brain, publishing and ocassional art/graphics girl when creatively inspired... and Nickie still writes stuff.
Nickie is a teacher, writer and regular columnist for a New Zealand newspaper.
Nickie graduated from Victoria University in Wellington. She has lived in Thailand, Taiwan and Argentina and now lives in a small town (Whangarei) in the Northern bit of New Zealand where you are in easy range of about 100 different beaches all with different flavours. She lives with her bloke (former Argentine yo-yo champion and espresso impresario, Rodolfo) and their daughter Maya, a close relative of the Ukrainian fruit bat, who spends the best part of the day hanging upside down on things. All financial and familial decisions are left to the Huntaway (a large good- tempered farm dog) named Fierro, because he’s the sensible one. They continue to live in Whangarei because it’s the only place in the world you can live in the CBD and share your night-garden with moreporks (a small native owl.)
At 17 she ran the length of Thailand (which was an extreme way to get out of Thai dance class- even for her but had the benefit of raising money to build a school with her Thai host father Wirote.) At 30 something she decided to buy a few horses and ride from Cordoba in Argentina to Bolivia with her Aussie mate Anna. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Nickie Muir has published in North and South magazine and in the Buenos Aires Herald (The Last Tango on the Number 60) and has two collections of poetry, one self published in Buenos Aires; Songs for Buried Lovers (A bush survival kit for grief) and another; ‘A Lot of World, A little Street’ one poem of which came second in the Classics/Montana poetry competition in 2006.

The columns re-printed here have been published weekly, as the as “Inside Out”column the Northern Advocate, which is part of the APN News & Media group which includes New Zealand's leading metropolitan newspaper, The New Zealand Herald.

Nickie is available for freelance writing , for more information, please contact her via email and say hello!

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