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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