Redneck Dad

The following content may offend some readers.

Be warned. I sit down on a sunny morning, surrounded by a slumbering household, as nothing more than master of this keyboard. An over-weight, balding, arthritic, white, middle class (I suppose) male. And somehow, I am supposed to be apologetic for that.

Because I am white, older and was born and bred in the South Island, I am racist, sexist, misogynistic, ultra conservative with a big red streak emblazoned across the back of my neck.
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I am the victim.
The victim of pigeon-holing. I have been labelled, my persona apparently so on display, the role I play in society can be summed up at a glance.

We all judge and are all judgmental. I get that. I do it too.
Everyone does and there doesn’t have to be any harm in doing so. If nothing else, it is a protective mechanism, one designed so we find ourselves in the company of like-minded people. An attempt, on the most part subconsciously, to group ourselves among our peers and avoid those with whom we may have some form of conflict. Sure, it is contrived, constructed, part of societal ‘norms’ we are conditioned to accept and rarely, if ever, question.

It means, because I hail from the south of this split nation and therefore my accent is different, I must be racist. It means, because I am of a certain age and skin colour, I must be conservative and materialistic.
It is assumed I am educated, have a job, am not divorced. It is assumed I drink Speights, when the reality is I have been steadily working my way through anything and everything crafty with a medal on it. I still like a cold Speights after a hard days work but given my middle aged spread, quality over quantity is a notion driven by health, as well as budget.
I am supposed to drive a hulking, modern, bright and shiny 4WD I don’t need, while the wife bops around in something eco-friendly, European. We might even have a boat or a bach or a combination of the two. Maybe even stocks and bonds, whatever that means, a rental property or two. Mum and Dad investors.
Our kids go to good schools and always have shoes on their feet and jackets to ward off the rain. They do, I was there when we purchased some of that stuff, but you try getting them to wear their protective layers when they are needed.
Basics, our budget is capable of that at least, even while we are not driving flash cars or taking island holidays.

Essentially, as my hair turns a distinguished shade of peppery gray (ok, what is left of it), because I can read and write, because I can spell and count, because I know how to communicate in full sentences using the English language, as my generation and the ones before recognise it, I must be a National Party voter. Or something like that.
One of my big regrets in life to date, is my inability to fluently speak another language or two, be it Te Reo or one of the romance languages. (If you can’t look sexy, why not sound it?).
No great dramas then. No real stresses. If I all I have to worry about is the my inability to babble away in another language, then there can’t be too much going wrong. Right?
Because, good people, their isn’t. Not really.

 Of course, this process works just as well in reverse. All Maori can sing. All Maori have rhythm and can dance. (I can play the drums, meaning I know and have rhythm, as white as I am, but man you don’t wanna see me dancing!)
Generalisations like this make our little clusters of society struggle to mingle. Instead of celebrating differences, we look to segregate and marginalize and the fault is as much with the so called minority, as often as not. I witnessed it with international students attending Otago University. There was a reticence to socialise outside of the small cultural circle these groups bought with them. If they did, it was with other students from foreign cultures.
New cultures can be daunting. Language barriers can seem insurmountable. Establishing yourself in a new and foreign environment, even if it is just the neighborhood across town, a new town, or on in a whole other island, is no easy thing and of course trying to be a part of an already settled group structure, the new kid on the block, is a daunting task.

We have moved around enough over the last few years to note it is the new kids on the block who have the least issue with the new and the untried.
They don’t see colour like we do, don’t hear a foreign tongue like we do.
Kids aren’t blind and deaf to differences, but they are far more accepting, less concerned about the difference and far more interested in common ground. Play, sport, the classroom are all great levelers and children find their fit in no time.
There is always the loner, the one who doesn’t fit, who stands out via their desperate attempt to do exactly the opposite.
Don’t worry about them until the the teen years and in this country, don’t worry too much. Our loner, social misfits don’t have access to automatic weapons.

Adults find it harder to meet and greet for some reason. Caught up too much, maybe, in the preconceived and the contrived.
Workplaces provide an avenue to find new faces but mostly, it is done through your children, around the school and the community which comes from that. You meet parents, teachers and principals and bus drivers and neighbours.
All these new people might see you as this or that or the next thing. They judge you.
Just as you are sizing them up at the same time. First impressions and all the stigma which comes with them.

Yes, I am Caucasian and I come from ‘regional’ New Zealand.
Yes, I have a level of tertiary education and I have full time employment.
Yes, we own two cars and yes, every now and then we can head out for lunch.
Am I a conservative capitalist? No.
I am a left of center idealist, one who would go a lot further left if I wasn’t cynical enough to realise it probably wouldn’t work.
Am I racist, bigoted, aggressively or even just assertively hardcore in particular view or assertion? No. I am too busy for any deep thought, any particular take on any given issue. Four kids remember. Have I ever mentioned that?!
Am I ignorant or worse, abusive of other beliefs of cultures. No.
Just no.

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Confederate flags and muscle cars and sexist ideology aside, Dukes of Hazard was a cool show. I love pick-up trucks (utes) as much as the next man and will stamp my foot to country music if you’re going to play it.
That school community, those neighbours, will most likely see my wife and me as we are. First and foremost we are parents. Hard working, dedicated family folk.
Just like the ones sitting across from us at any given table, no matter where we came from and how we got there.

 

 

 

Summer Musing

Hot enough for ya?!

Who doesn’t love it? Summer. And a bloody good one at that.
The 2018/19 summer is the first one I have worked in a couple of years and it feels like the holiday I was needing, without realising I was in need of one.
It is too easy to think the stay at home parent doesn’t need a break because, hey, it isn’t like they are working. My time in the crib, hanging with my crew, was the hardest work I have ever done.
Yep, you’re so right. I am too old and too Caucasian for that language.

There was nothing physically demanding about being at home, with a couple of little ones. Okay, a few of the physical attributes females are blessed with might have been handy. A hip or two might have taken some of the pressure off back and shoulders, a mammary gland here and there to placate wayward behavior or appease demands.
I might not necessarily have been fully equipped to deal full time parenting, though I coped. So did the kids!
I managed, in the same way I am not necessarily fully prepared to be as productive as I could be in my new role, but as I had to do being a stay at home Dad, I will learn and adapt and change and ultimately, succeed.

Being at work full-time does not mean I am any less a full time parent. Having a job does not exclude me from being a Father, nor does it mean I am suddenly ignorant of the trials of looking after a brood of kids during the summer holiday period.
The long summer break, for kids and parents alike, is all about prickles on the lawn, falling asleep in the car on the drive home from the beach.
It is trying snorkeling for the first time, testing out the new boogie boards, in waves you might not previously have been adventurous enough to venture into.
It is ice-creams, dripping down your hand faster than you can lick, one ice-block after another failing to quench your sea salt, sandy thirst, it is sweat and chaffing and barbeques and fresh green salads and dozing in the shade, as the birds chirp above and a hot Tasman breeze shifts clouds as lazy as your eyelids, from one bright blue horizon to the next.

The day done, summer is impossible nights, tossing and turning from fear of a settling mosquito, window wide to let in a drift of air no cooler than the heavy, sunscreen tainted wafts you want to escape.
Shut the window, ban the bug, toss and turn regardless, the heat rising from your sun-kissed skin.

For Wifey, summer is popping the cork free of the a chilled bottle of Pinot Gris, darling, a little earlier than might be otherwise appropriate.
For me, summer is a sleepy afternoon beer, warming the grill and waiting for the salads to be near ready, before standing dangerously close to the sizzle and pop of barbequed meat.
Summer is backed by a soundtrack of reggae and roots, the voices of Brian Waddle and Jeremy Coney.
Wifey cruises back to the vibes of Scott Bradlee and his hodgepodge of assorted vocalists and clustered instrumentalists.


Walks beneath a bush canopy, because it is cooler. Dining on the deck, in the shade and a cooler breeze. Indications it is summer.

Romantic stuff. All holidays and white sand beaches and fishing and the clink of bottles rattling together in a chilly-bin.
Of course, summer is stretching the budget, worries over childcare and the threat of behavioural hiccups among the wee ones, as routines are broken down and then suddenly reinstated.
You could worry over the effects of melanoma or the efficacy of your sunscreen. You could fret about what state work is going to be in when you finally get back there, or just how the kids are going to cope with a new year, maybe a new school.
Or…

Take ten minutes laying on the grass in the dappled shade of a plum tree and when you stand up, pick a few fruits for the bowl.
Twist the cap off a cheap Pinot, no one does corks anymore and don’t let that worry you.
Crack the cap on that first afternoon beer and down half the contents in a couple of mighty gulps.
Let the rhythmic squeak of the trampoline lull you, the cry of gulls, Tui, the screech of argumentative, sun frazzled children. Whatever.
Before long, routine takes hold, regathers it’s strength and starts to dominate. I can feel it doing that thing it does right now…

Until then, just because…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Soundtrack

In a world where identity is constantly under question, bent by questions around gender and labels, transformed by changes in acceptable norms, is there a place anymore for individuality?

Everyone has the right to be different, has the right to be exactly who they see themselves as. It is no easy feat, being the the person you want to be, the person you are and perhaps it is that bit harder again, to be the person you wish others to see you as. Everyone forms impressions and makes judgments. Doing so gets harder, the more boundaries are shifted, but people will do it anyway.

We are conditioned by the culture we are raised in, the house we are bought up in, the education we receive, the books we read, the movies we watch and the music we listen to.
We want to fit in, want to branch out, find a new path. We want to recapture a feeling, a vibe, we want to be challenged, feel something original.
At least, that is how it always is for me and music.

I was always happy to let anything into my ears my ears didn’t object to. Pop, classical, reggae, electronica in all it’s forms, jazz and blues and soul and R&B and rock’n’roll, you name it.
I had my preferences of course, still do but I made a point of always allowing myself to be influenced by friends and family, by the radio, the television, open to advances from whatever culture or media I had access to.
As a young g fella, growing up in the South of New Zealand, Dunedin to be exact, my location as a youth was both a blessing and a hurdle.
Quite apart from being raised prior to the digital era, there was often a sense, certainly when I was young, that the ‘on-trend’ stuff was late to get to NZ, let alone find its way south. Maybe this was a perception thing but there was no doubting there was another hindrance to fully developing your own ear.
The Dunedin ‘sound’.

I was a small part of it. That sound. After the hey-day, but I made my contribution to the noise pumping out of various old pubs dotted around the ‘scene’
That recognised sound, the style and energy emanating from Dunedin, was distinctive and more than a little commercially successful. Although recognised as a ‘sound’ it was an era in New Zealand music and musicianship where there really was something new and innovative.
Even then, everything was a little bit the same, people seeking to fit the sound and scene. Seeking to find their place meant there was the chance for a bit of individuality to be expressed and there were pockets of it, heads popping up above the pulpit, doing things the same way everyone else was but doing it their way. The same, a bit like The Jam were doing in the England in the late seventies and early eighties, but different in a way Chris Knox was always going to be.

The point is, there was a clear pathway in Dunedin at the time for a musician, for a band. As a drummer, I didn’t set about re-inventing the wheel, I just went along for the ride with some like-minded guys and enjoyed every moment of it. Essentially, I hung out in rooms full of musicians and hit things.
We got to be heard by the right people, got to play in the right venues and did our thing, just like every body else. I had the feel, at times, if you didn’t adhere to that scene, be a part of the ‘sound’ in one way or another, then you were a little on the outer. Frowned upon if you were not listening to the right thing, shunned if you were too interested in anything popular or mainstream. Perhaps you weren’t quite ‘coo;’ enough. Maybe your were yet to prove yourself.

And then Nirvana.
A shift. A change. A thing all shiny and new.
I was drunk and stoned, laying in someone else’s waterbed in the wee small hours of the morning, when i first heard Nervermind.
Grunge was not new to me. I was already a fan of Pearl Jam, had heard Soundgarden and Mudhoney, was mad for Stone Temple Pilots and Alice In Chains. Grunge existed before Nirvana and Nevermind and I knew it.
Dunedin didn’t and it was no wonder. Indulging in my tastes meant boot legged recordings, often of poor quality, meaning it was difficult to let my influences feed through to others and no one got that I wanted to drum like it was Flea making up the other part of a dream rhythm section, a whole new direction it seemed I was destined to do solo if Dunedin was where I was doing it. The Chilly who? The Peppers what?

Dunedin and her sound was individual, peculiar to the region. Time and place. Seattle was the same. All sorts of other sounds and styles were developing or changing or warping, as all kinds of other peoples did their thing. Distinctive and new or the same but different.
It filtered to you, wherever you might be, or those sounds never made their respective way through the airwaves, the radios waves or via MTV, into your ears and your consciousness.
Then boom, the digital era. The internet. Music was everywhere, from everyone and there was no excuse not to miss a thing. Or to miss out anymore on the things you had already missed out on. Confused?
In fact, thanks to modern technology and how it has changed the way we communicate, the way we educate and ‘publish’ it becomes impossible to be ignorant of new sounds and new takes on old ones.
At the end of your fingers, anyone you want to hear, doing anything audible. And yet, there is a lumping, a grouping, of artists and their efforts, which inhibits individuality, identity, the same way it did in Dunedin, but different.

Spotify. Soundcloud. Before that, think I-Tunes. A new way our music was and is presented to us. For a nominal dollar figure, you can be listening to what you like, on what you like, when you like.
And the advent of the of the ‘playlist’ means the artist becomes anonymous.

I am a bit of a nerd  or geek or whatever. I hear a song I like, on an advert, the radio, a movie soundtrack or played by someone else and if it rings my bells, I check it out. But, I don’t stop there.
What album did that song come from? When was it released? Is it recent, or something from their back-catalogue? Most importantly, what do they sound like live?
That, to my ear at least, is the true test of any bands real ability and thanks to YouTube and the likes, it isn’t hard to find out. No need to fly to exotic locations, shelling out hundreds of dollars in the process.
That is me though. Not many are like me. Bothering to troll through Wikipedia and Spotify and Google and YouTube and Facebook and whatever, just because I liked that one song you did that one time.

Sometimes I just click play. If I am feeling really adventurous, I even click shuffle.
Spotify knows what I like. Algorithms or whatever. Based on what I have already clicked, it puts together a bunch of this and that’s which takes away the necessity for me to even go to that much effort. Searching. Clicking. Listening.
The latter part I still very much do and me being me, I will stop what I am doing and look deeper, further, if my ears have been tweaked.
But, like everyone else, beer in hand, good company to left and right, that playlist becomes little more than background. Daily Mix, or whatever.

And there it is. A band, an act, and artist, become a ‘sound’. Identity stripped from them, starved of individuality.
So do the artists a favour and yourselves while you are at it. Make your own playlist.
Right here is where I was tempted to post my taste in tunes, but I think that is your job.

Mixed tape anyone?

 

 

The Cost of Education

Doesn’t sound right does it?

Teaching our kids, the next generation. Training them, giving them the tools they need not to just exist, to cope, but to grow and develop. More.
Yes, teach the children of the nation to be readers and writers, to support healthy minds and bodies and help them explore and inquire. Yes, up-skill them so a brave new world is not a daunting place, foreign and frightening.
Don’t hinder any or all of the above just because paying for a modern education is beyond the reach of many.

We all know you get nothing for free. The user pays.
Rightly or not, that is how it works in our ‘free market’ society. Yet there are some core tenants to the way New Zealand is set up and run, the bill for which is not supposed to be appearing in the mailboxes of everyday you and me.
All the stuff we need in our day to day modern existence, is taken care of. Apparently. Departments within Ministries, run by committees and overseen by appointed officials, answering to our elected ones. From the office junior, to the intern, to the lifer in middle management and the manicured mouthpiece put in front of the cameras if, low and behold, things should ever go wrong.

These are the mechanisms which bring electricity into our houses, bringing light and warmth. Systems are in place to ensure we have water flowing from our taps. Clean, potable water. Infrastructure like road networks, public transport, footpaths and street-lighting and sewage and refuse collection and disposal and recycling and and and…
It is a huge list, and much of the above is the responsibility of local authorities, let alone at regional and national levels. Just wait until you get to central government and start thinking about mammoth sectors like public healthcare. Like education.
Even in a small country like New Zealand, running these three islands, keeping pace with the needs and demands of an ever growing, ever aging population, is no simple task and every step of the way has to be paid for.

I get it.
We pay.
One way or another, our contribution is made, to the coffers of councils and government. Taxes, levies, duties. No matter the label, our income is siphoned off so the things we expect, demand and want, are there for us when we need, want and demand them.
Education is no different.

A big part of the last couple of weeks has been gearing up One and Two for their coming school year. A stand out in that process has been the expense!
Hundreds of dollars on uniforms alone, still more hundreds spent on stationery, a huge part of which are tech requirements like Chromebooks.
I get that wider society is in the midst of a technological revolution, that the way we communicate and the way we work is changing, so it stands to reason the way we learn must change and adapt also.
But, and it is a big, expensive but…at who’s expense?

We are not poor, however, we are by no means well off. Like many working families in New Zealand, we somehow manage to make one end get close to the other, week to week.
That is the thing though, it is a day to day, week to week, pay cheque to pay cheque process, one which leaves little or no room for error, nor is there room for contingencies. You know, rainy days, saving. That sort of thing.
Yes, our kids will go to school, well fed and clothed after a warm and cosy night in beds housed in a leak free home. They will be carrying with them all the bits and pieces ‘required’ of them.
Single items of clothing with three figure price tags and the tech bells and whistles. Then yes, we will fork out for the extras, which somehow never seem to be in a school’s operational budget or fall outside ministry funding umbrellas.

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Because there will be fees.
Because there will be ‘voluntary’ donations.
Buses will have to be paid for, so kids can get to swimming pools and museums and field trips and sporting and cultural events of all sorts and natures.
School camps will take place and there will be this and that required, to make it the sort of experience the one it should be, the one you remember with heavy rose tinting.
It is all valuable, in terms of what our kids get from it, what is given them in return for the dollar value it all comes at.

We will make the effort to ensure our kids want for nothing as far as their schooling and education goes.
It will be an effort. A costly one but something we will do because we feel we must and because we can.
What of those who can’t?
What about the families who have nothing to sacrifice, budgets stretched so thin a ‘fee’ or ‘donation’ is so far beyond them, it is a stress they don’t need, an extra bill they cannot meet.
It is their kids who suffer.
They suffer in the classroom and on the playground. Kids can be cruel and these kids, their families, will not be invisible because they don’t have a chrome book, because their woolen jumper is several generations old, straight off a second-hand rack. Exactly the opposite in fact.c They will stand out like the proverbial dogs bollocks.
Their pride will be hurting too. Sure, there are families out their who simply do not give a shit and they are lost causes, a s will their kids most likely be. However, there are many more, stuck in a cycle of poverty, wanting and willing to the best they can, just simply unable to.

I know funding is weighted, the decile system in place to balance out the differences.
We could debate the effectiveness of such a system all of one of these hot summer days. Doing so won’t put a Chromebook into the hands of our kids. It won’t put food in their bellies or shoes on their feet or jackets on their backs.
So, if you and I are the user, or even if we are not, we are paying.
What are we getting for our money? What are our kids getting?
What was so wrong with blackboards?

Last Weekendless Weekend

I know that doesn’t even make sense, but it does to me.

It is Sunday morning. How do I know it is morning? You would think the neighbours rooster would be a key indicator, but the stupid thing never gives up it’s plaintive call, cock-a-doodling his way throughout all hours of the day.
I know it is morning because, despite not yet re-starting the routine of work, somewhere deep in my thick skull my jaded old brain has convinced my body it is happening.

We all have a ‘body clock’, ticking away unobtrusively, letting us know some of the deeper workings of the world around us, without you necessarily being all that aware. This clock keys us into things like a change of season, when your sleeping patterns need to adjust for dawn a and dusk, drops happily into a routine and even tells women when it is time to have babies. Or am I taking that too far?

For the past couple of years my routine has not belonged to me at all. My days began when the wide, sweet innocent gaze of children opened to a new dawn.
Sound lovely? In reality, I had been up a couple of hours by then, as our kids have that wonderful ability to sleep in, or at least stay in bed, until a respectable hour. A couple of blissful, peaceful hours I could have a thing or two to myself.
Even that sounds awesome but it wasn’t always the case. Everything I did was dictated to by other people. There were two older kids needing constant urging and encouragement to get out the door on time, complete with teeth and hair brushed and appropriately clothed, lunches made and breakfast in their bellies.
They managed all this quite independently, though not without encouragement. Even Wifey needed to be told to eat!
Such is the life of parenting and I had no complaint. Who was listening anyway? Certainly not the children, not the first couple of times!

So apart from repeating myself repeatedly, there were all the mundane and ordinary and standard and ‘same’ things to go through any given morning. The fact I failed to make a proper routine of it is a testament to how far out of sync my body clock had (has?) gotten.
With half the occupants fleeing the confines of the house, to go about their daily routine, it was down to me and the little ones to spark the embers of the morning and fire the coals of the day. We had our little systems, our processes we would go through but generally, our days were fairly fluid.
There was joy in that and there was the risk of rot, the chance boredom could set in. The weather became a crucial element.
There was little change to it, that daily process. Far from a grind. When you are surrounded by little un’s, their curiosity, their wonder and inquisitiveness, their questioning and exploring and discovery, is as infectious as it is time consuming.

You might think the only point of difference would be the weekend. I can only suppose, for those who have things which occupy their weekends; jobs and school and the like, then it is Saturday and Sunday which stand out from the norm. That couple of days strung together and labelled the weekend.
Not for this guy.
Apart from the fact Wifey and Number’s One and Two snoozed through the better part of the morning, there was little to no difference. Perhaps those couple of early morning hours actually did manage to be a little bit more about me. Perhaps I wasted them, gazing at the spendiferous view the Hokianga provided, behind the misty rise of a freshly brewed coffee.

Soon, a weekend might mean something to me again.
Not to say it hasn’t for the last couple of years or so. If you are going to breed a crew of four, making for a total of six, it is because you like the busy exuberance of a full house. That means weekdays are as full of fun vigor as any other.
While my body clock has for a long time suffered the after effects of a previous working life, one which started early and stretched to long days, waking me from slumber on or around the wee-small hours, for no real other purpose than to be awake.
Sometimes annoying, sometimes a blessing, as dawn can not only be one of the more beautiful times of the day, I find it can be one of the most productive. Especially without the impediment of others.
Little others.
Heading back to work might mean I appreciate the company of my crew, without feeling frazzled or frustrated. I will actively seek to spend time with them, doing the the things families do as a group, participating as much as can and am allowed, in the things the kids want to do to fill their time. I hope they seek out time with their Dad too, because as much as going back to work will be a transition for me, it will have a similar impact, if not more, on the kids.
If for no other reason, they are going to need to put up with having their Mother around all the time, for the immediate future at least.
Good luck with that kids!

I guess, with my weekdays full, I will have to start thinking about planning the weekends, to best utilise them,  make the best of them.
But, for now, that is all I will do. Think about it.
The last thing I want to eventuate out of this return to being a productive member of society, gainfully employed, is to miss out on the spontaneity an the abandon and the free fluidity that is having a young family.  So, if ya wanna see me at the weekend, better let me know, I’ll see if we can fit you in…

Will I miss it? Being at home? Being the  ‘go to’ parent.
You bet.
Am i gagging to get back in the routine of work, have that body clock rousing me with the birds and the colouring of the sky?
Hell yes.
Come the weekend?
Who knows…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cringe Factor

Have I fully of come of age? Because now, I am ‘That guy’. 

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with some of Claire’s family, down in the big smoke of Auckland.
Twenty five or so loosely affiliated kin, together for a laugh and a smile and to share a feed. Stressful for those at the helm, a good time for guests. For me, a headache waiting to happen, even if I managed to survive better than I thought I was going to to.

The hosts have a couple of sons. Great young me, one in his late teens and the other, early twenties. Friendly, open and engaging young people who are a pleasure to be around.
Hanging around with them, as much as you can between long sessions on their phones or in front of monitors, showed up a few things for me.
Firstly, it isn’t hard to work just where I stand physically these days. I am no Adonis, no shining light of what it means to be at peak physical fitness or health.
Wifey and I are working on it. Not some bullshit New Years resolution, not some fad diet or gym membership as good as money flushed down the toilet. A real and genuine desire, over a planned term, to make change, changes which are already happening.
The sad truth is though, I will never again be even on par with a 21 year old, when it comes to energy and vitality. Those days are gone and thankfully, I can accept that.

Other things stand out. I am not into the same cultural stuff; music, movies, I still read…you know, from pages full of the printed word.
The big standout was humour.
I am not going to be so harsh as to suggest younger generations don’t seem to have one, a sense of humour that is, but as far as I could see, it wasn’t readily prevalent.
There was the standard good natured bantering and put downs, over pool tables or dart boards or the obligatory outdoor/backyard games. You know the type, fun for the whole family and all that. It was OK to have a dig, to ridicule or embarrass or try and make a fool of someone. But a one liner?
No. Straight over their heads or seen as a deliberate attempt to offend someone. As for a drop of innuendo? Met with groans of derision.
Sure, a bit of sexual innuendo is a bit lowbrow. Not scrapping the barrel quite like toilet humour might be, but a sarcastic take on what someone else has said is hardly the epitome of comedy.

I tend to get my comedy fixes from the likes of Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Bill Burr and guys of that ilk. These are people who like to push a few boundaries, tell it like it is and have no compulsion about stepping all over people’s sensibilities.
I have heard Jimmy Carr say offense cannot be given, only taken. While I appreciate the reasoning behind such a statement, I get that deliberately trying to provoke a reaction is treading on dangerous territory. The whole ‘too soon’ argument for example, as guys like the aforementioned are quite topical with their material.
Timing and delivery are the key with humour apparently. If you are going to drop an off the cuff one-liner, you need to be as quick witted as you are alert and aware. It takes a level of intellect, even if your humour is cheap and crude.
Gauging your audience is key too I would assume. Everyone reacts differently and if you get a group offside, you are never going to get them back. A mob mentality and all that.

It seems a group of young men, aged somewhere between late teens and early twenties, are probably not my target audience. I am not saying I in anyway offended any one and in no way did I try to.
Yet the ‘audience’ plays it’s part too. The more these guys groaned, rolled their eyes or made derisive sounds and comments, the more I was inspired. While they got more laughs among themselves from put-downs, snide comments and cheap shots, shaming each other, I happily carried on dropping a line here and there, many of which I was becoming fairly certain were not going to go down well.
Which meant, they went down really well.

Does it sound strange that it felt good to be ‘that guy’?
That I was able to find the line others were not prepared to cross, so I could leap gleefully over it?
I guess I ran the risk of coming across like a jerk but the reality is, as far as those around me of a similar age bracket to me, I was only saying what most people were thinking.
At least, they were thinking it after I said it.

Future generations are getting taller. Younger people are developing physically, more so than those of my age did. Conversely, many of them are not using that physicality, preferring back lit screens and monitors.
What entertains those who came after me is changing too. Their levels of tolerance are different. At an age when they should be testing boundaries, threatening my sensibilities, it is instead them doing the cringing.
Is that the way it is supposed to be?
I don’t think so.

The next generation are the ones who are supposed to shock, to test the norms and boundaries and to change the parameters. They are the ones who are supposed to challenge current standards and seek to establish new settings.
Each generation should stand up to the things they feel are oppressive, should fight the good fight and all that. Our kids should break the rules we set, as we broke the ones set for us.
Is it the fault of political correctness? Have following generations become too sensitive, too aware of offending the sensibilities of others, one minority or another, one marginal group or another?

 Or maybe I should just stick to dad jokes.

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Party Like It’s 1999

No, wait…Prince is dead. 

So many have passed and gone over the last couple of years, the icons and cultural leaders and luminaries of a generation. Such is the way with the passing of time and all that. It isn’t for me to wax lyrical about the influence many of these people exuded and how I, for one, feel their presence isn’t being adequately replaced.

Who is next, as the mouth pieces of a generation? Donald Trump has taken the spot left by Barrack Obama, a man who was an excellent orator but maybe missed the opportunity to really say something. And who are the pop-culture icons making the differences to the way we laugh and sing and play?
Where is Madonna and Michael Jackson? Where is Prince and Deborah Harry and Elvis Presley, where are the likes of Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie and Ghandi and Che Guavara, people that did it differently, did it, whatever it might have been, their way because they felt it was something which had to be done.

Right or wrong, there were iconic people doing and saying iconic things. JFK, Phil Spector, The Beatles, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hunter.S.Thompson …you could compile a never ending list.
Banksie? No doubting the creative genius, but an influencer? Al Gore? Yesterday’s news? Zuckerberg? Jobs? Gates? Tim Berners-Lee?

No doubting the impact such people have had, over generations of us now. I only question the type and scope some of this power, particularly of reach, has. To mind, the best thing, is to bring the major influences over future generations, closer to home. Back home.
Let Mum and Dad be the people who guide and train and teach.
Let Matua and Whaea and Mr and Ms, mold and shape in the classroom.
Let little Jimmy and Sally develop social norms and strictures in the playground and the park.

We, as a people, as a society, are changing and developing at a pace I struggle to comprehend. The technological revolution has been with us for a while now and it is a wonder if we were really ready for it. The way people interact, particularly the way they communicate, has changed and continues to do so. The world is suddenly a smaller place and terrifyingly, has become a whole lot bigger.
A good thing?
Certainly a new thing and tomorrow, new again. No good shunning it, no good turning your back on it. Change happens, whether you are a part of it, a builder of it, or a blocker.

Apologies. I am rambling. What has all the above got to do with partying?
Nothing really, but you can bet, as 2018 rolls to a close I will be sitting back on the deck, watching the last day of the year fade away, I’ll have a silent lament for those who have gone.
The next beer might lead to a red wine, which make take me to a scotch, which will take me to bed maybe long before midnight, such is the party life of a father of four young-uns. No matter what Prince tells us about end of era parties.
One place that beer will take me, is to thoughts of the coming year and the years beyond. When you have a brood of kiddies it is hard not to think of where they will be and just as importantly, how they will get there.
Their mother and I can only take them so far. Eventually, we are not the infuencers anymore. Nor are their teachers or junior sports coaches and tutors.

Muddy Waters, The Clash, the idealistic ramblings of Fidel Castro, influences over me as a younger man. Frankie Boyle makes me think and laugh these days while the biggest impact on how I live and think and act comes from my wife and children. Just the way it should be. A positive set of attitudes and personalities.

All I can hope is my wife and I are getting it right. Our influence so far, as the year closes, seems to have gotten things pretty spot-on. It pays not to question too heavily if what you do, say, think and act out is a good or a bad thing.
Most likely, like it or not, it is a combination of the two. There is no such thing as perfection and there is no way every little thing I do is of value or has any particular use.
As our kids grow, learning to think for themselves, they will employ a filtering system, finding the gems among all the dross. With a little more hope involved, ideally there will be less and less dross.

Go ahead and make your resolutions. Make 2019 the year you achieve all the things you want to, need to, feel you have to. Make it the year you actually do, instead of say.
I will resolve to keep doing, more or less, what I have been.
I want to be fitter, stronger, smarter.
I want to learn and grow and develop, the same things I want from and for my kids.
I want to be healthy and happy and I want to not be left wanting.

For me, for my family, 2019 is a time of change and a time for hard work.
New pathways and opportunities. Horizons. All of that and we are going to have to identify what we want, then set about achieving it. As individuals, as a team, supporting each other and backing each other up.
Living in the now but eyeing up the future.

Have a good party, even if it is just a party for one. Make it fun, special.
Invite Prince, he can be the DJ and we can all party like it is 1999.
Or whatever year your mind wanders too.
Get sunburned. Go swimming, drag sand onto the carpet when you get home.
Knock back a cold one. Or two, whatever is your tipple. Crank the BBQ, get together with loved ones and mates, tell some tales and yarns and lies and do it all with a smile.

End the year with a laugh.
Start the the new year the same way.

 

 

 

The Times They Are a’Changin

Maybe not so much the times, but my days are sure about to get different.

Life has turned a corner, or crested a hill. Whatever, life is about to change.
It wouldn’t be fair to say life is changing for the better. That would imply the way we were living prior to this change wasn’t up to scratch.
The hope is, a move to a more metropolitan area will bring more opportunity. And, it has.

Some time in the next week or so, I will start work. Yes that’s right, full-time, gainful employment. Something different too, something which may, I hope, be a little challenging and a job I can not only learn and grow from as a profession, but as a person too. I like to think it is a last step in my working life. A big one, if not all that bold, but a role I can get my teeth into, make my own. A job which should prove to be fun and rewarding.

It is time.
I have been at home with the kids, in this last stint as a home hubby, for nearly two years. A couple of fun years, in an environment suited to the role of stay at home parent. Admittedly there was little choice, as there wasn’t a lot of employment options available.
The point was though, while E-Bomb and the Wee-Man were under the age of five, they would have a full-time influence at home, namely one of their parent’s.
So this change is not solely for me. This is a change for the whole family.

We left the Hokianga mostly for the benefit of our kids, particularly Number’s One and Two. But it is true to say the opportunities for Wifey and I are greatly improved too, just by packing up and rolling a couple of hours down the road.
We will be a working family again, both Wifey and myself toiling away during our days. We can do so because there is the type of support here we didn’t have available to us up north.
Not family support. Paid for, professional support. People who will look after our children in return for money. Thank goodness for people like them, prepared to do waht at times can feel very much like a thankless task.

My stint as a full-time parent will never cease of course. How could it? You are always a parent, always a Mother or Father, no matter how directly or indirectly you are involved in the raising of your kids.
Being that go to parent is something I am really going to miss. Something I was ready to give up on, even while being aware it was not going to be the easiest transition to make.
When I get in the car on that first day, off to work, I will have the smiling faces of my children in my minds eye.
I will see them wave, see them smile, while not quite being able to work out where their Dad is off to and why they aren’t going with him. They will call out their cheering goodbyes and I will turn and drive away.
Those first few days will be as different and strange for me as they will for the kids. For them, the timing couldn’t be a great deal better and let’s be honest, they are most likely adapt to the change far quicker than I will.
Wee-Man and E-Bomb are going to have their Mother around for the summer. Numbers One and Two will get that pleasure also. Hopefully a welcome change for all, though there can be no doubting both sides of that equation are going to have to adapt. Wifey and I have very different and not always complimentary, parenting styles and there are a lot of things the young-uns are going to have to teach their Mother about the way things work.

I am left wondering how my influence, or lack of it, is going to be felt.
Will the two little ones miss me in their lives?
Will the older girls feel the difference in the house, without me around?
There will be a whole new vibe and again, the scene will shift when Wifey starts her new role in earnest. New schools, childcare facilities for the little ones. Perhaps the biggest change, from the last couple of years, will be the return to two incomes. Maybe we can afford to give the kids the type of summer memories which don’t require too much rose coloured tinting.

Personally, there will be a back to routine lifestyle again, one I am looking forward to. Alarms to rouse me from my slumber, time a factor again in my world.
I will come home tired and I will sleep soundly, eight or so hours, waking refreshed and rearing to go.
I will ruffle my sons hair, after swinging my daughters in a quick hug, peck my wife on the cheek as I make my way into the kitchen, heading for the fridge, cracking the top off a beer, before landing heavily in an armchair, turning on the tele in time for the news. Something like that.

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A New New Year

Good bye to Hoki Hubby.

As the new year rapidly approaches, Wifey and I split open box after never ending box, setting up our old life in a new environment.
We are still in Northland, not all that far from the place we called home for the last couple of years. The Mighty Hokianga Harbour, only an hour and a half or so up the road, suddenly feels like a world away. Because, it is.

On the outskirts of Whangarei, we are setting up in a house further away from neighbours than we had in the old place. But here, they feel so much closer. Less cars seem to go by, not like they did on the main drag of Rawene, on the hour every half hour. Here, there is no race to catch the ferry, a leisurely chug with or against the powerful tidal currents of the harbour waters, leaving behind the backdrop of New Zealand’s thrid oldest European settlement.
Better yet, approaching it, the joys of the boat shed cafe or No.1 Gallery cafe at the start of Parnell Street, a convenience store conveniently located on poles, balanced out over the ever changing tide, a pub with more history than you can shake the proverbial stick at. For a town with nothing going on, it is all happening.

But this is not a travel blog. I am not here to sell you on the wonders of the Hokianga, as you cruise through Rawene after alighting the ferry, head for the beaches of Opononi and Omapere, go further over the bumps and twists of State Highway 12 and delve into the native forests atop the hills, home to Tane Mahuta.
I don’t need to point out the stunning views, from sweeping sand dunes to glistening waters, the tempestuous Tasman Sea, making its presence felt on the wild west coast. There is no need to make mention of the native flora and fauna and in particular, there is nothing I need say about the dusk after dusk after stunning dusk, full of the most spectacular sunsets.
In it’s heyday, the Hokianga must have been a spectacular spot. That harbour, so alive and vital, surrounded by a crop of native trees the likes of which we will never see again. Because, sadly, crop is what those forest giants were viewed as and like so much of Aotearoa New Zealand.

This isn’t an environmental rant either. Nor is it a dig at the perils of post-colonization. So many wrongs were done, to the place and people of Aotearoa and so many of those wrongs will take multiple generations to put right, if ever. So many good things were achieved too but sadly, much of that either never reached the Hokianga, never took hold if it did, or was resoundingly rejected.
It’s easy to romanticise the region, casting it as some sort of frontier, shrugging off the trappings of a modern world as much as possible. Last of the wild west, NZ style.
The reality is, the Far North in general, and the Hokianga in particular, are forgotten zones, abandoned by central and local governments alike.
There are no rate payers, not many voters. Just miles of sandy beaches, warm blue waters and the homes and abodes of the disenfranchised.

Even that is a stretch. Never ‘franchised’ in the first place. Lost and forgotten peoples. And in many instances, that is just the way they like it.
Life in the Hokianga is maybe best described as relaxed. There certainly isn’t the pressures of city or metropolitan living, no commute from the burbs, no queuing.
The trade off? A lack of infrastructure and what there is, maintained at a bare minimum, if at all. The trade off is unemployment and therefore, poverty.
But hey, it’s the Hokianga. If you can’t afford a warrant on your car, don’t get one. If you can’t afford to register it, don’t bother fretting over it. While it is a shame there is runoff issues effecting the harbour waters, swim in it anyway. Eat from it anyway.
Relax. That is what the Hokianga seemed to be telling us, so that is exactly what we did.

We stayed relaxed about the holes forming in our children’s education. No hokey teams, no volleyball or netball or football or tennis or cricket or whatever other sport an energetic young kid might want to turn those energies to.
However, there were whole new avenues of learning being opened to them. Culturally the kids really swelled, embedded in an old school Kiwi culture and a deeper Maori one.  We stayed chilled about the lack of childcare, the lack of employment options, the near non-existence of extra curricular activities for our kids and for ourselves.
Like the populace around us, we were nonplussed. Maybe not as laid back as some of the locals…we put our kids in car seats and seat-belts, life-jackets and all the rest.
The trade off? Off they went, a little crew, down the street on their own, unaccompanied by adults, Number One in charge. No drama, no fear.
Safe. Everyone knew our kids and they knew most everyone. No motorways to go play on, no concrete jungles to get lost in.

Kia ora, G’day, Howzit, Hi.
Most everyone said hello, most everyone asked after your well-being and most everyone genuinely wanted to know. Maybe the guy asking if you needed a hand was diabetic, maybe he drank too much, maybe his diet was shocking, maybe he fished illegally. The point is, he was offering you a helping hand.
In the Hokianga, you pick people up and drop them down the road. You help lift this, carry that. You give of what you have no need for and people gladly take it. Koha. All that is asked in return, if anything is asked at all.
No one turns a nose up at the next-door neighbour. No one looks up or down at the next person. A handshake and hongi means something.
There is nothing golden, no matter the nostalgia, about the Hokianga and her people. Nothing special, or endearing, nothing wonderful going on the world could learn something from.
In fact, the place is broken, to an outsiders untrained eye flawed, badly in need of this, that and the next thing, to make it even close to ‘normal’.

I miss the place.
I miss the scenery, I miss the vibe, I miss the remoteness and I miss the smiles and laughter and good-natured jesting. I miss the helmet-less kids on bare back horses, the king tides and the pelting rain, thunder storms and lightening and sodden ground, water bubbling from beneath its surface everywhere. I miss the fresh air and the strong, drying winds and the birdsong, from nesting Herons to the silent, reproachful gaze of a perched Kingfisher.
I miss the spontaneity, the freedom, of having nothing particular to do and being able to do it where no one else is. I miss no one caring, no one around really giving a shit what you were doing or why. You just got on and did it, where, when and how you wanted to.
I miss the smiles and the open, gap-toothed, head back laughter.

I miss the sunsets.

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Fix the Hokianga.
Never change the Hokianga.

Gushing

I never wanted to, but the more my children progress, the more they offer me the opportunity to live through their achievements vicariously. 

Prize giving. I am not actually sure the day was called that. But it is exactly what it equated to.
In this ever more prevalent P.C world, every single kid in the school got a certificate. Damn near all of them got a prize of one sort or another. Richly deserved.

Rawene Primary School turned out, among it’s graduates, a bunch of awesome young people. Never matter their ability to read or to write, how they can add or subtract or divide. If I walk into that school, the senior kids in particular, are full of handshakes and smiled hellos. Even a bit of good natured cheek.
The joys of a rural, small town education.
Rawene Primary, where my two eldest have been educated over the last couple of years, is a small school with a roll around the 100 pupil mark.
That means intimacy. It means an unavoidable community influence and involvement. Everyone really does know everyone and in particular, the senior year which numbered only nine students, became a pretty tight knit bunch.
Cool kids and I wish them the best for what is hopefully a bright and promising set of steps on the next part of the journey.

The small Rawene town hall was packed, the entire school in attendance, with parents and uncles and aunties and brothers and sisters and grandparents and whanau from all over enjoying the occasion. Obligatory speeches, then waiata and haka. Stirring stuff.
It was quite an occasion, particularly for our Number One.

I am not one to brag and on this occasion, they are not achievements I have any right to brag about. But, shout it from the rooftops I will. It might be a little pond, but damned if our eldest daughter isn’t the biggest fish in it!
Awards for student leadership and promoting peace, for services to the schools corporate life (read fundraising), academic excellence and throw in a couple of others for good measure.
Add it all up and our girl was top dog, co-Dux and a very proud graduate.
Her mum and dad couldn’t have been prouder either.
With her school shirt signed by classmates and friends, a bit of a tradition, Number One will start her next part of the education journey in the new year.
A bigger pond. No doubt she will be a prize fish in those untested waters too.

Well done Kenny, we love ya!

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