Prius Man

Jealous of the 2020 model, Prius Man says “Don’t get one of those, apparently they’ve had to recall a few because there’s no space in the centre console for your Fitbit.”

Today I pulled into a service station to get my petrol, in a tidy and timely manner.

I always like to pull up to the side of the pumps adjacent to my filler. The times I have tried to stretch the pump over the top of the car, then somehow twist the handle sideways so it will only just reach the hole, and only the end of the nozzle will go in ⁠— no thanks. Life is awkward enough as it is.

Today, I waited for the person in front of me to finish up pumping his gas and then proceed to the payment area, and leave to get on with his life.

Sadly, he did not. Instead, he looked around at me, sitting there patiently, and walked to the front of his car and put the bonnet up.

I should have known.

He was driving a Prius, and was wearing a pair of knit material shorts, a t-shirt, trainers and the expression of entitlement.

Perhaps he’d “knocked off” for the weekend; it was 2.30 on a Friday after all. He’d probably finished up for the day with a few terse emails to his PA, putting his out-of-office reply on; “on my return to the office on Monday I will be deleting any new emails, if it’s really important, email me Monday”, and tearing a couple of employees a new one.

I watched him intently as he fussed around under the bonnet, then moved around to the hatch of the car, lifting the wheel-well cover, reaching in to get some sort of anally-retentive screwdriver set.

Who knew what he was doing, perhaps he was going to do some kind of super-charger conversion, all the while a line of cars snaked out of the station and onto the footpath.

Soon, he was back under the bonnet again, tinkering around. The gas had long finished and the pump sat flaccidly in the tank.

Presently, he emerged again and it looked promising that he might actually leave, but instead he strode purposefully into the shop, all the while looking around at the growing queue and smugly thinking that we all could just damn well wait, who were we anyway, with our relatively simple needs and goals.

Back he came with a litre of engine oil ⁠— he’d probably paid twice what he should have ⁠— but this did not once faze him in his determination to waste the lives of at least four other humans, who had now sunk into the pit of despair and turned their engines off.

What became of Prius Man? I’m sad that I’ll never know because I duly reversed as soon as a free pump came up and gapped it the fuck out of there.

I filled my tank, which took a matter of a couple of minutes and I was pleasant to the staff member at the counter: “Thank you, no, I don’t wish to buy three Moro bars or swipe my Mobil Surprises (or whatever) loyalty card.”

As I left the shop, Prius Man was red-faced and huffy, wrestling with life and the cards he’d been dealt; a steady high-paid job for life, an economy company car, and overall access to virtually any space on the planet without question, and got into my car and drove away.

I imagine he’ll be home now, watching his power meter monitor installed on his laptop and fiddling around with some new speakers for the Smart TV.

Go well Prius Man, I certainly hope that bonnet hinge didn’t malfunction and crash down on your head at any stage.

Home Improvement, Boomer Styles

I was doing a bit of a tidy up today and I came across some pictures of one of the houses in which we grew up.

This was the second house mum and dad owned. It was the one before “the dream home”. It was also 1975.

The concrete path was really something

It was your basic “L” shape, north-facing, with a reasonable backyard, incredibly rowdy neighbours on one side, and a family from Liverpool on the other, owners of a horse called Mandy.

Out the front was a bit of section that was crying out for planted perennials, perhaps a few silver birch trees and lots and lots of phormium tenax surrounded by bark.

The first thing my parents always did when they got a new house was dig a vegetable garden and plant unfeasible amounts of things we hated like silverbeet, lettuce and courgettes. Subsequently, dad would begin his vanity project, a brick, chimneyed, barbeque. It was like the family temple. The cement would be mixed up on the garage floor, much to mum’s horror.

Once the exterior had been planted by what looked like every type of flora available to humanity, dad would turn his attention to the interior.

For a guy who worked as a shearer for many years before he entered the police, dad seemed to also fancy himself as some kind of interior “redesigner”.

Bearing in mind that in those days, you could (on a Sunday night) down a few flagons of DB Brown and suddenly be struck with inspiration after watching Stars On Sunday to begin a full kitchen fit-out.

I remember getting up in the night once and dad was in the bathroom grouting and tiling around the bathtub.

Another time he fancied that we needed an arch to connect the dining room and lounge. Previously, there had been a pair of iconic sliding doors which could easily have been “left open” to provide that sense of flow.

The finished product was basically triumphal, and dad walked through, emperor-styles, hold a frosty tankard of beer, proudly examining every inch of his asbestos craftsmanship.

But the pièce de résistance was yet to come. The hallway seemed so boring, with its straight lines and front door, and rooms off the side such as the “toilet” and “bathroom”.

It wasn’t long before one hall wall was tiled. With large mirror tiles, the likes of which are seen in discotheques and actual bathrooms.

With a maidenhair fern potted in a brass urn, atop a slate pedestal in front, the whole thing become quite trippy and I wondered: what was coming next?

What came next was a major surprise.

There we kids were, sitting at the dining table one night, eating casserole, and in came dad, fresh from work.

That night was a game changer. Dad went over to the Bell ™ system record player, turned it on, and gently placed the record under the stylus. We were disappointed to hear yet another classical album being forced on us. We munched on our parsnips quietly until…

Yes, it turned out dad had ‘totally pranked’ us by in fact buying the soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever and playing Walter Murphy’s A Fifth of Beethoven, which not only sampled Beethoven’s Fifth but was also an hilarious pun about liquor.

You couldn’t really get more seventies than that and we were soon playing pretend drums on our Belle Fiore dinner plates with our bone-handled knives and forks, in unison.

Over the fence, Mandy the horse neighed happily and our party neighbours spun another round of Joe Dolce’s Shaddup You Face.

Dad would duly phone noise control later, but it was all good; it was 1981 now and time to buy “the dream home” which is where the interior designs hit some kind of new high, or low.

The School Holidays

The school holidays are coming to a close, and parents everywhere are already drunk with excitement at the thought of little Tarquin and Bella returning to school, after school care, and out of sight quite frankly.

The holidays always start out well-intentioned.

I myself always have a long list of things we’re going to do, everything from learning to surf, right down to abseiling the Sky Tower with my three kids strapped to my back, while learning to make sushi.

But the reality is, that you tend to run out of spare money on the second day (Sunday) and so you just grant the kids an extra nine hours’ screen time…

that’s great Big T, I love that you’re on Mathletics like this, good choices, boy

What an absolute joke; you know full well he’s spent the last five hours watching a group of 15 year olds swallow chicken eggs whole, shell and all, then go to the ED to get X-rayed to see if the whole egg is still intact. It’s the whole reason you became a parent.

By the Friday of the first week, you’ve done precisely nothing of significance with them. You scroll through the endless Facebook posts of families who are hiking in South America somewhere, cooking flax over a gas stove so that the kids can weave school satchels for local school kids, and you look around your own house which is strewn with bedraggled children who had an ice block for breakfast and now have literal rectangular eyes.

You make a mental note to ring up the bank on Monday to download off the mortgage to get plastic surgery on the eyes before school starts again, but then you forget because suddenly there’s three different public holidays embedded within the school holidays and you need to quickly buy eight metric tonnes of chocolate and also book dental surgery instead of eye surgery.

Suddenly it’s the end of the second week, and the hellscape of your home includes new Lego that you couldn’t really afford and two-week-old lunches still sitting in school bags that you won’t know about until Sunday night.

Inside the boxes is detritus that can no longer be identified, but you know in your heart that as the lunch was made on the last Friday of term, it’ll be pretty well-preserved: Twisties, the empty suckie foil and half a muffin, so full of sugar, that it will still be around in a landfill until 2079.

All up it’s been a success in that you didn’t end up in triage or blow out the broadband. Or maybe you did but what’s another $500 on the Spark bill?

Monday of term two rolls around and after you’ve had to quickly sew a makeshift uniform for one child since the original is lost forever, you silently, smugly pull up to the curb outside school, your petrol gauge on empty, and one by one they alight.

We’ll miss you so much, mum

Then smugly, knowing you’ve gotten away with the most disorganised bit of chaos ever, you stop by the coffee place and neck precisely five double-shot flat whites, then head home with a mini-digger on the top of your people mover to help clean the lounge.

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

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

Jonathan:  (pouring a large bowl of Pinot Noir)

So, is everyone ready for Game of Thrones?


Oh yes. It’s amazing.

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

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

I’ve never watched it.

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

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

What did you say, Tarquin?

Tarquin shrugs.

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

Jonathan is incensed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ciaran waiting for his MySky to warm up.

The 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.

New Year’s

In New Zealand, in 1987, New Year’s Eve began at midday on the 30th December.

This was signaled by whoever had backed the keg in the station wagon into the driveway.

Once the keg had been tapped, it was a bit like the opening ceremony of the Olympics, where they light the cauldron.

Faces of anticipation turned to fully-blown wonderment as Lion Red beer frothed from the sides of the pump connection and dripped lovingly down the metallic vessel of mysteries.

Soon after, the boy-folk—all of 18 years old—would stand around, shirtless, holding two or three plastic jugs each, fresh from a swim in the over-chlorinated pool while the parents were at work until 4pm knock-off. And woe betide when the parents arrived at their own family home, which by that stage smelled like the Gluepot carpet after a Dragon gig.

Since there was so much Lion Red contained within the keg, beer could be liberally spilled and by 2pm some of the boys were in the pool again, with two jugs apiece, a lit Winfield smoke, and the music of an alternative rock outfit to “rage” to.  A ball might even make it into the pool to convert the scene to sport.

After, dripping and replete, a convergence of wet dude-bodies would again worship the keg; the girls stretched out on loungers, talking, smoking Pall Mall menthols, drunk, and happy.

Someone would get the munchies, but the chicks had that covered.  A girlfriend (from a different school) would have brought many salads and meats and would begin to unmount the rear of her 1980 Honda Civic hatchback—potato salad, rolls, potatoes wrapped in tin foil for the barbecue, marinating chops—and the man-tribe would stare at her in wonder, wishing they actually had a girlfriend.

The barbecue was lit with a match and a bit of turps, there was turps and meat and matches and bodies everywhere.

And nothing excited the crowd more than the sound of the barbeque being lit,


which made even the 60-something-year-old neighbours—in the middle of watching Emmerdale—pop a stern head over the fence, thinking some kind of teen mischief was going to affect their QV rating.

With the chops cooked, the boys ate with bare hands then slept, while the girls carried on drinking and dancing, swapping the guitar-based rock for Mel and Kim’s Respectable, until the influx of bogan-chick gatecrashers (from yet another school, the school where you could wear mufti) got the shits with the music choices and tried to put on Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen in another room.

Someone had drunk too much and spewed on the new duvet cover from D.E.K.A, and the hostess cried. Then the crying evolved into childhood regression:

I never knew my father!

Bogan chick and non-bogan chick alike would gather and soothe and someone would helpfully set up a bong.

Soon everyone was hugging and dancing again indiscriminately to Boy George, and magically they knew all the words to that song

If I looked into your eyes would you say

The boy of our dreams would finally come over, look in our eyes and dance with us, and we’d get together on the patio-cum-spa-pool floor, and stay together for at least two years, until he decided to join the police training school in Porirua.

And that was New Year’s Eve 1987, and if we’d kept going, we’d be in Capri ,not the island, the rehab centre.

But, of course, we’re not.

We’ve got the New Year’s resolutions of adulthood to thank for that.

Do You Ever Feel Like A Plastic Bag?

A person with colour-coded bags is a person who will never forget their bags

Never before have I felt more like a plastic bag.

I feel I want a plastic bag every time I enter the supermarket now, and see the signs everywhere, screaming


I imagine it’s being said in a chipper yet patronising voice.

By the time you’ve spotted the sign, you’re already halfway through the turnstiles and there’s a queue of people behind you. Other times, you’ve managed to turn around and fight the unnatural spikes out of the way, and traipse what seems like 1500 metres back to the car to get the bags.

You know there’s bags you can buy here, though, as you absent-mindlessly grab a basket, even though (given you’ve forgotten the bags) you’re a no-list graze-shopper who at some point will have to go back through the turnstile and get a trolley.

And off you go into a wonderland of plastic-covered everything, and you wonder at what point in civilisation did everything become about…plastic?  We’re doomed with it and without it and you are absolutely doomed if you turn up to Pak’nSave on a day where they’ve run out of saleable plastic bags.

I was there yesterday. A young couple, wide-eyed with innocence and the anticipation of being able to bag-up their 2000 metric tonnes of groceries, were met with the concrete wall of

“We’re out of bags.”

They stood there, bereft, silent. There was nothing to say. It was like death. There was nothing to negotiate, try as you might.

“But the groceries.”

said one of them. The cashier just stared, we all stared at the empty hooks where the bags should be. Certainly there were boxes, but at a time like this, boxes may as well be your own hands.

The devastation and enormity of the situation was so great, I thought of offering up my small alms of four plastic bags, recently purchased at Countdown because I’d forgotten them that day, but not today I hadn’t.

The Countdown plastic bags were so notoriously good, one day I overheard a lady ask for lots of them because they made amazing bin liners.

But back to our couple.

Off they went, slowly past the checkout area towards the sliding doors, to what fate we’ll never truly know. An archway of flames awaited them in the car park and they walked into the incendiary tunnel.

Locusts swarmed overhead as storm clouds gathered just above the bit where you can get the cheap fuel.

I imagined them picking up one or two items and putting them in the boot without bags, then having to get some bags from the house at the other end and bag up the groceries but in their own driveway like some sort of reverse weird torture ritual.

Every time I have a human interaction from now on, I’m going to say “Remember Your Bags”.

“Hi mum, I need a shower.”

 “Remember your bags.”

 “Hi, it’s Jason from Fisher Funds here. Have you                                 thought about changing your KiwiSaver plan?”

“I haven’t got time because I need to remember my bags.”

“What’s for dinner?”



A typical confused Internet Warrior offsetting negative ions with a peace lily


Sadly, this is not about that great The Smiths song, it’s about something we don’t talk about enough in society: Computer Illiteracy in the Third Age.

More than ever, the elderly (people over the age of 48) are turning to their computer machines to use applications such as the ASK toolbar, Yahoo as a search engine, and to unwittingly download the full version of AVG because it offers full protection from hackers, who are young men who wear hoodies and gloves while hacking in the dark while no-one else is looking.

Hackers always dress this way, it’s very common and even though they are alone in a room probably, wear masks and hoodies and also drink V

Print this out and give it to someone you love, someone who is wrestling with the Internet. I’ll increase the font to the largest that this here WordPress will allow.

1. Check you aren’t just writing a private message to a family member in your own status bar

2. Stop installing the ASK toolbar. Once you have it, you can never get rid of it. Well, you can but I’ll have to do it next time I’m over

3. You can take a screenshot of your screen without using your phone

4. You do not need to switch the entire computer off every time you have finished using it

5. When Microsoft ring to talk about the breach of security on your computer, remember you have an “iPad” which is from a different company. It’s ok to not have a long conversation with someone who is scamming you. They won’t think you are not being polite. The Bridge group will not find out

6. Yahoo is now sponsored by Rich Dad. I know you like this idea but everything you type into the search area will lead you to Rich Dad

7. You can watch a YouTube clip of Nigel Kennedy for free, with the notes he’s playing at the bottom of the screen while you have a New World Graham Norton sav

8. I see you have put some favourites on your toolbar. I did not know you knew how to do that. I see you have Quotable Value, your local council and EzyBuy there.

Rites of Passage: “Mum I’m quite surprised because I got School C!”

Once upon a time, in Fifth Form (Year 11), I took some subjects at school.

I was asked to know my exact career path at age 15, and being from a fairly middle-class and therefore fortunate family, I simply answered with the first thing that came into my head:

Um I’ll take florist please.

With that over and done with I just randomly checked some boxes and ended up in French and Geography thinking they sounded nice.

The qualification was then School Certificate. I remember it being content-driven, meaning I’d be “taught” by my “teacher”. My teacher would do all of the talking, and would stand in front of the blackboard and draw diagrams with chalk.  We’d write down the content in our 1B5 hardcover books.

My geography teacher warned us about our exams from the minute we started class on the first day. We got used to hearing helpful reminders such as:

You think exams are in November, well they’re closer than you think

Oh, how we laughed at this nonsense, and went back to writing notes to our friends and planning what colour taffeta we’d wear for next year’s ball.

Suddenly it was term four and we’d done no work all year nor any study. My florist career was already in tatters and there were no Coles Notes for Geography or French.

There was only one thing for it, and that was to make it all up and hope for the best.

The English exam went ok. On the morning I packed a pretty tight plastic bag with things like protractors and a compass to make myself look more scholarly.

All of my transactional pieces ended with “Thank goodness it was all a dream”, because they were rubbish stories.  Possibly what got me through this exam was the helpful anecdote about Tennessee Williams’ sister being the first person in America to have a frontal lobotomy, the only thing I could remember about A Streetcar Named Desire.

French was tough. We were made to listen to some cassette tapes of scenarios. For example, Thierry getting told off by his mother.  I managed to work out that the whole family were going to the pool though, and that felt good.

On to Mathematics. Not my strength by any stretch but still the compass and protractor finally came into their own.

Geography was easy. I can still describe to you what orographic rain is, and that Auckland is an isthmus, and write a creative paragraph about California’s varied land forms and weather.

Science was ok, apart from the chemistry and physics parts, and by then, it was nearly holiday time and I no longer cared about my future.

In January the results came in. To my surprise, I had passed everything except French, only because everything was scaled up. Because of scaling, so that the education system could attain its all-important “bell curve”, three of my grades were in the late sixties. I passed mathematics. What a shitty cohort we must have been.

The following year, we were thrown into the first experimental year of Sixth Form Certificate and I spent a year mounting things onto thick cardboard for no good reason, and staring into the educational abyss, and wondering if I’d wear leg-of-mutton sleeves with my backless dress, and whether my date would be shorter than me because of the heels.

Great New Zealand Archetypes: Extremely Extreme Sports Dad

The Everyman idea is a fallacy.

The guy who refers to himself as “just a regular dad” is, in fact, Extremely Extreme Sports Dad, oft spotted doing the school run.

He can do it because he’s his own boss. He heads up a consultancy firm that specialises in oblique business messaging. He comes and he goes. You never really know what he actually does, but on pay day, an earth mover arrives and dumps an unfeasible amount of cash into the back pocket of his jean shorts.

To add insult to injury, Extremely Extreme Sports Dad rocks up to the school run in his Extreme Sport clothes. That’s how we know what he’s into.

Clima-dri™weaves cover his body as if he’s about to do the London–Dakar, but Olympic-walking it.

He also runs. How do we know? He’s always got a strapped thigh.  He bikes. He’s got a ten-speed. Or is it a twelve-speed? Old school.

Extremely Extreme Sports Dad’s real name is probably Jonathan or Graham. He went to Auckland Grammar, where he was Extreme Head Boy.

He’s got a soft side. He’s got daughters. He knows all about how long the women take to get ready. And that’s about all he knows.

He’s 6 foot five, taller than anyone else.  The children gather around him after school as he stops to have an Extremely Important chat with another budding alpha male called Lachie. Who will win the conversation is anyone’s guess, but Jonathan is a disrupter in the consultancy world, and Lachie is afraid.

On Saturday, he’s on the football sideline, egging on his sons into a world of Extreme Sporting. Then they’re off, into the ten-seater with someone else’s kids too, for a Big Saturday.

Later that night, Juliette and Rog are coming around for relaxing drinks and nibbles. The group will sprawl out onto the deck while Extremely Extreme Sports dad demonstrates his new drone.

And it’s over, another packed day. Soon it’s Monday again, time to do the school run, this time in a land yacht.

A Thousand Yards

A Thousand Yards

Between the blossom trees

and along the straight, gravelled avenue

the tall chimney rises.

The polished steel is hot and deranges

the stark slate of the blue sky beyond.


You took one thousand strokes

on a hired exercise machine in

the cold unlined garage,

while outside your small shrubs grew up around you;

your stare down the drive and into the postcode was infinite.


In Countdown you colour-coded

the vegetables part-time; the produce manager

disputed your work and asked you to focus on specials.

You walked home shamed

age 73 in your Asics.


Over the road at the RSA, the howitzer pointed skyward;

some days you could buy a $12.50 lunch,

silently eat in the blazing afternoon sun

—the work dried up,

“I didn’t need it anyway,” you’d mutter.


You did need it.

Your last time spent creating lattice frames for your

climbers; an archway for the rose

and crazed paving in the driveway

for you to tread in socked feet at dusk.


You twisted and sweated at night—

something wanted to burn you.

You became afraid of the Inland Revenue

and replayed Slavonic Dances over and over,

the music describing a swelling, sea-bound river.


Today, you are just smoke, tarring the sky.

“You’d be surprised how heavy the ashes can be”

says the slicked-haired undertaker,

the plastic composite box too small

for your terror.

Coronation Street’s Deep Thinker: Tim Metcalfe



Tim Metcalfe is a hapless Englishman, stuck in the middle of others’ drama, in a suburb called Weatherfield.

If you thought Steve MacDonald or Peter Barlow had fairly hard existences, think again.


Tim entered the show in 2013 as the birth father of Faye Windass, who is the adoptive daughter of Anna and Eddie Windass.

Yes. Windass.

Initially he bonded with Faye, and became Preferred Parent, mainly because he had no ostensible rules or skills, and Faye could break free from Anna’s earnest, caring and loving parenting style for a bit.

To facilitate this, Faye cooked up a cracker storyline about how Anna was an unfit parent, with a view to going to live with hapless party Tim.

Initially it worked, with Faye happily moving in with Tim, and within two days he’d left her home alone, and by the Friday she’d only eaten toast for three days straight.

Poor Tim, we thought, it was a big step, and good on him for having that frosty pint at the Rovers all day.

It was as if he had loser stamped all over his shaven pate, and then along came …

Web of Doom

Sally Webster.

And if he thought life was a bit confusing and unfair up until that point, he hadn’t seen anything yet.

For Sally breaketh the balls, slowly and surely, and Tim was no Kevin Webster.

He was jobless, and once the bogus allegations about Anna were proven to be fake, and party time had come to a grinding halt, Tim, without even a ladder like Graeme Proctor with which to start a climbing empire, nor a brass razoo to rub against another, craved a powerful career.


But with a bit of gentle fishwifery from Sal, he built a window washing empire from the ground up, and could reach the dizzying heights of success across the many windows of the Street; even Norris might put his hellish judgemental baby-boomer seal of semi-approval on it.

And Tim just sits through it all, eyebrows cocked in bemusement and sometimes bewilderment at the machinations of the partial humans falling apart around him.


He is Everyman, the bystander in his own life, the observer.

Most of the characters need affairs, whiskey, a light murder here and there to distract from the gutter boredom of Weatherfield.

Tim needs only a pint of Double Diamond and a space in which to stare ahead, one thousand yards.

He is the greatest character on the show, of this era.

Wicker Chair

On Monday there was a wicker chair,

its threads woven into the frame in a lacklustre taupe

next to a rusted lamp stand.

The shade askew

and its plastic backing peeling.

On the Wednesday it rained

and the soaked carpets spored black.

The vans stooped and floated

past the busted plastic chairs

towards the power drill

with its cut cord.

Friday the men in trucks came

loading great armfuls of wet curtains,

carpets, a wedding gown and lovers’ beds

into the crusher

angrily staring at the vans who raced ahead

to get the last peeling wooden drawers.

The New Zealand Buffet


Last Sunday, we hit the smorgasbord sensation called Valentines.

It was my daughter’s 7th birthday and I wanted her to have the experience of plenty.

We arrived at 12pm.

A cursory look around the joint revealed they’d removed the giant margarine sculptures of yore. Nothing neo-Platonic about those structures, although some of the subjects were often classical; a Poseidon, a centaur. Sadly, no Zeus though.

Once the dinner horn had sounded (actually a small waiter, summonsing patrons to attend to the stainless-steel tureens) we took the children up one by one, to sample the wares of the dessert trolley.

And then it was my turn, and I was struck by the colours and the lights. Bright heat lamps bore down on glistening meats and salamis; salads came slathered with what looked like peach-coloured dressing, and there were metal jugs of the same sauce with mini-ladles everywhere.

The Mexican section was just bad chilli con carne and nacho chips. Garlic bread lay in lazy strips next to every hot tureen and small bowls of sprinkles with a teaspoon scoop offered crushed nuts, bacon bits or dried pumpkin seeds. For what reason, I wasn’t really sure, and I was not about to ask Chef, because I’d heard a rumour that the food was prepared in Palmerston North and then trucked to the various franchises, and that would make the people in white hats ‘reheaters’ rather than actual cooks. And at the end of the day, I really liked this urban myth about the food being cooked at a distance; it had a scary and repellant edge to it.

I heaped my plate with anything I could find, even butter chicken, which in reality was chicken in a an orange-coloured sauce. 

I knew I was risking my life eating some of this stuff and I didn’t care. I could have sat there until 7pm just grazing, assessing the condition of the rubber plants that were still there from 1987, the leaves nibbled by god-knows what, and a glance over to the games room which doubled as a place to store baby high chairs, and the drinks station, which served Pepsi (unthinkable), red and white wine and Steinlager.

If that wasn’t enough for you, you could hit the dessert area hard-out, and smash a few New Zealand favourites onto your refreshed plate; a chocolate log absolutely addled in strong liqueur essence, some kind of trifle or a mousse of chocolate and by this stage I’d started to break out into a sweat until I saw the coffee percolator (the glass fish-bowl type) and all was well again in my world.

We left, filled with proteins not normally sampled in our day-to-day life, nicely ‘full’ and the children happily skipping to the car feeling they’d attended a mythical feast.

A lone pink balloon floated onto the highway as we pulled out into the Autumn afternoon.

Rites of Passage: The School Ball


Here I am at my seventh-form school ball.

I am seated in a chair made of cane, shaped into a peacock’s tail. To sit in this chair for some of us, was the apex of our school life, which by that stage had spanned some 12 years.

That’s a long time to be at school and the school ball was pitched as the ‘social event of your existence’.

Our venue was the Mandalay in Newmarket, Auckland.

If you are situated elsewhere in New Zealand, just imagine it’s like your local club/ RSA, but hexagonal shaped. It was a wonder of wood panelling, stainless steel tureens and a resident DJ. I could probably track down his name if I tried hard enough, but let’s just settle for DJ Bryan.

Somehow, the entire seventh form arranged to take a bus to the venue, from the pre-ball. I cannot imagine how we a) paid for this b) got on this c) were allowed to do this d) or who would do this for us.

It was a rocky ride into the venue, and empty stubbies of Rheineck rolled up and down the bus aisle with the odd ball-goer rolling simultaneously. The bus driver seemed nonplussed. It was probably perk work on a rogue bus.

Having alighted at the venue, we were greeted by the Senior Leadership Team. Hand shaking and polite patter took place while the DPs weeded out the children who smelled like stale Rheineck.

Can I pause here and say there is nothing in this world more tragic than a drunk 17-year-old guy in a hired Frank Casey suit, crying because he got locked out of the ball.

Through we swept and onto the ballroom floor. I fancy it was parquet, like the Louvre but I was mentally talking this place up.

When the dinner bell rang, it was time to sit at the formica tables and spoon the great dollops of Thousand Island dressing down, with the smattering of food as its accompaniment. It was everywhere, like a bright orange reminder of how cheaply this shindig had been thrown together, and how much buildup we’d endured to get to … this.

There was Fanta on tap, everything was orange; there was orange taffeta coming out of every orifice and I started to feel sick.

And then, the after-ball. Taxi-vans were fought over, and delicate 16-year-old girls turned into bouncer-strength boars, fighting other humans out the way of the taxi sliding doors.

The after-ball was an even less structured and sober event, if that is possible.

The parents were away and the house was big. But really, people weren’t interested in ‘upstairs’.  They were interested in a night of ‘hot knives’ and school-leavers. The boys who had left in sixth form were there, they had gone and taken jobs and had cars, and they had that rough edge we sad, white, soon-to-be-university kids lacked.

They had rotary cars and aviators, and a few legends would turn up wearing one white glove and dance MJ styles.

The heels, sinking into the berms were filthy, and some dresses had almost perished as if this was some kind of rugby world cup final.

As a teacher, I attended a school ball or two and they were entirely different affairs. They were policed, vetted, ticketed, parented, chaperoned, breathalyzed and bouncered.

You get what you pay for, it’s no longer the 80s and parents can relax a little. The after-balls are huger than the ball anyway, and ball ball ball. Balls.

What I remember about my ball was that we were quite repressed in the 80s, we never partied all that hard, and the ball was a steam vent (of tragic proportions) but a steam vent nonetheless.

We’d traipse into Bursary later in the year to write some low-quality responses to predicted questions that scraped us through into uni and then …SHADOWS BAR. Shadows would make the after ball look like High Tea, and we weren’t ready for it and it showed.