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.

 

Image result for scotch in a glass outside"

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.

 

Daddy White Sox

You know that guy? I’ve almost become ‘That Guy’

You’ve all seen him. Maybe he is your boss, maybe he is a colleague.
Perhaps he is your neighbour, your mate, your brother. You might be married to him, he might be your Dad. Whatever the relationship, That Guy is instantly recognisable. Especially at this time of year.

That Guy isn’t hard to spot. Look for him coming out of the dairy. He’s the bloke in the faded t-shirt, the one he bought from the stall outside that concert he went to twelve years ago. He might be balding, at least have a receding hair line but it’s hard to tell, because he is wearing a cap, the brim of which is where his sunglasses sit.
That cap is emblazoned with the logo of a supplier, a client, a local business and was probably free. There are sweat stains if you look close enough.

That guy is a good guy. He will nod at you in a gesture of friendliness. He might mutter a g’day, maybe apologise briefly as you squeeze by each other in the convenience store doorway. He won’t wave. That Guy can’t, his hands full with fistfuls of already melting ice-cream cones of various flavours. That Guy hopes he remembers who asked for what flavour.

You won’t see much more of That Guy. You’ll hear him, exasperatedly repeating himself until one of the kids in the SUV or double cab ute acknowledges his returned presence, stops bickering with it’s siblings and opens the door for their Dad, in their own sweet time. A puff of diesel and he’s gone.
To the batch you wonder? The beach? Is there a chilly bin the back of that family friendly multipurpose vehicle packed with steaks, fish, cheesy sausages for the kids? Maybe in the tray, on the roof rack, there is a kayak, boogie boards, snorkels and masks and fins and a change of clothes Mrs That Guy thought might be necessary. On the side and rear of that ute the name and number of a concrete placer, a landscaper, a sales rep, a plumber.

That Guy is, apart from maybe a touch of middle aged spread, a healthy and strong man. He is physical, with meaty, calloused hands. Broad across the shoulder, nearly as thick in the chest as his belly is becoming. That Guy is in his forties, maybe early fifties,or close enough to it. That Guy is tanned.
Mostly

That Guy has burned under the hot, unforgiving NZ sun once or twice already this summer. That Guy burns every year, his strong back reddening as he turns over the veggie patch, coats the deck, starts up the lawn mower for the first time this season. His skin has coloured accordingly, the way That Guy secretly wanted it to even while telling the kids to be sun smart.
Still, his skin tone over his back and chest does not match the deep, man of the outdoors tan on his forearms. And that dark colour, is a long way from the shade of his ankles and feet.

Right where the top of his woollen work socks stop, the ones That Guy rams into his steel capped work boots, is right where all colour ceases to exist. Here, the glare of bright, lens tightening whiteness begins.
Like a badge of honour, That Guy is advertising the fact he is on holiday. Those pearly white toes, shinier and brighter than any celebrity could hope their perfect rows of teeth could ever be, mean summer is finally here, the kids are out of school, That Guy and Mrs That Guy have coordinated their time off and the holiday season has rolled around.

That Guy will be at a steady 104km/h before the proportion of cone exceeds ice-cream. The kids will still be quiet in the back, glad for the treat, breaking up the monotony of the annual trip to wherever to do whatever. Mrs That Guy will be handing out the wet wipes she still buys, just for such a sticky emergency, even though she hasn’t changed a nappy in years.
That Guy will turn off the air-conditioning and put the windows down, telling everyone how much he hates aircon anyway. The fresh air and breeze is nice, even if the temperature rises nearly as much as That Guys, the queue of caravans and motor-homes and trailers and boats the real reason he deemed it okay to have through breeze.
That Guy will reluctantly switch the cricket off, fuss with the bluetooth, struggle to get anyone else interested in a game of eye-spy, a desperate attempt to recapture the rose tinted nostalgia of his own childhood road trips.

While Mrs That Guy wonders for the third time if she remembered to turn off the oven, asks again if That Guy locked the garage door behind him, That Guy fights off thought of early to mid January, when he will be back laying concrete, building, plumbing or managing it all.
Mrs That Guy will wonder out loud if her sister /brother/uncle/grandparents will beat them to their shared destination. Mr That Guy will wonder to himself if the nephews and nieces are still the spoiled little shits he remembers from the last holiday and whether it is the parenting to blame. Or has he got this lot confused, are these the cute ones, the fun ones?
That Guy loves them all regardless and is determined to give them the holiday from which life-long memories are made.

That Guy settles in the 70-80km/h average he was hoping they would avoid by leaving early. Not as early as he had planned and hoped for but hey, at least the kids hadn’t put up a fight.
Now That Guy is thinking tackle and bait. He is thinking sizzling steaks and lukewarm beers and maybe a good book and snoozing in the shade.
That Guy pretends he can’t hear the moans from the back seat as he kills the bluetooth and tunes in the cricket.

Image result for classic kiwi road trip

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…

 

 

 

 

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.

needle

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.