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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Bad Apples. Bad Man.

Grace Millane. Saddened? Hell yes. Sickened? You know it. Shocked? Unfortunately, no. 

I haven’t been on a date in a long time. Possibly because, as a forty something, hirsute, chubby, balding man with an empty wallet, I am far from desirable.
More likely my lack of recent dating experience is due to my long-term, happy marriage and the four kids produced. Wifey and I are lucky to see a movie on the couch together, uninterrupted, without one or the other of us falling asleep!

It stands to reason I therefore have little I can say about dating apps. Are they safe? No idea, I have never used one and am unlikely to at any time in the foreseeable future. Would I want my girls on one, using an app to source dates? Again, I have no authority from which to answer that question but I will anyway…
No.
I do not want my girls, young woman as they would be at that point, using something as anonymous as a dating app. While I understand that such apps are used as a convenience, rather than being a means purely for the desperate and needy to seek some sort of succour, the lack of real knowledge about who you are hooking up with is worrying to say the least. What on this earth is so wrong with face to face? Let’s get out and about again people.
Should users of such apps, particularly female, cease dating that way? Probably not. For every creep out there there will be dozens, hundreds, thousands of genuine, upstanding, ‘normal’ people.

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We have heard a lot about the hideous killing of Grace Millane. There can be no argument, two nations waited on tenterhooks while the police conducted their investigations and search.
Of course, as a country, we were appalled. It is sad to say though, in this day and age, it is no surprise.
How long has it been since a tourist was killed here? Not one engaged in some adventure tourism, choosing to put life and limb at risk leaping off a bridge or surfing a raging river. The Swedish couple immediately springs to mind, David Tamihere and all that confusion…

So it was coming. Law of averages and all that. We might think we live in paradise and we do, but eventually, we will fail to dodge the bullet. The reality is, this fair nation has it’s fair share of nutters. And when a nutter targets a nice, clean cut, educated, white middle-class young person, the world looks up and takes notice.
Too cynical? Maybe. I can’t help but think if the victim had been a toothless, over weight Maori diabetic with an alcohol problem, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Yesterday’s news.
A jaded old world view makes you think a bit like that, but it isn’t the point.

Get to it then, the point, if indeed you have one?
Thing is, I am not sure I do. The death of Grace and the inevitable opinions and attitudes which have been thrown up (it only takes a moment or two after a body washes up), merely raise a bunch more questions. What’s more, I do not believe I am the person best placed to respond to them.
Because I do get defensive. I do get my back up, as a man, when the finger is pointed.
I know it isn’t pointed at me. Not directly at least. I know it is more about language than accusation. There is no one out there, of either gender, claiming I, as an individual, have done any wrong, committed any crime.
Guilty by association? To an extent, yes. I am a man after all.

Articles by the likes of Cecile Meier do grate.
www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/motivate-me/109320099/grace-millane-women-cannot-live-in-fear

She begins by asserting the idea that we, women in particular, cannot live in fear.
Great, I should hope not. Everyone has to go on with their everyday lives, as if nothing has happened and nothing is going to happen.
Where danger is perceived, exhibit caution and care, be aware, alert and vigilant.
Don’t be scared, paranoid or tentative. Boldly go where women have gone before. Long shall they continue to.

Cecile Meier then goes on to say that men, though she does make the point that it isn’t all men, have to think of how they can do their bit. How they…yes, all men…are part of the problem if they don’t act against a mate at the bar touching up a woman.
Thing is ‘good men’ as they are referred to in the article, don’t have mates who grope ladies randomly in pubs and bars and nightclubs.
Good men don’t yell sexist slurs, don’t sexually harass in the workplace or anywhere and no, good men don’t stand by and allow any of it to happen, even if the chances of getting punched in the face heighten exponentially by stepping up.
Yes, I have laughed at rape jokes. The women sitting around me at the time have laughed along to. After all, man and woman alike purchased tickets to whatever event might have being taking place. You know, a comic for example.
Jokes like that are delivered by comedians working the shock factor, looking to explore limits and test boundaries. Told right, a joke can be about anything. That is the key to humour.
Jimmy Carr, one of my favourite comedians, is a prime example. He has stated that offense is taken, not given and I have to agree. In his way, in the way of comedy, expressing such topics in the form of humour is discourse, of a kind and the more of that, the better.
Does joking about that sort of thing ‘normalise’ the behaviour? Normalise rape?

No.
Because there is nothing normal about rape. Normal people, men, good men, don’t rape and nothing about my behaviour is going to stop a rapist from doing what he does, driven by whatever warped shit going on in his head inspiring him to do so.
Yes there is porn culture, thanks to the internet. Yes there is a throw back against the feminist movement, a backlash, small, isolated but unfortunately, relevant. Yes there is cultural clash, the globalization of nations meaning there is unavoidable difference, there is misunderstanding, there is expectation.
However, me being a good person, the one that I am already, the example I set for my children, will not stop any perpetrator of any bad deeds.
Do I, as a man, sound defensive? Possibly and many a reader (there aren’t many) may chose to interpret it that way. Or, is it more a case of reality. There is a limited sphere one individual can operate in and despite the realm of such good men’s spheres interacting, coercing, co-existing, there is little I or a collective we can do, unless we catch the bastard in the act.

Yes, some men violently attack women. Scummy, low-brow, socially retarded men.
Anecdotally, as someone who was once a young male, I can say the people most likely to suffer physical violence, are men. Males between the ages of say fifteen, through to their mid twenties. That is what I saw anyway and to be fair, not a great deal of it. What did happen and I suspect it is still a truth to this day, was fueled by alcohol.
Cecile Meier can bandy about vague stats, claiming one in two Kiwi women have been physically and psychologically abused by their partners.
I call bullshit.
If I am wrong, put the numbers up to prove it.

And this guy…www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/opinion/109363511/guys-we-need-to-talk-and-we-need-to-listen
Good points, many of them. However, men are not the only ones with locker rooms. Can’t we be different, can’t we ‘take the piss’. Isn’t that very much the Kiwi way?
Maybe the locker room joker is a rapist. Maybe he is making a misplaced attempt to fit in. Maybe he is divided by generational shifts, failing to move and change with times. Maybe he is a creepy jerk. Maybe, just maybe, repeating a line or a joke after a highly competitive squash doubles match or whatever, doesn’t make him a murdering rapist.
Both genders dig at each other. Jest and jibe and rib and whatever other sweet and endearing term you would like to place on the good ole NZ way of giving each other shit.

Things in New Zealand aren’t as paradisaical as many on these shores would like to think, but I am reckoning they are not as bad as is being alluded to. Society would have long since fallen apart if every second woman here was getting the bash.
And men, even these so called ‘good men’, are the only ones actively engaged in physical and mental abuse?
I have been punched, slapped, kicked, bitten and scratched, all the while screamed filth is yelled in my face.
I’ve punched this and battered that when a woman has frazzled me to my wits end. I am no angel. Burn my stuff, slice it to pieces with scissors or any other melodramatic cliched female response to drama…it’s my fault and I should not defend that. Threat and counter threat.

Women, go ahead and reclaim the night and all the rest of it. Best of luck to you. I wholeheartedly support the sentiment.
Sentiment won’t keep you save on the streets at night. The same way me waving a placard or lighting a candle, nodding sagely and wisely to the ‘opinion’ of a Cecile Meier, wiping a tear away as I listen to the speeches from women of influence and power, like Jacinda Ardern, isn’t going to stop the next bashing in the home, the next bit of sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond.
The next rape.

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Ladies, I don’t want you to worry your pretty little heads, but ask yourself this one simple thing…who, as in what gender, has the greatest influence during the raising of our children?
Answer…you. Yes, you. Women. All the good and the bad of you.
Women dominate in our homes. They dominate in our preschools and kindergartens and play centers. They rule in the classroom at schools, right through all the education afforded to our children.
Part of another, wider debate for sure, but there needs to be a stronger, far more present, male influence in our schooling, in the raising of our tamariki. The good men.

We raise our children. You, me, my wife, the dude behind the counter at the local store, the teachers and coaches and the big brothers and sisters, uncles and aunties and neighbours and the surf life saving club and the volunteer this and the assistant that and whomever touches their lives.
As the Blues Bothers said: You, Me, Them, Everybody…

At the top of that list…
Women.
Our Mothers.
Our teachers.

Bad apples.
One of them fell from a tree, probably not too far and took out Grace Millane.
He’ll get his, such is fate. Don’t let the likes of him get yours and especially, don’t let the likes of yours be the likes of Grace Millane. Not that there is bugger all, as parents, you can necessarily do about it. Not, as men, either. There is as much inherent risk swiping right, as there is batting your eyelids across the bar, no matter your gender.
Let’s, as men, the good ones, stand by our women and help them make better people of all of us. And while we are at it, let’s not be afraid, yes afraid, to defend ourselves as the good people we are. Not just good men, but good people.
Because, let us not forget, good men are just like the majority of everyone the world over.

Good people.

 

 

 

Dish Drying Dreams

Soapy detergent suds and a setting sun, to the backing track of the Smashing Pumpkins. 

I hope everyone has a dishwasher.
Here, at my place, unless I can convince the girls it is their turn, then I am it. The Dishwasher. Not Harvey Keitel The Cleaner. Nothing as cool as that for me.

So I have to improvise. Tonight, the motivation I sought to stick my hands into the soapy sud kingdom of the kitchen sink, came courtesy of the Smashing Pumpkins.
Tonight Tonight was the tune as it happens, courtesy of Spotify and a wifi speaker. Thanks too, to a glass or two extra of cheap red.

Years ago, as a teen, I developed one cheesy crush after another. All teens do it I guess and for me, there was a theme. Early on there was Deborah Harry. Quite apart from Blondie banging out disco infused New York punk with a French Canadian twist which thoroughly raptured me, (aficionados will know what I did there) Deborah Harry was a gorgeous, explosive blonde. Fiery and devastating, without quite being bombshell, which would have most likely not done it for me.
There was a dirty mystique to Deborah Harry of the late seventies and early eighties that as a young fella, I could not quite define and still can’t to this day. And, it didn’t stop there. Terri Nunn fronting Berlin, a dalliance with a young Madonna, never going to last, before a flirtation outside the norm with Belinda Carlisle and then Wendy James. Oh yes, Wendy James.
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Of  all of them, only Blondie really captured me and stayed with me. But, there had to be something, just a little thing, that meant more to me than just how this bevy of young songstresses looked.
Madonna had that thing, we all know it. Slutty I think it is called. For a young man, well not yet a man, from the southern most reaches of the world, there was no denying her impact. Sadly, for Madonna, her music didn’t do it for me and no matter how well presented the image, it wasn’t enough.
The same could be said for the Belinda Carlisle’s of this world. A husky sensuousness to her voice sure, an underplayed sexuality which went largely over my head.

Deborah Harry stayed there, the bench mark, seeing off flirtations with crops of newcomers, as an eighties pop explosion did detrimental harm to the world, damage we are still yet to recover from. But Debbie Gibson and Bananarama were never going to cut it for me. Babes to be sure, but where was the edge? Where was the challenge? Where was the musical integrity?
And then there was Wendy James. Maybe not the best vocalist. Maybe not the best songwriter or contributor of lyrics. Maybe she didn’t give the best interviews, maybe she didn’t have the greatest impression on me as a person, an individual, but the woman sure as hell made an impact on me. From my Dunedin-esque teenage perspective, here came a woman who was raw, true and honest and compelling and vital and real and so god damned sexy. Transvision Vamp were no Blondie, but bugger if they didn’t try hard to be, in their own way. I loved them for it.

Later, for a whole bunch of different, more mature, angsty reasons, was D’arcy Wretsky.
Siamese Dream was a piece of music, of art, which captured me.
I wasn’t alone. A seminal album, which managed to more than ‘say’ what a generation was feeling at a certain age, like Kurt Cobain did with Nirvana or the Smiths had done before them. Siamese Dream, Billy Corgan and co, made me feel.
I was a rugby playing, beach going lad. I was one of the boys, even if the guys and gals I hung with weren’t strictly the cool crowd. In reality, we were all cool, because we had each other and that was exactly the thing which made us cool. There was shared moments in time we were all experiencing, in our own ways, even while we were all doing it together.

At the time, early nineties, I was making a serious attempt to not take things seriously. In a way, I hope I still manage something close to that. I mean, I still rock. I let myself go, to the tunes that always did it for me, all the while seeking out the tracks which will do it all over again. My tastes have changed, my motivation has changed, my desires and wants and needs, everything is different yet somewhere and somehow, not a single thing is different.
My kids like ‘old man’ music. Every pop wonder hit they know is tempered by a Free Bird. Every cheesy one hit wonder of the day is countered by Rick Astley. Okay, maybe I am getting carried away. Did I mention the cheap red? Let’s try Heroes by Bowie instead

All that really matters, is while I have my hands softening under the effects of scented detergents, I am rocking out. I am in love with a bass player. I am in love with a grove, with a ‘feel’.
I am incredibly pleased to say I have not lost it. The ability to let go, knowing that no matter how ridiculous I look, how stupid and out of tune I sound, no matter the admonitions of my children, I can still rock like I just do not give a fuck.

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D’arcy Wretsky arguably made a mess of her live, thanks to the wonders of opiates. I can’t say I am where I ever thought I would be, a big part of this being because I never really gave it, life, a great deal of thought. Thing is though, for a time, as fleeting as it may have seemed, D’arcy was my dream girl and she lived my dream. One of them anyway.
She had that moment, her fifteen minutes. Or maybe, a little slice of forever. I prefer to see it that way.
The joy is, I can still live those moments. Recapture those dreams, lost or not, with her. I can do it while I wash dishes, while I vacuum or hang out washing or sit here at a keyboard and make out like I have something worthy to offer. D’arcy offered and we accepted and she drove a wedge into me, placing her right next to Deborah Harry and Wendy James and just because I twirled a drumstick or two years ago, I feel I have been a little, tiny, insignificant part of it and damned if I am not going to rock the fuck out every now and then, just because I still can and still do.

Can you?

Do you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bah Humbug

Great, here we go again! Enforced festivity anyone?

December 1st.
That’s right, for all you international readers, it has already begun for us here in the shaky isles. Christmas cheer, seasons greetings and all that. Time to roll out the decorations, debate the virtues of real or fake trees, start compiling lists of the naughty and nice, stock up freezes and fridges and pantries.
Time for the marketers to bring out the tried and true sales gimmicks, the T.V execs to schedule the feel good factor day after monotonous day, time for parades and the obligatory work do. Time for fake Santa’s at school and Kindergarten’s, dishing out sugary treats and false bonhomie.

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At the end of our street there is a ferry, connecting one side of the harbour with the other. This time of year sees the route trundled by more and more camper vans and glorified station-wagons. There are day trippers, mostly oldies in their hybrid SUV or hatch, taking a jaunt from the other side of the island, where the power of the grey dollar means there is infrastructure, like sewage and electricity and roads without slips and slumps. Where there is employment and houses that don’t leak and aren’t infested with mold. Where there are holiday homes and touristy business and cafes and bars serving on trend craft beers to thirty something guys with tattoos and a beard, trialed by two gorgeous kids, one girl and one boy, accompanied by the wife wearing the hemp top and sarong over bikini bottom because after all, their parents bach is right on the beach.

Before I get too cynical, I should add that yes, my wife is gorgeous, as are my kids and yes, I too have tattoos and a beard. But at forty-five I am not sure if that makes me ‘on-trend’ or a trend setter? I am sure my kids have a firm opinion on where their Dad stands in the fashion stakes though.
And maybe, for me, it is more a case of jealousy, envy, than cynical sneering. While the baby booming holiday maker and their family take in the sights of the stunning Hokianga region, failing to scratch the surface of what life can really be like here for those born and raised to the area, it is the mid-life crises guys that are really starting to annoy me.

I am not talking the quaffed hair, convertible sports car type, demanding latte’s and Central Otago pinot’s everywhere they go. And I don’t want you imagining I am envious of the forty-something independent business owner, through years of hard work, dedication and toil and possibly some creative accounting, able to justify not saving for retirement and instead spending up large on hundreds of thousands of dollars on brand name boats like Stabicraft or McClay or Fyran and then of course, the grunty double cab ute to tow it.
No, the guys irritating me are the motorcyclists, dropping the gears as they reduce the revs, easing down the hill to catch the ferry. Not the Harley guys or the Indian riders or the Triumph’s or any other big thumper you can think of. They are more annoying alighting the ferry and roaring their way up the hill. Anyway, I feel sorry for them, clad in thick leathers, desperately keen to look the part despite the growing heat and humidity that is the north. Good luck to them I say.
It is the fellas on the dual purpose bikes, doing it tough on seats not designed to be sat on forever, battling wet then dry then wet roads on mud tyres, a bundle of whatever strapped on precariously behind them.

Big groups of them. Clubs maybe, a gathering of like minded individuals or just a few mates taking advantage of the warmer weather before the realities of the holiday season kick in and their one chance of selfish, self indulgent, youth recapturing escape, alludes them.
In a semi orderly row, or dribbling into and through town one after another, they come on down the hill, fairing splattered with mud and probably a touch of cow shit, distinguishing marks telling tales of off road adventure and journeys beyond tar seal and highway network.
At low speeds they stand to alleviate tired buttocks, shake hands and feet free to reduce the cramping effects of long stretches at the controls. When the helmets, gloves and jackets are off they want beers and pastry clad treats filled with approximations of meat.
Over their condensated pint glasses, necked in garden bars, flaky crumbs coating their weatherproof layers, the talk is of corners and cambers, of gear and power to weight ratios and holding the apex.
Sure, they are probably a bit whiffy. Despite the manufacturers claims of ‘breath-ability’, these guys sweat. Yes, they probably yell a bit, even the conscientious riders ears dulled by the long term thrum of four stroke engines directly below them something even earplugs cannot dull.
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Back at home there must be indulging wives, quietly plotting their own girls trip, maybe to Bali in the new year, or an island getaway over the winter months. There will be envious work mates and colleagues, elderly mothers who just can’t stop themselves from worrying, mistrusting girlfriends regretting their decision never to learn to ride.
And for me, the whole convoy; from campers to caravans, converted buses with witty and whimsical names like Dreamchaser and Sunset Seeker, to motorbikes and cyclists, represents the beginning of the Christmas, summer and holiday seasons, all rolled into one.
For you it might be the decorations in the streets, the jingles on the radio and in the malls. It might be the smell of the baking and the wrapping and sending of presents. The whole silly season might not hit you until the rellies roll into town and start pitching tents in the backyard or Mum and Dad get stressed one morning, frantically loading the car, dropping the pets off at kennels and boarding houses good and early, in a futile bid to beat the holiday traffic, just like everyone else.
Maybe it the stress etched over the faces of those who simply can’t afford to spoil the kids, let alone themselves. The ones who dread having to take time off as their place of work shuts down, the weight of expectation too much on already stretched budgets. Perhaps this is a time fraught with anguish or loneliness or despair or just a general malaise, around a sense of duty imparted on us because of tradition and religion, ones we may not share, have never shared or have no desire to share in.

But, let’s not forget that there is good in it all, the fuss and the effort. Families can find an excuse to come together. There can be fun in the smiles and the laughter and the excess, whatever and however you make it. We are lucky, here in Godzone; the sun comes out, the days warm, the beaches swell with numbers and the water cools our sunbathed skin, as Dad tends the BBQ, Mum and Aunty do one of those leftover salads they somehow manage to make delicious and Uncle has one too many, falling asleep in a sagging deck chair under the shade of a Pohutakawa .
All good, get into it.

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Somewhere at the back of a wardrobe I have an all weather riding jacket. I have helmet and gloves and pants and all the gear.
What I don’t have, is a motorbike.

Dear Santa…

 

Sorry, How Much?!

Can somebody please explain the ‘letting fee’ to me? 

My wife and I are renters.

A few years ago we sold our home and moved on from Dunedin. A career step for the wife took us up the coast of the South Island to Kaikoura.
A stepping stone move for Wifey and a change of pace for me. A good one, as it turned out. We found an open and welcoming community, good schooling for the kids and a beautiful spot, complete with mountain and ocean vistas. So enamoured were we with life in Kaikoura, we brought another person into the world to share it with us.

The E-Bomb was born in Kaikoura, another home birth. This time, in the second rental property we lived in while we were living and working in that little slice of rugged paradise. Her place of birth, a house we sourced through some of Wifey’s colleagues, was a sort of house sitting situation. The place was on the market and we knew it could sell out from under us at any moment. It did, a handful of months after moving in.
Prior to that we had a lovely older place we found online through an agency.

Despite many of the horror stories out there about rental agencies, we had nothing but a good experience with Harcourts in Kaikoura. We made initial contact online, then via the phone, full of questions and concerns as we were taking the place sight unseen. The property manager went above and beyond, sending a ton of photos through and assuring us the place would be a good fit for us. It was.
Not to say there were no problems. There were leaks and other issues. But with an attentive, communicative property manager and an approachable landlord, nothing was ever a problem.

Life moved on and we did too. Waikato, a little rural spot called Te Mata not far from the equally beautiful seaside town of Raglan, this time on the West Coast of the North Island. Another career move for Wifey and finally, a step towards the type of climate my home town of Dunedin just cannot  provide.
This time we dealt with an agent who did nothing more than vet us and show us the property. From there on we were in the hands of the landlord, a bloody good bugger in the old school Kiwi way.

The first time around we paid a letting fee. The property manager earned it we felt, as it seemed like she as very much in it for us, the tenant, as she was for the landlord, her client.
A few years later and we are set to be on the move again. In those intervening years it seems all the rhetoric around the rental market might be spot on. It seems tight, to say the least, with very few options around even close to suitable. So, with pressure on, the agents/landlords hold all the cards, meaning the likes of myself and Wifey and our crew, are left having to jump through hoops to even get a sniff of a look in.

A myriad of questions to be answered and boxes ticked, much of the information sought bordering on an invasion of privacy, all in triplicate and all done before you are even allowed to view a property!
Why does an agent need to know the names of our kids? Why do I need to provide multiple personal references, when we have written references from previous landlords? Why is our income all that relevant? I could earn a million dollars a month and spend $1,000,001.01 per month.
How about worrying about our ability to pay the rent, when we don’t!
No need to worry, any prospective landlords out there wanting to house our little nucleic family…we’ll pay.

I get that the agent is trying to protect the interests of their client. Understandable, just doing their job and all that. But, there lies the key point. Their client.
A rental agency is engaged by and works for, the landlord. Generally, they will take a percentage of the rent charged. They do the grunt work on behalf of said landlord, ensuring the property is maintained, tenanted, that the rent is paid and the place is looked after.
How come Wifey and I find ourselves doing all the grunting and groaning when searching for somewhere to live, only to end up paying a fee for the privilege?
One weeks rent plus G.S.T, which will work out as a cost of around $550-$600, with nothing to show for it except our own leg-work, our own persistence and perseverance and our own commitment to the process.
Because we need a roof over our heads!

Yes the letting fee is apparently set to be a thing of the past by the middle of next month. Yet, all adverts still state a fee is required, even if a property is not available until later in the month or beyond. I guess the idea is to get you signed asap, thus earning the fee, before handing the key.

Oh well, can’t waste any more time here, I have a home to find. That’s right, a home, not just a house.

Influence

Sometimes it is the people flying under the radar who have the most impact. 

I have made mention a few times over by now of the people who have passed away in the last year or two, the ones who proved so  influential. Not just to me, but to the world.
These were the big name entertainers, the top flight names across the music, literary and screen industries.

For me and possibly people of my age, my generation, recently there was the sad news of another persons death, one who had quite the impact over a number of genres and reaches.
William Goldman did it all. He wrote the stories and brought them to air. The Princess Bride anyone?! Important movies like The Stepford Wives and The Presidents Men, classics like A Bridge Too Far and for me, one of the all time greats and personal favourites in movie making, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
I never knew his name until recently and therefore have never appreciated the role this guy had on the way I think and feel. He shaped much of the stuff I grew up watching and reading, doing it all from under the scope of the radar.

Which got me thinking.
What sort of influencer are you? Were you? Do you still have influence? If so, has how you weld that influence changed?

It is obvious how much say and sway you have over kids when you are a parent. It stands to reason, the more engaged you are with your offspring, the more you will influence how they think, how they respond to situations and how they feel about everything.
Whether or not that is a good or bad influence, is up to you.
Your mood, your attitude, your emotional output, are things children are very susceptible to, particularly little ones. You can choose to have a direct guiding hand, or you you can leave it up to coincidence, indirectly guiding and shaping your children but dint of their observation and because children as sponges, soaking up all that occurs around them.
How you behave will be a vital component of your child’s development.

The same can be said of all the people who have direct involvement in the lives of your children. Grandparents and other close relatives, that really friendly neighbour who you call an Aunt and all the ancillary people; teachers and coaches and music tutors and the family doctor and the smiling convenience store owner who once in a while plies your kids with a lollipop here and there.
How come I never get offered a complimentary bottle of wine?
Not every thing your kids encounter, not every one, is going to be positive. IN the same breath, not all negative encounters are automatically a bad thing.
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Your indifference can speak volumes. Your attentiveness speaks louder.

 

 

Bounce of the Ball

All Blacks give way to Black Caps as the kids turn blue and brown.

Yesterday was the first attack of the beach for the season.
The sun was shining, the day was warm if a little windy, the kids paddled and swam, dug and scampered, all as their dad failed yet again to prove himself provider, coming home with an empty chilly bin.
A big day of the first summer hit out. Consequently everyone was a little frazzled by the evening, not to mention a little red in patches. Even my own flexibility let me down, clear pink delineations marked on my skin where my hands fail to reach.

With a couple of late beers in me it was all I could do to keep one eye on the cricket test between Pakistan and the Black Caps. Not the biggest fan of the game, I do admit to being a bit of a tragic, fond of the longer version. Too long for me after a day in the sun, wind and sand, fruitlessly casting fish food out into the surprisingly warm waters of the Hokianga.  I went to bed not longer after the crew, my minds eye beginning to focus on the All Black’s vs Ireland.

That game came with a lot of hype and pretty much, it delivered.
Perhaps the AB’s were below par but if that was the case, it took an outstanding Irish effort to drive it home. They were belligerent, fired up, accurate and skilled. Everything the All Blacks weren’t.
The Irish defense was outstanding and they targeted our key players brilliantly, shutting down our play before we could gain any momentum. Pressure by the opposition resulted in mistakes by the All Blacks, which of course results in more pressure.
New Zealand were far from their clinical best, some players were off with a prime example being Captain Kieron Read. A poor start at scrum time didn’t help either, against a well coached and well drilled team.

We were beaten at the breakdown. I think right there was the winning of the game for the Irish, with players like C.J Stander and Peter O’Mahony nothing short of brilliant. Gone are the days where not throwing bodies into the ruck is an effective defensive measure. Fanning out flat across the field is one thing, but letting a team like Ireland get on a roll with repeat possession is quite another.
The All Blacks kicked a lot of ball early and I can’t help thing this might be under instruction. However, without the ball it is difficult to get into the game and for large periods of the game our back line in particular, looked bereft of ideas.

Where is the strong man? The hit-up man who will just tuck the ball under one powerful arm and just go, straight and hard? Yes, as a unit and individuals, the All Blacks made mistakes, individual errors and some poor calls. We were soundly beaten by the quintessential better team on the day. Ok, fair calls, but where was the man to wrestle the decision making around, to change tact, to put his hand up, or better yet a couple of guys like that?
We weren’t tidy enough, we weren’t mongrel enough and for whatever reason we didn’t seem to want to attack like we are known for.
Oh well, bugger. Well done the Irish, they won because they were better.

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There was one, if only one, really good thing I was able to take away from the game.
The kick off time.
On the couch, cup of tea, a blanket despite another beautiful Hokianga dawn and the kids starting to stir, making their fuzzy ways into the living room. Pretty much perfect.
8am New Zealand time is as about as perfect a kickoff time as you are gonna get for family entertainment in the weekend. If it was a local game, maybe not of course, but still a whole lot better than 7:30pm on a cold winter evening.

The kids didn’t last long though. Once Dad starts yelling at the television, they find better things to do. Even when we haven’t left the home, I still have the ability to embarrass my kids. Just part of my job.

In closing, Naholo in on the right wing, with Smith returning to fullback. Laumape in the midfield, or to at least come of the bench in tandem with the Lienart-Brown’s of the world and Mackenzie. We had no punch, lacked that little extra our bench normally provides and run Squire in the wide channels instead of Read. Seen that guy in full flight?
I could go on all day but I won’t
The sun is shining.

Marvel-ous

Another one bites the dust.

At 95, it is highly unlikely anyone will be taken by surprise at the passing of Stan Lee. A good knock as ‘they’ say. And what else can’t be doubted is the influence the man had over so much of our modern culture.
One of the key people behind Marvel story-lines and their characters, Lee brought us many of the heroes we see on our big screens in just about every second blockbuster movie release.

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The last couple of years have claimed the lives of a lot of the people who I looked at as the iconic figures in my cultural formation. The Bowie’s and Prince’s and Cohen’s and the rest. I was never a huge fan of comics as a kid, finding more depth and nuance in them as an adult reader, than you might have thought was there originally. So not a fan as such, even of the movies, once they started rolling across our screens. I like them for the action, the comic strip references, am not immune to the hype and will happily watch them with the kids, but pieces of cinematic mastery they are not.
Of course this doesn’t mean I am unsympathetic to the passing of Stan Lee. I watched the very cheesy Hulk television series when I was a boy, was taken to the Spiderman movies, watching graphics and effects which would pale in comparison by modern standards.

The crew who have followed me, Number’s One and Two, the E-Bomb and Wee-Man love a bit of bright, flashy, action packed, non stop craziness flicking across their screen. Big, bold, good looking people doing impossibly heroic things as they do battle with ever more ridiculous baddies. These movies are a fun, wild ride which try not to take themselves too seriously and thank goodness for that.
Stan Lee sometimes got a little darker with the characters and their story-lines than modern portrayals would suggest. Peter Parker could get very introspective and there some touchy bits and pieces of subject matter, current and topical.
maybe not so much for The Avengers, but there can be no doubt the likes of Captain America, Ironman and the Hulk had their demons.

Hulking-out

Perhaps the themes are generally lighter, fluffier, more action packed and less demanding. Maybe this is because I am getting older and need a bit more to stimulate me when I am seeking my entertainment package. I want the challenge of multiple layers in a movie or, god forbid, a book.
One sure sign Stan Lee’s passing is an indication of my own aging, is the fact he has been able to influence the characters who have infiltrated the lives of my children. A tribute to the longevity and success of what Lee was able to achieve, the ability to transcend generations an impressive feat.

They don’t quite get the significance of Lee’s passing, or the import of his wide spread and far ranging scope of influence on the entertainment industry and therefore, culture. But in Lee and his works was a guy responsible for much of my children’s escapism, there fantastical imaginings, even shaping some of their ideas of right and wrong, good and bad. Such a clear delineation between good and evil, those in the right and those in the wrong, would be a great thing in the real world. If only it was all that simple.

For kids, it is. That simple. Things are more black and white, the grey areas less domineering. The good guy might not always win but, he is always good.
Stan Lee gave the good guys a great bit chunk of cool. It makes them, the goodies, attractive, makes them something young kids might want to aspire to being.

Thanks for that Stan, you’ve made my job a little bit easier.

 

Limping Along

Look out, I feel a rant coming on…

Lately, I embarked on a mission. The plan was to get myself into the best physical shape I could.
Not mission impossible, but not far from it. At least, that is how it has felt, for a man rapidly approaching forty-five and essentially starting from scratch.

This was not some random decision. There is, or at least was, a particular goal in mind, with targets needing to be ticked off, within time frames. Suitable motivation and I think greater driving forces than just seeking to look good on the beach this summer. Obviously, there will be accumulated health benefits from getting physical, adopting a regular, intensive fitness routine. Greater fitness and improved health for starters. Good motivational factors too.
Nothing, though, has proven more motivational than Wifey, deciding she too wants to take part in early morning, living room, sweaty madness. We push each other to start, let alone to keep going when the going is tough. (Yes, I have plenty more cliches available)

Coupled with developing changes in what and how I am eating, I hope, with a bit of diligence and dedication, I can start reaping the rewards of sustained effort soon enough. Already the energy levels are up and the weight is starting to come down. Heck of a long way to go, but the ‘journey’ has begun. (I warned ya)
The main thing which provided motivation, which gave the impetus, has gone. Not to worry, with any luck it was nothing more than a catalyst and the rest will prove to be self-sustaining. That is the intent and at this stage, no qualms, no worries.
Although, I wish it was so easy.

I have already whined about my neck,  in a previous blog. I will not go on about the state of my knees, the quiveringly (no more cliches, I am now making words up) weak state of the tendons in my right shoulder, the pinched pain in my left elbow, the parlous state of my lower back. I could moan on and on, and at times I do. Deaf ears of course, such is the lot of an ever longer suffering Husband and father.
Ailments, aches and pains, I’m full of them. The worst of which, as far as I am concerned, is my toe. As innocuous as that sounds, it is the osteoarthritis inflicting the joints in that appendage ,causing me the most difficulty. Pain is just one part. An annoying and troublesome part admittedly, but also there is the lack of a full range of movement to contend with.
Never mind the cause. Never mind the apparent unfairness to have such an affliction at my tender age. What does pray on my mind is the apathy of the medical profession.

ouch

So, I hear you ask, where is the promised rant? Don’t panic, I would never let you down.

Thing is, I feel a little let down. By…wait for it…’the system’. To be exact, the health system.
Why do I feel that way?
Because I can be fixed. Because there are options for setting my toe right. No one can get rid of the arthritis, but they can rip the joint apart and put it back together again. They can fuse the bones, which will do nothing for the lack of mobility in the joint, but will take care of the pain.
I get the health system has to prioritise. Underfunded, understaffed and all the rest. No need to go into that right now, as my perspective is a little different. I am in pain. Reducing, relieving, getting rid of that pain, is a priority for me. Not an emergency. Leave me hanging if the ambulance pulls in, the helicopter lands on the roof. I think anyone would understand a priority call in situations like that.

Thing is, I can’t help thinking pain, great enough to be debilitating, is quite the matter of urgency. So why the reticence? Why would a case of hemorrhoids be considered for surgery ahead of me?
Wait, for all you butt grape sufferers out there, I get it. I too have bled for many a porcelain god in my time.  And yes, the affliction can be, well, a pain in the arse.

The argument from the specialist is there is no proof an injury led to the ongoing problem.  You see a couple of years back I got grumpy with an uncooperative tractor and gave it a good old fashioned kicking. It is easy enough to imagine who won that argument and here I am down the track, limping around the house and swallowing panadol like the stuff is going out of fashion.
Apparently, that run in with a stubborn tractor could have proven to be the catalyst for the underlying osteoarthritis. Or, it could be it was the injury, because believe me the tractor got the better of me, which has since caused the arthritis.

Most likely I broke my toe. Being the stupid hero I am, I didn’t do anything about it until a couple of weeks later, when I was seeing the doc on an unrelated matter. She agreed I had probably broken the hairy, stubby Hobbit impersonator but after that length of time, she recommended getting back to her if it didn’t settle.
It did.
Then it didn’t, now it hasn’t.

I could have my hip replaced. My knee. I think they are even doing shoulders these days. God forbid I will ever actually need to have any of my major joints replaced but the scale of such an action pales in comparison to bolting the bones in my toe together.
It can’t be denied my gait has changed due to the pain, lack of movement and deformation in my toe. Long term, the effects of that change could prove to be troublesome and could very well lead to the sort of remedial action mentioned above.

Which begs the question, why not something preventative now? Why the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach? Surely a little foresight, a little swift, less invasive and far less costly job done now, will reap rewards in the future? Short term loss for long term gain and all that.

My apologies. Think this has become yet another whinge, not the promised rant.

 

 

 

 

Creepy

What to do when your kids get spooky?

Culture has been a bit of a theme of late. The 31st of October does nothing to alter that.

Halloween is a tradition that might date all the way back to the Celts, but it is relatively new to New Zealand, courtesy of the the good ole U.S.A.
American television has made Halloween a thing which has caught on here, something that is growing in popularity year by year while some of the older traditions fade.
Something like Guy Fawkes was the go to in my day and while it is still celebrated, if that is the right word for commemorating the actions of the figure head for a band of terrorists, it is certainly not as popular as it used to be.

Regulation and political correctness and rules have sucked the life out of something as explosively fun as Guy Fawkes. Civil authorities still put on a show in many centers and good on them. For me, Guy Fawkes will always hold a special place as my birthday falls just a day or two before, meaning blowing things up in sparkly detonations takes on a dual importance.

All Hallows Eve doesn’t seem to hold the same inherent danger as igniting tubes full of phosphorous and gunpowder. Despite the lengths some families seem to go to in celebration of a 2000 year old bow to the spirits of the dead, said to return to earth on the 31st, no one seems to be worried enough to put a halt to things.
Now would be the time I could enter into a rant about the Americanisation of the western world in particular. How American culture, delivered to us through the television, is shaping and influencing us, particularly our youth culture.

I could, but I won’t.
Sometimes it is just fun. Instead I will share with you the fun my crew had with a bit of dress-up and some clever face-paint/makeup from their creative Mother.

 You have been warned!!

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zombie 1

 

zombies

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