Long Time No See

A lot has gone on of late and not a thing has changed. 

The sun is still shining.

I am starting to wonder if it will ever stop, but these last few mornings mist has been touching the still, glassy waters of the mighty Hokianga Harbour. It is almost impossible to drag your eyes away from the dreamy views sitting right at our back doorstep.

But dragged away I have been. All the things so mundane, so everyday, have proven the drag. Then the rounds of illness and poor health. Top all that off with a bout of malaise and a thriving streak of laziness and here we are. So far down the track with barely a word said. I even flirted with the idea of getting a job!

Nothing much has inspired me of late and there hasn’t been a great deal to rile me either.

Apart from ten million dollar roundabouts.

Shane Jones and his billion dollar regional fund. As cynical as I am, jaded and mistrusting, I am sure there will be many positive outcomes from the government opening its wallet in places long overdue a spend. I sincerely hope a fund of that magnitude, earmarked for projects designed to breathe live into struggling communities, will find it’s way, most likely in dribs and drabs, to the areas it can be of most benefit.

I don’t know. How about a footpath? Something my kids can utilise on their way to and from school. They don’t need a roundabout at the cost of millions, to satisfy tourists and the fancy of a white middle-class who surely can’t be that inconvenienced.

Even over this side, millions earmarked for a cultural center in Opononi. Cool, anything and everything to celebrate the rich cultural history of this part of the world, so entrenched as it is in the birth of this nation both Maori and European. It is vitally important the local populace, the wider New Zealand community and yes, tourists, have the opportunity to be immersed in our wide and varied history of settlement as much as is possible.

No argument there, right?

Except when you start to make comparisons with the things this community, this region and so many more like it, are missing.

Yes, footpaths. Playing fields and sports clubs. Playgrounds and recreational reserves. Roads free of potholes and verges cleared , adequate street lighting and domains for the people who live here to congregate and meet and grow as a community. All manner of infrastructure, maintained and supported and allowing for growth and a sense of well being to battle the stagnation that seems to hang like a pall over much of rural, regional New Zealand.

I know much of this falls on regional and local body authorities. Here too, Iwi need to make their presence felt. The thing is, with minimal population bases, there is only so much such bodies can do. Certainly, there seems to be a lack of motivation to do much and not a great deal of desire to commit to options which may hit their bottom lines long term. Understandable maybe. Disappointing and short sighted certainly.

Fair to say if all those bits and pieces were of real concern, we would not be living here. Somewhere more metropolitan, housing the type of extra curricular stuff you would expect from city living. So eventually we won’t be. Living here. We will be forced to move on, so we can better cater to the ever expanding curiosity of our kids.

We are blessed we are able to so. My wife has a career path she can follow and yes, if I must, I will return to work. We will, particularly me, be sacrificing lifestyle, not to mention turning our back on a community desperately in need of the likes of my wife and our beautiful children sticking around. People like my wife, in her role, can shape and influence, to a degree. People like our tamariki are the future, of that there is no question. They are the ones who will inherit and the ones we will have to pass responsibility onto.

So come on Shane. Come on Labour. Help us leave something worthwhile. Something tangible, things which will mold and shape and guide and influence and prosper. It starts with footpaths, a route tamariki can place their feet on and begin their journey.  Put the dollars into encouraging community involvement, driving progress and parenting change.

Sports clubs and the facilities which go with them. Fairs and fetes and jamborees and galas and exhibitions and all things cultural and festive. Maybe a new roof on the community hall, maybe a repair to a boat ramp, street lighting, parking, beach side bbq areas, sealed roads…all things locals can highlight and get involved in.

How about state sponsored beach cleanups? What if communities were armed with the equipment, courtesy of the government, to set about cleaning up their own backyards so to speak? Give a bloke a weed-eater, a few litres of petrol and a date. See you there mate, down where all that Pampas is growing…all that gorse all that broom all that elephant grass all that sycamore all that whatever it happens to be and whatever it is needed to get rid of it…knapsacks and sprayers and P.P.E and boots and overalls. Most important, all that know how and a little bit of motivation.

I guess I am saying let’s put the money into pride. Let’s invest in hope. How about we give the regions a chance at the same level of comfort and convenience, or close to it, as they do in the urban centers. Making life easy, easier at least, makes for better chances, better option taking and decision making. Lets not put too much money into going around in circles.

Then maybe, our tamiriki can have their minds on their futures. Not on where they are putting their feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La la la

You can say everything needed with la la la. As long as you mean it.

I sat myself down on occasion of late, diligently displaying the best of intent. However, while the day gets warmer, muggier and eventually wet, I realise I needn’t sweat. Even as I sit here chaffed and dripping.

But enough imagery of a chubby, balding, 40 something bloke wallowing in pools of his own drenching. I was wanting to, as I swam the pond of sweated quagmire, put something out there others might want to read. Something light and comical, or satirical, or darkly observant, witty and wordy. Perhaps a challenging blog, striking at the virtuous core of a middle New Zealand, or prodding those below to rise up. Maybe I could open the shutters on the cloistered, but sweetly air-conditioned, non-sweaty one percent, an expose so shocking, so revealing my balding mug, sweated brow and all, will most likely feature on Time Magazine.

Flustered and flummoxed. Like a middle aged woman, recently divorced, spying her first ever male stripper at her nieces hen’s night. Hot and wet. The weather has everyone a little frazzled, a fine sheen of ‘Christ when is it gonna stop’ smeared across each and every brow. Today is a blazing glory, but does that mean I am blazing with it. If I couldn’t manage an oppressive pall over my masses of followers and associated readers, then how am I going to leave vapour trails of glory across azure skies?

I’m not. Plain and simple, I don’t need to have my name in lights, my words written in the sky. I don’t blog for fame and fortune and I don’t seek notoriety.

I certainly could. There are plenty of subjects, big and small I have decided, since I began this caper, to intentionally neglect. There are issues, from controversial to first world, localised idiosyncrasies or a splayed big picture problem, all of which I have left by the wayside, as I rocket through the world of home husbandry. Even as paradise surrounds, the raw reality of the big bag world never fails to present.

Our stunningly gorgeous location may look the part from the inside of the window pane. Looking in can be a different story. My wife, privileged to have unfettered access to peoples homes, an intimate months long snap shot of their lives, can come home with horrendous tales of the things, the situations, the people, she encounters.

At the small local school, yet to be treated to the modern idea of how a school should look and feel, thankfully, my kids have encountered racism. Mild, lower end of the scale stuff and technically, reverse. Yes, that is right, our sweet and innocent little whities have been treated differently, adversely, because of the lack of colour in their skin. There has been bullying, particularly directed at our eldest, because she is a cool kid, a popular addition to the place. Jealously has reared it’s ugly head and she has been shunted and shunned.

No biggy. We worked through it. People concerned were open and honest and proactive. That doesn’t take care of the proliferation of weeds, noxious and invasive.

The neighborhood and indeed the greater region, is strewn with Elephant Grass and Wild Ginger. There is the obligatory Gorse and Blackberry and wilding Pines and there are flame trees, with their thorny warning. These plants line broken footpaths, a drainage swale full of stagnant water, battling for supremacy against escapee bamboo. Verges are infrequently mowed, if ever, sprayed quarterly at best…which is worse.

Poke your head into the scrub, to confirm that identifiable object is in fact the discarded mattress you thought it might be. Cars break down and are burnt, shunted off the side of the road, to rust where the paint has been scorched free. Stray dogs take care of most of the rubbish, house hold disposables, that don’t make collection.

Have I painted a pretty enough picture of paradise yet? Yes, I can go for a fish basically from my doorstep. But I can’t eat the shellfish and sometimes they tell me I can’t even swim. That information, courtesy of a randomly placed, faded yellow sign, too small to garner a great deal of attention, does not go down well with my kids. I can bundle those same kids in the car and drive us all to some of the most picturesque, uninhabited, un-visited, coastal and forested spots of beauty and cultural significance.

The roads are bumpy, winding, tight and skinny and bouncy and unsealed and potholed and generally no exit. Just the way I like them. Many tourists don’t seem to be so fond. Can you pick the ones who have traveled the east coast first, the Bay of Islands, with all it’s grey retiree dollar and escapee Aucklander investment? All their vehicles are registered, warranted and are road worthy.

So do I get controversial? Tell a joke or two, to lighten some shock tactics? Do I mine the depths of substance abuse, wreaking stumbling havoc on a community? Do I battle the abusers, both of those same said substances and the men and women abusing each other and the brood of children they have created together. Do I stand up and yell it, the wrongs that I see being perpetrated, the often harrowing results of which can bee witnessed on the worn features of my tired wife at the end of a working day.

We can be a cynical bunch in this country, but we do like a laugh. We will happily poke fun at ourselves and others, often liberal with the threat of offence. But, as I have said before, offence is taken, not given and if you are offended by the things you see and hear, perhaps it is because those things; that abuse, that degradation and poverty and systemic failure, trouble you and the infinity pool world you like to think you swim in.

Sometimes, when you are hot and flustered, flummoxed and frazzled, light hearted poking and prodding just doesn’t cut it. And who needs another white, middle-class, in this case un-educated, keyboard warrior telling it like it is. For a start I don’t really know. I am a kept man after all. And sadly, people like me don’t really want to know. We may snigger and snicker and righteously comment our agreeance, but we offer nothing in the way of solution. So I for one, should shut up. No stomping and shouting, no raising a grumpy, disenfranchised placard waving mob, Hoki Hubby at the head, megaphoned voice waxing lyrically poetic, the strain of tortured passion ringing from my lungs.

Instead I sip a commercially produced craft beer, meat sizzling and spitting on a BBQ over looking the water from our habour side deck, women inside making salads, 90’s alt-rock backing up the waffle I share with my council of local whities, putting the world and it’s woes to rights on the back of an unlabeled red wine or two, a toke here and there, while our young men are killing themselves. We are all killing each other every time we pop out for a drive and we are ignoring the mentally ill, in the hope they will go away.

They will.

One by sad, miserable, lost, disconsolate one. Cracks in systems, as wide and deep as the holes and dips and splits in State Highway 12. Not swallowing them whole. Nothing that comforting. Like a cat, the mentally unwell are toyed with a little first, teased, dangled.

I can smoke a hooter and get quietly pissed under a sun umbrella, kids streaming around me, confident in the knowledge we will not be visited by an agency, a service. People like us don’t get visits from units like that. We don’t need it. Our lives and those of our children might be mildly dysfunctional, but who’s isn’t? Local body authorities are not going to trim the verges at the top of our drive, regional administrators are not going to monitor those polluting our waters. Central bureaucrats are not got to fill the pot holes, feed and house the poor, clothe them and protect them from the elements, treat their illnesses and educate them, detox them, unify and strengthen them. So each and everyone of us appears to be on our own.

And if we are all alone, then we are all in it together. Aren’t we?

So I will sit here and sing la la la. All the while hoping there is someone out there with greater, more in-depth, more analytical lyrical content to offer. The same old chorus I can do, like everyone else, members of a mass choir. If the western Mid North is the tune, the Hokianga the verse, then who is going to play the lead break?

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Foos and Weez

I am going to file a compensation claim against the Foo Fighters and Weezer.

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Dad band! Who the fuck came up with that one?
Who cares. This Dad might be passed it, but proved at the weekend he can rock with the best of them. Mt Smart Stadium put a whole lot of people together and got them wet. Soaking bloody wet. And it couldn’t have been better.

I donned a bin liner, topped it off with a poncho and with boots on, was relatively sorted. Ages since I had attended a major stadium event that didn’t involve a rugby ball and I was prepared, in the way only an aging rock dad could be.

A few drinks in me, but not pissed. I had no intention of hearing the gig from the sweetly scented confines of a port-a-loo. Stoned, but not smashed. Lightly toasted. Light on the food, as I knew I was gonna be jumping and lurching and stumbling and all the rest. I was keyed up, before I turned the ones in the ignition and started the four hour drive the morning of the concert.

Eyes wide open, handy when you are driving in the pouring rain, I headed south on the morning of February the 3rd, not entirely sure what to expect. I knew who the Foo Fighters were and are, of course. Not many my generation wouldn’t. Positive I would get a polished and professional performance, loud and full on, it was Weezer I was off to see.

Long time favourites, life had never thrown me the opportunity to see them in action. Seriously good musicians, who at one time or another, gotten it so right on their instruments, the lyrical content, the delivery, the production, the whole kit and caboodle, they were able to grab at an impressionable young man. Some of my ‘life moments’ have Weezer as the soundtrack and I felt the need to give Rivers Cuomo and his crew the chance to give me another of those moments. They didn’t disappoint and I knew they wouldn’t. Weezer fuckin’ rocked!

All the hits, from the Blue Album, Pinkerton, including El Scorchio…’our song’. As damn good as I knew they could be and the only problem I had was, as the warm up act, their set wasn’t long enough. Weezer rocked solidly for just over an hour and a half, in jackets and gumboots and sombreros, displaying their musicianship, their own brand of cool, their showmanship and put a smile on my dial.

Weezer got me up and moving instantly. I didn’t stop. Not for the next nearly five hours. So I am going to bring civil action against Weezer and the Foo Fighters.

Foo Fighters can compensate me for my sore and bruised feet, my big toe, already completely bereft of cartilage, which has ached non-stop since. Foo Fighters can cover the expense of whoever it is going to take to get the pain out of my spine; the stiffness and the shooting, agonising, torturous stabs of evil, beginning in the small of back, radiating across and away, down and finally up, all the way to my neck, where movement is restricted and headaches begin. Someone needs to get the muscles in my thighs working properly again, there needs to be more action taken to resurrect my core, terrifying me every time I sneeze or cough.

I could hardly walk, as the last squeal of distorted feedback faded from the amplifiers. Kicking mounds of empty plastic cups aside, rain still beating down. I could have kept on rocking though, kept on singing and screaming, voice hoarse, kept on throwing myself in the air, dropping on the beat.

The Foo Fighters were not and are still not, my band. I went for Weezer and I got what I wanted. But I did get so much more than I expected. I saw a bunch of guys who know their instruments, know their audience, know their passions and know each other inside out. So they should, after a stellar twenty-two year career. I saw, sure as hell heard, a band having fun. They loved what they were doing and that is infectious. I was infected.

But ‘Dad Band’? Plahease. In fact, that shit doesn’t deserve capitals. dad band.

If that is what a band full of dads sounds like, appeasing a crowd full of dads, if that is how a bunch of Fathers do it, rocking audiences so much the earth shakes, the rains stop, rainbows sweep the skies, then bring it on!! Bring it on all day everyday and all fucking night long too. Because that was one of the best fucking, rocking, awesome, smashed it nights I have ever fucking had and I don’t even like the Foo Fighters.

I fucking love the Foo Fighters.

This sad old rocker had his tired old mind blown. Rivers Cuomo can just not be that cool and try and make out he isn’t. Fuck right off. Rock God.

Fuck the Foo Fighters. You owe me. You stole a piece of me on the 3rd of February, in Auckland. You drained me physically and emotionally. Two and a half hours of pure rock. I mean these guys have topped the charts, repeatedly, have won awards and accolades and whatever. Who gives a fuck? I don’t. The first time in ages I have wanted, desperately, to pick up the sticks and play again. Feel the lights, hear the crowd, the fold back amp, loose myself.

Weezer rocked. Weezer rock. They covered the Pixies for fuck sake and did it more than justice…they fucking smashed it!!

Foo Fighters rocked. Foo Fighters rock. Sky Is a Neighborhood, Run…wow!! Everlong, Hero, all the classics from their back catalogue. Best of You…holy fucking wow!!

This Dad rocked with the Foo Fighters and Weezer.

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God damn those half Japanese girls.

There goes my hero.

 

 

 

 

 

Boss Baby

Is it possible to rule the roost and rule the country? Our Prime Minister thinks so.

Jacinda Adern is clearly a very ambitious women. She has become the darling of the political world, both nationally and around the world, in relatively rapid time. Her rise through the Labour Party ranks may not have been as meteoric as the media might have us all believe, but her ascendancy to the top job, elected or not, came on a rocket-ship.

And thus, Jacinda Adern was thrust into the limelight. Prime Minister. Leader of a political party, leader of a nation. Our nation. My country and the one I am raising four children to live, love, grow, work, fade and die in.

Now our Prime Minister and her First Man, Clarke Gayford, will shortly be doing just the same; raising a child to grace these shores with it’s beautiful presence. Congrats and all that are due. Never mind whether it is appropriate or not for the leader of a nation to be taking some time out for the birth of a child. Don’t worry over the rights and wrongs of not informing the populace, effectively her employers, of any pending pregnancy.

Adern will stand by her right not to have to divulge that information and on principal, such a stand has to be accepted and applauded. She must have faced quite the dilemma, discovering her pregnancy at a time when the political whirlpool was in vortex, sucking everything and everyone in, as the last election seemed to do. She made her call, it can’t be changed now and to my mind, Mark Richardson’s abilities as a clairvoyant aside, the point is kind of moot.

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Richardson got lambasted in all this, complete with stern, unhappy teacher face and waggling finger, and while it is important to avoid the temptation to make cricket analogies, it seems our First Man has been left out of the playing XI all together.

Clarke Gayford should be offended . Miffed at the least. The question keeps getting raised, time and again, in our mainstream media, in opinion pieces and blogs, in twitter rants and wherever…will the Prime Minister will struggle to do both jobs.

Damn right she will. She is clearly an ambitious and extremely hard working woman and must come with the verve, drive and energy required to get to the position she is in. It is going to take all of that and more, to get through the next year or so from here, relatively incident free.

But, I ask from the cloistered confines of full time fatherhood, why is it we seem to be neglecting, no…failing to herald, Clark Gayford’s role in this?

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Hasn’t the man put his hand up, stating his intended lead role in the raising of the Clarke/Jacinda bub? Are his abilities so doubted we have to question his wife and hers?

Let’s get real here, it ain’t easy raising a child, no matter who you are, what gender you have assigned yourself (that’s how it’s done these days isn’t it?) and certainly no matter what you do for a living. I don’t imagine the Clarke/Ardern household is struggling financially, I can’t see them being under a great deal of pressure in providing all that is needed to give their little one every opportunity. I would also like to think they have a nurturing, close and supportive wider family and social network. Our nations Prime Minister will not be flying solo.

And neither will  Clarke. If nothing else, a rapt nation will be kept well and truly over informed on the progress of bubs, Mum and yes, maybe, just maybe, Dad will get a mention too. Breakfast show TV will be all over it, Mark Richardson or not. But in reality, this baby is going to spend the first few years of it’s little life, essentially without a strong Motherly influence.

Adern will be busy running the nation, a task I am sure does not leave a huge amount of time for full nappies and rolling over and sitting and those all important first steps. Not to mention teething. I wonder how much time it leaves for breast feeding. Are we going to see our P.M. with a baby on the breast in parliament? Not for the first time and bloody good to see being accommodated and readily accepted, just as it should be.

So, to my mind, there is no question of whether or not Jacinda Adern will be able to cope, juggling motherhood and the leadership of this nation. She is only going to be doing the one job full time. The one with the paperwork and the negotiating and the press conferences and the pressure and stresses. The pressure and stress her husband will be under are far different, but you sure as hell won’t catch this guy belittling them.

The real debate is who is going to be working the hardest. I reckon I know the answer.

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Holiday Hell

If you are starting to wonder whether allowing the kids to watch Deadpool is a good idea, read it as a sign the holiday period could welcomingly come to an end.

I think the plan for the next holidays is to produce and sell something. All that captive labour, already paid for. It isn’t cheap keeping children, so how about they earn a bit of that keep. They will be occupied, entertained and they might even learn something.

I say ‘keeping’ children for the purposes of this rant. If it wasn’t a rainy January, summer, day, then I might feel more inclined to say raise, nurture, grow and develop. As it stands, I am more than a little glad-and have been on several occasions throughout the holiday period- we live in a multi level house.

Upstairs is where three of them live. Where they are kept. I spend idle minutes wondering if there is a way I can keep them up there, I mean really up there, without a casual glance, from a neutral onlooker, revealing I have locked my kids in. I am, of course, aware of fire codes and regulation, thoughts of which must surely go through your wine addled holiday head, when you are busy contemplating  locking your kids in the upstairs rooms of an old wooden house.

I can still hear them. Loud and clear. There is a landing, at the top of the ricketiest spiral staircase I have ever encountered. Off said landing, the two bedrooms and a third room, which equates to little more than a glorified closet. Sound travels up there nearly as well as it travels down. I might sit down tonight, after a wine too many, grab the phone and load up Netflix, or whatever app/site/thingy it takes to track down an old school slasher movie. Tune in and wind up the volume. I’m thinking Friday the 13th. The first one. A classic. Nightmare On Elm Street even, one two Freddy’s after you. Wait…I know, Dawn of the Dead…introduce some Zombie flavour to proceedings.

Why this vindictive antagonism towards the kids you ask? No idea. Lies, I know.

I am not having a dig at them. Not apportioning any blame. Put simply, I am jealous.

I am jealous of their youth, the exuberance which comes with it. All that vigor, the wide-eyed adoration of a day which can be attacked, no thought given or spared on preparation, on planning. No concerns for consequences and no worries over how much it is going to cost. Whatever ‘it’ is.’Oh hang on…IT would be a good one!!

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The summer holidays are the days and weeks when memories are created. After all, you only ever recall the really good times and the really bad ones. So it is up to Mum and Dad to create them, those moments in the sun and surf never to be forgotten. The times when, in moments of reflection, years after your youth has passed you can sit back and go yep, that was a good day.

Rose tinted, isn’t that the way you want your kids to see their lives? Enough of the good memories, the great ones, a majority of good and great times, so predominant it clouds their vision, their minds eye. Helps them to forget anything which might have gone drastically wrong.

Of course, it is the job of Mums and Dads the world over to shield and deflect as many of the bad times as possible. Don’t we all want out children growing and being able to say their childhood was full of fun and laughter and no, I can’t really recall any dramas.

There will be. Drama and stress and accidents and major events far from favourable, all reflecting on those closed eye moments when your kids are adults and are taking a quiet moment for reflection. It can be tough not to dwell on the things making our adult lives hard going; the cost of groceries, the cost of rent/housing, the cost of fuel, the broken dryer, the dodgy ticking sound in the motor, that mole changing shape, hair loss, hair gain (think head and back).

All that and you haven’t stopped yet to consider all the things directly affecting how your kids are getting on. Results in the classroom, the dynamics of the playground, their social lives, developmental challenges, their inter-relations with you, with each other, with the wider family and community, their future education, their current one.  Their lives.

 After all, it is all about their lives, isn’t it? Just a question of how we as adults and parents, fit into all of that, being the biggest influence they will encounter while trying not to influence them too much.

So much easier to lock them in their rooms.

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Dogs, Rods and Paddles.

We made memories the other day. 

There could, if you are an extremely positive person, be a memory a day, every day.

Wifey and I did that very thing at the weekend, one of those summer days which is going to stick. With a bit of luck,  and the effort on our behalf, a day like last weekend’s will go a long way to forming how our kids look back and see their childhood summer.

We followed some rules. We were prepared.

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There was shade. There was shelter. There was food. There was water. There was company. There was participation. There was entertainment. There were the dogs splashing around, having just as much fun, if not more, than anyone.

Opononi and the Hokianga Harbour provided the majority of the latter. Natures playground at its finest. At about midday, no need to hurry after all, we were unpacking the sun shade thingy, erecting it, unloading kayaks from the roof racks, flicking a frisbee, making lunch, baiting rods, throwing sticks for the dogs and of course, swimming. Everything and everyone was free of stress and drama. There was no bickering or belittling, there was no animosity or petty jealousies.

The kids all had a smile on their sandy faces. And when your kids are smiling, you are too.

Impossible not to smile along with a toddler’s delight, when he discovers his first washed up jellyfish. Only the heartless couldn’t find joy in all the shrieks and hollers and yells, as a bunch of kids splash about in water warm enough to keep them occupied, happy and content for long periods of time.  It is contentment for Mum and Dad too, knowing that your kids are playing and have fun in a natural environment, engaging with the country around in the best possible way. Literally diving in.

Sunscreens and hats and life-jackets and supervision water and food. Nurtured in nature

I get a slightly dopey looking little smile on my face when I am content and happy. The way you look after a big feast; leaning back in your chair, rubbing a full, protruding belly, eyes nearly closed and lips slightly upturned in the smallest of smiles, looking for all the world like I am about to doze off.

The kids are happy. They are running free and wild and getting stuck in to it all, sun on their backs and wind in their hair, framed by sparkling sea before a backdrop of golden dunes.

Are Mum and Dad smiling because they are? Or, are the kids smiling because Mum and Dad are?

Either way, it’s infectious.

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THE WORLD IS A STAGE

The Killers, out of Las Vegas, have proven it best

Their particular brand of music, is not remotely. Not even close to their own brand. They are doing ‘Brand’ their own way. Good to hear, good to the ear. A good pop song is, and always will be , a good pop song. The Killers are the Cars. The Cure. Blondie and Talking Heads. They are a little bit of Bryan Adams, a touch of U2, and a big dollop of Duran Duran. There is Brian Eno and Lou Reed and Elvis Costello and there is, of course Bowie.

The Killers create a good pop song or two. Something that makes you bop along. I know it sounds cheesy, and when I do, have a wee bogey, a little bop, it looks as cheesy as hell too. I dance like a white guy, slipping a little on wet lino, trying desperately to keep up with a beat his knee can’t match and a rhythm his heart hasn’t been capable of for years.

Thing is, The Killers haven’t done a thing different than so many before them, many of whom did it as well, if not better. There is a cross over, like everything, like everybody. A gathering of influences, that convalesces in each of us. We are all, after all, a product of our influences. Her Indoors and my good self, have influenced four little people. Her and I are responsible for their individual crossovers.

For a while I played in a band. I was drummer, the bloke who sits in a room full of musicians and hits things. I came into a sound they were already producing. I changed it. Not intentionally, it is merely something that was, unavoidably, going to happen.

I was all Brit Pop. I was Supergrass and Oasis and Blur and I was Stones Roses and Inspiral Carpets and Happy Mondays. I was also a fair bit Blue Album from Weezer, I was a little bit Pearl Jam and I was a cliched Kieth Moon, without the talent. Think Jane’s Addiction meets The Jam, having a jam with Smashing Pumpkins, covering the Pixies, listening to Prince, slaves to the late 60’s and 70’s.

The guys I was playing with, the guys who allowed me to play with them, were Dinosaur Junior, there was Leonard Cohen and Nick Cage and there was stuff I had never heard of and there was stuff I have never heard. There is grunge and there is punk and there is rock and there is blues an there is three dudes with instruments and one with a voice and there we are, on a stage, reflecting everything we brought there with us.

There was pop. And so much more substantial than pop. Each one of the young men on that stage, under low slung lights in the back of a public bar somewhere in the south of Dunedin CBD, came with energy and lust and rage and fear and anger and fright and belly’s full of it all.

We came from warm homes. We came from loving environments. There were faults, in those environments. They too, were reflected on  smokey, damp, cloistered Dunedin nights, tucked away in the confines of musty old brick. Not the place for Young MC or Ice Cube or Beastie Boys. Yet somehow, they were all welcome too.

I was eighteen. Maybe nineteen. Truth is, I don’t really remember it at all well. Drank way too much. Smoked all sorts. Swallowed this, snorted that. Mixed and matched. Not as bad as some, as many, but I went pop.

Angst. The latter part of my teens. For boys, it’s always latter. Except where it matters perhaps, but let’s leave that thought for another day. For girls, I am seeing it form a fraction earlier. No, a whole lot earlier. What seems worse, seems terrifying, more frightening than a Rick Astley/Taylor Swift duet, is that the angst ridden hormonal thrust that is the teenage years, seems to come in a feisty feminine rush.

A good mate has a teenager. A girl. Two years senior to my Number One. Two short, apparently action packed, years. Seeing her grow, develop, is following Robbie Williams, writing the album, maybe on the last tour, the gist of it anyway. Now he has left the studio, polished and buffed and tired and frazzled and worn out and drained and exuberant, pumped, lusting the coming days, weeks and months and missing home and yearning for the road. Conflicted. Confused. Full of creativity and energetic self discovery. Full of doubt and anguish.

There is a shit ton of stuff going on. While some forty something guy sees in the new year lying on the couch on his own, in the dark, room not even spinning, because he hasn’t had enough of any substance to set it so, upstairs in the bedroom of his first born, it never ends. Her head is spinning for sure, trying to work through all the influences, internal and external.

God, how I hope it ends. Of course, I know it does. I can see where it begins, I have seen it over and over now. It is there, all that angst and fear and confidence and uncertainty and anger and push and trepidation and quickness and second guessing, all right there in the face of the E-Bomb.

The testing grounds, the three-nager. Just a phase. A very important one, it seems. Take all she learns, all she gleans from the responses she gets to her stubbornness, her quick witted, cheekiness, her blatant rejection of you, her overbearing love. It is all filed, all stored. All the smiles and the growling and the snapping and the scooped up cuddles. Somewhere between the ages of twelve and thirteen, she will access those files.

She has formulated her approach. Her multifaceted brain has been coding the program to be delivered when the time arises. Every riff, every bridge and melody, all there to be played to you. Back at you. Because, you put most of it there, as Mum and Dad. A teenager is no more than the sum of the influences we have given her and the ones she has found and taken on board on her own. Only difference is, that teenager hasn’t quite figured how to process it all. Some time in the studio and it comes together. The live concert can be a mess.

When it is your Three-nager, the E-Bomb being the perfect example, the response to the heavy metal melt down is easier. There is a whole combination of things from banishment, to a stern, in your face telling off, to withdrawal of privileges. The list goes on.

Sure, it doesn’t mean your three-nager is going to be open, receptive and content with your response, but you are in control. You have the final say, even if it is a physical last resort. Picking up your child and removing it from the scene, is always an option.

The E-Bomb is going to go off. Her triggers are there for all to see. Compared with a teen, I feel the buttons used to get her going are easier to identify. Not necessarily any easier to avoid, but at least you know when it is happening.

And I let it happen. Sometimes, I just start push play as soon as the E-Bomb shows signs she is about to do a Roger Daltry and lose the plot in a hotel room, go all System of a Down on it. You see, I have a day to get on with, we all do. I could wait, try and settle and appease. The result will be delayed, but it will be the same. Eventually, the E-Bomb, BYOB, will go off.

So push the buttons. Blow her up. Twenty minutes of carnage will ensue. Five to ten more minutes of sobs and gathering herself back together and bingo, half an hour later, on with the day.

Try too hard to placate, to appease and ease and generally be all sweetness and light, be the passive, kind and caring, understanding one, and the E-Bomb goes pop anyway. An hour later. There is still half an hour to work through before the day is back on track.

So I switch the E-Bomb from pop to rock, to heavy metal and watch her explode. It all comes pouring out, in a concussive rush, a cathartic moment for everyone in the vicinity. Like that stroppy teenager, she goes through angst, grunge, expressing dissatisfaction at her scene. Katy Perry or the Black Eyed Peas won’t appease her anymore, no longer satisfies. She gets a bit U2 Sunday Bloody Sunday, goes a touch The Clash before they discovered Caribbean islands, reaches for AC/DC, finds Metallica and then boom, System of a Down all over again.

If I ever go off like that, and it is rare as I am too old to expend that sort of energy unnecessarily, I need to wind it back down gradually. Cycle down through Black Sabbath, find a little Foo Fighters, a touch of 80’s fluff, say Poison because every rose really does have its thorn. Radiohead might give me Elvis Costello who will hand me someone like Nathaniel Rateliffe and I am happy again.

Not the E-Bomb, not my little teenager in waiting. She will go from thrash/death metal to a sleepy Sunday jazz mix just like that.

I envy that. The no holds barred approach to expression. The unadulterated passion. The openness and the honesty of it. It is like a medley, an old school mixed tape. Tape, people, refers to cassette, a form of media to record…oh never mind.

One day, instead of pushing her buttons, instead of pushing play, maybe I should push record. There is a number one hit there, a chart topper. Somewhere inside everyone, no matter the age or stage.

You just have to listen.

 

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IRRELEVANT, IRREVERENT.

Not so long ago I started to question my relevance. 

 

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I don’t know if that is a middle-aged, life in crisis thing, or not. Technically my middle age, according to my demographic, slipped by, virtually unnoticed, some years ago. As it stands, I do not own a red convertible sports car and am not dating a pretty blonde, twenty years my junior. It rains too much for a convertible and I am already married to a blonde. Yes, she is still pretty.

Is the word ‘still’ a mistake there?

The thing is, who would I be trying to prove my irrelevance, or otherwise, to? I am not sure. Why it is I felt the need to muse over my relevance at all, I am also not certain.

I have long held the base idea, or opinion, we are all, as humans, here to do the exact same thing every other creature on the planet is trying to achieve. We are here to procreate, in order to continue and possibly advance the populace of said creature, us included. After that deed is done, we die.

Pretty simple really. What each and every creature gets up to in the interim, between procreating and dying, is a very personal thing, but there seems to be a base. It kind of boils down to eating the little guy, all the while trying to avoid being eaten by the bigger guy. Because you are never the big guy.

So we mate, we kill and/or be killed and we die. For all the micro-organisms, up to the alpha predators, it is more or less the same. Only the time frame is the great variance. A life time can be measured in hours to days, to weeks then months and years.

I stopped myself about there. The thought processes got too big, too involved, too dramatic and not, really, all that relevant. The way my brain works, or fails to as the case may be, involves a great deal of tangents and off shoots. A singular focus is not a strong point of mine.

It is for a Shark. For an Echidna. Eat, fuck and die, more or less in that order, but things can be adjusted to suit. The shark and the echidna do not share a coffee or a beer and question their shared relevance or meaning. They do not attend lectures on the subject and philosophise over their place in things. They do not star gaze and design space craft and satellites and a giant telescope to try and work out what is beyond. The Echidna looks for bugs. His search is for sustenance. His quest is to not be the food source for something else. The shark takes a bite and if he likes the taste, swallows it down. His quest is for the same thing, sustenance. The shark, alpha predator that he is, gets to go about his business in a slightly more blase fashion, after all a shark doesn’t have to watch his back the same way we have to in the big, wide and deep ocean that is the world we live in.

The cynic in me has long since decided there doesn’t actually have to be any ‘meaning’ to life. Let’s face it, there probably isn’t. If you spend too long wondering about the why, searching for the meaning of your existence, then there is probably something seriously lacking in your life. Unless of course, you are paid to do so and if that is the case, good score, landing a job like that. We all think. Earning a living doing so is bonus territory for sure.

Sitting around philosophising, theorising, musing, is a good way to let it all, whatever your all might be, slip by almost completely unnoticed. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cliches out there about not seeing wood for trees. Other ones which escape me right now.  How easy would it be though, to ponder the day away, troubling over what it means to live a day, only to realise you haven’t lived it at all. Merely breathed your way through it.

Of course there is the other end of the spectrum. Everything and every one is on a spectrum these days and I figure in order to be on a spectrum, it needs two ends. It needs to end. There are a heap of folk out here who don’t put enough thought in. Perhaps they are the blase ones, though I tend to label them-because we all have a label-ignorant.

The great unwashed. Sounds good, even if it isn’t appropriate to what I am driveling on about. Just consider for a moment, all the people out there so dead set keen on convenience they can no longer cook properly. They heat and re-heat. All those who can’t tend a garden because they have never, really, set foot in one, let alone grow and nurture their own slices of nature. Fat, balding, hairy middle aged men (yes I realise I just described myself) who haven’t seen the light of day, apart from the assault of sun catching them as they waddle between door and car, car and door. Online lives playing out nightly, addictively, wanking themselves silly to the digital portrayal of someone most likely just down the street, who is in reality another balding, middle-aged waste of oxygen living in his mothers basement. At least in parts of this country, sad fatties still make it to the pub, guzzling their way through too many diabetes inducing beers and pies, ogling the girl behind the bar as if one day she might even acknowledge their existence.

Then there are those too lazy to manage even that much. Can’t make it to the pub, because leaving the house is a chore, let alone interacting with the world at large. Anxious people, depressed people, kids with A.D.H.D and adults with A.D.D. and whole populaces with labels attached to justify their inability to fit. To sanctify their inherent laziness.

I get anxious trying new things, testing myself and my preconceived ideas of what my limits might be. Doing so can bring on an anxiety disorder. Or is that just fear, just uncertainty, just caution. Am I just getting nervous?

Sometimes,  I struggle to concentrate. Occasionally the task at hand struggles to hold my attention, or more accurately, I struggle to give my attention to the task at hand. Just now I faded off, played a game briefly, gazed out the window, listened to one of the dogs licking itself, back-dropped by the morning tweet and twitter of birds and achieved a whole lot of nothing. There was a deficit there, briefly, in my attention.

A quick read of the above and it is clear I am unwell. I have an illness, or two, or three, perhaps a whole gamut. I am mentally diseased. But fear not. Someone ‘has been there’ and will proceed to tell me all about and then, quickly, before I can object, tel me how to fix it.

And, of course, there is a P.C pill which will mend all my woes. Off I will go, rattling on Ritalin, cruising on Fluoxetine or Citalopram. Washing it all down with bottles of cheap vino, my middle-aged, suburban, white middle-class lost dream drowned out and watered down, a malaise mixed with early season new potatoes. Wait, that’s mayonnaise.

Is there a pill for cynicism? Is there a quick fix, one stop shopping, chemical solution to the plodding monotony which can be our existence? Yes, good people, there is. Alcohol. Right there is the socially acceptable option.

I choose to shy away from that stuff, for the meantime at least. I have been, and will be so again, quite the fan of chemical options. But for now, I will opt to live my life vicariously, getting my thrills and spills, action and inertia, through my kids. Ride all their ups and their downs, live their highs and battle their lows. I will yell from the sideline, whistle and cheer too loud at the concert, applaud their successes and boo those that stand in their way. I will give my all, so that they, all bloody four of them, may get their all

That right there, is my relevance.

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NEW YEAR, NEW MAN, NEW PLAN

And so it is 2018. A summer recharge, and right back into it…

Time to establish some ground rules, for me and for the whanau. (whanau is Maori for family, in case you were wondering. Bet you didn’t know I could be so cultural)

Right now, with the 2018 school term a little way off, I have got it easy. Many hands make lite work and all that. So surely this is the time to assess what had been happening, re-assess what has not been happening well, take stock of all of the good, the bad and the ugly-I count myself firmly in the latter category-and freshen the approach to things.

By ‘things’ I mean all the stuff required to raise kids and run the household you are raising them in. It is summer, a bloody good one at that, so the season is doing a good job of surrogate parenting for me. Time will come soon enough though-kids back at school, weather turning cooler and wetter (the wife is already back at work)-when I have to get my shit together. So why not start now, establishing few ground rules along the way.

Vacuuming is a work out. If it isn’t already, make it so. 

You are never going to ‘get back in shape’. What shape that was, is frighteningly similar to the one you have now, so how is that gonna work out for ya?  Besides, four kids and and wife, who spends the majority of her time either physically at work, or on call for it, and where is the chance to ‘work out’? Vacuum like you mean it.

Rotate the clothing in the little one’s draws. 

No one likes shopping. It doesn’t matter if I am New Zealand’s version of The Rock, all rippling muscle and oozing masculinity. Nor would it matter if I was a frilly fairy princess clad in pink. I do not, have not and will never, like shopping!

So be warned. It is not a favourite top. Those are not a pair of favourite tights. They are just the items on top in the draw. Okay, a little one might have a preference or two, but a fashion show it is not (it kind of is, but I do what I can to ignore that). When the laundry is dried and folded-not to her standard I might add-slip those lemon fresh items down the bottom of the pile in the draw, thus meaning you attract the little ones attention to the array of other clothes she has available. Eventually, nothing is going to fit, no matter how worn and tatty the clothes and as the E-Bomb is the last in her chain, the last of the females, meaning no more hand-me-downs, keep cycling them around. The longer you can put off the shopping trip, the better.

Get down and dirty. 

We have good kids. A big part of this is because all kids are born that way, good. Sure, there may be the odd demon as an exception proving the rule, but generally there is nothing wrong with a child until we start putting it there. The key to keeping them good is communication. Which is kinda the key to every relationship in life.

So get down at their level. I don’t mean dumb yourself down. By no means, because let’s get real, you are most likely dumber than them anyway. I mean, get on the floor. Be a part of what they are, see it all from where they are at. Change the perspective. Literally do not talk down to your kids. Sure, it might take a while for this old body to protestingly get up off the floor, but in the meantime, it is really worth it.

And while you are there, talk to them like humans. Treat them like the people they are. Little people admittedly, put fully functioning people nonetheless.

Buy a pig.

Okay, actually going out and purchasing a pig may be a touch extreme. We have the space for one and the time required to look after animals, stock. Most living the suburban dream can’t say the same, so stick with your insinkerators and your composting and all the other techniques you employ so your rubbish doesn’t stink, making for a good breeding ground for maggots. What I am trying to say is, don’t be the one cleaning up the scraps…with your mouth. I said buy a pig, don’t be the pig.

We get the kids to eat what we eat. The idea is for them to develop a wide pallet, stop them being fussy, help them learn to identify what is good and healthy and nutritious. It also makes meal preparation so much easier, but that is just Mum and Dad being selfish. (note the capitals…you deserve to be in capitals) We try, as much as is possible, to get them all involved in the process of preparing, cooking, eating and cleaning up after a meal. Number One takes great delight in cooking for the family, now and then and Number Two is just starting to get into things more, now she can reach. With a bit of luck they will learn some independence and not be completely inept, when the time comes for them to push off.

Did I say push off?

I meant spread their wings.

 

 

 

Festive Greetings

So here it is, the silly season. How are you coping?

I will admit, I am not the most festive of people. If it wasn’t for the fact I have kids, I would probably have no part of the whole Christmas vibe.

Okay, that said, I am a fan of all the excessive eating and drinking. And it is nice to see communities and workplaces and neighbours and families and everyone, getting together with a smile on their face and enjoying some sun and fun. Our little town did their mini version of Christmas in the park, with a quite spectacular fireworks display, the hospital put on a big feast for staff and family and Wee-Man and the E-Bomb had their Do, complete with petting zoo, on a day that cooled suitably.

Faerie lights are flashing around the neighbourhood, tinsel is slung from windowsills and  trees are up. Ours is ridiculously tall, as we have the ceiling space to get away with it and was decorated lovingly by the whole family. Old men impersonating Santa have already been sighted and I will do a similar, though more clandestine impersonation, when the kids finally go to sleep on Christmas Eve.

That’s right, I’ll be dragging the presents out of their various hiding places and placing them under the tree. I hope there is cookies, or Xmas cake and ideally, a single-malt.

So, when do you stop believing? When, if you can even recall, did the myth of Santa and all his helpful little elves, tucked away in the North Pole studiously making toys all year round, finally get exploded for you?

The E-Bomb is only just starting to get the whole Santa thing. The mystique and the fantasy is only, this summer, starting to dawn on her, yet she still is not fully invested. Maybe she has an inherent mistrust, like it all sounds just a touch too good to be true. A natural suspicion, instinctively telling her as fun as it all seems, surely a jolly laughing man sharing treats and presents with everyone from the back of a sled pulled by flying reindeer, is a bit much to comprehend.

Her little brother, the Wee-Man, has no idea but likes the baubles and decorations and candy canes and flickering lights, as much as anyone. Leap to the other end of the scale and there is Number One, old enough now to be starting to really understand what Christmas is actually all about, or at least a major part of it; family, all together at the one place and time.

It is Number Two I feel a bit sorry for. She is nine. Old enough to know Santa is not real, or at least she is pretty certain he isn’t. Young enough to still want to believe. She loves the fantasy, the feel good factor of it. I might not be the most festive of people, but I hope it is a feeling, a sentiment, that Number Two can hold on to for all of her life, indeed, pass on to her own offspring.

There is so much in the life of a child that is bright and shiny and new. We all know as adults, how quickly that outlook can be dulled. Surely it is a good thing to be able to hang to that starry eyed wonderment for as long as possible.

Innocence. I guess that is what I am referring to, even if the majority of what is so fun and wondrous and lively and entertaining and open and dreamy, is such a construct. Fantasies and fancies we, as a culture and society, have for whatever reason, chosen to latch on to. Putting all the religious connotations and overtures aside, for the majority Christmas has become about a celebration of family, all wrapped up the trappings of marketing and sales.

Yes, that is very cynical of me, you are right. But each year, the decorations in the shops seem to go up earlier and earlier, the background music pumps out the carols for longer periods, no matter how much it depresses the retail staff, and the adverts hit the TV screens before you have really gotten used to the idea your kids are going to be home for six weeks.

SIX WHOLE WEEKS!!

The reality is these days, there is not Christmas without shopping and boxing and wrapping and all the baking and cooking and therefore, the pressure and the stresses. Not a cheap time. That is why the kids are donating gifts under the big Nga puhi tree in Kaikohe this year. They don’t need for much, if anything, in terms of cheap, plastic, throw-away pressies. That ought to help them get an idea of what Christmas is really about and they can soak up a bit of the charitable feel good factor while they are at it.

All the trappings are great. I am not going to sit here bagging any it. If it is what you are into, then fine, get into it. Sing along with Mariah Carey and Michael Buble and all the other cheesy, sickly crooners. I pick and choose the parts of the festive spirit I want to be involved in. Normally the food. I love a ham, love marzipan, love the excuse to have a drink or two in the sun, even if there is nothing but rain predicted for the next few days…much needed by the way.

So for me, Christmas is about the gathering and it is about a stolen nap in the afternoon after a sumptuous lunch. Christmas is about a glass, or maybe two, or maybe even one too many, of whatever is your chosen tipple, shared with company and a laugh. It is about the smiles on the faces of delighted children, beaming and tearing into wrapping paper, opening up presents and giggling and laughing with glee.

Christmas is about long afternoons on the beach, lazy strolls in the bush, stretching out with a book. It is about holidays and sweaty, hot road trips to places far flung.

All of that and family too.

Have a good one.

 

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