Prediction

I could have told you so.

In fact, I tried.
For a long time I have toyed with a post apocalyptic tale. The working title is Host, an exert of which can be found here…if you can be bothered scrolling through the tripe my brain tends to throw out at random.

Host though, is a concerted effort. Admittedly, not something I have bothered with in a while, not something which has come to any fruition and not a project that is either all consuming or something I have obsessed over. A bit more obsession, a bit more effort and maybe Host could have become something.
Something like a book ideally, complete with syndicated TV and movie rights.
But short of my artisitic, creative musings actually being worth any financial return I can’t help, in currnt climes, being drawn to the tale of a bunch of Kiwis facing up to imminent disaster. Such is the premise of Host.

Okay, the circumstances are different but all the drama is there to be seen, playing out right now on any media outlet you wish to name. Just lacking the gory violence and gratuitous sex scenes.
I am I selling you on it yet?
I guess the point is, we have all seen Covid 19 coming. Or at least something of the ilk. Coronavirus may be no Walking Dead but it isn’t much of a leap from a tele programme to the truth. Cantagion anyone?
I am not going to debate whether it is Hollywood leading reality or vice versa. Happy to quote Albert Einstein though, who reckoned imagination is more important than knowledge. Perhaps one is actually limited without the other but that’s a debate for another day.

Be it born in a studio or a lab or the spit/blood/piss of a bat/pig/duck/dog/mad cow, Covid 19 is a reality. A reality which will surely, pretty much, write itself.
All the experts in the world can claim they predicted it, all the politicians can state they were prepared. Did they? Were they? Questions to be asked when dust particles take a moment, a few deep breaths and begin to settle.
Worst case senario, there will be no more Hollywood. No more Brad Pitt//Mark Wahlberg/Tom Hardy teamed up with the leading lady de jour, played off against the henchman John Malcovich/Kevin Spacey/Michael Madson.
The story of the corona virus is too good to be missed. Most of it has been written already, in the the notes, drafts and final edits of every parlaimentary speech writer all over the globe.

People are dead and there will be more fatalities, before Covid eventually disappears or becomes one of those things we ‘manage’ as a people. A first world people at least. Of course it won’t disappear, in the same way coronavirus is not new. First world peoplpe have movie theatres, even if the seats are a minimum of two meters apart. Luxury.
Maybe if everyone had listened to me. Read me. Maybe if a publisher had decided what I predicted was worth reading…

They didn’t.
Host hasn’t been published. Predominantly because, as a body of work, it is incomplete. I haven’t finished it and there is every likelihood I never will.
Besides, Host is a Kiwicentric zombie story based around a parasitic infestation. Not viral. Not real.
I heard someone, somewhere, saying maybe the authorities of the world were stumped, lost and floundering and if so, then maybe a call to Steven Speilberg wouldn’t go amiss. He would in turn call Bruce Willis. Guys like those two might not have the answers, maybe no one does right now, but they are sure a couple of people more than aware of how this thing plays out.
If we can fit Will Smith in the storyline somewhere then it won’t be long before we have the current crisis all sorted, a bunch of pithy, cliched one-liners wrapped up within a few mutli-billion dollar months, in various locations throughout the world. Chuck in Samual L Jackson and suddenly Covid is cool.
Leave Peter Jackson out of it. We don’t want things to drag on.

I can’t predict the future. I don’t believe any one can, even if there are a bunch of poeple out there who think the economists, the scientists and the analysts have a handle on what comes next.
Whatever ‘next’ pans out to be, it will be a directors wet dream, a producers dream come true. We just have to get through the nightmare before we can get to the popcorn.
If Tom Hanks can survive Covid 19, Tom Hanks can relive Covid 19. For our benefit.

die-hard-6-search-young-john-mcclane-actor

I long for the day Covid 19, coronavirus, is nothing more taxing than entertainment.
The day when Lockdown becomes ‘remember when’.
The time when a pandemic, real, present and dangerous, is franchised. Nic Cage tied in for 3 movies minimum as the nutty, odd-ball professor ready to solve it all, Mark Ruffalo as the heart trob, sensitive new age Dad, recently seperated, estranged, just trying to do what he can to get to his family and in turn, saving the planet.
And Jeff Goldblum. Just because.
Coming to a screen near you. Covid 19 the Outbreak? The Lockdown?
The mindfuck.

This is what happens when there is too much time on someones hands. Time donated courtesy of a governmental enforced lockdown…

Oh…who plays Jacinda?

 

 

Bliss

Summer sun. Family. Friends. Booze. 

The silly season may have slipped by but it ain’t all over just yet.
Certainly. most of us have returned to whatever it was we did, what many let define them, before the summer break. Work, school, university. Unless you are in that late teen, early twenties ‘I have yet to define who or what I am as a person so I am on a journey of self-discovery’ phase, then life for you will be pretty back to where it was just before 209 ended.

All that sitting around eating, catching rellies and friends up on all the events, happenings, gossip and drama that had been 2019.
Too much to eat.
Still, room for desert.
Too much to drink.
Just one more.

It says something, quite a lot really, about New Zealand culture that almost everything we do outside of our everyday routine, has to be accompanied by a beer or a wine.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a beer or two and there isn’t much tastier than a Central Otago pinot.
A yak over beer catching up on the latest and greatest with an old mate is, as far as I am concerned, one the better ways to spend an eve or a lazy summer afternoon. There is something contentedly correct about matching tales of the glory days with the appropriate mix of hops and grains.

Anticipation. There is the problem. We await the opportunity. The afternoon so and so pulls into the drive for a couple of nights stay. That evening you go over to such and such’s house for the dinner you have always been saying you should have together.
Every move you make in preparation for those types of occasions is accompanied by the clink of class on glass, the rattle of ice in a chilly bin.

Image result for cold beer

I don’t drink to get drunk. Getting pissed is not the intention but is often the consequence. That creep of intoxication you are aware is happening and do nothing to halt.
For me, I don’t accelerate or diminish the pace. Instead, I will just keep merrily drinking. Others slam back their can or bottle or glass in rapid succession, avoiding the creep and going straight to pissed. Still more will sip, watching in a slightly amused/bemused fashion as those around them go from quiet, restrained, to chatty and demonstrative then loud and silly.
“Who invited shouty Mike?!”

It seems, apparently regardless of the situation, there is a need to have the moment memorialised with the serving of large quantities of alcohol.
All walks of life do it, from the middles classes who can afford it, to the lower socio-economic groups who can’t. There is no discrimination when it comes to the consumption of booze.
And it isn’t like we aren’t all educated in the evils of excessive drinking. Alcohol has it’s impact on our road toll, in our hospital beds, our family violence stats, in courtrooms and prisons, even at our favourite watering holes.
There are advertising campaigns everywhere extolling the virtues of moderation. Police, the Coastguard, health, community and education groups, all having a say and all imparting essentially the same message.

The impact of those campaigns I can’t gauge but I would suggest the message doesn’t make it as far as the outdoor furniture, or is at least forgotten as soon as people start to congregate there and around the barbie.
Drink in hand we begin the subtle art of peer pressure.
“Another one mate?”
“How’s ya beer?”
“Get me one while your up”
We don’t actually say it. We don’t have to. You are expected to keep up and are aware of that expectation. While we don’t have the shaming culture we used to if someone is to turn down that next drink, let alone abstain, our subtext is still very clear.

I’m not preaching. I have no desire to be a hypocrite.
My Grandmother used to tell me ‘everything in moderation’. A wise little saying but one wide open to interpretation.
A moderate amount of beer, followed by a slightly less moderate amount of wine, completed with something more than moderately stronger.

 

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An excess of natter, over do the laughs, too much to nibble on before the main course is even served.
Get stuck in to the chat, digging deep into the life and times of family and friends. Tell jokes, tell lies. You know, those fishing stories. Embellish the heck out of the year you’ve just had and blow out of all proportion the year set to come.
Make the night all about the reveller, the good old days and the best to come.
Remember and reminisce, dwell and plan and hope and dream and do it all with the people you love or will come to love, at your side.

Do it all with a cold beer in hand. Even if that isn’t what you are there for. Because we as New Zealanders are not so short of history, of stories and yarns and tales, so shy of news and events, so boring, that we have to get pissed in order to have a good night.
Sing, dance, knock over the kids lemonade, flirt and grin inanely and be lame and be cool and trip over the sprinkler you forgot was sitting in the middle of the lawn.
Don’t lament the wine you spilled, the beer you tipped. Let the grass and the earth soak it up. You don’t need to.
Soak up the atmosphere.

 

The Settle Season

Febuary. The most difficult month to spell and for me, the most awkward month to get my head around.

February sees kids trundling around with heavy school bags, which will diminish in weight as their schooling experience grows, as the memories of life’s little lessons kick back into gear along with their academic pathways. Those same pathways which have been on hold for week after sunny, hot week.
Bleached hair, tanned skin, tough soles on shoe-less feet, our kids charge through the school gate with all the youth and vigour on display you wish you could still muster.

They have summer stories. Tales to tell and yarns to spin. Embellishments, mis-recollections, already tinted with rose, memories consigned to the backdrop as new phases sweep in.
There have been beaches and baches (cribs for you southerners), trips to see grandparents and relatives arriving on the doorstep. Caravans or tents and barbecues and hot sand and rock pools and sizzling sausages wrapped in bread, adorned with nothing more than a squirt of Watties finest.
Laughter and late nights and sun drenched days.

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Sunburn. Splinters and thorns and prickles. Chaffing. Sand in places from which it may never escape.
Arguments over the best way to fold tents (roll, always roll). Bruises, scrapes, bumps and bangs. Long hot days in a car, sleepless nights tossing and turning in the sweltering sauna of a tent. That wave pushing the kayak onto the sand, trapping your ankle, the swelling nearly the defining moment of the vacation. (Dad has always said get out the seaward side!)
The visits from people you hardly ever see, the trips to see people you hardly know. Mum and Dad seem to know these people, seem to like them, sitting up long into the night, getting progressively louder as their bottles and cans carry decreasing volumes. Worst still when parents make friends with the family camped next door, the ones organised enough to get to the campground early, pitching on the flattest spot with the best view and the greater shade!

Now there is no more salt or chlorine coating the skin, it is time to think about school uniforms. That first advert you hear on the car radio, extolling the virtues of stocking up a terms worth of stationary while one special or another is on, comes as a shock.
Routine is on the doorstep, demanding attention and with it comes our return to normality.
It’s time to get back to what we know and do best. While the kids are back at school, hanging with their mates, telling and re-telling their summer stories, for Mum and Dad it all becomes a bit different.

“Isn’t this summer fantastic?!” suddenly becomes “Oh my God, this heat!”
The fact not a drop of rain fell while you tossed and turned your way through sticky nights in a tent has gone from being a blessing to a torment, Still not a drop of rain, none on the radar and everything is starting to feel frazzled.
Maybe it all adds up to going back to work being a bit of blessing. The same old same old giving you the comfort of what you know, the joy of having a bubble shielding you from that which is out if your control.
Slowly, that feeling as been creeping back in, since you abandoned your routinised comfort zone sometime around the end of December 2019. It all comes roaring back, now that the kids lunchboxes are no longer containers for bbq leftovers, now that the car trundles to and from school and not the beach, no longer smelling of damp towels and wet dogs.

I find the hardest month of the year to spell one of the hardest months of the year to get through.
There is the lingering hangover of summer fun and sun, of friendships rekindled and new ones formed. A time of screeches filled with delight, screams of fun. Long nights with the windows open, mosquitoes be damned.
Those nights still exist but during the day jandals have been exchanged for steel-capped boots or heels or those comfy, sensible favourites your feet don’t seem to complain about and fashion can take a back seat.
There is still a great deal to come. There will more trips to the beach, more ice-cream to dribble down hands and wrists, all the way to the elbow if you aren’t vigilant enough. But if you haven’t made the lifelong memories from summer 19/20 by now, you are seriously running out time.

Image result for summer holiday nz"

At this time of year I am always left with the feeling something has escaped me, like there was a vital moment, a certain event, I missed. Whether it escaped my attention, didn’t happen because I failed to make it happen, or just slipped by, I never can tell.
It is not something I can look out for, because it is not a thing I know how to identify. A feeling, a sense. Almost, of loss.
The hope is my loss is just as the saying goes. Someone else’s gain. In this case, Numbers One and Two, the E-Bomb and WeeMan.
As an added bonus there were cousins included, as equally involved in the backyard bbq’s, the camping trip to the beach. While the sun scorched our south Pacific islands, the kids hung with extended family, stayed up late to greet the crickets, nodded along to the polite greetings of people they considered little more than strangers and tolerated trips their parents seemed to be taking them on for no reason more than the sake of it.

Too late to wish someone a happy new year. Too late for resolutions, most likely already beginning to fade and die even if they had been given the gift of breath.
Now, the year 2020 truly begins.

Hi-Viz

Give a guy or gal a hi-visibility vest, give him or her a clipboard, give them a badge and you give that person power.

At least, they think that’s what they have been endowed with. The right to control others.
To an extent, that is exactly what they have been given. Some sort of say over the actions of anyone else at a given time and place. And, before I go having too concerted a dig, most of those who take up the clipboard, don the neon coloured vest, are volunteers, doing a service off their own back with the goal of making somebody’s day that much easier, that little bit better.

Trouble is, a little bit of power in the wrong hands can often end up doing more harm than good. It doesn’t take much for someone to become officious, to weld that hi-viz as some form of baton.
Sure, when there is a big event on, a helping hand finding a park can be a godsend, desperate as you might be to get a bunch of crotchety children out a sweltering car. A bit of guidance to find a toilet for a child who just can hang on any longer, directions to a some water, the entry, the exit. If delivered with a smile and a cherry passing comment or two, highly commendable stuff from a generally older member of our society simply keen on lending a helping hand.

Some of these folk, at the more formal occasions – say a sports arena – are poorly paid employees. Maybe it is that pittance of a wage which sets them off, a bitterness at the hand they have been dealt by the wider world and a corresponding desire to drag everyone else down with them, seeing them adopt a holier than thou attitude.
Curt, bossy, sometimes plain rude, it is these types who can can stain a day out with a sour vibe.
I get it. Having your back to the game, the concert or whatever it is, must be annoying and surely takes a lot of willpower, avoiding the temptation to turn and follow the action.
Undoubtedly there is plenty of action taking place in front of you, more so as the event in question goes on. It just seems to me, the more we grow and change as a society, the less we are prepared to allow others to have a little fun and the less we are allowed the opportunity to self-police.

A bit of summer sun. A few beers. All good.
Individuals may get a bit out of hand, yell some silly things, do something sillier. Normally, your mates, your proper friends at least, are going to rein you in, get you to pull your head in.
Sure, it doesn’t take many individuals before a bit of mob rule starts to take hold but even then, the well behaved masses still have the upper hand. A crowd will swiftly and efficiently weed out those it does not want among them.
It’s just we no longer seem to be given that chance.

The Black Caps are not performing. For the estimated 16,000 Kiwi supporters at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, there is undoubtedly more entertainment to be found in the stands, the antics of their mates and fellow tour hopefuls, cricket tragics and  party groups finding their own ways to keep themselves entertained where the likes of Cane Williamson and co cannot.

One of those 16,000 was Jordie Barrett. A young man, noted for being a member of the esteemed All Black squad and a guy who has popped up in the media before.
I don’t know the guy, don’t particularity rate him all that highly as a rugby player but he seems to be articulate, intelligent and comes from what appears to be a successful and loving family.
It’s not rugby season. I’m sure Jordie is training hard but I am also certain he is taking a well earned break from the rigours and pressures of top level sport. Part of that is a trip to the cricket, complete with Black Cap regalia. He has a beer, he cops a bit of attention from fellow spectators because, well, he is an All Black and that is the life he now leads.
Officialdom rains down and poor old Jordie Barrett is ejected from the ground, for what would seem o be no fault of his own.

To his credit, the young All Black makes no fuss and leaves the MCG, under the guidance of Clipboard and Hi-Viz. He is banned for twenty-four hours, after doing no more than what everyone else around him was also doing…drinking an over priced warm beer on a hot sunny day at a cricket match.
Really?!Of course, he won’t have been the first, nor will he be the last, to be ejected from the cricket, or any such similar event under the same sort of circumstances. It is just unfortunate in Jordie Barrett’s case we all get to hear about it, because of what he does in life. The guy has a profile, one he has been at risk of tarnishing in the past and one I hope will not suffer because of the overly officious, power mad officiousness of Clipboard and his mate Hi-Viz.

I get it. There has to be rules and they have to be obeyed. As follows then, what is good for one is good for all and All Black or not, no one can be above said rules.
But rules are open to interpretation. Rules are applied. They can be a fluid thing.
As far as I have seen (not that I have been inclined to watch a great deal of the Black Caps abysmal performance), there has not been bottles thrown, there have not been racist slurs and chants, there have been no pitch invasions.
Sure, Steve Smith got booed. The guy cheated, he got caught and punished. Move on.
Enjoy your typically under-quality over-priced beverage, undoubtedly served in disposable turtle killing plastic. Slip,slop and slap, sing a few songs, have another beer, slip and slop and slap again, try and start a Mexican wave, have another beer and in Jordies case, sign the odd autograph, pose for a few selfies.

Get out and enjoy the summer.
Go where you want to go and do the things you want to do.
Accept a helping hand, graciously.
Hopefully, as graciously as it is offered.

 

First Rule of Being Cool

What’s missing? The bits, the pieces from the year nearly gone which made you laugh, shake your head in wonder, or simply defied belief. Maybe, just maybe, the stuff you wouldn’t mind seeing again?

Fat, dickhead, white trash, English tourists. The big hit of last summer.
Would I want to see the likes of them on our shores again? A part of me says yes, for the entertainment factor alone. Our media was besotted, apparently grateful for the post Christmas gift which just kept on giving.
January seems like a long time ago now (or does it?) but these tourists somehow managed to linger not only in our imaginations but also on our shores, for longer than would seem necessary. Scheming and scamming their collectively rude and obnoxious way around some of the most unlikely hot-spots of the north, I somehow don’t think this unruly mob (family) will be missed. In a land where attracting foreigners to our shores is king, have we unwittingly been introduced to a new form of niche market?
Trash Tourism anyone?

There is a rule in our household.
The first rule of being cool.
Don’t be a dick.
Those above broke rule number one with free abandon. Can anyone remember the name of the dude swinging from the wavy spike piece of ‘art’ on Wellington’s waterfront? Na, me either and maybe he gets away with going down as a dork, rather than a dick. Still, not being a dork comes in around number five in the Be Cool Rule Book.

Anyone else hear the rumour Ikea is coming?
Anyone else had enough flatpack headaches in their lives to date?

Worldcups didn’t go to plan. Mostly. That’s right, two significant failures for our so called national sports. Okay, I’ll admit the pervious sentence is a touch harsh. We still love rugby, right? Don’t worry, you’ll still be deciding what the best packaging recycling, up-cycling or ‘I should take up cycling to get rid of this Xmas paunch’ option is when rugby kicks off all over again.
And, wow, realisation time…The Black Caps are actually not too bad at cricket, moral victors if not trophy holders.
I got over the events in Japan pretty quick. And Lordes. Rugby is a game. SBW got over it all fairly quickly too by the sounds if it. A bunch of seriously uncool people gave him grief about it.
Netball went alright though.

There are a lot of things I reckon are quite steep in this country. Petrol prices, a pint of milk (does anyone still call anything a pint anymore?), the everyday basics like bread and fruit and veg.
One thing clearly not steep enough is Baldwin Street.
One of Dunedin’s claims to fame outside of albatross and drunken, couch burning students, has been summarily dismissed by a bunch of clearly delusional officials from a publication named after a pint!
It was always going to be an uphill battle to maintain the title of World’s Steepest Street. And yes, this article will go downhill from here…

Can anyone define ‘Woke’ adequately? Does anyone need to?

Clowns are invited as support to employment negotiations. On the surface, the move seemed a thing someone not conversant with the cool rules would do. In reality, it is probably the sharpest negotiating tactic ever used. Could the same clown deal with the clowns responsible for the ‘Con Air’ flights still winging their way to our shores?
Clowns? I meant to say dicks. And whatever happened to Nicolas Cage?

That’s all I’ve got really. In what was a very eventful year for our little nation, not much stands out. Especially if you are at least half pie trying to stay positive.
I suppose Shortland Street will wrap up the year far better than I can, providing you with a cliffhanger during a seasonal finale an hour and half long, time you will never get back. Not, of course, it is possible to get time back…
The Avengers thing is all over. Or is it? Star Wars has it’s final saga in a drawn out Disney process worthy of the name saga. Perhaps there is room for something original now?
People will still flock here looking for Hobbits, which will hopefully stop them from soiling our soils. Shitting all over a fair land is beyond something even a dick can do…

See what I did there…

 

 

 

 

Conspicuous

While I have been conspicuous by my absence, New Zealand has been conspicuous for all the wrong reasons.

New Zealand is the place I call home. It is my country of birth, the place where my wife was born and the birthplace of my children.
In my limited time on this planet I have seen my share of other countries, differing cultures, other climates and all sorts of topography. This country, Aotearoa New Zealand, is no more beautiful, no more stunning, no more astounding, no more scenic or friendly or inspiring or great or just plain cool, than any other. What the land of the long white cloud has to offer, is accessibility.

These shores are a grouping of small islands-although not as small as we like to imagine-slotted away at the wash created by the confluence of the Tasman Sea and the mighty Pacific Ocean. To get here, even with thanks to the convenient wonders of air travel, is no mean feat. We really are at the bottom of the world.
Thing is, once here, everything these shaky isles have to offer really is right there at your doorstep.
Beaches galore, often just metres from your back door. White sand beaches at that. Mountains and forest and bush and sand and surf and sun and tempestuous storms and blazing scorchers, each and every day is different from the one previous and all is available within minutes, or a mere hour or two on the road.
You can hunt, you can fish, you can swim, you can walk and hike and trek and you can camp and you can dine out and surf and catch a movie or a play then dance the night away and if you are careful, you can pack most of this into just the one day. And night.

Nature abounds. Tourism seems to be the logical answer, from wine tours to bungy jumps and all in between. Aside from all of that of course, is the people. New Zealanders, Kiwis, are a pretty gregarious bunch, an open and honest group. A diverse group? Perhaps not so much but more so, despite our refuge access stats sadly lacking in comparison to the rest of the globes nations.
I’m not gonna get political, nor do I mean to be a glorified tourism brochure. Next year might be the time for political commentary but I am one of the great apathetic masses, so whatever I have to say on Beehive goings on will be lip-service at best. As it stands, my eldest doesn’t think I have a clue what ‘woke’ even means.
However, I will lament the lack of open eyes.

It would be harsh to say, seemingly yesterday, that no one picked an earthquake coming. Just like it would be cruel to suggest someone, somewhere, somehow, should have known Whakaari/White Island was about to pop. Christchurch suffered and still does and now it is the turn of Whakatane, a pretty, quintessentially sleepy seaside NZ town, to shed collective tears. As we do too, across the nation.
Of course Christchurch, a place I have heard referred to as the ‘Village of the Damned’ has suffered through even more pain and hurt. I never used to understand why New Zealand’s second largest city is tagged with such a moniker but I am beginning to get it now.
How much can you throw at the one place, the one grouping of people, before they break? For Christchurch it seems a case of bring it on.

Coming from Dunedin, I never liked the place. I was conditioned that way. Territorial prejudices aside, I don’t like how bitterly cold the place gets in winter, I don’t like the road layout, the lack of hills, I am not a fan of their rugby team and that wind!
As a young man visiting the South Island’s major metropolitan center, I was often struck by a sense of aggression. Statistically, as a young male on the streets of an urban center at night, there is a chance this is will be the case no matter where you are. But, Christchurch gave me reason to feel on edge.
Contrast that with the response to the twin tragedies the town has suffered and you would have to say first impressions don’t always last.
One disaster those damned villagers couldn’t avoid.

The people of Christchurch, of Whakatane, the folk on the West Coast who have endured the collapse of not only a mine, but the repeated collapse of their roads, have done it all with a grit and perseverance so Kiwi, that resolve deserves to be as cliched as our clean/green image, the perception of rugby as religion and our No. 8 wire can do attitude.
Heroes everywhere you look. People doing what they do best. To me, that is the thing, during a testing year, few years, which stands out the most.

People. Normal, boring, neighbourly, everyday heroic people.
Naming them wouldn’t be Kiwi. Even if I did, even if we already know their names, they will brush it off. After all, didn’t they do just what every one else would do? Weren’t they just doing their jobs? Catch phrases synonymous with this cloudy island nation of late.
Each and everyone one of us really is that hero. The old bloke next door, your mechanic, the night shift shelf stacker at the local supermarket. A given place, a given time.
At each place, on each occasion, when Kiwis have been asked to step up, we do it without fail. Without fail.
The failures come when our Prime Minister, Jacinta Ardern, is bagged for hugging emergency response personnel on the scene in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. There is blame to be apportioned when low brow Kiwis pop out of the woodwork to applaud and encourage the actions of madmen with automatic weapons.

Through it all, the year has drawn to a close with the sun making its presence felt, the beaches beckoning, birds chirping and bees buzzing. Same old same old.
At home, I have 3 kids showing the signs that a year in New Zealand’s education system is tiring. The remaining one is blissfully unaware, enviably young.
The drama, the tension, the frightening reality of the world, thrust upon sleepy white sand shores, seems to have had little or no effect on the lives of our four semi-rural children.
It’s hard to tell how affected kids are by the things which move their parents, their teachers, wider society. It washes in but I suspect, in many cases, it washes over.
Thank goodness.
Surely they feel the ‘vibe’. Surely our children feel the emotional content of such tragic events, even if at the time, they don’t understand why.
The hope is, following generations will be more empathetic, will have a greater compassion and understanding and consequently, more foresight.

As the year winds down, chilling as the air temperature warms, what was your big takeaway?
For me, I was struck by how diverse we are becoming as a people and how difficult it is for some to accept that. I was surprised by how much young people feel, despite being somewhat removed.
Sadly, I was not surprised by how non-plussed many people can be.

I promise not to be so inconspicuous.

 

 

 

Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone

Wifey and I are pretty open with our kids.
There is not much we keep from them, no subject we consider taboo and no questions we are not prepared to answer.

Of course we moderate the things our kids have access to; what they view on television and the internet, what they hear when listening to music or podcasts or anything of the like and, as old school as it might sound, what they read.
There are themes and theories and ideologies and images and thoughts espoused through a myriad of media platforms, all of which are readily accessible on a multitude of devices, many of which can be housed in your pocket and held in your hand.

We have good kids, children still in every sense of the word despite the wide scope of information they have at their fingertips. As a reasonably cohesive unit, the messages from Wifey and I have been fairly consistent over the years, our delivery relatively level and our availability assured.
Yes, I could spend a bit more time involved with their homework, delve deeper into their interests or passions.
Yes, we could be stricter on some things and show greater leniency on others.
Generally, we have a fluid household, plenty of noise and activity always under at least an element of control. To quote Madness and their hit Our House ‘there’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud’.

Like I said, good kids. No real dramas or concerns, outside of the myriad of things you might expect from a growing family with working parents.
When things go wrong, we are there for them. Open and honest and available. Wifey and I don’t have an explanation for everything and nor can we always find a solution. However, with a little reasoning, there isn’t much which can’t be worked through.

Every now and then, the big things come along.
Those moments you cannot be prepared for. Those times which catch you by surprise, no matter how organised and aware you might think you are.
You can’t have your finger on every pulse.
But, and what a big pause it is, there are some things  as a aparent it is almost impossible to explain, to find reasoning in. Because, simply, you don’t have the answers.

How do you explain pure, unfettered evil?
How can you help a child understand the hate fueled ideology which drives a person to perpetrate such horror on a community, on a people?
You can’t.
Especially when you don’t understand yourself.

Tears have been shed in this house and will continue to be for some time I feel.
Good. We are crying as a nation and as a people. Tears for those who lost their lives, their families and friends and tears for all they knelt and prayed for in the place they went for solace, reflection and the place they went for hope and love and all the rest.
Number One cried today, the enormity of it all finally striking at here heart.
The pain was there on Number Two’s face when she first asked what was going on Friday evening. There isn’t a full level of comprehension for her and for that small mercy, I am grateful.
E-Bomb and the Wee Man are too young to comprehend anything beyond the vibe emanating from their parents. They get it. Something is wrong.
Something is very very wrong.

I have struggled to keep the language of hate out of my own words.
My voice has crackled at times, close to breaking, when I speak of these events. It is hard, particularly when you have to look a thirteen year old girl in the eye and see the realisation dawning in her that this world we live in, the one we all share, can house people capable of being despicably wicked, people capable of visiting hideous acts of cruelty on others. Innocent others.

I am glad they got this bastard alive. I realise it is what he wanted; his platform, his moment of infamous immortality. I hope he gives us the answers, even though we all know they will be the deluded ramblings of a crazed mind, little more than a jujmbled rehashing of the various messages of hate brought to us over generations of evil thinkers and doers.
But I need to hear it, as awful and insidious as it might be. Because I don’t know what to tell our kids.
I don’t know HOW to tell our kids.

We don’t shelter our four children.
There is no cotton wool enveloping them, they do not view the world through the shimmering haze of a bubble.
The temptation is to put the walls up, bring down the shutters, erect the barricades.
We won’t. There will be open and honest discourse as long as there are questions.
Our kids will be watched, a eye kept on them in the same way I hope all parents are watching over their children at the moment.
Kids see and feel, sometime more they we do.
Kids hurt.

All I can ask of my Wife and myself is that we do the best we can to raise well rounded children, ones we can send off into the world as well prepared as we could make them. Happy and healthy and open and honest and caring and loving and genuine young people, armed with open minds, good hearts and a smile.
We want them to see the good, in everything they do and see and all the people they meet. We want them able to cope, to have them ready for the big bad world.
Because yes, some of that world around us is bad. So mind-numbingly bad. And that bad world is no longer surrounding us, it has visited us, come to our shores and bought an extreme example of its evil with it.
Let our kids be together. Let them play, let them sit and chat and let them mingle and let them laugh and cry and do whatever it is they feel they need to cope.
Youth are doers and they will want to be active and vibrant over this issue.
As such, we will visit the Whangarei Islamic Center on Friday and we, as a family, will watch over our local Muslim community as they bend in prayer. We will bring nothing more than a smile, carry nothing other than hugs and strong shoulders, ready to be leaned on.
Will we see you there?

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In the meantime, to the tune of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall…Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone!

 

No Winners

Is that true, what they say..there can be no winners?

On Saturday afternoon, the decision was made to cancel the scheduled round five Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Highlanders, set to be hosted at Forsythe Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

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Media outlets cited the police as saying there were no official fears held for the safety of the venue, its patrons or the players. The decision to call the game off must therefore have been made over sentiment.
Commendable. There is no denying the depth of feeling flooding the nation given the events in Christchurch on Friday. As a consequence, we were all encouraged not to view, share or partake in the filth Tarrant posted online.
Good call. Who wants to see such grotesque violence anyway, despite the ghoulish nature many people have.

So, with one hand we are denying this freak of a human the platform he so desperately sought, yet it seems with the other we are giving him the and his actions the credence they so badly do not warrant.
I have always liked to think sports is impartial. Free of politics or the whims of society and it’s ever changing standards. Just a bunch of men and women and kids running, kicking, jumping, throwing and catching, using whatever level of athleticism required to undertake their chosen physical past time.
We have seen time again how people will always persist in drawing a llink between sport and the wider issues of the world and indeed more and more we see modern sports people wanting to use the platform they have through their game as a chance to weigh in with their opinions.

Cool. I am all for wider debate, for as many voices as possible in any given debate and for perceived role models, such as sports people, making the most of what is a privileged position. Think the statements by TJ Perenara around the rainbow issue as a prime example.
To me, it just seems calling a halt to a rugby game because of the actions of a nutter is out of place. The cricket test to be held at Hagley against the Bangladesh team, sure. There is no way that game could have proceeded. But a rugby game in a different city over twenty four hours later? Out respect for the victims? Really?
I sincerely doubt the victims and their families were giving any thought to any game. All cancelling the game has done is extend the reach of Brenton Tarrant’s actions, furthering his hateful message.

I will admit, there is an element of selfishness to what I say.
I was looking forward to the clash between the Crusaders and my Highlanders. We took them down last season and while I don’t think we were likely to this time around, we were in with a shot.
Under the roof in Dunedin, a big derby match, the night of sporting entertainment would have been a spectacle, the Zoo in action and students and fans reveling in the streets.
The type of spectacle we as New Zealanders are more used to seeing.

Just what the doctor would have ordered don’t you think?

As for the name of the rugby franchise from the Canterbury, Nelson?Tasman region?
I for one, no fan of PC excesses, think it may be time for a change…

 

Innocence and Immunity

Was I naive? Was I blissfully unaware? Was I ignorant? 

The question of immunity is a gnarly one in New Zealand at the moment.
Measles has well and truly reared it’s ugly head as a problematic virus on our shores and re-ignited an immunisation debate, one which never really goes away.

My wife is a medical professional. Her mind works in the way of someone immersed in the jargon and language of her profession and those of the colleagues and others around her. She gets it, all the information. It makes sense to her as she has a mind trained to filter the dross and dredge out the important, relevant stuff.
To the layman, researching your way around the question of whether to immunise or not, leads to nothing more than a headache. Claim and counter claim, fact and counter fact.One study and trial versus another.
But even as a layperson, the evidence seems more than just conclusive. It is undeniable.
Jab your children.

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Perhaps I am susceptible to a viral attack such as Measles. To be honest, I don’t really know if I have been fully immunised or not.
One thing I am all too aware of now, I am not immune to the hate in this world.

Was New Zealand ever that idyllic, peaceful, sweet and innocent South Pacific paradise we all like to think of ourselves as living in?
Simply, the answer is no. But comparatively, we don’t have a great deal to worry about and never really have. Not from the perspective I have anyway, looking out from my bubble of family and everyday life.
As a nation, we are not immune to the hatred and vile, violent and disgusting behaviours and attitudes that seem to purvey so much of the rest of the globe. It has reached our shores, this cruelty. This terror.

It is being said we all saw it coming.
Did we?
Not this guy. I was not aware an attack of this nature was imminent. I had no idea, not even an inkling, there were people here in this country mad enough, angry enough, insane enough, low enough and organised enough to conduct such an act as happened in Christchurch yesterday.
Why would they be here? Why would they harbour so much hate, hold such evil in their hearts and minds?
Why would I, Mr Normal, Mr Average, Mr Everyguy, even suspect there was an element of New Zealand society capable of such an atrocity.

Don’t get me wrong. I know New Zealand is not perfect, that elements of our population are dysfunctional, for one reason or another. I know there is poverty and there is racism and there is violence and there is hate. I have seen examples of all of it and I am sure most of us have.
But, imagine the guy in the checkout queue in front of you is plotting, as he waits idly for the middle-aged part time working Mum to pack his groceries.
Plotting the purchase of mutiple weapons and the ammunition to go with them, the chemicals and the materials required to manufacture bombs. Plotting the logistics and programming routes into his GPS, taking note of timing and traffic, parking even.
Imagine that guy is plotting the death of as many as he can get. Imagine all that is running through his head, right as he is smiling at the checkout chick, politely declining a receipt, not having spent enough to earn a fuel discount.
A few days ago I might have been able to put my imagination to musings like that.
It would have meant little more than that. Random musings. A concept best related to another place; the States, Great Britain, Germany.
New Zealand? Nah mate.
Now, it is a hideous reality I am not sure I can fathom.

The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior was massive. It tore a big hole through this country as it did through the hull of the Greenpeace vessel.
New Zealand and New Zealander’s lost something that day. We were left exposed to the ugly truth of the world around us. A world, it seems, we cannot hide from, beneath veils of clean, green forest canopies and golden sand beaches.

That ugly world has spat in our faces again. A stench ridden, filthy, dirty and ugly reality New Zealanders…all New Zealanders most likely…probably never really considered. Or at least had stopped giving credence to.
The French assault on our soil, on our sensibilities, was a long time ago in the context of global conflict. Not forgotten but moved on, shuffled back to the places in our minds capable of reconciling the hideous and the ugly. But the shield of  ‘It doesn’t happen here’ and ‘It won’t affect us’ has yet again shown it’s vulnerability.
Turns out evil does happen and evil will have it’s effect.

But I am not scared. I am not worried and I am not concerned.
The vitriol has already begun and the spats over keyboard comments are well under way.
Soon the talks will be more earnest and responsible inside the chambers of our lawmakers and politicians. Things will change, inevitably and some of those changes will be for the good and maybe some not so much. One thing can be assured, there will be a great deal of debate, a huge amount of reflection and doubt and uncertainty and yes, there will be fear and anger. Hurt. Every single feeling, each and every emotional response, is justifiable.
Will there be retaliation? We can only hope not.
Who do you fire back at? More innocents? More men, women and children, lost in the fog of prayer? Christians? Catholics? The great secular unwashed that is the majority of Kiwis?

I always thought of this country as a laid back, cruisy, chilled place. We are all too relaxed to care a great deal. Aren’t we?
Life is too good to be worrying about hating. If that is your thing mate, good on ya.
And you know what? I am still going to think of this country like that. Of Kiwis like that. We really are inclusive. We really are giving and accepting and understanding and caring and open.

Please, tell me that won’t change.

Tears of Islam

Should that headline read tears for Islam?

According to my wife it should. She sat in her favourite chair, our slumbering youngest nestled against her despite the persistent heat of a summer which refuses to give in, and wept.

As far as is known, as I sit and write, forty nine people are confirmed dead.

Forty nine men, women and children, literally on their knees in prayer, gunned down.

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I don’t need to describe the horrors and nor do I need to decry them.
Done, by all the media outlets and all the commentators and all those with the tech and the wherewithal.
I am certainly not going to apportion blame.
I could point the finger at social media, which allows the like minded to agitate and to ridicule and to deride. Worse still, social media allows these people to congregate.
We could question gun laws, asking why there isn’t a register of weapons for every person issued a firearms license.
We could look to our police and our security agencies, our intelligence services and border control and government and policy, ask a collective why?
You can’t police the nutters. You can’t legislate for the insane.

You can blame the people pulling the trigger.

An extremist is insane.
Be they Christian or Buddhist or Catholic or Muslim.
Be as far right or left of the political divide as you wish.
Just not too far.
Be as devout and as pious and as proud of your chosen religion as you feel you must.
Where religion and politics intersect, be fervent and aware and earnest and also be open and appraising and smart. Stand your ground, by all means. All the while, let those around you stand theirs too.
There is plenty ground to go around.

I have been away from the keyboard for quite some time.
A new house, a new job, kids starting a new year in new schools in a new town. We have been busy, hectic at times and it pains me to acknowledge, it takes something like this to fire my emotional output.
Too often the word ‘tragedy’ is bandied about but now we have one, yet again in the city of Christchurch. So much that place has suffered and so often there are setbacks to recovery.
But, 15/3/2019 contained no force of nature, no random act of seismic power. People did this and they did it to each other.
I just don’t get it.

Video footage taken and posted by  the perpetrator, as if his actions and those of his mates were somehow significant, as if they had some point, some depth we all needed to become aware of. Bad enough and all as he defiantly gives the impression he is proud of his actions.
And in so doing, he drives the final nail into the coffin which contained the innocence of this nation. The perceived innocence at least.

The New Zealand Wars, Tiriti o Waitangi, Think Big, Nuclear Free. Big issues, big standpoints with different results or none at all.
In regards to our nations stance on the nuclear issue, we watched a ship blown up and sunk in one of our harbours, at the cost of a life. State sponsored terrorism.
Now the argument, and the terrifying response, seems to be over immigration. Delivered to us, it would seem, at the hands of an immigrant.
How is Australian Immigration gonna like getting this one back?

Because our Prime Minister is right. Jacinda Ardern is correct in telling us that this man, immigrant or not, is not one of us. He does not belong.
If his colleagues are Kiwi born and raised, then they too no longer belong.
They are not New Zealanders.
Not true, died in the wool (merino) New Zealander’s. They are white trash filthy scum and white trash scum should be stateless.

I know New Zealand is not the land of milk and honey.
No, wait…it is!
We are Godzone, we are small and far away and exotic and beautiful and clean and green and we are friendly and accommodating and yes, we are innocent.
We are non-threatening and we are courageous and we are forthright and earnest, trying our best in every endeavour and we do get so much of it right.
We smile because, generally, we are fed and housed and educated and yes, we are loved.
Kiwis don’t fear you because we don’t threaten you.

Number One’s math teacher is Palestinian. English is not his first language and I think he knows some of the kids find it hard to understand him at times.
But kids don’t want to send him back from where he came. Kids want a day off to wave banners and moan about the environment.After all, aren’t numbers a language in themselves? A language I can’t understand either.
Think. How is his night? Does he spend his night in fear? Does he worry, as he bends in prayer, that all he will be delivered was a bullet to the back of his skull?

Palestinian mathematics teachers are welcome in this town, on this island, in this country.
Bangladeshi cricketers are welcome and Pakistani grocers and Afghani accountants Uzbek truck drivers and who ever from where ever.
Extremists from Australia or Christchurch or Matamata or Culverden or wherever, aren’t.

But this isn’t really about race or creed or colour.
15/3/2019 Christchurch was about ego. It was about exclusion and loss and a sense of entitlement, a misguided notion of where the wrongs of the world are and how best to put them right.
This was about kitten stranglers, about kids who used to pull the legs off spiders just to watch the poor creature, and the poor gathered boys and girls, squirm.

This was not about Islam.

This was not about New Zealand.

I watched rugby tonight. My kids watched TV. We ate as a family. We remained ‘we’ even as my wife’s tears were justified and I battle to contain my anger.

Tears for Islam
Tears for Christchurch
Tears for New Zealand
Yes, tears for the people and families directly involved. Tears for the police and emergency services and all those who will now be involved mopping it all up, no doubt for years to come.

Tears for humanity.
Just when will we get that right?