Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend

When I was nine I had a rock ‘n’ roll friend.

Her name was Tracy and we made friends at Owairoa Primary in Howick, or “Howick By The Sea” as the local businesses decided to call it.

There were five beaches, an old convent called Our Lady Star of the Sea, a decently bad pub called The Prospect of Howick and if you drove a little further along the main road, you’d immediately be in the country.

Star of the Sea (Courtesy NZMuseums)

For as far as the eye could see, there were glittering views to Waiheke and land and space.

If you were horsey, you could get grazing on the main Pakuranga Highway where KFC now sits. There was a hall right next door where we would later as teens attend Blue Light Discos; those incredibly lame booze-free dances organized by the local police that drunk kids would still try to get into through the toilet windows.

Tracy as it turned out was horsey; I wasn’t.

Tracy lived in what my memories are now telling me was a mansion. It would have been one of the oldest and grandest houses in that area and was signposted by a large, tall palm tree that was like the Sky Tower of its time.

I was a fairly ordinary child. But Tracy had a full-time nanny called Lowie who was an older English woman. Tracy also had an older teenage sister and quite often the girls would rattle around in the big house, or out by the pool with no parental intrusion.

It was magical. Once our friendship was established (largely through our mutual love of serialised mystery stories) we lived out this wonderful fantasy of starting our very own detective agency. At night the doors of the house would creak in the blackness; by day we scooped the autumn leaves out of the pool.

Tracy’s mum wore a turban and had a boyfriend called Bob who was in the NZSO. Ann and Bob spent alot of time in bed. One day, out by the pool we were making a ruckus and Ann emerged, robed and severe: “Can you keep it down. Bob and I are trying to make love.”

I went home and repeated it to my mum, who was raised in the Salvation Army faith. That was all about brass instruments and abstinence. Dad was a lapsed Catholic and found the whole thing amusing. Mum let it slide I think because she had dreamed of being a concert pianist as a child and was impressed with Bob’s musicianship.

Soon Lowie had to move on, and the new nanny was young and dating someone in Th’ Dudes. Our detective agency was flourishing and the dog, an Irish setter called Brendan, loped uncontrollably through the leaf piles.

One day at home, our phone rang and it was Ann. Tracy had run away from home, she said. Nowadays, we call the police and report a missing person. In the old days you “ran away from home.” This comprised of packing a pretty pathetic roll bag and going down the the local domain to stare at your analog watch, and seethingly time how long it took for anyone to even notice you were missing.

Tracy was rock ‘n’ roll. My mother, sister and I hopped into the car and went looking. We found her walking along the Pakuranga Highway (no roll bag) just near where her horse had grazing.

I opened the car door and she reluctantly got in and didn’t speak to us the whole way back to the mansion or for days after.

I figured out that horse people who live in mansions probably live quite dramatic lives and have very loud arguments. The nanny and the Irish setter are the glue that hold it all together.

As time wore on we grew apart. I went to Howick Intermediate and Tracy to some other school and we never really spoke again.

Th’ Dudes broke up, and the decade of the ’80s raged before me.

I recently looked up the house on the real estate websites and the price is the same as every other house in Auckland and did I just have a tinted lense on everything?

The Best-Worst Art Ever Made

Scene from Ken Russell’s WOMEN IN LOVE by Nancy Fergus Story. I’ve put this in my lounge so everyone can enjoy it.

I’ve been collecting bad art for around 18 months now. It’s really helped me through some stressful life situations.

If I think back though, I’ve been interested in bad art all my life. Bad art, bad movies, bad recipes, bad fashion. All of it contains this delicious, wild sense of abandonment of taste. For once, we get to relax, finally, and drop our aesthetic standards to subterranean levels.

The category of Bad Art itself is problematic, because it implies a subjective, canonical approach, and even a sense of elitism and snobbery, all of which I hate. As a holder of an art history degree, I guess I should know better, but bad art makes you feel something.

The best definition of it I can find is that in each piece of bad art there is a deep, earnest sense of accomplishment. The artist is pleased that they even finished something, let alone that someone out there would actually consider parting with good money for it. Secondary to that, stylistically there is often a very unusual surreal element or theme, that is made much worse by the artist’s description of what the artwork is about:

A very large Minotaur is dreaming about breaking free from its labyrinth, while in the background, my neighbour tends to her box hedge in the suburb of Papamoa. Big statement about feeling trapped in life in general and unable to be free. The Mount is in the background as those of you who know the area will recognise. – Marg B, Papamoa Art Group.

Finally, there’s a wonderful naiveté around Bad Art; there’s a hesitancy but also an amazing sense of over self-confidence where there really shouldn’t be.

Sometimes, even when the painting is very skilled, it can still be “bad”, but in an excellent way. The below example is quite an incredible rendering of Jacinda Ardern, there is no doubt about that. But who would want this in their home? Turns out I do.

That’s Bad Art in a nutshell. It’s like love, it makes no sense at all. It’s a vinyl jacket that has been laid down next to the thousand island dressing tureen at Valentine’s Restaurant, by mistake.

I just don’t even know what to say

Rites of Passage: Surviving Childhood

Bad quicksand scenario

I remember lying in bed at night in around 1982, worrying to death about the big problems.

I came from an uncomplicated family. We basically lived in central Suburbia. We were a “dad had a few Lion Browns last night and accidentally forget to lock the Hillman Avenger but nothing got stolen”-type level of worries back then.

Back then, there was no obvious threat of climate change. If there was it was conveniently and tidily hidden away as a simple ozone-layer hole or a bit of smog in Los Angeles; nicely out of sight. Maybe one or two kids at school would try to do a speech on it for the speech competition but none of us would know what they were talking about.

There were no pandemics to kill us all. Pandemics were something that happened in other countries, and we just all assumed someone would just sort it out.

The nuclear threat to New Zealand was confined to mild concern about what might happen to Americans if the USSR attacked, or what might happen to British people being nuked while eating their tea like in the TV series Threads. It really wasn’t on our national radar.

For some reason, though, we young folks lay awake at night, making up dramatic scenarios, sweating and terrified, for five reasons:

  1. Quicksand

Pretty much every TV show had a scene where, at one point or another, someone fell into quicksand. Therefore quicksand occupied possibly 98% of my night-time worst-case scenario thoughts. I mentally planned out what I would do if I happened to be walking across the school field, for example, and then mistakenly fell into quicksand. Didn’t see it at all. I would have to yell out to someone to bring a branch over for me to grab onto, and just hope for the best.

2. Rangitoto Island erupting

Why did we have to live in a city with an island volcano in it, I wondered. Why? The very real threat of a centuries-dormant volcano was terrifying. More so when we were made to go on a school trip to climb it. That seemed like a really solid idea for children. I would lay awake at night wondering how quickly I could outrun the lava. Lava alone was liquid terror. My Strange Stories and Amazing Facts book helpfully included a chapter on particularly ruthless volcanoes such as Krakatoa. I won’t necessarily say it hampered my childhood to own it but I also won’t.

3. A Tidal Wave

Many of us spent years wondering if we could outrun a tidal wave in any meaningful way. New Zealand felt almost constantly in the path of a tidal wave because of the asteroid problem. We would pore over atlases to locate the highest ground, and discuss with our friends how we might transport ourselves there. In the middle of the night, of course, the parents were fast asleep, sleeping right though some of the worst natural disasters of our time, so it was up to “us kids” to plan the escape route all alone.

4. Fissures

I would imagine a large, unmanageable fissure opening up in the ground and me falling in, to depths unheard of in our time. There was no real solution to this, so this was one of the worst scenarios to be fair.

5. Satan arriving in human form

Before the days of Reddit, people used to talk to each other about Theories. One of the most talked-about theories was that Satan was coming back (somehow coincidentally with the second coming of Jesus) and there would be a massive battle. People thought that Mikhail Gorbachev was the devil because of a birthmark on his head, and that the government was concealing the number of the Beast in retail barcodes. To someone who was already shit-scared of quicksand and asteroids, this was very uncomfortable news.

This really isn’t an exhaustive list. Slightly lower down in the terror were malevolent ghosts, tapeworms and going to the Hot Pools but coming home with an amoeba that would slowly eat your brain.

Coupled with an irrational fear of scorpions, which have never been found in New Zealand, the childhood of a Generation Xer was barely survivable, but sure enough we made it through.

And we will make it through this very real, very scary pandemic, I promise. <3

Sports Dad Destroys The Delta Variant

If you haven’t met Extremely Extreme Sports Dad, he can be described as a lanky 30-something energizer battery, permanently dressed in Climatech gear, perpetually on his Bluetooth headset, and always with around 4-5 children in tow.

When we last saw him, he’d morphed into a guy hell-bent on returning to New Zealand amidst a pandemic to bring his special LinkedIn-style of business to this fair land. And boy has he made an impact.

There is literally nothing new you can tell him about being locked down, oh no, he’s done one in 15 different countries, which raises questions about the spread of the virus, but never mind, there’s nothing you can tell him about mutations, variants, PPE or actually anything.

It’s his 16th lockdown and he’s so slick at it that he’s had to make a YouTube channel for his brave following of 667, each day logging his routine, which is like a bad mix of Moby’s daily routine combined with one of those people on instagram.

And he’s off, he’s up at 5:00am, there’s no rest for the wicked (that’s what it says on his t-shirt, except it’s paired with a picture of Alice Cooper even though he doesn’t listen to Alice Cooper), he’s in the kitchen getting his oats out of the fridge, waking the kids up for no good reason and at the same time making Mrs. Sports Dad her flat white in bed, in reality only so he can brag about that to his Teams participants.

Lucky them! They get to listen to him eating his breakfast while peering over his shoulder at a frankly perplexing virtual background image of himself sitting atop the Burj Khalifa, just like Tom Cruise did, except he did it in a business suit to prove that you can disrupt even in a fitted tan slack.

After a 90 minute meeting that could actually have been a three-sentence email, Sports Dad bolts for a “quick run” in between that meeting and free weights at the very end of his driveway so that the souls wandering past on their bubble walks can see the measure of him. He says hello to each and every one of them through lots of loud grunting and teeth gritting, just so they know how massively tough this workout is.

Later in the day, he’s lathering up a huge piece of meat with oil that he brought back from a country we’ve never heard of, while ZOOMing his young protégé, Tarquin, who is showing an interest in crypto currency; with Sports Dad there is literally nothing you can tell him about Bitcoin, it’s in his LinkedIn bio as exactly that “THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN TELL ME ABOUT BITCOIN BUT YOU CAN TRY ;)”

After reading TIME magazine in Latin, he stretches back in his occasional chair and wonders about this new lockdown, and while Jacinda as he calls her is doing a good job, he wonders if the business roundtables could pitch some ideas to her to help move the country in a better alert level, like 1.25, which he’s devised as one where Delta is halted through businessmen throwing around some ideas, perhaps even teaching others about variants, PPE, vectors, and the like.

He taps out a hasty post on his LinkedIn and like bullets in a tin bucket, his followers are clapping and hearting the post or commenting with “hear hear (sic), Sports Dad, sensible, measured talk is what we need.”

Feeling validated for being a really rather extraordinary human, he’s back in the kitchen “doing the cooking for mum tonight for brownie points” and thinking through his plan to eliminate Delta.

Another day is done and Sports Dad eases himself into the spa with one of those stemless glasses of red wine and his waterproof sports Kindle to read about that other great disrupter, Hannibal Barca.

It’s an uncertain world out there (as he keeps saying over and over in emails) but he nods in satisfaction that at least now New Zealand has a plan to exit lockdown.

For My Baby

I am always reminded of that time I sat across from you

And watched your eyes without you knowing I was

and traced the outline of the left side of your head 

with imaginary fingers

listening to you speak in a voice 

That I may never hear again

Extremely Extreme Sports Dad Grazes His Elbows

There’s a new sports dad on the scene at my children’s school—and this one is as badass as his name suggests.

I think he might be called Lachie, and he is Very Definitely Into The America’s Cup.

He’s also done four weeks of quarantine instead of the standard two, and owing to his deeply flawed personality, left a five-star rating for the Jet Stark on Trip Advisor:

Great team, they loved my burpee drills I ran at 4:30 each morning (at a safe distance of course). Great time had by all, I thoroughly recommend this MiQ facility 🙂

The review links through to his LinkedIn where Lachie’s work history reads like word salad, but in an impressive way:

I was responsible for disruptive technologies in my tenure as space flagpole boardroom forest-clap meditative augmented finalisation.

Meanwhile, his return to New Zealand has been pretty massive, particularly for St Stephens Ave dwellers who can now view a Very Tall Man striding the mean streets at dawn, with a team of huskies strapped to his waist.

”The dogs love the feel of being dragged at 3:30 a.m” says Lachie.

At the school pick-up, Lachie is bold, as fortune favours those who are that, and it says so on his Icebreaker top. But what happened to his elbows? He remains mysterious as several less-successful men gather round, arms folded, and legs apart, stretching their fawn slacks beyond the recommended business tolerance.

Oh these? Well you might not have this here yet but over in (country no one has heard of) we started this elbow-running club at Space Rotation Enquiry Pty Ltd, while I was there as the incumbent knob polisher…

And oh wow Lachie is off on one of his famous tangents he’s known for and we can only assume that his elbows are “shot” but oh boy will he be bringing elbow running to New Zealand, watch this space.

Extremely Extreme Sports Dad just tightened the ratchet another notch, hold onto your LinkedIn Premium accounts, because his is paid for in non-fungible fungiblisation.

Lockdown 3: Locked Down

Tarquin’s dad shouted at the TV in the privacy of his man-cave

It was Valentine’s Day.

Jacinda Ardern was on the television standing next to Dr Ashley Bloomfield in the Beehive Theatrette, while Tarquin was strapped to his gaming rig, mouse in one hand and Monster in the other. Mum was updating her Fleets with a Snapchat-filtered selfie, and Dad was god-knows-where because he was “wacky old dad” and that was his main role.

Tarquin supposed that Dad had taken himself off to his man-cave to watch the announcement in peace and quiet, but also so that he could openly swear at the government. Dad knew the news was going to be bad.

And it was. Each word hit Dad’s ears like a hammer blow. AS OF 11:59 TONIGHT. AUCKLAND WILL MOVE TO ALERT LEVEL THREE.

It was inevitable, but Dad was still well-pissed. His main axe to grind was this ‘being kind’ crap the government kept peddling. Be kind my arse! How about faster broadband?

Tarquin stretched and yawned. He checked his Fitbit which showed the miraculous statistic of 2,000 steps. Oh well, he thought. Another three days off wasn’t so bad, and he could still chat online with his girlfriend who was literally in a different city, even though his friends didn’t believe that she even existed.

Dad emerged from the man-cave. He’d pre-emptively set up his workstation, comprised of a laptop, printer and a fax machine, just in case. Juuust in case.

During the Y2K thing, the fax was going full-tit right up until midnight, and Dad knew that while people laughed at him, the fax was one of the most effective forms of communication ever invented.

The worst thing about this iteration of lockdown though was the glass containers. Mum had tirelessly entered each supermarket purchase into Excel, and apportioned the cost of that purchase against the real cost of a glass fridge container, if she was having to buy one in real life, and figured that with the effort involved, petrol, getting Dad to carry the wretched reusable bags, it was STILL worth pursuing and chasing up the outstanding containers (that Countdown claimed were sitting at the Ports of Auckland), but Susan in the Facebook community group for Glen Innes Heights was saying that she knew they were actually still “on a boat out on the water”. To be told people couldn’t redeem the stickers at all was another nail in the coffin of the 2020-2021 period.

Lockdown was about to become really tough for Tarquin, what with the stickers, Covid-19 tapping on the glass of the newly-installed French sliding doors, and now Valentine’s Day plans ruined.

He enabled a chat window with his girlfriend, who to be fair, he’d had very little to do with on a face-to-face basis but he still loved her deeply, and was stoked that she was interested in listening to his ideas about how the MoH could be dealing with this crisis a little better and how his NCEA credits better not be in jeopardy.

Dad had returned from the supermarket and brought a dark cloud back with him, and Mum busily prepared the fixings for the viral tomato and feta bake that had been doing the rounds on TikTok.

Ultimately, Mum explained, lockdown was what you made of it, but in reality, three lockdowns in, the whole family was sick of the sight of each other. And now, the broadband had shat itself, right when it was needed most.

Tubby the cat took advantage of the distraction and licked the scotch fillet left thawing on the bench while Dad, on all fours, fucked around with the landline connection. So much for the rollout of good quality broadband for all families by the Labour government, he thought.

A full 24 hours later, the broadband was still out and the provider was being a complete jerk, not even supplying Tarquin with a mobile data option in which to play CoD nor be able to FaceTime his girlfriend.

There was only one option left. Tarquin stole away into Dad’s den and fetched a clean sheet of A4. What he wrote on it we’ll never truly know. We know it was probably written in uppercase with at least three typos though.

An hour later a screech sound permeated the house. Tubby dived under the occasional chair, as Tarquin ran in socked feet to the den. From the fax machine a long, warm piece of thermal paper oozed out of the slot of destiny into his sweaty, expectant palms. It contained four words:

I LOVE YOU TARQUIN

Tarquin pretty much pashed the fax machine and repeated the words on the thermal paper back to it, but it soon went into rest mode, waiting patiently for another fax job, not expected in reality to arrive in this millennium.

All was well in Tarquin’s world. This was the best lockdown ever, with measurable results that he could probably use for his stats internal assessment.

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:

Chaaaaaannnnnggggeeeeeeee

The DJ has girlfriends plural. 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 50-year-old me was there for 14-year-old me.

____

This blog post is dedicated to Paula.







Extremely Online

Dad had made a pretty awesome tandoori oven in the backyard

Tarquin stretched and yawned.

It was a new, fresh day. There was nothing on his to-do list other than to roll over and sleep until 12:35, then hop out of bed and head to the kitchen where his mother was making another loaf of sourdough for her instagram following (of 14).

Everyone was online in one way or another in this household. Especially Tarquin.

He’d thought he might take a few hours off and do a workout he’d read about online, but honestly, what was the point of that? Instead, he headed back to his darkened room, switched on the lights and warmed up his gaming centre.

Mum’s sourdough swelled up very enthusiastically

In the kitchen, Mum’s sourdough swelled enthusiastically in the oven, while Dad continued with the garden archway project he’d started on precisely Thursday 26th March, at dawn. It turned out there was simply nothing you couldn’t make with a couple of shitty old pieces of lattice and a coat of bright blue paint left over from the swimming pool job completed in 1986.

Tarquin’s sister, Ella, was busy practising a few ballet moves in the garage at the barre dad had whittled out of a spare tanalised fence post.

Elsewhere, Tubby the cat licked its arse in the sunshine, and in reality, all was well in Tarquin’s world.

The long afternoon stretched into night, and the smell of the chicken cooking in the tandoori oven Dad had constructed in the backyard on Friday 27th March, was mouthwatering. As Mum fired up the rice cooker, she made a note on her shopping list to get more rice, as there were only four 5kg sacks left in the house.

Ella had completed her Sanskrit course at last, and Mum was necking a gin and tonic whilst trying to film herself doing so for instagram.

Tarquin yawned and wondered when the shops would be open again. While he understood the theory behind a lockdown during a pandemic, and enjoyed the daily updates from Dr Ashley Bloomfield, his webcam had shat itself and Mighty Ape wasn’t supplying him with his needs. He could see his friends pointing and laughing at him online at his misfortune and could only retort by distort-level shouting at them through his headset, and angrily sculling another can of V.

It was late now and the family, stuffed with Ella’s dessert—a concoction of air and meths made from season four of Masterchef Australia—sat back to watch Mamma Mia, at Mum’s request.

Tarquin excused himself from what looked on the face of it a really unattractive scenario and headed back to Fortnite. He knew it was always his father’s dream that his son would be online 14 hours a day, shooting at his classmates in a banana costume.

Another day over, the family settled in for a long night online, with a few hours’ sleep chucked in for balance.

All was well in Tarquin’s world.

Countdown to Chaos

I was in Countdown today, and noticed the entire toilet paper section had been wiped clean, just like a computer hard drive. All that remained was the shelving and a few redundant price tags.

Couples rounded the aisle entrance, hopeful to get their hands on their Purex triple-ply. One couple stopped in their tracks and stood, mouths agape. It was a good two minutes (or weeks) before they could form normal sentences.

“but the toilet paper, Deryck.”

As Deryck moved closer to the shelves, I fancied that he was willing it to be some kind of misunderstanding, that maybe one of the shelf-stackers was going to emerge from the vinyl flaps of the storeroom sometime soon with the pallet of toilet paper and this ready-made nightmare would be over, but it wasn’t to be.

They wandered off in a haze, perhaps to the baby supplies aisle to stock up on wipes, or had they gone to Personal Items to get tissues?

I imagined Deryck sitting there, later on that night in the semi-darkness of the Smallest Room, clutching the box of tissues in one hand and grabbing at them wildly with the other, and each time underestimating how many handfuls each wipe-action actually needed. There was never any of this with the three-ply.

It got him thinking, something he usually tried to avoid. Life was pretty good before that Coronavirus hit New Zealand. You could go out unrestricted.

If you wanted, for example, one-ply, you could get one-ply. Your choice. Maybe an uninformed one, but up to you.

Dark thoughts began to fester as he wondered about the Big Questions. What was going on? Who was behind this? Those Chinese? The Labour government? Or a nefarious combination of the two?

As he clutched his last handful of peppermint infused tissues (Maureen had panicked and bought 18 boxes, not realising) his equilibrium felt completely out of whack for the first time since carless days, and for the first time in his life, he understood what it felt like to truly look into the abyss.

Having left a pretty intense message on his Facebook,

It’s all a conspiracy, they created the virus over in China so they could get the monopoly on the toilet paper. Shane Jones and the Greens are in on it…

Deryck put the jug on and started to worry obsessively about a teabag shortage, a TV Guide shortage, and the unthinkable: a Vogel’s bread shortage.

Out in the garage, he stroked the roof of his Jaguar S-type (actually a Ford Mondeo rebadged, but don’t talk openly to him about the latter, because it sets off his diverticulitis), and wondered how the world had gone so crazy in such a short period of time.

There was nothing to do but hunker down and wait. Maureen would sort it. Tomorrow was a new day.

He looked into the rear view mirror of the Jag at his own reflection, and hoped for a better future.

Plastic Man

Has there been anything more awkward in the last year than seeing the men of New Zealand making a trip to the supermarket, clutching a set of cloth shopping bags?

Most of us have now completely adjusted to this modern-day inconvenience by forgetting the bags and just buying eight new ones each time we do a “little top-up”.

For some of the blokes, it’s been a hard row to hoe.

Previously, you could just rock up to Countdown empty-handed. There was none of this “carrying something” in your hands.

All you were supposed to be doing is to going to get really normal things like a 60-watt bulb for the second toilet, conditioner with Argan oil in it, a new Sistema lunchbox for Tarquin (he lost his at sports day yesterday and you were on lunches this morning and had to give him his lunch in the plastic bag that was used to buy gala apples), a box of Cadbury Roses as it’s your wife’s line manager’s last day of work tomorrow, and finally, “something for tea”. How much harder could it get?

Well, a lot harder. Now the blokes are being reminded to “take some bags” and load them into the Highlander or they’d have to “buy them at the checkout, and I’ve calculated that if you did that every time you went shopping, we’d be paying around $43.60 per year just on bags alone”.

No-one wants to undergo that kind of crippling financial mismanagement, and so, “carry the recyclable bags” has become the accepted state.

But how to carry them? Most of the blokes go for the grab; rather like weeding a garden, they carry the bags like pestilence that is being fully owned.

Angry with the bags and recycling in general, the bags are an amalgam of anything, really. Mitre 10, a couple of old, unacceptable thick Countdown 0.15c bags, a paper bag and one of the wife’s hessian Karen Walker totes. Awkward, but still there’s enough scope to look as if you sincerely don’t give a shit about reusable bags in general. The look of one who refuses to put all the other bags inside the Karen Walker tote, and hold it by the handles like a rational person.

Elsewhere, there’s the anti-establishment/global type who only takes one bag. If that. Generally speaking, they are being sent to do just the “dinner run”. They have no shopping list or any real idea of what they’re doing. They alight from their Touareg, parked in the “10 mins only” space. They bring no harm to humanity at all.

Inside the supermarket, they utterly cannot understand why they are there or how they were coerced into doing this run. Wasn’t the full weekly shop done yesterday and delivered by the Online Shopping method?

Never mind, it’s too late now. Into the craft beer section they go, loading an innocent six-pack of Parrot Dog APA into the trolley, then heading to the meat section. Meat, it seems, is on special this week, and a lovely piece of eye fillet, at only $36.50 per kg, goes into the wheel-cart.

A quick pit-stop at the clingfilm, wraps and bags section sees three or four different configurations of bin liners land in the trolley, and then finally, the pièce de résistance: a hot cooked chicken, packed with sage and onion stuffing, is dispatched into a foil-lined, non-recyclable bag and away our shopper goes to the self-checkout.

He’s smug in the knowledge that he has got tea sorted, but the self-checkout machine is proving to be an utter nightmare today and the red siren of destiny whorls atop the nagging checkout unit. Everyone else brought their bags and is having a smooth run and is leaving with everything strategically packed in their multiple remembered bags, except one hapless human being.

After six goes of being released from the foibles of the self-checkout machine by the long-suffering self-checkout manager (“sorry, sir your wallet and keys are in the bagging area.” “Sorry again sir haha you are leaning on the bagging area.”), he is released to freedom.

Back home, he proudly displays the cooked chicken, beer, plastic and steak on the bench which is subsequently met by

“Can you put the bag (singular) back in the car”.

It’s a long row to hoe, with bag carrying, it could be one of the biggest challenges facing humanity this decade. Even just remembering another thing is a challenge.

But look how far we’ve come.

For more interesting hot-takes on recyclable bags, don’t forget this

The Mobile Drape Ladies

Today on my errands, I happened upon a pair of mobile drape ladies, one of the most terrifying archetypes in human existence.

Mobile drape ladies are a pair of ladies that travel in a Spotlight-branded van. They park up outside a house during daylight hours and their mission is to measure your window fixtures and frames, then go away and sew the custom-made drapes.

On the surface, it’s pretty innocuous. What could go wrong?

They enter your house. They are no-nonsense women who survived the ’50s ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and most importantly, now. They are called Margaret and Pat. Margaret has a plume of coloured bright red spiky hair which she gets set once a week by her daughter, Sandra.

Sandra has three or four small dogs or guinea pigs, or perhaps they are actually cats.

Meanwhile, back on the mean streets, Marg and Pat are whipping out the tape measures and tut-tutting at the net curtains.

Who hung these? They’re bloody terrible Marg.

Incensed, she rips down the set and swishes it into a ball, all the while making a series of huffing sounds.

Soon, they break into easy banter. Marg is doing a fish pie for tea tonight, and Pat is going to watch Married At First Sight Australia. Husband Don is off at the Dennis Marsh gig.

Pat’s son is getting remarried. Pat tells Marg she doesn’t trust his new bride.

She’s older than him by two years. Has three children. From a previous de facto. They weren’t married. Those poor children. (more audible huffing and general resentment.)

They’re almost done. The windows will require a robust, lined drape made with the kind of precision only seen elsewhere in either brain surgery or microblading.

The ladies board the drape-bus and give it a good rev, before heading back to drape-base.

Sure, enough, within possibly a nano-second, the drapes are ready and dispatched. One time Marg made up a pair blindfolded, to the delight of her colleagues.

If you ever want to truly terrify a mortal enemy, dispatch a pair of mobile drape ladies immediately.

MASTERCHEF MADE ME WANT TO SLEEP WITH DUMPLINGS, AGAIN.

(or how Katherine grudgingly gave me space on her blog)

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Still illegal in most countries, Glynn would like to engage in ‘relations’ with dumplings

Dear friends, brothers and sisters, and perhaps, if I can get away with it; comrades.

I report back to you following my somewhat successful journey behind the silver curtain, I have seen the insides — and I can tell you without pretense, conceit, and though we may need to revisit this one, pomposity — that I have absolutely no insight to give you.

No damning indictment, no juicy morsel, no sliver of previously hidden knowledge that I would ever, Dear Reader, suspect you of not already having. The acquisition of such all done on your gorgeous lonesome, no need for me.

Reality TV, they call it that because that’s what it is. Please don’t suppose I’m trying to pull the wool over your eyes, or for that matter, fleece you.

As you rightly suspect, I suspect, there is team of goblins sat hunched over a graphic equalizer; turning the bass up here, frotting and frothing and fingering the tempo there. This thing after all better be watchable. The tooth fairy no — but with these guys, I hope you consider my poor testimony enough. I’m just speaking to the, if not total, then the finely shaped narrative being its own truth. I’ll vouch for it, and if you don’t trust me then you can be relatively confident that anyone else lounging around on the same marginally exploited settee I’m speaking to you from, would, I think, be comfortable enough eating at least one or two of the grapes on offer. Still, if that ain’t enough, look at the eventual winners and tell me about doubt again. No? Right that’s what I thought.

I won’t bore you with the reasons why someone who considered themselves to be a well-honed cynic, in possession of an almost total lack of desire to have their rugged and brooding good looks broadcast to the nation, would bother with all that guff in the first place. Let’s just say if you pick a bohemian lifestyle, then you better fucking well follow through with it.

Better that than churlishly blaming the questionable judgement of your advisors; after all, they still had some. If you misplace your own, somewhere between the seventh and eighth drink, then don’t go running to others if you truly object to them helping you stand, or their attempts to finally make you a man. Am I making myself clear? If not, then Jugs are $10 after 7pm, every night.

So, with that lengthy confession in mind, perhaps you will find it no surprise that when someone asks, ‘So, was it worth it, what did you learn’; that I feel I have an increasingly banal obligation to say something uplifting, some vague assertion that yes, I definitely had, while being forced to stand knee deep in cold running rivers, felt really lucky to be given the chance to try and sift enough fairy dust to transmutate into something of real value before inevitably being biffed back into standard issue civilian life.

Nice story.

In reality though, I’m usually just stood there thinking,

Man, I really fucking love dumplings now.

Ah yes, well. Here we are then. This is not to say I didn’t love them before, but now, if it were legal, I feel certain that having met the right one I would enter into what is an unfortunately illegal relationship with it.

Or them. Because who can stop at one? Or better yet, who can fathom a scenario in which one dumpling is enough? Who can even imagine a situation in which this would be considered right or proper, and if you concede that may well be unfeasibly difficult, then who wouldn’t consider bringing charges, if it were possible, against the proprietor of an establishment that didn’t immediately provision you with more? How horrid the darkness that we can imagine for ourselves alone.

Yes, I met a lot of people that could make dumplings and make them good. I sucked (even if they don’t know) much of the livery and ritual surrounding the manifestation of the dumpling from them, for which I am undeniably grateful.

It soon became apparent to me however that the dumpling was influencing them, rather than them influencing it. The dumpling has after all, been around a long time and seen a lot of shit. Consider its basic form, yet its myriad innards — how adaptable the dumpling! How perfect it can suit your mood. If you’re anything like me (and you basically are) then you’ll appreciate first the delicate necessity of the chopstick pickup; then the slurp and suckle, and finally the explosion of flavour. Not to mention that when it comes to dumplings in broth, you actually get to eat the baby and drink the bathwater.

Oh yes, the dumpling has seen our type before, will see it again, and has I’m afraid seen a lot more interesting people than us.

Now I’m not saying that Karl Marx might not have been quite as grumpy as he was if he had ready access to all the delicious dumplings he wanted. Yet how much better would it be if people misquoted him like so;

“Dumplings relieve the sigh of the oppressed creature, dumplings are the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. Dumplings are the opium of the people”.

Well, it’s not quite perfect, but let’s not give up!

What about:

‘The delicious broth went and plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and eat of the living dumpling’.

Better all over, top to bottom I think you’ll agree, and at least you didn’t fall asleep halfway through.

Onwards then, to the spiritual!

When it comes to transcendental meditation, practitioners are supposed to keep their personal mantra to themselves. The unspoken undefined nature of it, its hidden name, gives it power. With this mantra often goes a matching visualization — the most clichéd being of course, the flickering candle. I submit the following as a suitable, not to mention much tastier alternative to both:

“There is a single dumpling floating in broth
The smell of black vinegar pungent on the steam
The dumpling is alone on the surface.
More dumplings will be added, the singular dumpling knows enough to know it is not enough
When this happens; the first dumpling will be forced below the surface
Eventually the broth will overflow the brim
It is then the first dumpling knows
I am a meal.”

When you open your mouth and put something in it, no matter what the situation, the dumpling is going to be low on the list of things you’d object to, and why would you?

In a world of increasing complexity, of camera and television, technology and chatter, the dumpling has survived unscathed. Throughout most of humanity’s tumultuous history it has been there, proud of its potential for taste, yet humble in its simplicity. Ready to sacrifice itself in whatever number you choose, merely in order to silence everything and bring about what must surely be the most quintessentially right state of man; the belly just perfectly full.

So, would going on Masterchef  be ‘worth it’?

I guess that depends.

Would you, bend your precious knee to the dumpling? You can only get away with one of the answers.

Glynn Rudolph is one of the great culinary thinkers and makers of our time.  He lives in Wellington.  He also likes long walks on the beach and candle-less dinners.  He does not drive a Skoda Octavia.







The Final Curtain: Goodbye to Glames and The Great Food Race

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Josh: That’s TWO less people, everyone. I repeat TWO less.
Simon: Don’t forget the 5% magic, Josh.

Suddenly on reality food television, things have come to a grinding halt, for two very different reasons.

Last Monday, Glynn and James were finally able to dispose of their MasterChef Crocs and mercifully avoid Skoda ownership whilst completing a Survivor Island cooking challenge.

I was sad to see them go.  In a previous post I had mentioned that their stay on the show would be short-lived, not because of their cooking prowess, but because of their tendency for thought-revealing facials.

In one recent episode, George Calombaris, the judge from the Australian version, set the contestants a ‘veal three ways’ challenge and as he swept the room, wheedling the couples during their sweaty timed food-exam, he referred to Glynn and James as “typical Kiwi blokes”; the implication being that because they were New Zealand males, they surely must have known exactly how to cook meat, because that’s what blokes do in these Antipodean nations.

The look from Glynn should have been bottled, preserved and sold on Trade Me under the category “Faces”.

It’s obvious the duo are not typical Kiwi blokes.  I’m sure they enjoy a beer, a barbie and a Barbie, but not to the extent I imagine of having an All Blacks flag flying from their black SUV and Matchbox 20 trickling out of the sound system.

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Yes, but we didn’t ever inhale.

These guys are more QOTSA, radically experimental drinking, and long sleeps on the beach but with brains.  I’m sure that they don’t mind the smell of Brut 33 and deep fried chicken either.

What they brought to the show was innovation, truly passionate cooking and ripper personalities, three features clearly essential in the world of cuisine.  Whatever these two do, I hope they physically do something with food like open a live music cafe – as opposed to just Facebooking (or blogging) about it.  Ha ha.  Blog about it.  Who’d do that?

Over on TV3, The Great Food Race is also coming to a close for this viewer.  The show seems to want to appear expensive and international sounding, but instead comes over as incredibly cheap and at times incredibly scripted.

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Oh right. Creamed corn parcels with white bread instead of pastry. They look appetising.

The contestants are a strange bag of fruits, and there is not the cohesion with each other like there is on MasterChef.  Clearly there,  friendships and respect bind the whole show together.  On The Great Food Race, competitors seem (or are edited so) to want eliminations; MasterChef is more communal, shall we say.

TGFR is like watching Purple House versus Yellow House in your Top Town school event, with an egg and spoon race thrown in.  At the end of that race after you’ve cooked the egg five ways, a pair of spunky Italian ‘House Captains’ turn up and everyone giggles, including me.  Tee hee, they’re here.  Pick me!

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How’s the canned ox tongue?

Of course the judges in both programmes also complete the show and certainly for this one, if it wasn’t for  Zoe Marshall and the Bresolins, it would be like eating at The Spotty Beagle Cafe on crumb-strewn Formica.

The remainder contestants in each show of course clearly contain the person or couple who the sponsor would like to see peddling their wares.  I have often wondered what the agenda is at the outset.

It’s pleasing to see though, that even if there is a desired winner in the mind of the creators, that contestants remain true to themselves, irrespective. They are a tenacious lot to be sure.  Why can’t they just come and cook for me?

Good luck to all of the remaining contestants of The Great Food Race and MasterChef: Couples, both on tonight at the clashily awkward times of 7.00pm on TV3 and 7.30pm on Tv1.