Doesn’t sound right does it?
Teaching our kids, the next generation. Training them, giving them the tools they need not to just exist, to cope, but to grow and develop. More.
Yes, teach the children of the nation to be readers and writers, to support healthy minds and bodies and help them explore and inquire. Yes, up-skill them so a brave new world is not a daunting place, foreign and frightening.
Don’t hinder any or all of the above just because paying for a modern education is beyond the reach of many.
We all know you get nothing for free. The user pays.
Rightly or not, that is how it works in our ‘free market’ society. Yet there are some core tenants to the way New Zealand is set up and run, the bill for which is not supposed to be appearing in the mailboxes of everyday you and me.
All the stuff we need in our day to day modern existence, is taken care of. Apparently. Departments within Ministries, run by committees and overseen by appointed officials, answering to our elected ones. From the office junior, to the intern, to the lifer in middle management and the manicured mouthpiece put in front of the cameras if, low and behold, things should ever go wrong.
These are the mechanisms which bring electricity into our houses, bringing light and warmth. Systems are in place to ensure we have water flowing from our taps. Clean, potable water. Infrastructure like road networks, public transport, footpaths and street-lighting and sewage and refuse collection and disposal and recycling and and and…
It is a huge list, and much of the above is the responsibility of local authorities, let alone at regional and national levels. Just wait until you get to central government and start thinking about mammoth sectors like public healthcare. Like education.
Even in a small country like New Zealand, running these three islands, keeping pace with the needs and demands of an ever growing, ever aging population, is no simple task and every step of the way has to be paid for.
I get it.
One way or another, our contribution is made, to the coffers of councils and government. Taxes, levies, duties. No matter the label, our income is siphoned off so the things we expect, demand and want, are there for us when we need, want and demand them.
Education is no different.
A big part of the last couple of weeks has been gearing up One and Two for their coming school year. A stand out in that process has been the expense!
Hundreds of dollars on uniforms alone, still more hundreds spent on stationery, a huge part of which are tech requirements like Chromebooks.
I get that wider society is in the midst of a technological revolution, that the way we communicate and the way we work is changing, so it stands to reason the way we learn must change and adapt also.
But, and it is a big, expensive but…at who’s expense?
We are not poor, however, we are by no means well off. Like many working families in New Zealand, we somehow manage to make one end get close to the other, week to week.
That is the thing though, it is a day to day, week to week, pay cheque to pay cheque process, one which leaves little or no room for error, nor is there room for contingencies. You know, rainy days, saving. That sort of thing.
Yes, our kids will go to school, well fed and clothed after a warm and cosy night in beds housed in a leak free home. They will be carrying with them all the bits and pieces ‘required’ of them.
Single items of clothing with three figure price tags and the tech bells and whistles. Then yes, we will fork out for the extras, which somehow never seem to be in a school’s operational budget or fall outside ministry funding umbrellas.
Because there will be fees.
Because there will be ‘voluntary’ donations.
Buses will have to be paid for, so kids can get to swimming pools and museums and field trips and sporting and cultural events of all sorts and natures.
School camps will take place and there will be this and that required, to make it the sort of experience the one it should be, the one you remember with heavy rose tinting.
It is all valuable, in terms of what our kids get from it, what is given them in return for the dollar value it all comes at.
We will make the effort to ensure our kids want for nothing as far as their schooling and education goes.
It will be an effort. A costly one but something we will do because we feel we must and because we can.
What of those who can’t?
What about the families who have nothing to sacrifice, budgets stretched so thin a ‘fee’ or ‘donation’ is so far beyond them, it is a stress they don’t need, an extra bill they cannot meet.
It is their kids who suffer.
They suffer in the classroom and on the playground. Kids can be cruel and these kids, their families, will not be invisible because they don’t have a chrome book, because their woolen jumper is several generations old, straight off a second-hand rack. Exactly the opposite in fact.c They will stand out like the proverbial dogs bollocks.
Their pride will be hurting too. Sure, there are families out their who simply do not give a shit and they are lost causes, a s will their kids most likely be. However, there are many more, stuck in a cycle of poverty, wanting and willing to the best they can, just simply unable to.
I know funding is weighted, the decile system in place to balance out the differences.
We could debate the effectiveness of such a system all of one of these hot summer days. Doing so won’t put a Chromebook into the hands of our kids. It won’t put food in their bellies or shoes on their feet or jackets on their backs.
So, if you and I are the user, or even if we are not, we are paying.
What are we getting for our money? What are our kids getting?
What was so wrong with blackboards?
I know that doesn’t even make sense, but it does to me.
It is Sunday morning. How do I know it is morning? You would think the neighbours rooster would be a key indicator, but the stupid thing never gives up it’s plaintive call, cock-a-doodling his way throughout all hours of the day.
I know it is morning because, despite not yet re-starting the routine of work, somewhere deep in my thick skull my jaded old brain has convinced my body it is happening.
We all have a ‘body clock’, ticking away unobtrusively, letting us know some of the deeper workings of the world around us, without you necessarily being all that aware. This clock keys us into things like a change of season, when your sleeping patterns need to adjust for dawn a and dusk, drops happily into a routine and even tells women when it is time to have babies. Or am I taking that too far?
For the past couple of years my routine has not belonged to me at all. My days began when the wide, sweet innocent gaze of children opened to a new dawn.
Sound lovely? In reality, I had been up a couple of hours by then, as our kids have that wonderful ability to sleep in, or at least stay in bed, until a respectable hour. A couple of blissful, peaceful hours I could have a thing or two to myself.
Even that sounds awesome but it wasn’t always the case. Everything I did was dictated to by other people. There were two older kids needing constant urging and encouragement to get out the door on time, complete with teeth and hair brushed and appropriately clothed, lunches made and breakfast in their bellies.
They managed all this quite independently, though not without encouragement. Even Wifey needed to be told to eat!
Such is the life of parenting and I had no complaint. Who was listening anyway? Certainly not the children, not the first couple of times!
So apart from repeating myself repeatedly, there were all the mundane and ordinary and standard and ‘same’ things to go through any given morning. The fact I failed to make a proper routine of it is a testament to how far out of sync my body clock had (has?) gotten.
With half the occupants fleeing the confines of the house, to go about their daily routine, it was down to me and the little ones to spark the embers of the morning and fire the coals of the day. We had our little systems, our processes we would go through but generally, our days were fairly fluid.
There was joy in that and there was the risk of rot, the chance boredom could set in. The weather became a crucial element.
There was little change to it, that daily process. Far from a grind. When you are surrounded by little un’s, their curiosity, their wonder and inquisitiveness, their questioning and exploring and discovery, is as infectious as it is time consuming.
You might think the only point of difference would be the weekend. I can only suppose, for those who have things which occupy their weekends; jobs and school and the like, then it is Saturday and Sunday which stand out from the norm. That couple of days strung together and labelled the weekend.
Not for this guy.
Apart from the fact Wifey and Number’s One and Two snoozed through the better part of the morning, there was little to no difference. Perhaps those couple of early morning hours actually did manage to be a little bit more about me. Perhaps I wasted them, gazing at the spendiferous view the Hokianga provided, behind the misty rise of a freshly brewed coffee.
Soon, a weekend might mean something to me again.
Not to say it hasn’t for the last couple of years or so. If you are going to breed a crew of four, making for a total of six, it is because you like the busy exuberance of a full house. That means weekdays are as full of fun vigor as any other.
While my body clock has for a long time suffered the after effects of a previous working life, one which started early and stretched to long days, waking me from slumber on or around the wee-small hours, for no real other purpose than to be awake.
Sometimes annoying, sometimes a blessing, as dawn can not only be one of the more beautiful times of the day, I find it can be one of the most productive. Especially without the impediment of others.
Heading back to work might mean I appreciate the company of my crew, without feeling frazzled or frustrated. I will actively seek to spend time with them, doing the the things families do as a group, participating as much as can and am allowed, in the things the kids want to do to fill their time. I hope they seek out time with their Dad too, because as much as going back to work will be a transition for me, it will have a similar impact, if not more, on the kids.
If for no other reason, they are going to need to put up with having their Mother around all the time, for the immediate future at least.
Good luck with that kids!
I guess, with my weekdays full, I will have to start thinking about planning the weekends, to best utilise them, make the best of them.
But, for now, that is all I will do. Think about it.
The last thing I want to eventuate out of this return to being a productive member of society, gainfully employed, is to miss out on the spontaneity an the abandon and the free fluidity that is having a young family. So, if ya wanna see me at the weekend, better let me know, I’ll see if we can fit you in…
Will I miss it? Being at home? Being the ‘go to’ parent.
Am i gagging to get back in the routine of work, have that body clock rousing me with the birds and the colouring of the sky?
Come the weekend?
Have I fully of come of age? Because now, I am ‘That guy’.
We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with some of Claire’s family, down in the big smoke of Auckland.
Twenty five or so loosely affiliated kin, together for a laugh and a smile and to share a feed. Stressful for those at the helm, a good time for guests. For me, a headache waiting to happen, even if I managed to survive better than I thought I was going to to.
The hosts have a couple of sons. Great young me, one in his late teens and the other, early twenties. Friendly, open and engaging young people who are a pleasure to be around.
Hanging around with them, as much as you can between long sessions on their phones or in front of monitors, showed up a few things for me.
Firstly, it isn’t hard to work just where I stand physically these days. I am no Adonis, no shining light of what it means to be at peak physical fitness or health.
Wifey and I are working on it. Not some bullshit New Years resolution, not some fad diet or gym membership as good as money flushed down the toilet. A real and genuine desire, over a planned term, to make change, changes which are already happening.
The sad truth is though, I will never again be even on par with a 21 year old, when it comes to energy and vitality. Those days are gone and thankfully, I can accept that.
Other things stand out. I am not into the same cultural stuff; music, movies, I still read…you know, from pages full of the printed word.
The big standout was humour.
I am not going to be so harsh as to suggest younger generations don’t seem to have one, a sense of humour that is, but as far as I could see, it wasn’t readily prevalent.
There was the standard good natured bantering and put downs, over pool tables or dart boards or the obligatory outdoor/backyard games. You know the type, fun for the whole family and all that. It was OK to have a dig, to ridicule or embarrass or try and make a fool of someone. But a one liner?
No. Straight over their heads or seen as a deliberate attempt to offend someone. As for a drop of innuendo? Met with groans of derision.
Sure, a bit of sexual innuendo is a bit lowbrow. Not scrapping the barrel quite like toilet humour might be, but a sarcastic take on what someone else has said is hardly the epitome of comedy.
I tend to get my comedy fixes from the likes of Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Bill Burr and guys of that ilk. These are people who like to push a few boundaries, tell it like it is and have no compulsion about stepping all over people’s sensibilities.
I have heard Jimmy Carr say offense cannot be given, only taken. While I appreciate the reasoning behind such a statement, I get that deliberately trying to provoke a reaction is treading on dangerous territory. The whole ‘too soon’ argument for example, as guys like the aforementioned are quite topical with their material.
Timing and delivery are the key with humour apparently. If you are going to drop an off the cuff one-liner, you need to be as quick witted as you are alert and aware. It takes a level of intellect, even if your humour is cheap and crude.
Gauging your audience is key too I would assume. Everyone reacts differently and if you get a group offside, you are never going to get them back. A mob mentality and all that.
It seems a group of young men, aged somewhere between late teens and early twenties, are probably not my target audience. I am not saying I in anyway offended any one and in no way did I try to.
Yet the ‘audience’ plays it’s part too. The more these guys groaned, rolled their eyes or made derisive sounds and comments, the more I was inspired. While they got more laughs among themselves from put-downs, snide comments and cheap shots, shaming each other, I happily carried on dropping a line here and there, many of which I was becoming fairly certain were not going to go down well.
Which meant, they went down really well.
Does it sound strange that it felt good to be ‘that guy’?
That I was able to find the line others were not prepared to cross, so I could leap gleefully over it?
I guess I ran the risk of coming across like a jerk but the reality is, as far as those around me of a similar age bracket to me, I was only saying what most people were thinking.
At least, they were thinking it after I said it.
Future generations are getting taller. Younger people are developing physically, more so than those of my age did. Conversely, many of them are not using that physicality, preferring back lit screens and monitors.
What entertains those who came after me is changing too. Their levels of tolerance are different. At an age when they should be testing boundaries, threatening my sensibilities, it is instead them doing the cringing.
Is that the way it is supposed to be?
I don’t think so.
The next generation are the ones who are supposed to shock, to test the norms and boundaries and to change the parameters. They are the ones who are supposed to challenge current standards and seek to establish new settings.
Each generation should stand up to the things they feel are oppressive, should fight the good fight and all that. Our kids should break the rules we set, as we broke the ones set for us.
Is it the fault of political correctness? Have following generations become too sensitive, too aware of offending the sensibilities of others, one minority or another, one marginal group or another?
Or maybe I should just stick to dad jokes.
No, wait…Prince is dead.
So many have passed and gone over the last couple of years, the icons and cultural leaders and luminaries of a generation. Such is the way with the passing of time and all that. It isn’t for me to wax lyrical about the influence many of these people exuded and how I, for one, feel their presence isn’t being adequately replaced.
Who is next, as the mouth pieces of a generation? Donald Trump has taken the spot left by Barrack Obama, a man who was an excellent orator but maybe missed the opportunity to really say something. And who are the pop-culture icons making the differences to the way we laugh and sing and play?
Where is Madonna and Michael Jackson? Where is Prince and Deborah Harry and Elvis Presley, where are the likes of Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie and Ghandi and Che Guavara, people that did it differently, did it, whatever it might have been, their way because they felt it was something which had to be done.
Right or wrong, there were iconic people doing and saying iconic things. JFK, Phil Spector, The Beatles, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hunter.S.Thompson …you could compile a never ending list.
Banksie? No doubting the creative genius, but an influencer? Al Gore? Yesterday’s news? Zuckerberg? Jobs? Gates? Tim Berners-Lee?
No doubting the impact such people have had, over generations of us now. I only question the type and scope some of this power, particularly of reach, has. To mind, the best thing, is to bring the major influences over future generations, closer to home. Back home.
Let Mum and Dad be the people who guide and train and teach.
Let Matua and Whaea and Mr and Ms, mold and shape in the classroom.
Let little Jimmy and Sally develop social norms and strictures in the playground and the park.
We, as a people, as a society, are changing and developing at a pace I struggle to comprehend. The technological revolution has been with us for a while now and it is a wonder if we were really ready for it. The way people interact, particularly the way they communicate, has changed and continues to do so. The world is suddenly a smaller place and terrifyingly, has become a whole lot bigger.
A good thing?
Certainly a new thing and tomorrow, new again. No good shunning it, no good turning your back on it. Change happens, whether you are a part of it, a builder of it, or a blocker.
Apologies. I am rambling. What has all the above got to do with partying?
Nothing really, but you can bet, as 2018 rolls to a close I will be sitting back on the deck, watching the last day of the year fade away, I’ll have a silent lament for those who have gone.
The next beer might lead to a red wine, which make take me to a scotch, which will take me to bed maybe long before midnight, such is the party life of a father of four young-uns. No matter what Prince tells us about end of era parties.
One place that beer will take me, is to thoughts of the coming year and the years beyond. When you have a brood of kiddies it is hard not to think of where they will be and just as importantly, how they will get there.
Their mother and I can only take them so far. Eventually, we are not the infuencers anymore. Nor are their teachers or junior sports coaches and tutors.
Muddy Waters, The Clash, the idealistic ramblings of Fidel Castro, influences over me as a younger man. Frankie Boyle makes me think and laugh these days while the biggest impact on how I live and think and act comes from my wife and children. Just the way it should be. A positive set of attitudes and personalities.
All I can hope is my wife and I are getting it right. Our influence so far, as the year closes, seems to have gotten things pretty spot-on. It pays not to question too heavily if what you do, say, think and act out is a good or a bad thing.
Most likely, like it or not, it is a combination of the two. There is no such thing as perfection and there is no way every little thing I do is of value or has any particular use.
As our kids grow, learning to think for themselves, they will employ a filtering system, finding the gems among all the dross. With a little more hope involved, ideally there will be less and less dross.
Go ahead and make your resolutions. Make 2019 the year you achieve all the things you want to, need to, feel you have to. Make it the year you actually do, instead of say.
I will resolve to keep doing, more or less, what I have been.
I want to be fitter, stronger, smarter.
I want to learn and grow and develop, the same things I want from and for my kids.
I want to be healthy and happy and I want to not be left wanting.
For me, for my family, 2019 is a time of change and a time for hard work.
New pathways and opportunities. Horizons. All of that and we are going to have to identify what we want, then set about achieving it. As individuals, as a team, supporting each other and backing each other up.
Living in the now but eyeing up the future.
Have a good party, even if it is just a party for one. Make it fun, special.
Invite Prince, he can be the DJ and we can all party like it is 1999.
Or whatever year your mind wanders too.
Get sunburned. Go swimming, drag sand onto the carpet when you get home.
Knock back a cold one. Or two, whatever is your tipple. Crank the BBQ, get together with loved ones and mates, tell some tales and yarns and lies and do it all with a smile.
End the year with a laugh.
Start the the new year the same way.
Maybe not so much the times, but my days are sure about to get different.
Life has turned a corner, or crested a hill. Whatever, life is about to change.
It wouldn’t be fair to say life is changing for the better. That would imply the way we were living prior to this change wasn’t up to scratch.
The hope is, a move to a more metropolitan area will bring more opportunity. And, it has.
Some time in the next week or so, I will start work. Yes that’s right, full-time, gainful employment. Something different too, something which may, I hope, be a little challenging and a job I can not only learn and grow from as a profession, but as a person too. I like to think it is a last step in my working life. A big one, if not all that bold, but a role I can get my teeth into, make my own. A job which should prove to be fun and rewarding.
It is time.
I have been at home with the kids, in this last stint as a home hubby, for nearly two years. A couple of fun years, in an environment suited to the role of stay at home parent. Admittedly there was little choice, as there wasn’t a lot of employment options available.
The point was though, while E-Bomb and the Wee-Man were under the age of five, they would have a full-time influence at home, namely one of their parent’s.
So this change is not solely for me. This is a change for the whole family.
We left the Hokianga mostly for the benefit of our kids, particularly Number’s One and Two. But it is true to say the opportunities for Wifey and I are greatly improved too, just by packing up and rolling a couple of hours down the road.
We will be a working family again, both Wifey and myself toiling away during our days. We can do so because there is the type of support here we didn’t have available to us up north.
Not family support. Paid for, professional support. People who will look after our children in return for money. Thank goodness for people like them, prepared to do waht at times can feel very much like a thankless task.
My stint as a full-time parent will never cease of course. How could it? You are always a parent, always a Mother or Father, no matter how directly or indirectly you are involved in the raising of your kids.
Being that go to parent is something I am really going to miss. Something I was ready to give up on, even while being aware it was not going to be the easiest transition to make.
When I get in the car on that first day, off to work, I will have the smiling faces of my children in my minds eye.
I will see them wave, see them smile, while not quite being able to work out where their Dad is off to and why they aren’t going with him. They will call out their cheering goodbyes and I will turn and drive away.
Those first few days will be as different and strange for me as they will for the kids. For them, the timing couldn’t be a great deal better and let’s be honest, they are most likely adapt to the change far quicker than I will.
Wee-Man and E-Bomb are going to have their Mother around for the summer. Numbers One and Two will get that pleasure also. Hopefully a welcome change for all, though there can be no doubting both sides of that equation are going to have to adapt. Wifey and I have very different and not always complimentary, parenting styles and there are a lot of things the young-uns are going to have to teach their Mother about the way things work.
I am left wondering how my influence, or lack of it, is going to be felt.
Will the two little ones miss me in their lives?
Will the older girls feel the difference in the house, without me around?
There will be a whole new vibe and again, the scene will shift when Wifey starts her new role in earnest. New schools, childcare facilities for the little ones. Perhaps the biggest change, from the last couple of years, will be the return to two incomes. Maybe we can afford to give the kids the type of summer memories which don’t require too much rose coloured tinting.
Personally, there will be a back to routine lifestyle again, one I am looking forward to. Alarms to rouse me from my slumber, time a factor again in my world.
I will come home tired and I will sleep soundly, eight or so hours, waking refreshed and rearing to go.
I will ruffle my sons hair, after swinging my daughters in a quick hug, peck my wife on the cheek as I make my way into the kitchen, heading for the fridge, cracking the top off a beer, before landing heavily in an armchair, turning on the tele in time for the news. Something like that.
Good bye to Hoki Hubby.
As the new year rapidly approaches, Wifey and I split open box after never ending box, setting up our old life in a new environment.
We are still in Northland, not all that far from the place we called home for the last couple of years. The Mighty Hokianga Harbour, only an hour and a half or so up the road, suddenly feels like a world away. Because, it is.
On the outskirts of Whangarei, we are setting up in a house further away from neighbours than we had in the old place. But here, they feel so much closer. Less cars seem to go by, not like they did on the main drag of Rawene, on the hour every half hour. Here, there is no race to catch the ferry, a leisurely chug with or against the powerful tidal currents of the harbour waters, leaving behind the backdrop of New Zealand’s thrid oldest European settlement.
Better yet, approaching it, the joys of the boat shed cafe or No.1 Gallery cafe at the start of Parnell Street, a convenience store conveniently located on poles, balanced out over the ever changing tide, a pub with more history than you can shake the proverbial stick at. For a town with nothing going on, it is all happening.
But this is not a travel blog. I am not here to sell you on the wonders of the Hokianga, as you cruise through Rawene after alighting the ferry, head for the beaches of Opononi and Omapere, go further over the bumps and twists of State Highway 12 and delve into the native forests atop the hills, home to Tane Mahuta.
I don’t need to point out the stunning views, from sweeping sand dunes to glistening waters, the tempestuous Tasman Sea, making its presence felt on the wild west coast. There is no need to make mention of the native flora and fauna and in particular, there is nothing I need say about the dusk after dusk after stunning dusk, full of the most spectacular sunsets.
In it’s heyday, the Hokianga must have been a spectacular spot. That harbour, so alive and vital, surrounded by a crop of native trees the likes of which we will never see again. Because, sadly, crop is what those forest giants were viewed as and like so much of Aotearoa New Zealand.
This isn’t an environmental rant either. Nor is it a dig at the perils of post-colonization. So many wrongs were done, to the place and people of Aotearoa and so many of those wrongs will take multiple generations to put right, if ever. So many good things were achieved too but sadly, much of that either never reached the Hokianga, never took hold if it did, or was resoundingly rejected.
It’s easy to romanticise the region, casting it as some sort of frontier, shrugging off the trappings of a modern world as much as possible. Last of the wild west, NZ style.
The reality is, the Far North in general, and the Hokianga in particular, are forgotten zones, abandoned by central and local governments alike.
There are no rate payers, not many voters. Just miles of sandy beaches, warm blue waters and the homes and abodes of the disenfranchised.
Even that is a stretch. Never ‘franchised’ in the first place. Lost and forgotten peoples. And in many instances, that is just the way they like it.
Life in the Hokianga is maybe best described as relaxed. There certainly isn’t the pressures of city or metropolitan living, no commute from the burbs, no queuing.
The trade off? A lack of infrastructure and what there is, maintained at a bare minimum, if at all. The trade off is unemployment and therefore, poverty.
But hey, it’s the Hokianga. If you can’t afford a warrant on your car, don’t get one. If you can’t afford to register it, don’t bother fretting over it. While it is a shame there is runoff issues effecting the harbour waters, swim in it anyway. Eat from it anyway.
Relax. That is what the Hokianga seemed to be telling us, so that is exactly what we did.
We stayed relaxed about the holes forming in our children’s education. No hokey teams, no volleyball or netball or football or tennis or cricket or whatever other sport an energetic young kid might want to turn those energies to.
However, there were whole new avenues of learning being opened to them. Culturally the kids really swelled, embedded in an old school Kiwi culture and a deeper Maori one. We stayed chilled about the lack of childcare, the lack of employment options, the near non-existence of extra curricular activities for our kids and for ourselves.
Like the populace around us, we were nonplussed. Maybe not as laid back as some of the locals…we put our kids in car seats and seat-belts, life-jackets and all the rest.
The trade off? Off they went, a little crew, down the street on their own, unaccompanied by adults, Number One in charge. No drama, no fear.
Safe. Everyone knew our kids and they knew most everyone. No motorways to go play on, no concrete jungles to get lost in.
Kia ora, G’day, Howzit, Hi.
Most everyone said hello, most everyone asked after your well-being and most everyone genuinely wanted to know. Maybe the guy asking if you needed a hand was diabetic, maybe he drank too much, maybe his diet was shocking, maybe he fished illegally. The point is, he was offering you a helping hand.
In the Hokianga, you pick people up and drop them down the road. You help lift this, carry that. You give of what you have no need for and people gladly take it. Koha. All that is asked in return, if anything is asked at all.
No one turns a nose up at the next-door neighbour. No one looks up or down at the next person. A handshake and hongi means something.
There is nothing golden, no matter the nostalgia, about the Hokianga and her people. Nothing special, or endearing, nothing wonderful going on the world could learn something from.
In fact, the place is broken, to an outsiders untrained eye flawed, badly in need of this, that and the next thing, to make it even close to ‘normal’.
I miss the place.
I miss the scenery, I miss the vibe, I miss the remoteness and I miss the smiles and laughter and good-natured jesting. I miss the helmet-less kids on bare back horses, the king tides and the pelting rain, thunder storms and lightening and sodden ground, water bubbling from beneath its surface everywhere. I miss the fresh air and the strong, drying winds and the birdsong, from nesting Herons to the silent, reproachful gaze of a perched Kingfisher.
I miss the spontaneity, the freedom, of having nothing particular to do and being able to do it where no one else is. I miss no one caring, no one around really giving a shit what you were doing or why. You just got on and did it, where, when and how you wanted to.
I miss the smiles and the open, gap-toothed, head back laughter.
I miss the sunsets.
Fix the Hokianga.
Never change the Hokianga.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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?
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Great, here we go again! Enforced festivity anyone?
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.
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.
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.
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.