Rites of Passage: Skateaway to Paradice

Coz this is Thriller


I was an awkward teen, a late starter in every way possible.

I seemed to hit puberty later than everyone else. I lost my virginity at 18, way after everyone else.

All through school until I left, I was a virgin who, sadly, grew up in the awkward 80s, wearing shit fashions, awkwardly, flat-chestedly trying to find my niche.

I never really did.

I was happy though. Partly, it was because I didn’t know anything. I was an ignorant, awkward, non-sporting, only-just-in-the-upper-band plain girl. There wasn’t the height for netball, there wasn’t the speed for sprinting, there wasn’t the parental income for impressive Reeboks. My main talents were distracting classmates with notes with jokes on them and knowing all the lyrics to Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

I had the immense privilege of being ignorant.

Back then, as I now helpfully explain to my kids, we didn’t have the Internet. We had places to ‘hang out’; either friends’ bedrooms, or public spaces like Paradice and Skateaway, which were the two local roller- and ice-skating franchised emporiums.

I’d spend every weekend at Skateaway. They had sessions from 2–4pm, and the buildup was immense. Mum or dad were forced to drive us there, dropping us dutifully over the road from the venue, before speeding off into the afternoon of preparing the chicken thigh casserole and warming up Channel One for Stars on Sunday.

My friend and I would line up. The cool kids brought their own skates and had square cigarette packet bulges in their back pockets. We’d stand in the “To Hire” queue, a much less bespoke experience, but a chance to dial the adrenaline up to 11, while mentally ticking the roll: that’s Jason; he’s in Form Four at Pakuranga College. There’s Toby; he’s currently suspended because he walked over to the Paparoa Road dairy during social studies and stole a K-Bar. There’s Tanya, she has a roll-bag and does gymnastics.

Here’s me. I’m 14. I have a wallet with Good Times emblazoned on it. I’ve never kissed anyone, and I’m wearing baggy jeans and a fisherman’s rib jumper. No part of my body can be seen except my face, which is made-up with a rudimentary blue eye-shadow and a clear lip-gloss.

We are issued our skates and we’re off, inside this strange world for two hours. I daren’t look at my Swatch the whole time because I don’t want to miss a thing and I never want to go home.

Inside, the confident kids are already on the rink, skating backwards to Goody Two-Shoes by Adam and the Ants. It’s unbelievably intimidating, but in my mind it’s a life-goal. I twirl my souvenir shop gold necklace on my fingers and wait until there’s a song I love enough to get out there and shakily go anti-clockwise until the DJ booms breathily into the mic:


The DJ has girlfriends plural and none of them care. They are all blondes. He is the youth pastor at Elim Church but still seems to be swinging his penis around like a windmill. Suddenly, without warning, he puts on Thriller.

We’re allowed to skate and watch the video on the big screen at the same time. It’s surreal watching Michael Jackson dancing so ably, juxtaposed with one hundred white teenagers, skating as if they are walking on comedy ball-bearings.

Soon, my friend meets a boy, and the couples skate takes off. They hold hands and skate at a different pace to each other to Turn Me Loose by Loverboy. Half an hour later, they are pashing violently on the reddy-orange carpet in front of everyone.

I’m alone, so I awkwardly buy an Icey from the kiosk but then it’s 4pm and time to wrap this gig up. I find my friend, who is virtually now married, and we sadly hand over our skates to the guy at the skate hire (who is wearing skates).

My friend’s mum is waiting for us in the carpark. She asks us if we met boys, and I inwardly eyeroll. If I’m honest, they didn’t play New Moon On Monday or Lovecats and I’m unfulfilled.

If I’m honest I hate the wistfulness of feeling alone, but I’m happy. I endeavor to try harder next week; perhaps I’ll wear mascara and tighter jeans.

Perhaps they’ll play In A Big Country.

If I had my own skates, I’d practise in the garage.

Now, I just wish 47-year-old me was there for 14-year-old me.



This blog post is dedicated to Paula.

Rites of Passage: The Parental Long-Haul at Chipmunks

A real chipmunk eating a spicy wedge

One of the great tests of parental strength is the inevitable trip to Chipmunks, an indoor play area for babies to 11 year olds, even though if you’re lucky, sometimes you might see a five-year-old knocked aside like a skittle on the giant bouncy slide by an 18-year-old who has nothing else to do in Pakuranga on a Sunday.

I’ve just got home, poured myself a glass of wine, looked out the window and said



into the late-afternoon abyss.

I get it, don’t get me wrong. Kids want birthday parties so they can share their special milestone with their friends and sit in an MDF throne for an hour whilst hair-netted servants bring them boxes of highly processed foods.

In the main hub, children are let loose to explore the well-worn boxing bags, and duck, dive and weave their way through plastic balls shot out of makeshift canons. I’m told that these balls house the kinds of bacteria that can survive a nuclear blast, and probably that’s what’s needed, given that they are stored in seven-year-old boys’ jeans for hours at a time, then carelessly re-entered into the next play session.

As the paper towel bins overflow with moist bacteria-sodden colonies, the regulars, the Chipmunks-professionals, sit at tables on their devices, oblivious to the fact that 11-year-old Tarquin is currently causing havoc on the preschool slide, and who cares, because you can sit there and drink flat whites until you are technically high, and if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can get the barista to slip you a shot of fake whiskey or—even better—take your own hip flask and get amongst.

You are then summonsed into an ante-room, laid out with boy or girl place-mats and eat-wear. Little eyes wait as the boxes of nourishment arrive and then WHAM. The biggest fucking Chipmunk you’ve ever seen materialises through the door, scaring the living shit out of small people, but ultimately it’s only benevolently there to dish out silent good vibes and perhaps a discount on your next visit.

The candles are lit, there’s one more chance to play in the heat and nausea and smell of Chipmunks, and then please proceed to the parents, now working in deficit, to collect your lovingly made goodie bag filled with gifts even better than what you bought for the birthday person.

And out you go onto Te Rakau Drive and through Panmure, surely the subject of another blog altogether with its multi-laned roundabout of death.

Next time on The Sane Companion: Panmure: The Roundabout of Death.




Rites of Passage: The Dental Nurse

Mrs Marsh (RIP) used to scare the living bejesus out of us with her tooth horrors.

Back in 1981 the dental nurse was on-site at most primary and intermediate schools throughout New Zealand.

We had one at Owairoa Primary School. The nurse had a tight ringlet perm and she played rock music on her wireless. Around the clinic were posters of rotten gums, but it was okay.

Once a year you could enter a competition where you decorated a toothbrush and made it into a character. You won a place, first, second or third.

We called it the Murderhouse but it was part of school life and hardly any fillings were actually needed. Mrs Marsh was breaking chalk on Television One and there was no way we wanted that to happen to our developing teeth.

Nowadays, the dental clinics are off-site, the posters have changed and the messages about teeth are vastly different.

I was in one last week with my five year old. Let it be known that overall, she is an emotionally transparent girl. No emotion is unexpressed. No situation is taken quietly. She is full of lifeforce, and she lets it be known to all.

She needed a filling.

As a mother, once you’ve whipped yourself 100 times, Opus Dei-styles, for allowing things to get to cavity-level, you suck one down and front. This is about you, not your child.

Nothing you can say can prepare your child for the dental nurse. You can’t even bribe them with sweets. All you can do is offer them an extra hour on the iPad as you pledge to redesign the dietary intake of your entire household so you never have to go through this again.

Your child is positioned on the chair, the chair that used to be the cool rocket ship ride of yore, is now an instrument of utter terror, and your child, so rigid with fear that you could snap them in half, begins to loudly complain.


It’s very loud, and the other rooms, populated with calm children, go utterly silent.

Sadly, the dental nurse, with years of experience in treating small children, has never encountered this kind of thing apparently. You defensively shrug and just pray that the ground will open up and swallow you whole.

On top of this the dental nurse, for the next half an hour tries to calm the child down—loudly in an octave above what would be considered a natural voice—by explaining every single process in lengthy detail, including the composition of the filling, right through to how the suction hose works on other parts of the body.

By the time the water jet/suction hose combo hit your child’s mouth, the gurgling/screaming sound is something that someone should really record for a horror movie about a person who gets sucked into a dysfunctional spa pool.

By this stage you’re mentally planning which Chardonnay to buy on your way home, and whether you could mainline it for quicker effect, but you soldier on, your hands now crushed into a bloody pulp by the Amazonian strength of your five year old.

It’s over, the chair is lowered, and your child, now glowing bright red jumps into your arms, and actually you feel so proud of her.

You realise that your child is never going to suffer fools, dental nurses, pain or anything else, in silence.

You flash back to how much you held in over your life yourself, and you vow to allow your children to really let it rip when they need to, despite the social niceties of decorum and sanity. Not as brats, but as small humans who will lose the chance to scream a dental clinic down once they reach adulthood.


Toy Review: Growing Pet

Those of us on a budget, who do not buy Hatchimals, attempt to save the $99 by buying the $2 shop Growing Pet. Sometimes we say things like:

Look, Tarquin. You can get five or six of these for only $10. Think how many pets you can hatch!

We say it enthusiastically enough that even the children know we are lying, but still, since delayed gratification isn’t a child’s strong point, they buy into the bullshit line and, after the Saturday afternoon trip to Countdown to buy the evening dinner and twelve dozen beers, they traipse after you into the 1 2 3 Dollar Store, eyes filled with wonder.

They’re over here!

you yell out, a little louder than you had intended. You look at the packaging, nothing more than a small box printed with some of the most misleading information, ever.

There is no marble in this toy, anywhere.

According to this box, you will hatch a real live dinosaur, one that will grow to love Tarquin so much, one that will never leave his side. Not only that, one that (as soon as he tires of its ways) can be replaced for a mere $2. What could possibly go wrong?

This little fella LOVES a bath and can be taken to school etc

He grips it in his little hope-filled hands and you leave the store, the bottles of booze rattling temptingly in the trolley as Tarquin turns the box over and over, trying to fathom (and rightly so) how such a massive T-Rex could live inside this chicken-sized egg, made of plastic, on a shelf, in Meadowbank, Auckland.

Once home, you and he excitedly fill a drinking glass with water, rip the box open and drop the egg in, all the while you explain that at some point according to the instructions, you’ll need to fill a bathtub for the creature to live in so it can continue to grow.

Even though your child insists that dinosaurs really don’t live in water, you refuse to listen.

The very next morning little Tarquin is up early, to see the results. He rushes in to where you are sleeping, or trying to complete your morning sex rituals, and shouts

Guys! Look! It’s hatched!

He thrusts the glass into your face, and indeed, through the gel-like murk something bright green seems to have emerged from the shell, much of which has either dissolved or cracked.

Sleepily, you promise to buy a huge enclosure for the pet, reassuring Tarquin that it’s best to put the dinosaur back in the water and let it thrive even more, within the primordial sludge of the gelatinous mass in the tumbler.

Later that day a disappointed Tarquin fronts. He holds it up to you, with a small object for context. Indeed, the dinosaur is around 3cm in length and looks like nothing more than a crudely modified rhinosauros. If that.

You realise that no longer can you draw out this pathetic farce and drag your pummeled credit card out, to buy a Hatchimal, a toy that lasts one day and costs $99.

You slug back another beer, knowing that Tarquin is now happily entrenched in rampant consumerism, and it’s all your fault.

Hi, my name is Tarquin. I don’t watch Game of Thrones.

Scene:  A typical white middle class drink-up.  It’s late.  People are barefoot and sitting on the floor.

Jonathan:  (pouring a large bowl of Pinot)

So, is everyone ready for Game of Thrones?


Oh yes. It’s amazing.

And people break off into small private conversations about other shows they are currently watching featuring home bakes, gun battles and guys with wires. These folk live in Meadowbank, Auckland. They drive a large Skoda to work and attend the Catholic Church just next to Countdown.

But there is one, just one human here who is different.  He is quiet. He is measured. His drink of choice is a Tiger beer straight from the bottle. He’s been listening, silently necking 25 standard drinks in the face of this gathering. Out of nowhere, he says:

I’ve never watched it.

You could slice through the indignation with one of the swords of Visenya Targaryen or whoever.

Jonathan rises, calmly resting his Pinot on the occasional table, made from blonde wood sourced ethically from Freedom.

What did you say, Tarquin?

Tarquin shrugs.

I dunno, I watched one episode and small kids were being murdered and there was rape in bulk format.

Jonathan is incensed.

He pulls out a small handgun and slowly orientates it sideways.  The people in the room are beautifully turned to tilt shift miniatures.  The glow of the room is stunning as Jonathan’s sweaty trigger finger becomes the focus.  Ex-members of Linkin Park are brought in to create an overproduced soundtrack—like listening to music while having your eardrums dewaxed.

The kind of occasional table you might find in this situation.

The kind of occasional table you might find in this situation.

Tarquin squints his eyes, tears seeping like broken guttering.  He shakes his head.

You won’t Jonathan.  You can’t.  You’re just like me.  All of you.  Just like me!

Helen, still in miniature tilt shot form, is seen stirring in the background.  Suddenly she looms at Jonathan and knocks the cocked piece from his hand.  It slides over the floor, ricocheting off the Ottoman and into the feature wall, discharging its magazine into the Smeg brushed aluminium dishwasher. One bullet lodges itself into the bottom independent dish drawer. The other, in slow motion, redirects to Tarquin’s thigh. He screams like some kind of wounded extra from The Wire.

Oh well.  That’s the price you pay. It’s only $10 a month.

says Jonathan in a cruel voice, one he would normally use when turning a client down for finance.

He sits down in his special large leather chair, the one no-one, not even the kids are allowed to sit in. He fingers his vast glass receptacle of red wine, and watches Tarquin squeal and cry on the Cavalier Bremworth “Cromwell Autumn” carpet.

The room is back in normal focus. The guests return to sit in small groups. Nora Jones is now the background music. Jonathan places his index finger on the Sky menu button and selects SoHo>Game of Thrones>Series Link.

The room is silent, except for the screams of little Tarquin.



Ciaran waiting for his MySky to warm up.




The Sting of the Tweet

I joined Twitter in 2012.

My first followers were Marcus Lush and Ali Ikram, only because I followed them first. But they were my first.

“What is this place?” I thought, so different from the Friends Reunited format of Facebook, where your pending friend request to your former lover/friend would sit unanswered for two months until you were shamefully forced to withdraw into the shadows, confused and crying.

It took me a while to understand the rules of engagement. I thought that because I followed someone they’d endlessly want me to answer their tweets. Strangely, they didn’t. Several incarnations of my Twitter account occurred as I tried to negotiate why I was even here.

Was it because Facebook had started to suck so badly? With its “Feed My Aquarium” ethos and “Share This, And If You Don’t I’ll See And Know” clientele, I was looking for something more dynamic and diverse. I’d exhausted my supply of old friends and relatives, and once we’d all caught up and done a silent head-count of how many humans we’d all created and who was the most financially successful, Facebook stopped being so interesting. But also, Facebook always felt a little like being under a glaring spotlight.

Twitter, on the other hand, felt more like an anonymous rampage; it was up to you who to follow, you could see into their every thought, every meal, every weird, angled photo of their cat. It was all very contrived, but then so was I. I loved it.

The pace was very fast, blink and you’d miss, or retweet someone you admired to show everyone what you were into, or that you admired their material. Or them.

Soon I had one hundred followers. Why? I was just saying my thoughts, somewhat sub-edited to an acceptable level. Sometimes my tweets went unnoticed, other times someone would “take the bait”.

After a while, I noticed there were groups. There was a cool group. There was a literature group. There was the group from Wellington. They were mostly males; a little tight clique throwing around great gags about New Zealand politics or pontificating about a thing, using Twitter to spray around their man-musk and show those lesser stags all about who were the bosses of a 140 word argument application.

Then I noticed the Twitter wars. Like rising dust, I’d see what I came to understand as a “subtweet”, and I learned to react like a fly on shit and locate the original tweet, as if I had nothing else better to do with my day. I’d read endlessly.

Someone used the wrong word for something, and someone came at them with a correction; and I began to understand that Twitter was not only the proofing facility for all your freedom-of-speech needs, but a place where all the hopes, dreams and mostly fears of people came out and were heaped upon a singular Twitter being at any given time.

A few times I glanced over to Facebook. It was like watching an episode of the Good Morning Show, the one that used to feature Rod Cheeseman, “The Cheese”. Every now and then, Rod would look at the camera with a naughty, sexy, eye and I’d eye him back, until Astar came crashing into the room with her horrible, shitty creations. But ultimately these actions were scheduled and predictable. Like Facebook.

Twitter wasn’t predictable. One night I stayed up watching a group tear apart a person for their political beliefs. The replies were vile, and yet this same group had consistently positioned itself as the beacon of acceptance. Other times I heard about the Twitterati. Who were they? What did they eat?

I came to understand that they were a group of friends and peripherals on Twitter with simply the most gigantic sense of entitlement in the known universe.

I saw people who were in a genuine struggle receive individual messages of support, and even crowdfunding. I really think that these are the good Twitter people. No subtweeting, no entitlement; they give a heart fave without having a policy on heart faving.

Did you know some people won’t heart-fave? Get a fucking grip.

I’ve never seen such a place. It’s a place. I’m very grateful for Twitter, inc.

Where else would I capture my thirst needs, want to make a slow-cooked mild butter chicken and share my ragged soul?


Next time on The Sane Companion: can’t get thyme growing in winter? Wait until you see this seaweed/Rheineck life hack



Rites of Passage: New Zealand Survivor


"Please release the vice-like grip that holds back the waters of the log flume ride" (repeat for eternity)

“Please release the vice-like grip that holds back the waters of the log flume ride” (repeat for eternity)

Survivor: Nicaragua begins tomorrow and I’m already laughing, because why do we think, in this country, that we have to go to “Nicaragua” to survive something?

It’s a bit old-hat now that we have a housing and poverty crisis here in our first-world cities, and those of us who are at the opposite end of that continuum spend an inordinate amount of money on survival-style boot camps and weird diets that now involve artisanal bugs from Farro.

Why did the producers not just hold it in New Zealand? It’s a no-brainer. The challenges could have included:

  • An endurance challenge on the log flume ride at Rainbow’s End. The challenge is to try, individually, to stop the log flume around about just after the entrance-way through the waterfall. I’ve done this; everyone has. You then need to see how long you can last holding your log there, while enduring the vocal-fry of the angered staff member telling you to let go.
  • Shopping at Countdown the day before a public holiday, using only the self-scanners. You need to factor in how much alcohol needs to be drunk over the 24-hour period that you will not have access to Countdown. The winner is the person who is still drinking at 9am on the actual public holiday, and still has enough piss to see them through to the family movie, Over The Hedge, at 7pm.
  • A morning school-run challenge. Cars to choose from are a really large Audi, an MX-5, some kind of double-cab utility and a normal sedan. Who will win?
  • A food challenge. Teams have to eat native bugs selected by Ray McVinnie, and while eating them, Ray will, in his best voice, talk you through the whole thing. The aim of the challenge is to make Ray stop.
  • Listening to a two-hour loop of Mike’s Minute.
  • Find the available rental property! On foot, using the Trade Me mobile app.
  • Collect the most oil-column heaters from Auckland berms.

So many options! Sponsors could be Jetstar, The Property Press and My Food Bag.

And the grand prize? Why, $200,000, to put “as a deposit on a house”, the only possible choice for prize expenditure in New Zealand.

New Show for the 7.30pm Slot

I’m on the hunt for a new TV show, for the 7.30 slot, now that Married at First Sight is nearly over.

I’m yearning for more.  The 8.30pm Viking-themed rape-fests available these days — they aren’t really for me.  Isn’t there something we could sit down and watch with the kids?  Something like … Rip Tide?


1.  Rip Tide


He who has this font controls the Universe

These guys were so honest that even as a 12 year old, I used to want them to do something anti-Police.  Shows like this had one theme tune.  The incidental music was just a variation on the main theme, either slowed right down, or sometimes there was an acoustic version.

The characters were always perpetually sans girlfriends and the truth is, if these guys were real, people would keep their daughters well away from them.

I loved the quirky combo of Perry King, Joe Penny and straight-to-oblivion Thom Bray.  Cody, Nick and ‘Boz’ were the trifecta of American detective personality dovetailing.  A geek, a spunk and a guy with dark hair.   Such a classic and reliable combination of ‘type’.

2.  Falcon Crest


Lorenzo Lamas in the role of Lance Cumsen. Yes, that’s right. Cumsen

I am still waiting for America to release Season Three of this piece of auteurship.

In the pilot episode, the patriarch of Falcon Crest winery, Jason Gioberti, fell through the stair railings to his death, in one of the cheapest stunts involving balsawood I have ever seen.  When his drunken, limp body was flung through the shitty stair hand-railing, it was as if a hot knife had been thrown through butter.  Someone tried to describe this series as “Dallas, with grapes”.

That’s bullshit.  It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.

3.  Simon and Simon

Simon and Garfunkel

This was another superb offering from CBS.  Rick and AJ were polar opposites, and brothers.

Maybe they were the precursors to Cohle and Hart, without the rapey voodoo paradigm.  Rick was a hairy ’Nam vet and AJ had the smarts.

Together they solved crimes within a tightly-scheduled 40-minute time frame.  Everyone always laughed at Rick at the end, and the mother shook her long-suffering head and rolled her motherly eyes.

4.  Logan’s Run

Jessica is in the middle, flanked by Gregory Harrison of Trapper John MD fame and some other guy.

Jessica is in the middle, flanked by Gregory Harrison of Trapper John MD fame and some other guy

Myself, my sister and my neighbours used to roleplay this TV series after school.  I was always Jessica 5. I think my role was to be on the run and trying to avoid turning 30.  This played out well into my late twenties, if I am honest.

5.  Battlestar Gallactica

Raw talent

Raw sex

This got really confusing and serious toward the end — it was as if Alan Alda (the depression years) took over the direction of this SciFi series.  Starbuck and Apollo were a fantastic pair of space-guys, crashing through the space-time continuum with their thick thatches of hair and overpoweringly-high sex drives.

Back in those days, they used to hide real people inside the set walls, and it was their job to push and pull the sliding doors open and shut as people walked through, as if they were automatic doors.  Commander Adama would flay them alive if they didn’t do it naturally enough, and they would never work in Hollywood again.

So, with all this in mind, can someone please just make (from scratch) a new 7.30pm-slot series to watch?  Could they please contain:

  • mysteries to solve in 40 minutes — no heavy serialization.  Just nice, clean, solved homicides.  The only exception is once a year, make a two-part cliff hanger; but that, too, must get solved in the second part and never be mentioned by the characters again.
  • three guys. Someone good at computers but unlucky in love.  A darker soul who has seen mayhem, war and a nasty, ugly divorce.  Also, a preppy, humourless one who went to St Kent’s, Pakuranga.
  • a large boat with the name Sea Folly.
  • a Corvette Stingray
  • a regular slot for a ‘hooker with a heart of gold’, who helps the boys out (but never sleeps with them).  She wears a fur stole and has a red clutch purse and blue eyeliner.  She’s brainier than them all, “yet stays on the game, where she belongs,” says Sidney Sheldon.
  • an angry older Chief of Police.  Bald to his ears then hirsute beyond a joke.  Looking like a Franciscan Grizzly bear, he becomes fist-poundingly angry because the detectives keep crossing the line. Sometimes they play tricks on him, and laugh — and then the scene freezes and the credits roll.


Great New Zealand Archetypes: The Alfa Driver



One time recently, I glanced over at our DVD collection of James Bond titles.

I wondered, at what time in my life did I decide this was ok, to actually make a point of collecting James Bond movies, and to actually sit around having conversations about who did it best, and argue a case for Daniel Craig?

The simple explanation is that at the time, I was an Alfa Romeo driver.

Certainly not the worst type of actual driver. That’s been reserved for the Audi.

Alfa drivers are usually harmless morons. They are usually stuck somewhere outside of Europe like Australia or New Zealand, and in order to vicariously live their sad little suburban lives in the Old Country, from which they have no claims to heritage, they decide to buy an Alfa.

They don’t do it sensibly, either. Sensible would be to not buy one, ever. And if you did lose your mind and get one, you’d go to a dealership and buy a mechanical warranty, right?

Wrong. Alfa people buy them, sometimes sight unseen from places like Invercargill or Seatoun, off the Alfa Bulletin Board, or Trade Me.

Let’s stop in at the Alfa Bulletin Board, briefly. This is a place where frustrated (mostly men) sit and compare Alfa nightmare stories, but continue to hunt for them, buy them, try to drive them and try to sell them. It’s a bit like a mutual masturbation society. But, in keeping with the super-sterile world of the Alfa driver, there’s no touching.

The Alfa drivers on these boards are usually architects, designers or teachers.  Their Alfas are characterised by horrible cambelt issues or just a casual head gasket job at $4k.  They always have dash lights flicking on and off indiscriminately.  The windows go down once and stay down, forever.

These poor souls have avatars containing obscure Abarth scorpion details and have nicknames like Alfi and Italfa, even though they live in suburbs called Wadestown and Ellerslie and their names are actually Michael or Jonathan. It’s truly a place where they can share their dash light conundrums and while nursing their cup of Chanui.

Off they go to work each day, in their daily driver, usually a 156 or 159, but at home, under a cover, we might find an Alfasud or other utterly pathetic, rusty, broken example, the hopes, dreams and fears of the owner all loaded against the hot mess like an awful high-interest loan loaded up against an asset you have since lost.

On long weekends they spend five hours being towed back from Whitianga on a tow truck, and itch to get back on the bulletin boards to tell their tale of woe, and perhaps get some amateur diagnosis going so they can fiddle around on the weekend, trying to cheaply fix the oil pissing out of the engine, or just pretending everything is okay in their life, when in reality, this Alfa disease is waaaay out of control and everyone knows it, especially SWIMBO, who begs Michael or Phillip or whoever to sell everything and buy a nice Hyundai.

“But Hyundai doesn’t feature in Quantum of Solace”, Michael explains, while nursing his stemless glass of Syrah, bought from a wine club earlier in the week.

And as he thumbs merrily though his full collection of Marshall Cavendish “The Cars of James Bond” and spreads sawdust on the huge pool of Texas T in the driveway, the wine warms his soul and the poster-map of Italy bought from K Mart fades slowly in the dappled afternoon suburban light, while wafts of Jamie Oliver Pasta Machine–made pasta creep throughout the house, and all is well in Alfi Scorpion-boy’s world.

Rites of Passage: The New Zealand Stag-Do



You can’t tell me the stag-do is an ancient tradition.

There’s no way in hell ancient Druids went into Bethnal Green on a Saturday night in two cars, in pressed jeans, to score cocaine.

It seems the modern New Zealand stag do as a rite of passage is fresh as a daisy and as I speak, out at Westgate, a band of New Zealand’s finest men are piling themselves into a Fun Bus wearing chaps without real trousers on.

Where will they go?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a drain layer, an investment banker or customer services rep for Z Energy, for some reason, you’ll end up at The White House on Queen Street, it’s always Queen Street, as if there is simply nowhere else to go in this god-forsaken world.

But first: a meal. What about a steakhouse? Yes let’s! Let us fill our boots with meat sacrifice smothered in Diane sauce, and please bring trays of beers to the table, chain restaurant wenchling servant! Oh and how about a few selfies with us? Go on, you want to.

And they’re off, to Britomart, up and down Fort Street, aimlessly wandering in a pack of check shirts, bold yellowy chinos and Vans, desperately tying not to look 33.

Some carry beers, but they’re stopped at the bars and at least one will slip in with a behind-the- back, half-warm Heineken and it’s so worth the huge warm, flat slug of free beer with a cigarette butt in the bottom and the drinker feels smug and as if he’s won a great victory against the major brewing companies.

Over on the dance floor, a pocket of revelers dance to Sandstorm ironically, while one lucky punter has scored a girlfriend for the night.

It’s time to move on, but not before a burger from The White Lady, wolfed down, white paper bag and all, and then it’s off to…The White House, an easy transition and not hard to remember.

Frighteningly, the most reserved and married of the party seems to know all about this place and manages to get everyone in despite their varied states of bedragglement, and then drops the clanger:

The girls are really nice at this place

and luckily everyone is so super-polaxed that they barely notice this interesting development and just stumble to the bar then to the stage and poles and literally just start yelling things into the air as if letting off an AK-47 of shitty sex-thoughts at the horrifically young and lovely dancer.

But soon, an exodus of sorts must take place since Russell (Rusty) is getting married in the morning and the matron of honour said she’d kill the best man if Rusty isn’t returned to his motel in Greenlane on time.

There’s still time for one more feed, this time it’s Queen Street McDonald’s, the floor slightly bruised with muddy water and the mezzanine floor filled with eager students, fulfilling their Bachelor of Commerce dreams.

Mac Attacks are ordered; there must be 10 trays set up on the counter top, and the boys then carry their trays like sex tourists into the dark recesses of the establishment. A cab is later hailed and duly drops each disheveled man-boy to either his house or his parents’.

Finally, Russell lands safely at his motel. He slips out of his town clobber and decides that frying eggs and loud rap music are a great idea. He’s asleep before he can even pass the first mouthful of food to his lips.

He has completed the ultimate rite of passage, apart from buying an Auckland house.



Wheelie Bins: Compliance Hell


I was listening to the sound of a wheelie bin being rolled home at about 6.30 this morning.

It’s akin to hell.

Not clear what hell is actually like, but I am pretty sure that people sit there naked, with no alcohol or MySky, being prodded by Satan’s javelin, having to endure eternity-scale time-frames of the sound of an empty wheelie bin rolling down an uneven surface.

For me it’s the sound of compliance.  Like a school bell, tax time, and the bird call on the National Programme, it’s the sound of


comply.  Comply, you tax-paying worker.  And pay rates on that.


Wheelie bins remind me that I am not truly free yet, from the capitalist paradigm of eat, create waste, then spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to hide or delete the waste.

Wheelie bins remind me that I am not green enough yet.

Wheelie bins remind me that I am hooked into the time frames of other people.

Wheelie bins remind me I am boring.

Great New Zealand Archetypes: The Audi Driver



A little over an hour ago I was cruising at the legal speed limit of 50kms per hour, down a quiet through-road in suburban east Auckland.

A person drove up very close behind me, which is normal for Auckland. People here just want to be either right behind you, or even better, in front of you. Same goes for houses.

The next thing I knew, I was being overtaken, and as sure as the sun sets each day, the person was driving an Audi.

It didn’t matter that it was an A3, the smallest hatchback of the family. It didn’t matter that it was a fairly innocuous-looking silver-grey low-specced shopping basket from hell. Audi drivers are all the same. They are angry people.

There’s no real research on why this is, except my empirical skepticism that these people are vaguely human. Are they actually the lizard people? Would Kellyanne Conway drive one?

Yes, yes she would. She would mow you down on the sidewalk as she pulls up on the school run, madly typing something on her phone while Tarquin and Elias alight from the heights of her Q7. It’s black, of course, and the only reason for the tints is so she can remain anonymous as she carries out her campaign of roadkill.

She’d drive off, still typing with her voice, foot fully on the accelerator, off to her important meeting, while the last vestiges of people and habitat lay prone in the wake of her diesel emissions (she cares about the planet! She shops at Farro!).

Off she goes, overtaking the Toyota Camrys of life, wild-eyed and just really angry. But why?

The Audi has four circles. Ancient folklore denotes these circles as the Four Circles Of The Arcane Lizard Human.

Audi translates from the founder’s name in German to “listen” in Latin. The only thing these people are listening to is Lazy Sunday, up to 11.

Think once, think twice, think: Fuck off Audi Driver.


The Sin Eater

A Sin Eater used to

lay out bread on a corpse

and eat the sin-soaked food

and save a soul.


I’m a modern-day Sin Eater.

But still, give me platesful of corpse cake

and take me to your graveside

to dine alone.


The grave is freshly-dug and empty;

so I wait.

Wine (and bread) take away the sting

of your dark crimes


Overhead the seagulls wail and circle

eyeing the cavernous hole and

the unspoiled bread

as we wait to eat secrets.


The sin is coal-dark;

sometimes, lately, murderous,

but always self-righteous

and always fed out in spoonsful


A modern sin-eater swells with

the sins of others, the sins; the “don’t tells,”

and they learn to hide

their own shrinking frame.

Great New Zealand Locales: A & E

Like Valentines, Takapuna Beach, and State Highway 1 on a long weekend there is one other place you are likely to end up when you least expect it, and that’s the A & E Clinic.

Doesn’t matter that it’s a White Cross. Don’t get fooled by the idea that you’re engaging with Private Healthcare. You still get to wait for four hours, you still won’t be able to find a toilet and you’ll still have to ask permission to have a cup of water like a six year old.

On arrival in your wheelchair, pushed by your mother in law (or worse—your employer), the wide self-opening doors splay to make way for your ACC dollar spend. Which way will we go? To the security guards at reception? Or over there, to the darkened corridor of sickness and injury?

The darkened corridor it is! As you wheel down, broken bodies and office workers holding sick bags take up the 30 or so seats allocated.

As it’s only Tuesday morning, you wonder how people could have become so utterly injured—it’s like a suburb has been carpet-bombed and then in the aftermath, botulism served to the wounded by mistake.

Accident. There is nothing harder than filling out a two-page form with a fence stake through your neck, or a suspected cracked spine.

And the story you write on that form will follow you round for years to come so make sure you’ve got it right, because your first stop is in the assessment room with The Nurse. I mean there you are, not even dressed properly yet, because you had to leave the house in a hurry. Perhaps some undergarments are missing, even, and it doesn’t matter you tell yourself, until the horror news arrives that you’re about to have an x-ray and will need to to change into the supplied gown to be x-rayed, underpantless and shamed.

But before that can happen, you’ll need to be wheeled into the special triage area with the drapes, and pass the time for another hour or so with your pain level now at 9/10.

A cursory scan of the room reveals a wall of typed statements. You feel overwhelmed by the instructional tone:

Do not film the staff. If you are found to be filming the staff you will be thrown out of the facility like in the movies

Duly, you slide your device into your back pocket and continue with the Woman’s Day crossword, half-finished.

5. Popular New Zealand broadcaster Mike _ _ _ _ _ _ _

With that over with, the wizened locum arrives, a bit windswept from all the casualties. He finally gives you the two tablets you crave and you almost choke to death trying to get them down with the complimentary three drops of water.

It’s nearly over. Your support person has endured this with you and they are still actually talking to you, and there’s been some bonding, some tears and some hilarity, with the added bonus of Emmerdale on the flat screen in the waiting room, and the sight of a near-immobile school-age child hobbling to get at the books while her mum sits, arms folded, fiercely clutching her wallet as if the whole thing is a major inconvenience.

And in a way she’s right. The suburban A&E is no hospital. It’s a boutique disaster area, and you still emerge poorer and in more despair than when you started.

The Crossing



I’ve just been to a new shopping complex in Tauranga called “Tauranga Crossing“. It sits in a new development in the Western Bay called The Lakes.

The Warehouse

Brand-new but age-old. Luxury aisles in which to swing your trolley toward the Rachel H fashion line or pallets of bulk-lolly mix. Here, you can also shop for Amy Winehouse on vinyl, and get two or three Bruce Springsteen ESSENTIALS CDs for under $30. Not sure you can afford anything? Scan your item, then leave it in the complimentary baskets area, and leave. Do you want a bag? That’ll be .10c. Would you like to buy a charity stickpin? Please don’t take the small convenience trolleys out into the carpark. Would you or your child like a Tauranga Crossing balloon? Don’t lose it! [cutaway to sequence of legginged mother crashing across the concourse to retrieve lost balloon while convenience trolley slowly wheels away toward the bumper of a Nissan Tiida].

Look Sharp Store

Great franchise. Candles, white musk incense cones, a dak pipe. A champagne bottle filled with Minties. It’s all here. A funny Christmas sexual Elf costume, a French maid. Stationery sets for when you’ve run out of ideas, motivation and lifeforce.

The Coffee Club

Here, your flat white is delivered to you with a loveheart-fern mashup. You can order a panini and now they even have smashed avocado with everything IF YOU WANT IT. You can join the VIP club.

Pak ‘n’Save

Yellow, bright, a beacon of hope at the end of the shopping experience. Santa’s elves have gone all out and dressed up in tinsel.

The Shearing Shed

It might be Sharing Shed, and if it was, that would be very funny.


Plenty. Also plenty of carpark traffic islands. I love me a traffic island.

The BP

Fuel up on your way to Pyes Pa, an ex-Kiwifruit farm-turned-subdivision. Pick up some Aerial sunnies and a Thai Butter Chicken pie (mild).

The perfect shopping experience. 10/10.