Decorative womanhood

Sometimes it takes a lot of energy to care. I would genuinely like to care less. Unlike Winston I would crave the baubles of the office of decorative womanhood and in my fantasy world I would spend the day choosing sofa fabric and doing lunch with friends. Charming and entertaining friends. Not the ones whose husbands or kids are driving them mental, are ringing to tell me about the break up/down through they’re having with someone or something I don’t need to care about.  

I would be one of those women I admire; a floating, aloof island of nonchalance, someone who doesn’t have to write things on her hand in order that she remember them the same afternoon. Things like: ‘pick kid up from school’.

Someone who doesn’t need a diary because it’s just so great being flexible and ‘in the moment.’

I would also care deeply about skin products rather than fling the cheapest cream probably made from unfairly traded babies somewhere in Uganda into the trolley as I whizz past the wine isle where the small person last week suggested a Pinot Gris ‘because she knew I wanted to’ making both me and the demo lady think that perhaps I might have a problem. I would not care about politics. Or the environment.
I were a character in Animal Farm I’d be Molly. An indulged show pony; tricks for ribbons. I would guide writers from House and Garden through my house which would be full of tastefully arranged pieces of infinite interestingness contrived to elicit tales of intrigue and wonder. I would offer them coffee from civet poo or some exotic tea that no one has ever heard of. Actually my house does kind of look like a centre-fold for House and Garden. If they were doing a non-fiction piece about places that have been ransacked by child soldiers and then set up as Hippy Headquarters for the advancement of crochet rugs (sorry Nan.) Last time I checked there was a pohutukawa sapling actually growing from a windowsill - I could tell the House and Garden people that it was all part of the eco plan as I lounged against my designer worm

‘How come,’ said a friend recently, ‘other people seem to glide through life making everything look easy?’

I suggested that they might be really great actors or perhaps our self expectations are too high now we are supposed to look like models, have 5 children (preferably from 3 different countries) and make a short documentary film while redecorating the house according to much of the magazine fodder we love to read.

Berating herself for looking constantly like a ‘distracted mess on a mission’ she went on to say that she just couldn’t understand how come she couldn’t quite get it all together to glide through life looking like Beyonce and sounding like Hilary Clinton whilst baking macaroons in a whole NZ pink-aproned hottest baker scenario.

Can’t think.

Could have been the two toddlers she has or the autistic older child whom she has just taught to read despite the school and family telling her that would be impossible, or could it be her full time study schedule or the upcoming exams she needs to sit in order to practise? Could be her sick mother she’s been looking after or the advocacy work she’s been doing for other parents also battling with autism.

What my mate is missing as far as matching the high standards of perfect womanhood as set out by magazine land is; the staff. And an inability to care less. And there are lots of women I know who suffer the same malady. The working Mums who still run school gala committees or the bake sales for the sick friend with no funds despite having very little themselves. They could care less - they just choose not to.

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Council complacency

The peasants are revolting. Well, maybe not the peasants. More a mild uprising of refugees from Remuera; retired lawyers and judges - inhabiting the fair shores of Mangawhai.

Those bloody Aucklanders – coming up here and expecting such luxuries as transparency in public office and fancy stuff like ‘due process.’  Who do they think they are and what did they expect when they came ‘ere to dwell amongst us in our feudal kingdom? Democracy? Accountability?

We have mini-emperors and developer warlords who wield undue influence in the parochial passage-ways of power. Surely these rank outsiders should know that! Why don’t they know their place?

It’s the way it’s always been and until recently looked like it was the way it was going to stay.

Councils here seem to assume a general complacency gives an implicit mandate to swing free and easy with the public purse, and woe betide the ‘haters’ that criticise the tendency. They are being ‘negative’ or ‘anti-development’. Which is why we are so fond of publicly excluded meetings. Bloody public. Always criticising and asking annoying questions. Doesn’t the public understand that ‘commercially sensitive’ means ‘shut up and go away?’ But it seems the citizens of the Kaipara district have maxed out the credit on credulity towards the numbers being thrown at them by their council and have decided to ask some really tough questions like: how exactly were the figures arrived at for the now infamous sewerage system and who exactly signed off on it? As for who will pay for it; undoubtedly after the whole Mexican soap opera has played out -it will be rate-payers. Again. And we’re about to go another round with the release of the data for the mining survey yesterday.

Unfortunately those of us who own small businesses or are working 12 hours a day couldn’t make it to the big reveal by Phil Heatley at the Copthorne on a Tuesday lunchtime. I’m sure there’ll be other opportunities to attend public meetings regarding mining in Northland which the working public can attend. The numbers for mining are even more difficult to grasp than those for sewerage systems and it does little good for Phil to endlessly repeat that ‘we’ve been doing it’ for 50 years and it’s all been good so far because that’s simply not true.

Tax payers are about to fork out close to 22 million dollars on the most contaminated site in New Zealand; the abandoned Tui mine at Te Aroha. In 2009 the government estimate for the clean up was 9 million. The numbers have more than doubled in less than 3 years. The mining company has long gone and, like the Pike River disaster or even, to this point at least, the Rena clean up, it is the tax payer that is picking up the tab.

Nick Smith last year said that the Tui clean up was essential as the cost of the unstable tailings dam failing was potentially 168 million dollars. A conservative estimate at best because should that happen the livelihood of all the mussel farms and tourist operations in the Thames/Hauraki area would be decimated.

What is recreational fisheries for the entire Hauraki Harbour for the next decade worth? Scallops. Cockles. Pipi. All fish. Our international reputation for seafood exports?

A Japanese housewife is not going to differentiate between Hauraki mussels and those that come from Nelson – they’ll just stop buying NZ. It’s a lot to add up and there’s a lot to ask, like; ‘In the interests of corporate responsibility towards the environment and citizens will this government ask mining companies for an up front bond held in trust as in the reasonably successful arrangement at Golden Cross mine?’ Or; ‘Will the mining companies invest in upskilling Northland youth to work for them or will it simply outsource labour and service contracts ?’

If we’re given an opportunity to ask that is.

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Promiscuous thoughts of Colin Craig

I pine for Colin. Not Pine Tree Colin. Not me. None of that real bloke – break your nose and put it back and never talk about it stuff. No. I’m thinking more of a little man in a suit who, with those bedroom eyes called me hither from those billboards the last election.

It might have been the radiant moral purity emanating - I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t help thinking thoughts. Naughty promiscuous thoughts, whenever I think of Colin Craig. I guess I just have a special affection for people who say extremely bizarre things or maybe it’s just that we kiwi girls are, if you listen to Colin, so easy. According to the mad Latin – this is true. Which I find interesting, if slightly offensive. His theory is that the only way we have a sustainable population base is because the girls take the initiative – if mating were dependent on the conquest skills of Kiwi blokes, according to his anthropological studies conducted in pubs in Whangarei, we’d be extinct by the middle of the century.

But academia bores me. My mind is on Colin. He won’t take my calls. It’s two in the morning I drive round to his but John Banks and Dotcom are there.

Dotcom wants to give him money to support compulsory sterilisation of all politicians. He wants to organise supporters for a rally.

Colin tells him he’ll need at least a hundred bucks a head because that’s what it cost him last time he tried to organise a spontaneous outbreak of outrage in the populace over the anti-smacking law.

John has a bunch of flowers and a Mexican quartet singing songs of evangelical love to Colin on the balcony above.
Colin insists that he has chosen marriage as an alternative to a gay life. John says he’ll jump into bed with anyone as long as they’re paddling their cabbage boat somewhere politically advantageous to himself. He can’t see why Colin is getting so uptight.

The Mexican quartet start singing ’50 ways to leave your Lover’ in Spanish accents.

Dotcom asks John if he’s trying to tell him something. John thinks he might have been but he’s forgotten.

Dotcom leaves to get his inflatable tank and says when he comes back everyone will be very very sorry.

Dotcom gone, Banks declares his ability to change his ways. He says he can change teams, change games, pitch or catch whatever Colin thinks would work and couldn’t he just pop in for a quick cup of tea and a chat?

Colin calls him a pervert and says he’s already betrothed to Mr. Key, who is also married and has never been seen anywhere near Dotcom at the casino. He says that if John Banks doesn’t leave him alone he’ll call the police.

At which John Banks sputters: ‘ Transexuals, bisexuals and transvestites are not wanted in the police. The last thing we need in this country is policemen walking the beat wearing lipstick and pantyhose.”

I wonder if this applies to women – and also want to remind him that he already said this in 1992 but then remember he has short and long term memory loss.

Colin starts throwing the pot-plants at John who retreats to his helicopter and is attacked at about 20 metres altitude with a barrage of fireworks. The helicopter crashes and deflates the blow up tank and Dotcom, who is left with a permanent injury.

Dotcom decides to ring Nick Smith to see if he can get any action from ACC. The cell phone rings from deep under a rock surrounded by freshly dug turf. John looks a little embarrassed – or nervous – it’s hard to tell.

Michelle Boag shows up and says that she is Dotcom’s pakeha kaumatua and would anyone like a jar of plum jam. Strangely Michelle Boag is the perfect solution to quell anybody’s ardour and I’m relieved to find my promiscuous tendencies once again under control.

I head home for a cuppa with the mad Latin to whom I am happily unmarried.

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Tattoos. There are a lot of them in Northland.

Is it a geographical thing or a global trend?

Watching a young woman recently I wondered if it was cultural identification or a form of personal permanent tagging? Am I just old school or are the names and places (written in gothic script) just giving too much away? I know who the nearest, dearest and departed of this young girl are without knowing her name. Maybe it’s just a way of locating yourself in an uncertain world. Like the young pakeha blokes coming back from London and Europe with variations of New Zealand maps on their skin. Is it part of pakeha heritage – the anglo love of compass and map or is it so that when they’re abducted by aliens they’ll be able to find their way home?

Tattooing has undergone a vast transformation in New Zealand in just 2 generations. It wasn’t so long ago that it was the koru card for sailors and criminals. Even twenty years ago a woman with a tattoo of any description was considered on the margins of acceptability. It seems in Gen Y you’d now be the exception if you didn’t have one. Even Baby Boomers are not exempt – a friend was impressed/mortified to find her Mum (in her 60’s) had gone berserk, gone off with some bloke and got herself a tramp stamp as some rite of passage as yet to be chronicled by anthropologists.

I’ve heard of some olympically ridiculous tattoos. One of my favourites was done in a NZ correctional facility – which is corporate speak for jail. It was a fairly straight forward home job which read “F*%&# the System!” Fair enough. You could only read it however if you were standing beside him gazing into a mirror to shave. Like in jail. For example. He’d done it himself in the mirror and if he ever sits behind someone in traffic they’ll look into their rear vision mirror and be amazed at his clever socio-political commentary. Or an old uni friend, making an ass of himself in some Thai bar/tattoo parlour, woke up from his drunken stupor with a giant orange carp (he’s a red head) on his arm with some pretty Thai script underneath it. It was some days before he discovered that the tattoo read: “I am a rude foreign bastard. I drink like a fish and make a nuisance of myself.” I am laughing ungraciously because I did something equally stupid. Celebrating the wonderful natural ecology of New Zealand I decided on a bird tattoo that reminded me of this great and gorgeous land, a symbol of my love of New Zealand. On further, belated research I found that the bird in fact was indigenous to Australia – something my Australian friend, hitching round NZ with me, found extremely amusing. She has, over the years, continued to remind me of this whenever I try to be profound or say something meaningful. She doesn’t do this too often however because she had a tattoo of a dolphin leaping over her naval done at exactly the same time. She was only one mushroom zombie tee-shirt away from full-scale boganism and she knows it.

As I head closer to my 5th decade I realise that I may have to make good on my threat made over a quarter of a century ago to have my next tattoo on my fiftieth birthday. Now that the fragile wisp of avian elegance tattooed over 20 years ago is now referred to by the mad Latin as the Haast Eagle, something I wish I found funnier – I wonder what I’d get. Peter Kageyama, author of ‘For the Love of Cities’ who is speaking in Whangarei this weekend, suggests getting one done of your city. “Tattoos are the equivalent of marrying your city. A tattoo, like a marriage is a near permanent commitment and whenever I see people with their city etched into their body I know that person has a special relationship with their place.”

Just as long as they don’t do it themselves – in a mirror I guess.

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Tabliod Hack

Wayne Peters Stars in Freddy Mercury Homage Tour!

Paul Dimmery Seen at Scottish River Dancing Convention with Rebel Motorcycle Leader – Having Fun!

Morris Cutforth, Kermit and Miss Piggy in shocking incident at Mander Park.

Whangarei Council agree to build giant outhouse at Town Basin as a kiwi twist on the world famous Hundterwasser Buildings – Mark Simpson goes to Vienna to Sell Them One!

Phil Heatley gets lead role as Maria in The Sound of Music (the rap ‘Frack That Hill’ version).

Vince Cocorullo Abducted by Aliens.

Signs Martian Ratification to Fix Life ‘Out There’.

Northtech Functional!

These are just some of the headlines you will never see in the new look ‘tabloid’ version of the Advocate.

Which is a great pity. The world would be a better and more entertaining place if even half of the above headlines were not complete fabrications.

Nevertheless I am determined to launch my career as a tabloid columnist in the hope that Rupert Murdoch will notice me and pay me a million dollars to go and live in Australia and work for him there. Hey. It worked for Paul Henry and he can’t read or write. I decide to hack something. Anything. And then I realise I can’t think of any Northland personalities interesting enough to warrant finding out about. This is disheartening but not a deterrent.

I’d like to find a prominent political figure cross-dressed in K. Road and lip-syncing ‘Baby Love’ with two other Supremes. A local religious leader with a stripper called Candy Cane….that kind of thing. How about pictures of the local gang leader with his secret ‘Hello Kitty’ collection.

I prepare to hack at random. Wilfully. To joyfully disregard legality or prudence. It is about then that I realise that I only use my computer as a glorified type-writer and I have yet to learn to text. It is faster for me to walk the 10ks round to a friend’s house and tell her that I’m not coming than it is to text it.

I decide instead to start taping conversations. Not having the stomach for cups of tea with the two Johns (Banks and Key that is) I need to think of someone of marginal public interest who will suddenly and randomly tell me rudely what he thinks about the world without being asked. Thank goodness for Wayne Peters.

Carrying the familial gift for roar and rancour; a veritable cockerel on P, he tells me what a waste of space this newspaper is and asks the universe “who even reads it?” I agree that the columnists in particular are particularly appalling and stop short of suggesting they should be summarily executed. Given Micheal Laws’ indiscretions in this department last year I felt it unwise. Too late I realise I have no instrument on me with which to tape this conversation. When I finally do get home and pick up the mobile phone – it has a message on it dripping with sarcasm from a friend noting that the ‘mobile’ in mobile phone is indicative of its mobility function, which ipso facto means that theoretically you should have it on you rather than leave it at home.

I go back to tabloid old school and head to some Whangarei bars and wait for notable night-life to appear. Two of the pubs have closed. For good. The other one has a very inebriated Sharon running, crying and shoeless after a generic Shane declaring her love. I want to tell her that if he’s running away he’s probably just not that into her.


My tabloid journalism career is over. I’ll have to go back to where the money isn’t.

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Big Business

John Key is big on the facts of life. He starts a lot of sentences with that very phrase lately – as if to scold recalcitrant children; ‘the facts of life are, that we just can’t afford a convention centre.’ Which is true. Whether or not this means the only option is changing the law so that Sky City can have more gaming machines, which lets face the facts – is a licence to print money – and let them pay for the convention centre is debatable.

I don’t think we need to be worried about this being the thin end of the wedge with regards to selling our legislature to the highest bidder – in fact I think this could be a creative beginning to answering many of our economic woes by just letting the market rule.

Governments tend to get in the way of business – but they are useful for bailing it out when the markets crash and burn as we’ve seen over the last few years so I suppose government should get some concessions. Not too many though.

Mr. Key is thinking too small when it comes to the convention centre – the deal with sky city should be just the beginning. Northland needs, amongst many things, an oncology unit. One of the ways we can fund this is to ask the Chow brothers who are about to build a 15 storey brothel opposite Sky City to fund it. Don’t laugh. There are some that would consider the proposal tacky. Sky City itself has publicly expressed its concern that the brothel will be a tacky development. The words ‘kettle’ and ‘black’ come to mind but I just think they’re worried about the competition for the tourist dollar.

It’s a fact that during the world cup the bars and the brothels were the big winners – I guess it depends what kind of tourists you’re aiming for.

If the Chow brothers were offered a change to our immigration laws allowing younger international hookers an opportunity to come and work in New Zealand we could easily turn ourselves into the cheapest wildest little whorehouse in the Pacific. It’s not like we haven’t been there and done that 150 years ago in Russel.

I know what you’re thinking. Why outsource when we’ve got perfectly good hookers here at home? But turn to the ‘Situations Vacant’ pages of any newspaper and it’s obvious the industry is low on human resources. Much better to import the necessarily upskilled labour from abroad.

Bill English has said before that our low wages are a competitive advantage and I’m sure that will be beneficial to the bottom line in any brothel.

Unlike David Parker I don’t worry about becoming Australia’s Mexico. Not when we could become the world’s Colombia.

Big business benefitting from changed legislation is not new.

Leigh Hopper the developer for Marsden Cove and Waterways in Whitianga said mid last year; “We have to face the fact that there is no wealth in New Zealand now. Everyone is struggling to make ends meet. But what we do have is a high-end lifestyle in a stunning coastal environment.” I guess he was referring to hard to sell marinas in Tsunami prone zones. He was lauding the new changes to immigration laws made by this government. Mr. Hopper planned to offer job creation in the way of ‘full property maintenance.’ Translated; the changes to immigration law meant wealthy non-tax paying overseas property owners would be able to spend more time in their gated coastal communities on extended visas and kiwis would get to mow their lawns. Nice happy ending.

It’s not big businesses’ fault if hanging a big red light outside our legislative offices is just another marketing strategy towards growth. Or that it’s getting hard to differentiate between getting the facts of life and just getting shafted.

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Smiggles Genis

It started; a slow seismic rumble. Subterranean rumours of the coming of a new world order in stationary. Eight-year-old girls whispered amongst themselves about the revolution to come. Their mothers – blissfully unaware, continued to go to the supermarket in blind ignorance of the fact that their budgets were about to be blown to smithereens and the phrase ‘just getting the basics’ was about to take on a whole new meaning.

It wasn’t as if I was totally blind to what was coming. In Napier a year ago, while walking amongst the abandoned retail outlets and weaving through the local drunks, a multi-coloured lozenge of light and smooth marketing radiated it’s come hitherness into the grey surrounds. The small person – with a feral yell practically threw herself under a bus to cross the road and get in there. ‘SMIGGLE SHOP!!! MUM IT’S REALLY A SMIGGLE SHOP!’ She cried.

What in God’s name is a Squiggle shop? I asked. She stopped and looked at me as if I’d just asked what a broom was. “It’s Smiggle. Mum. And it smells. It’s rubbers and things – and they smell.” Still clueless – I navigated her around and not under the bus and went inside.

White backdrop to better display colour coded stationary of ever increasing degrees of funkiness. I stand back and watch the small person get fed into the marketing machine. Her hands itch to touch. The sales assistant says she can. She tells me she wants to live here. For life. Her words. I look at the sales assistant and wonder if she realises she is the new surrogate smiggle Mum and I have my doubts about whether she will get up to a vomiting child at night. This is partially because she is dressed in a bright pink French Maid’s outfit and as I’m trying to figure out how this fits in with stationary – I notice that there are a lot of Dads down here buying stationary with their kids. Which is just not normal. The mad Latin will agree to an exchange Mum programme as long as the new model looks like this. Buckets of cash get poured over the counter. This is genius! As a form of market research I ask the eight year old how many rubbers she needs given she already has a perfectly good one at home. She looks at me like I’m the communist evil twin sister of pink french maid mum and rolls her eyes. I go to rub out the scribbles she’s making with one of the rubbers. “DON’T USE IT!!!’ She screams. “But the lady said you could” I stammer. “They’re not for using that’s why you don’t NEED them you just…like… HAVE them and…. (she added trying to come up with some utilitarian purpose with which to persuade me to purchase something) you can SMELL them.”

Genius! This way buying something can be completely disassociated from purpose and it becomes a collectors game and therefore unlimited.

I start to wish that I had invented smiggles.

Last year I wished I had invented the animal shaped crazy rubber bands that kids could collect and put round their wrists.

The year before that was fart dough… but I digress. “You can smell horse poo too but that doesn’t make you want to buy it – why is this so special?” She looks at me with an expression that questions the maleficence of God in shackling her with such an obviously mentally challenged mother. “No one wants to buy poo Mum.” Right. Good point. And there’s no point rationalising with her.

Her eyes are glazed and she’s breathing shallow. Her fingers walk a zombie dance of desire over the forbidden goods. She’s counting under her breath. “What are you doing?” “I’m counting how many times I have to come to work with you to get that pencil case.”

Genius. I have my new bribery passport to good behaviour. And a mental road map that will get me to the supermarket without passing smiggles and blowing $200 bucks on rubber pigs that smell like bubble gum.

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Classroom ringmaster?

‘So you’re the clever clogs then are ya?’ It was an accusation. He was a big bloke – an old farmer who could probably talk about potato blight until I was ready to stab myself to death with a butter knife. Scarily authoritarian in all of his opinions. There were no others. “ Ummm. Not really. I just thought – you know – it’d be interesting studying. Something to fall back on.’ I sounded idiotic and was infuriated that I was even bothering to give an explanation of my life when it was evident he didn’t feel the need to justify his own. He’d taken offence that I was swanning around studying obscure useless subjects (he did have a point – I was reading a lot of wimmin’s literature and learning a language which at that point in history was entirely useless and obscure: Mandarin. I know. Go figure.) He felt that instead of trailing my scarf through university life I should be hard at it in the real world. The real world meant of course – a job. The truth of the matter was that I had three – which I juggled round a full-time study schedule. For a brief time student allowances were parentally means tested. Which meant that unless you were over 25 or your parents hid their money in trusts or were on the minimum wage students could not claim an allowance. I was silly or at least not risk averse enough to study literature with an unnatural bias towards soviet wimmin driving tractors, but not stupid enough to bet on getting a job that could service a student loan with it. Hence the three jobs.

Despite the appearance of being a ditzy book-loving student I was well acquainted with the real world and encountered it often as I walked home through Cuba Street at 3am after finishing a late shift. There were two choices on getting home at that time both involving shanks pony. One, was leg it through the state housing block at the bottom of Aro Valley which was the unofficial head office of Black Power or two, high tail it up a steep isolated unlit path with forest on both sides; the Brooklyn hill. The sacrifices made were more than worth it – I had and appreciated having the opportunity to study whatever the hell I liked without answering to anybody and I also knew and appreciated from my brief travels that there were literally millions of young women in the world who would never taste that kind of freedom.

A walk in the dark was a walk in the park – to the many women I had seen marrying too young or spending a life-time planting rice without the benefit of being able to read. Experiencing that made me hungry to learn and also retrospectively appreciate the education I had already received but it is not a cultural trait.

We still exhibit our agrarian roots when we display our disdain of both education and the teaching tradition. We do not value it culturally as other nations do.

Try finding one Mum in the Asian tiger economies who thinks education is a waste of time – there, it is everything. They also appreciate to a far higher degree the teachers to whom they entrust their kids every day.

The idea that seems to have found favour with this government that you can save money simply by putting more kids in a classroom and that good teachers will manage this well is absolutely correct. They will manage but at what point does a classroom change from a place of true learning to a tent in which the ring-master demonstrates his or her abilities in lion-taming? Are teachers just resource units who can magically produce a higher yield under pressure or do they hold the key to developing the grass roots of society and therefore have a special value in NZ culture?

There must be some reason that wealthy Asian families pay a fortune to educate their kids here. Coming from classrooms of up to 70 kids I don’t think high teacher student ratios is one of them.

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