Imposter Syndrome

Stock image of a man with a really raging case of imposter syndrome

It has occurred to me that many of us are harbouring some form of imposter syndrome; for me I know it to be true.

I can’t remember a time where I didn’t feel like some sort of fraud, even as a child. I’d turn up to school a little bit behind the eight-ball on the day where we were supposed to bring a particular thing from home; I’d not only forgotten, but simultaneously been the only one to forget and then been left with feelings of complete inadequacy.

Instead of just laughing it off, I’d completely internalise these types of relatively inconsequential (to others, at least) events, and each time it happened it would just add to the cache of anxiety that I was somehow a flawed human who made many more mistakes than any other human being, ever.

As an adult, things worsened, particularly on starting work and having to front. It’s true to say that the world of teaching isn’t the easiest, and having a raging dose of imposter syndrome is a laughably terrible thing to bring to the teaching table.

What I have figured out is that while I have a reputation for being “a strong person” and having resilience, imposter syndrome is exactly the opposite. We have never been taught or had real resilience if we feel like a fraud at life.

If we haven’t been taught what resilience is, we need to learn it. For me, I’m doing a crash course on finding out everything I can about this thing I’ve read about called “confidence”; that elusive trait that absolutely every other living organism has except for me.

What I have learned so far is that real confidence doesn’t mean turning up like a show pony to speak at an event. To me, tasks of that kind are relatively straight-forward and enjoyable. The real work happens at 3am when you are doing your mental audit and suddenly everything unravels.

In the space of around 30 minutes, you’re going from being in a deep sleep, kind of dreaming about how great it was to give a talk, to being wide awake and getting up to write your resignation letter and to put a bid on a small cave in the mountains, far away from everything and everyone.

These swings between being completely functional on the outer, and the deep, desperate, gnawing physical pain of self-doubt could do your head in. The absolutely funniest thing about it all is that people can tell that you have imposter syndrome.

For now I am packing up my 3am “Spreadsheet of Mistakes” for good.

I’ve asked myself: do I really want to spend the next 50 years feeling like this? I can, at least, trust myself on the answer to that.

Tarquin’s Big Road Trip

It was Easter 2021 and Tarquin was off on a “roadie with the olds” like so many other New Zealand teens.

With a can of V and just enough data for a few rounds of CoD, he put his rugby-socked feet up on the back of his younger brother’s headrest, stretched riiight back and settled in for basically a chauffeured drive down State Highway 2.

By Takanini, the traffic had fair shat itself and Dad was already swearing under his breath, words which he only used at the government when Auckland had to go into lockdown.

With the people-mover reduced to a speed of 0kms per hour, Tarquin inwardly cursed all the other traffic on the road and the world in general. Why did it always rain on him? Life was very weird at the moment.

At school, he’d been learning about Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and he’d started to think that maybe he himself was on that journey.

Sir’s Overhead Projector Transparency of the Hero’s Journey had left an indelible mark in his mind

Obviously, his Call to Adventure had happened earlier that day, online. A couple of friends had told him to be somewhere with good WiFi by 1pm. Surely this car journey would get him to his destination on time? Maybe it was time to summons some Supernatural Aid.

A few deeps skulls of V did the trick, but the Threshold Guardians in the front of the car were shooting him the evils in the rear view mirror.

Once they’d reached the Bombays, Tarquin really felt he’d crossed the Threshold, not only metaphysically, but also from Auckland to the Waikato North area.

His phone was lighting up with messages from his friendship base, fair heckling him and sending him crude emoji combinations, just to make this Journey even more painful and difficult.

By the Coromandel turnoff, he’d had a Revelation: maybe Mum could hotspot him; after all, none of this was his fault, this was utter bullshit, and he decided to let his parents know it in a very terse WhatsApp message.

I hate you both and I hope you crash youve (sic) ruined my life

It was Ngatea now and there was a detour; this hero’s journey was unbelievable, and he hoped to write about it one day, or for it to be turned into a movie. Munching on a round of Ngatea’s finest hot chips and slugging a Fanta, he’d pretty much hit the Abyss, until suddenly he felt Transformed. Maybe it was the V, maybe it was the eggplant emojis. Maybe it was the sight of the big L&P bottle at Paeroa. Either way, a deep, moist sense of calm washed over him and he closed his eyes.

It was time for Atonement, as Tarquin sent an apologetic WhatsApp to his parents:

I’m sorry for being a dik can I have a hotspot

There was no reply, but it didn’t matter. Tarquin had almost completed the Hero’s Journey, one that many had taken; Jesus, Luke Skywalker and Elon Musk.

All that was left was the Return, and soon enough his phone changed to hotspotted data, just in time for the CoD tournament he thought he would miss.

With feet back up on his little brother’s headrest and a quick warning telling him to stop crying, he nestled in for some serious gaming. Mt Maunganui was now in the distance and he laughed loudly at the suggestion that he could climb it on Easter Saturday.

The Mobile Drape Ladies Do The Interislander

Marg took the company decals off the van for the trip

You might remember the Mobile Drape Ladies from their last crazy adventure, which was basically sewing up an incredibly accurate set of robust drapes, all in a day’s work, really.

Well, Marg and Pat are back—and fierce as ever—and this time they’ve won a trip to anywhere in the South Island.

You’ll need your thermals Pat

Marg is on the Trip Whatsapp chat Pat set up with a picture of them standing outside the drape bus after a particularly harrowing job involving net curtains.

As a consequence of being so incredibly loyal and efficient, work has allowed them to take the Drape Bus on the trip. Humbled, they gratefully accept and make sure they wait to just south of Pokeno to get the cheaper fuel.

That Auckland fuel tax is a rort, Pat

Marg is driving while Pat sorts through her toiletries which consist of Avon’s “Esoterica” collection of thick creams that leave her skin with a perpetual dewiness.

Through the towns of the North Island they go; Huntly, Taumaranui, Tūrangi. Pat’s first proper boyfriend hailed from Ohakune so they stop outside his old family home and share a Thermos of Bell Tea, the tea endorsed by the “wonderful” Sir Mark Todd.

Another round of fuel is sourced and a packet of Juicy Fruits thrown in for good measure and finally, they are flying down the Kapiti Coast towards Wellington with Wasted Days And Wasted Nights (by Dennis Marsh) blasting from the Akai.

Pat took over driving duties in Hunterville and is feeling the burn “in my gluteus maximus, Marg” but skillfully backs the drape bus onto the Interislander, and once parked, Marg pops straight in the back to fill an order that came through in Sanson for a house-set of drapes in Karen Walker’s “cack green” as Pat calls it. Thankfully there’s enough meterage in the bus and Marg sips a piccolo of Lindauer while sewing one-handed.

Out on the water there’s a problem with the engine and the Interislander shits itself just before the Marlborough Sounds. Set adrift, the Captain radios in for mechanical help, but Marg’s father was one of the mechanics on the SS Canberra and soon enough she has the figurative hood up in the engine bay and uses a simple sewing awl to tweak the engine back to life and while she’s in there gives it a bloody good service, not before scolding the Captain for leaving it so long.

And they’re away, the pair of them have saved the day as Pat hands around a platter of asparagus rolls and gets selfies with grateful passengers.

Back in the drape bus, the pair exit the ship triumphant once again. Into their Picton motor lodge they drive, like Caesar riding through the triumphal arch and they settle in for a night of Married At First Sight (Australia) and a good strong cup of Bell tea with complementary light blue milk.

What would we do without these archetypes? What will they get up to next? (they need to be back in Auckland for the Cloth and Wool Expo at the ASB Showgrounds and Marg is getting the Coronavirus vaccine done).

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.

Even More Extremely Online

It was Lockdown 4.0 now.

After three (in his own very humble opinion on reddit) politically unsuccessful other lockdowns, Tarquin finally decided to try out this online learning caper he kept hearing about.

He’d learned to switch off his Google Classroom notifications back on the first day of Year 1, and now, twelve years later, he was finally being seriously expected to “read the notice on Classroom”, and as much as it ground his gears, he could see his whole final year at school going down the proverbial long-drop with this Covid thing, and needing to at least engage on some level from the comfort of his gaming chair.

It was time to stop being so anti-establishment and start joining in.

His first piece of lockdown work looked pretty straight-forward at first. It was a Classics critical paragraph on why Aeneas did the right thing in essentially ditching Dido at Carthage in order to go forth and found Rome.

I mean, duh, said Tarquin in the class Zoom. Like, that’s his whole purpose, right? And he got distracted by this woman, and really, she doesn’t fit the plan, so he did the right thing in the end.

His teacher, who had been educated in Cambridge (Waikato, not England) leaned forward. Sir had a virtual background of the remains of an ancient scone recipe from Syracuse, and his cat, Ptolemy, crawled inconveniently over the keyboard, much to the delight of students.

And what would you do, Tarquin. You’re deeply infatuated, some would even say in love with this woman. You live and breathe her.

Tarquin scoffed. He was tempted to unmute himself again and ask where in the achievement for excellence criteria it said that he had to talk about feelings. In fact he now felt disadvantaged for not having any feelings as such. If only he’d just taken Maths With Calculus!

The point is, Sir, that Dido knew what she was signing up for. A man on a mission who was only ever there temporarily and one could argue, by accident. If you want to go with the “Juno set him off course to delay the founding of Rome” narrative, then that’s another story. Fate is fixed, Sir.

Sir was impressed with Tarquin’s apparent discovery of these Homeric-Augustan codes of behaviour, and admired his virtual background of a huge poo emoji.

Lucretia, who’d recently been dropped by Duncan, head boy at St Arrogance, felt sufficiently qualified to jump in:

It really is a question for the ages Tarquin: love as duty or love as the natural expansion of human existence and desire. Love as pure passion, unbridled lust, but also respect and awe at another person even just being alive and on the planet, even just that the person said hello to you once, let alone wants to be in your personal space 24/7.

Tarquin was unmoved by Lucretia’s emotive stance but was slightly moved by her beautiful eyes. And her virtual background, which was ‘ironic’ Spyro The Dragon. It was all about what was right. I mean, it sucked to be Dido for sure, but whatever.

Tarquin typed out what he hoped would be an Excellence piece. We’ll never truly know what Tarquin wrote that day, but since his tongue was slightly out while he wrote it we know he could at least get an excellence for effort.

Over on his chat window, a message popped up. It was Lucretia from classics, wanting to know which angle he’d taken

You’re being very stoic, Tarquin.

Maybe he was. But that’s just the way it was and in fact, much as Dido was left pining for Aeneas, it was all just too bad really.

Dad’s theatre masks weren’t as old as Dad had been told they were

Tarquin stretched and yawned while polishing his Greek theatre masks Dad had brought back from a business trip to Athens two years ago. He booted up his Fields of Mass Destruction co-operative online game and felt at once confused and pensive.

Feelings were best avoided, he thought, as he donned his new Astro A50 Wireless 7.1 Channel Gaming Headset, and began obliterating anything that moved, human or otherwise.

Next time: Will Tarquin get his head out of his arse and contact Lucretia to talk about feelings? Or will he not.

He’s Like The Wind through My Tree

I love the films of Patrick Swayze.

I also love the films of Keanu Reeves, so when Point Break was released, I started popping the corn immediately and looking around for extra sauce for my choc bomb.

Patrick was, for a while, the innocuous action actor. Take Road House, for example. For starters, this film was directed by a guy called Rowdy Herrington. Rowdy began his filmic career as grip on the set of Repo Man. I mean, from there, where can you go?

The plot one-liner is that a bouncer comes into town to straighten out a ‘dirty’ bar.

It’s a great start plot-wise. What kind of a bar is this place?  It’s got dancers swirling on poles. It’s got a cool name, the Double Deuce, which translates—I think—as some measurement of liquor. It’s always dark inside, so it can harbour con-men, local “whores-with-good-hearts” and lots of dark-coloured booze served in shot glasses.

I bet the BluRay is amazing
Haven’t tried it on shout select but I will

The enduring theme, though, is that his character, Dalton, has a sketchy past.

It’s possible he’s got a criminal record or is on the run for something, but at his essence, his core, he’s one of the ‘good guys’. He’s anti-establishment but in a good way. He’s described as having a ‘quiet demeanor’, in contrast to the local rough-necks. He’s fiercely tough. After sustaining a stab wound, he needs treatment like a mortal might, but during the conversation with the doctor he announces “pain don’t hurt” , in one of the most life-changing quotes since anything from Falcon Crest.

Although Swayze was a trained dancer (his mother was a choreographer), he stuck to the arse-kicking stereotype; one of his big break-out roles was in Red Dawn. In this, he acted alongside other luminaries such as Charlie Sheen and C. Thomas Howell.

C. Thomas Howell. That’s the kind of name that shows you are uncomfortable as an actor and human. Patrick Swayze didn’t muck about with weird acting names. His middle name was Wayne.

Again, in Red Dawn, Swayze played the gentle-but-strong freedom-fighter. Red Dawn was made in Reagan’s ’80s. This was not a coded film—the premise was that America had been invaded by the Soviets, backed by Cuba and Nicaragua. The Reds had some work to do, though, since Patrick and his school-age friends (he was 32 in real life) banded together as ‘The Wolverines’ to kick some communist ass back whence they came.

Swayze was unique as an action actor. He was no Wesley Snipes. He paid his taxes.

He was no Tom Cruise—he was an anomaly, certainly, but not in the scourge-on-society sense like Tom. He was not blustery and grotesque like Schwarzenegger at that time. He remained in the same soul-mate relationship for many years, rode horses in his spare time and at one time was the face of dance, in Dirty Dancing. Was he the guy women wanted and men secretly wanted to be?

In Point Break, I believe Patrick played Patrick Swayze. With a name like Bodhi and a choker neckpiece which rejected the fundamentals of capitalism, Bohdi’s commune mentality was refreshing. He was generous, rational, lived life to the full and had a live-and-let-live (or die, but let’s not go there) ethos, so rare in the alpha-male main character.

In contrast, I’m sad to say that Keanu Reeves stumbled his way through this movie providing it with nothing more than a warm human to whom Swayze could say his cool lines.

Where else have we seen this iteration of the tough-guy in cinema?  Has there ever been another Patrick Swayze?

At the end of Point Break, Keanu Reeves, as FBI, has a chance to arrest Bohdi for the crime of sticking the finger to the man, big time.

Reeves ends up chasing him to Bell’s Beach, South Australia where he handcuffs Bodhi, but Bodhi manages to talk Reeves out of this and to let him catch “one last ride”. Deep down, Reeves too—both actor and his lame-arse character—wanted to be Bodhi: fearless and unshackled. He would get there, but not until much later.

In the final scene, Bodhi walks to the water with his board and paddles out. The incoming wave is part of a 50-year storm that you and I who work in offices and pay taxes know nothing about because we are trapped in a personal hell capitalist stranglehold and only use beaches to walk our dogs.

He stands, he rides one massive wave and is gone, presumably consumed by the ocean, rather than the system, as represented by Reeves.

Reeves walks away, as real Australian actors run at him screeching “We’ll get heeem when he comes back eeeen”. Last seen on episodes of Neighbours, these actor-extras have hit acting paydirt.

Reeves is calm, transformed by the scene of self-sacrifice.

I love Patrick Swayze movies. I also like film auteurship by people not called Rowdy Herrington, but Patrick—you were and still are—The Man.

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.

The Curse of School Lunches

A not-viral lunch hack

At this time of year, there is always one article in the national newspaper that tells mums across the land, of easy life hacks to make school-lunch choices a breeze.

The ladies in these articles are food bloggers, which in plain English means a human being who writes down what food they bought at the shops (like a reverse shopping list) with photos from their iPhone.

They then flatlay the food out, and, without being too brazen about sponsorship, advise their readers to put the food together into compartments in a plastic container.

Top tip! Prepare these the night before for ease of morning routine. By the way, after I have made the lunches I use Countdown’s own brand of Night Cream and then simply rinse it off in the morning with Watercare Auckland’s lovely tap water.

Preparing a lunchbox shouldn’t be this hard, and the fact that there are articles and how-tos about it is an indication of the levels of guilt out of which we as a human race now operate.

Even the lunchbox displays in Countdown overwhelm with their promises, not of air-tightness, but of the mums trying not to get cancelled on day one of school.

Muuum, my lunchbox suuuuuuuucks

There are options for every step on the political continuum, or food proclivity, such as the Bamboo Lunchbox, at $25 a hit that little Tarquin will lose on the first day of school, not before he stares at the amorphous mass that his sandwich and cut fruit has become.

There’s the Bento box, made very popular (to me personally) by Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club. It makes shit food look awesome. It’s a shame though that Tarquin’s bag nook is outside his classroom in the bright sunshine from 8:30 until exactly lunchtime, by which stage the Bento box is sweating and around 55 degrees Celsius inside; the yoghurt pouch itself is hot enough to heat up the cheese and crackers, which lie in a sorry thick paste to the side.

The coolie bag is a great idea, but only until Year 5. After that, kids are looking for lunch scenarios such as daily sushi delivered to their classrooms on the backs of servants.

It’s 1:30pm and the school rubbish bins are fair overflowing with the turkey and cos croissants lovingly made at 4:30am by the food blog mums, who, none the wiser about the wastage, keep ever-searching for new ideas to keep little Tarquin fed at school.

Then there’s me, a mum who once or maybe fifteen times couldn’t find a spare lunchbox so I wrapped the cheese sandwich up and put it with a gala apple and a packet of Eta Ripples into the bag which I bought the gala apples in.

Moral of the story is you’re all awesome. Keep doing your lunches and stop flagellating yourselves with beeswax and dried figs. Unless that’s your thing, obviously.

And finally. As mentioned in the article by one savvy mum: if you give them a good breakfast and dinner (plus the other 800 snacks they have after school), who cares, really.

The Year of the Tarquin

More 2020 devastation

It was Tarquin’s year.

While everyone around him was falling to pieces over lockdowns or masks or Trump or Judith Collins, Tarquin had actually quite enjoyed the apocalypse. And then the strangest thing happened.

It was the day that Twitter broke, and he watched both his parents rage-refresh their screens for a solid five minutes before quickly switching over to Facebook where he could see them huddling with their friend groups, people they’d not necessarily even met, trying to figure out what the fuck was going on, worrying and theorising on the cause of it and all the while collectively humiliated at having to use Facebook as a means to stay sane. It was only just the slightest step-up from LinkedIn. Tarquin’s dad had entertained the thought of going over there and perhaps posting a small cry for help amongst his 458 connections, but he figured it wasn’t the best career move.

Tarquin watched his parents, usually calm and collected, turn into two 16 year olds whose WiFi had gone down right in the middle of a Fortnite event.

It had a mildly amusing Pied Piper feel to it. The parents emerged from their respective rooms, almost drifting to the sound of inaudible pipes, to ask what had happened to the Twitter, the bewilderment on their faces only matched when the rugby wasn’t going too well, or dad’s tandoori oven he’d built during Lockdown One wasn’t getting quite get hot enough.

The year of our Lord 2020 kept coming at the middle classes unlike any other year. Tarquin swung back in his gaming chair, hands clasped behind his head.

Have you tried just scheduling the Tweets you want to send?

Dad scowled, openly. Usually mild-mannered, Dad had had a gutsful of 2020. “YES I HAVE TRIED THAT THANK YOU TARQUIN.”

It was quite something to watch. What did they want to tweet about anyway? That they couldn’t tweet? They were doing that over on Facebook and the double dipping seemed a little unnecessary to be honest.

The Dad and the Mum sat there refreshing, wondering what they were missing out on, wondering why the Herald at the very least hadn’t written a story about the outage using people’s Facebook comments, with Tarquin watching and wondering why HIS PARENTS WERE FALLING APART.

And it felt good. Tarquin felt a sense of control and calm wash over him, like his favourite Lynx Toxic body wash.

He slowly got up out of his gaming chair, something that really ordinarily never happened in any meaningful way, walked to the living room and quietly, in a patronising nasally, white middle class tone said:

Why don’t you two put your phones down and use the time to go for a nice walk.

The sound of Dad’s phone being angrily thrown onto the couch was like music to Tarquin’s ears.

Twenty twenty was a good year for Tarquin. Tarquin had arrived.

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.







SWAP FWYH

“Good as new condition”

Any of you who are aged 50 years old or older will remember the good old days of buying second-hand goods in New Zealand.

They were the days of the Trade & Exchange.

If you wanted a good second-hand fridge for your flat, you would open up the publication and look under a section called “whiteware”. You’d scroll with your finger down the printed listings until an unbelievable deal jumped out at you.

Fridge-freezer. Kelvinator. 1.5m x 1m x 1m. As is where is. Needs new seals. Will swap FWYH. ph 5347895

You’d pick up your landline and frenzy-dial. David would answer at the other end.

David.

Oh Hi David. I’m interested in the fridge in the Trade and Exchange. Would you be keen to swap for a bass amp. It’s been used for busking only.

Bring it around. I’m at 15 Parade Drive, Buckland’s Beach. It has a caravan out the front.

And away you’d go. With the trusty amp in the boot, it seemed like a deal too good to be true. You had the Araldite at the ready to stick the fridge seals back on. You were a complete cheap skate, only one degree removed from Steptoe & Son.

On approach to David’s house, you could see he was a professional T & E’er. Indeed there was a caravan outside. It was white and orange and all the window apertures were rusted out. Next to it was a series of flax bushes surrounded by car tyres. In the entrance way there were two white swan tyre sculptures. The starlings on the front lawn took flight at the sound of your rattling trailer.

David himself was a shaggy individual who looked like he could use a decent shaving-foam shave rather than the quick once-over with the Remington electric that he’d clearly been using for several years. His wife, Barbara, was making white bread sandwiches in the kitchen; it was 12:34pm according to the stove clock.

The kitchen cupboards had a peeling brown wood-panelled verneer on them. The sandwiches looked ok, they were corned beef and mustard.

David would take you out to the garage and show you the fridge. It was a forlorn-looking appliance, the racks inside had lost some of their coatings and the butter conditioner door had broken off. There were no egg holder trays and no ice makers.

You can get those off the Trade & Exchange

David was a gruff individual.

Still, a swap was a swap and David, with absolutely no musical talent whatsoever, took the amp and handtrucked the fridge onto your trailer.

There was no feedback to leave, and all you could really do was just take the old junk and hope that the $5 of petrol and the $50 trailer hire was worth the pain of a trip to Buckland’s Beach.

Later that week you’d notice that David had listed the amp under the musical instruments section, this time requesting a specific swap in the form of a fly-screen door.

You’d moved on though, and were searching for a car radiator for your Mitsubishi Mirage GLX. It had overheated on the way over to pick up a Trade from Westmere and word on the street was that you could DIY another one in. Never mind that it needed a recore, never mind that you’d later spend $150 on coolant, you just wanted the thing to get you through the next few months of your commute to your job at Sounds Unlimited on Queen Street.

David, meanwhile got his fly screen door. It was a manky piece of shit, but he dutifully installed it so that the flies stayed out while Barbara deep-fried their chips in the fryer they scored from Jonathan, another chronically addicted T & E loser.

All was well in David’s rusted-out world. He fingered the brass salad servers on the formica credenza and poured himself a ginger beer (homemade), all the while eyeing up the deep fryer, bubbling enthusiastically on the bench.

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.

The Rubbish Collection

Ordinary rubbish day for most New Zealanders is the pinnacle of the working week. 

Everywhere, on every street, there are clacky flip-flops, teamed with pressed work slacks, striding the cold bitumen driveways to get the bins out on time.  There is side-eye and derision over who should do it. Mum? Or Dad? Or Tarquin? It’s a great way of getting him out of bed in the mornings and is really character-building.

Mum insists on putting them out on the day, with the theory that it prevents others from filling the bins with their own waste, in the secrecy of the night. Dad performs a serious eye-roll, one not seen since the time Mum tried to set up the MySky to record every episode of Dancing with the Stars, but only ended up recording Dances With Wolves.

Some people on my street desperately wheel their bins to the other side, because they forgot it was rubbish day and hastily make a quick mercy dash from work in their lunch hour to deal to the bins. And woe betide if the over-the-road neighbours are home; it’s a bit of a shitshow but what choice is left?

Others remain unsure whether the truck has come yet, and meaningfully wander to the nearest bin and expose its innards to check whether it’s just their bin that hasn’t been emptied, or is it the whole street?

Some wait and watch as the trucks come and swoop down and claw the helpless receptacles aloft, dumping the week’s worth of refuse into the abyss of rate-payer machinery.  They then whip the bins inside the gate, because you never know, someone may grab the wrong bin and then it’s an awkward late-night reconnoitre to retrieve the lost property.

Then there’s the yearly rubbish collection of inorganic things that we collected free from the last curbside dumping and no longer require.

The inorganic brings out the strangest things, and people are on it all like flies, grazing on the trash, picking through for copper, wire, electrics, anything that could be resold; and toys, carpets, linen baskets.

Large vans ride, snug along the road gutter, doors opening and grasping the not-working lamps and the mould-spotted occasional chair.

And then the council men come with their trucks and the homeowners stand in their driveways, hands on hips, watching the cracked plastic half-shell paddling pool, the baby car seat, the rusted clothes airer and the cheap white bookcases launch into the truck-jaws.

The thing we wanted rid of for the last two years but couldn’t be fucked paying for a trailer is now safely destined for a landfill and how pleased we are at ourselves for finally hauling arse to get it the two metres out onto the berm.

It always rains on inorganic weekend.  The sodden carpets loaded up; the trucks fly off to the next street over, and the residents slowly return to their houses, to surf Trade Me for more unbelievable crap to put out in next year’s collection.

 

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