Political ninja in the dark

I have a few vices which I am embarrassed about but over which I have no self-control.  Talking to newsreaders when they give the same gravitas to such things as a civil war in Syria as to the reformation of some girl band full of sulky middle aged women in pony-tails pretending not to hate each other. This was how I came to be rolling round the living room moaning: ‘Argentina has just privatised it’s energy sector and you’re telling me about the bloody Spice Bints’. Wendy Petrie did not answer back.  Another is finding double meanings funny. The loosely veiled slight. The intended but politely gloved dig. Last week’s handshake between the Queen and former IRA commander Martin McGuiness is a case in point. ‘Goodbye and Godspeed’ in Gaelic, were his words or so he said. ‘Bugger off and Good Riddance’ seems more likely. Odd choice of words. But definitely funny. I became over-sensitised as an exchange student in Thailand when I gave the traditional introductory speech at the school assembly. Out of cross cultural respect I decided to give it a go in Thai and so phonetically wrote down an inane greeting mentioning something about my likes and hobbies. Classic student drivel. What I hadn’t yet discovered was that Thai is a tonal language which means any sound can have 5 different meanings depending on what tone you use. “Hello. My name is Nickie. I am from New Zealand and I like horse riding and Thai fruit especially the big bananas.’ Or I thought that’s what I said. Why then did the kids fall down laughing, and as they were rolling around crying, why were the Thai teachers smacking them with rulers? The English teacher rudely pushed me out of the way, grabbing the microphone and made some form of explanation while berating the unruly students. When she could get over her embarrassment she explained that what I had in fact said was “Hello – I am Nickie and I like horse poo and big Thai willies.” It took nearly a year for the Dean to stop looking at me like I was the epitome of Western degeneracy and the very reason that it was important to uphold good Buddhist values within the school.   The worst vice of all however is the one I can’t give up. There are no 7 step programmes. It is a dirty secret that I keep going back to knowing it will lead to mental deterioration and futile rage. Parliamentary TV When I can, I watch it in the full knowledge it will lead the mind to dark places.  Last week’s effort was a living theatre piece based around the concept of ‘filibustering.’ I watched Tony Ryall in political drag, speaking on behalf of Kate Wilkinson - the minister for Conservation and not answering anything at all. I have to give it to him – he’s good. Unlike our own MP Phil Heatley, who constantly repeats the party line as a substitute for giving a straight answer. If words were numbchucks Tony Ryall is a ninja warrior. While impressive it still leaves everybody in the dark with no idea where the bodies are and the lurking worry that there’s a legislative lunatic on the prowl waiting to ambush those of us who still give a toss. It also manages to circumnavigate the whole democratic process. It even drove Lockwood Smith to stop the proceedings and insist that “If Ministers don’t want to be held to account – the answer is very simple: don’t be a Minister.” One way of telling our elected representatives to straighten up and fly right. “Members have a right to ask questions, and in a parliamentary democracy – the House deserves an answer.” It’s also up to the public to make a habit of getting the questions straight and putting them to MP’s so that they may put them to the House. Which is the only place I can think of where double or nothing meanings are not amusing at all.

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