Good Riddance, 2016 (Time of your Life, 2017)

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“2016 is the year I shall fart rainbows and poop unicorns!”

That was the first line of the first entry in my diary for last year.

As it turned out there were a few rainbows, the odd, rare unicorn and a fair bit of poop.

Speaking of equines and poop, 2016 started with HB Ratepayers being asked to look their Gift Horse (of the Year) in the mouth, while mucking out the event’s financial stables.

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

In February I was feeling a little unloved and unappreciated as, even before #StuffMe merger hype and propaganda was ramping up, at least one of the proposed partners was proving they couldn’t even credit the right person when taking the mickey out of another media organisation’s portmanteau.

However, the power of social media showed that far more important people were listening to me when the Office of The Auditor General replied to I tweet I sent them over Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s on-going Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme fiasco.

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Everything was plodding along happily until March came along and tried to wipe me off the face of the planet.

A month in Hawke’s Bay and Wellington hospitals changed perspectives and gave me a lot of spare time to write what has been some of my best stuff.

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Recovery and getting back into normal life meant not much time for writing posts.

The recent upheavals could have been the reason for some retrospective maudlin in June and lack of self confidence and loss of direction in August.

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

But Mediaworks scrapping what I still consider one of the finest and longest-running television shows EVER could not go unchastised in June.

Health issues and uncertain immediate future scuppered any plans I may have had to run for Napier City Council this term.

But there were other, more concerning democratic issues clouding those hopes too.

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My concerns actually made the local paper just before the election and did effect some change. Though the biggest concern I had – the “gagging” Code of Conduct still remains.

In September, after months of what I and many others considered Napier’s 60+ year old skating club getting some unfair treatment from Napier City Council, I wrote another piece that proved very popular and once again featured in the local paper.

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Ultimately, though, the skate club’s facility is long since demolished. The club has not been reimbursed and the errors it had put upon it are unresolved.

Those posts and their other printed pieces received a lot of attention, however, which was very welcome. Because it showed that local people STILL care very deeply about local news and issues – Something media networks and #StuffMe proponents still seem utterly oblivious to.

Those local concerns, this time over Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillors’ behaviour and the debt the organisation was set to burden all its ratepayers with for the benefit of a few in the Ruataniwha area, did at least see some positive local government change, with the balance of power tipping from pro-dam to anti-dam in this year’s elections.

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I finally got my cool cyborg parts in October and we closed out the year with our traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas Deliciousness” menu review.

I would love to say I helped democracy and righted wrongs this year, but that wasn’t the case. I helped shed light on what I considered were problems and wrongdoings, but those issues STILL exist.

That’s a real disappointment.

Though, given the interruption my life had in March-May, I guess it wasn’t a bad run for the rest of the year.

And, as I’ve written many times this year already: “There’s always someone out there worse off than you”.

There is still 2017 (and hopefully many more years) to come to get some good achieved and points on the board.

Now, does anyone know of a good unicorn dealer in Hawke’s Bay?

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Twelve Days of Kiwi Christmas Deliciousness: 2016 Edition

For what must be at least a decade now, MrsinFrame has been coming up with a special 12-day menu to celebrate the “Twelve Days of Christmas”.

She alternates each year between the traditional and the New Zealand version, otherwise known as “A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree”.

This year was the Kiwi Christmas Deliciousness Edition.

Most of the dishes have a direct correlation to the songs (Five Big Fat Pigs = Pork/Ham/Bacon), others use a fair chunk of artistic license – I’ll do my best to explain as we go.

This year’s menu plan actually went missing just a few days before we were to begin and resurfaced (albeit too late) on Christmas day (It’s a Christmas miracle!), so while we managed to remember most of the initial dishes, there were a few we made up on the run. As a result there may be a few dishes we re-do and post later on – We’ll let you know!

So sit back and enjoy as I reveal what my true love made for me over the Twelve Days of Kiwi Christmas Deliciousness for 2016:

A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree

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Blue Cheese and Spinach Parcels:
The blue of the cheese represents the Pukeko, while spinach represents the foliage and the flaky pastry looks like flakes off like Ponga Tree bark.

Two Kumara

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Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Bake:
While this dish is more common on American Christmas and Thanksgiving tables, we like to mix up our meals a bit and Kumara is a sweet potato, so it was a good fit.

Three Flax Ketes (“Kits”)

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Baked Bread Basket:
Woven flax Kete are used as baskets and bags, so this delicious bread basket filled with feta, spinach, olives tomatoes and prosciutto matched up nicely.

Four Huhu Grubs

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Caramel-filled Éclairs on Chocolate Cake Dirt:
Huhu grubs are a creepy crawly delicacy at most “Wild Food” festivals, mainly for their gooey-squishiness when you bite into them, so filling small éclairs with gooey caramel seemed a wonderful take on the idea.

Five Big Fat Pigs!

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Sloppy Porchettas:
Five big Fat Pigs make a lot of pork mince, While all the vegetables that go into the accompanying giardiniera would keep your average Captain Cooker or Kuni-kuni quite happy.

Six Pois a Twirling

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Spaghetti and Meatballs:
We had some (ok, a lot of) pork mince left over, so meatballs seemed a logical step to represent the ball part of the poi, while the spaghetti represents the string.

Seven Eels a-Swimming

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Garlic Butter Mussels:
While Green-lipped Mussels aren’t great swimmers, more just hangers-on they, like the Longfin Eel, are native to New Zealand.

Eight Plants of Puha

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Faux Pho-ha:
Puha is a green, leafy green, wild vegetable that usually grows near water, so we made a Pho soup with mint, coriander (leafy green herbs) and meatballs.

Nine Sacks of Pipis

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Pipi Truck-style Pizza:
The Pipi Pizza Truck is a bit of an institution her in Hawke’s bay, so tonight’s pizza paid homage to the Pippi truck and the bivalve mollusc.

Ten Juicy Fish Heads

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Thai Fish Curry:
I can’t stand having my food staring blankly back at me, and MrsinFrame wouldn’t let us have fish and chips, so a lovely Thai fish curry was a great compromise.

Eleven Haka Lessons

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Black Pudding Sausage with Eggs and Fresh Pea Mash:
The Haka is, of course, synonymous with New Zealand’s national rugby team, so it was fitting that we had (All) Black pudding sausage, with the innards of rugby ball-shaped eggs and the Pea Mash representing the green rugby field.

Twelve Piupiu Swinging

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Skirt Steak with Broccoli and Mashed Potato:
Piupiu are a Maori grass skirt, so skirt steak seemed a suitable way to close out this Twelve Days of Kiwi Christmas Deliciousness.

We hope you’ve been inspired to try some of these, or your own version next Christmas.

From the Napier in Frame family to yours, we wish you a Merry Kiwi Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

Twelve Days of Christmas Deliciousness 2015

For Seven years now, Mrs in Frame has composed a special menu for the “12 Days of Christmas” – alternating between the traditional (Partridge in a Pear Tree) and New Zealand (“Pukeko in a Ponga Tree”) versions each year.

This year it was the turn of the traditional version.

Wherever possible she tries to tie in part of the carol lyrics to the dish – i.e. “Partridge in a Pear Tree” will usually contain pears to some degree, or there is some sort of alliteration or similar tie-in.

When all else fails, a fair chunk of artistic license is brought in. It really takes a fair bit of dedication and imagination to pull off!

I’ll do my best to explain the theory behind each dish as we go.

So sit back and enjoy as I reveal what my true love made for me over the Twelve Days of Christmas Deliciousness for 2015:

1 Partridge in a Pear Tree

Day 1 – A Partridge in a Pear Tree:
Meal: Pear and Blue Cheese Tart
Reasoning: The Pears for the pear tree, but also serve as PART of a RIDGE atop the tart.

2 Turtle Doves

Day 2 – Two Turtle Doves:
Meal: Chocolate & Pecan Turtledove Bars
Reasoning: Straight forward and VERY delicious!

3 French Hens

Day 3 – Three French Hens:
Meal: Chicken Cordon Bleu
Reasoning: Again., pretty straight forward – Chicken with a bit of French flair!

4 Calling Birds

Day 4 – Four Calling Birds:
Meal: Seared Lamb with Couscous
Reasoning: Ok, this is where we delve in to the “artistic license” category – Originally the line was “Four COLLY Birds” (Blackbirds in ye olde England) and has since evolved to now resemble sparrows with cellphones.
Mrs in Frame took it as “CULLING” birds, so we had lamb – which is culled and couscous – Why? Just be-couscous! XD
I’m more inclined to say it’s because the couscous looks like bird food…

5 Gold Rings

Day 5 – Five Gold Rings:
Meal: Panko Deep-fried Origin Earth Camembert
Reasoning: The cheese is round like a ring and fried till it’s a delicious golden brown.

6 Geese a Laying

Day 6 – Six Geese a Laying:
Meal: Roast Goose and Potatoes
Reasoning: Simple one again – This goose was well and truly cooked!

7 Swans a Swimming

Day 7 – Seven Swans a Swimming:
Meal: Baked Eggs with Truffle Oil
Reasoning: Swan-white eggs cooked “swimming” in a bain-marie.

8 Maids a Milking

Day 8 – Eight Maids a Milking:
Meal: Steak and Roast Veges with Herb Butter.
Reasoning: Reasonably straight forward from the butter perspective, the steak, however, was from less lactose tolerant cows.

9 Ladies Dancing

Day 9 – Nine Ladies Dancing:
Meal: Duck with Cherry Glaze
Reasoning: Dancing ladies, just like ducks, love to “shake a tail feather” 😉
(I actually made this one, because Toddler in Frame was having a bad day and only Mummy cuddles could fix, so my wife was indisposed.)

10 Lords A Leaping

Day 10 – Ten Lords a Leaping:
Meal: Baked Terakihi in a Rice Salad
Reasoning: Fish, especially those on the end of lines on TV fishing shows, apparently love to leap out of the water. Lords (allegedly) also like leaping – though the lords are more likely to be on the other end of the fishing line.

Eleven Pipers Piping

Day 11 – Eleven Pipers Piping:
Meal: Scotch Eggs.
Reasoning: Pretty straight forward again – Pipers, especially the bag-pipe variety are from Scotland. We shall ignore the fact Scotch Eggs were apparently an Indian-inspired dish first made in London and, instead focus on the fact Scotch whisky is from there instead – Slangevar!

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Day 12 – Twelve Drummers Drumming:
Meal: Biltong and Mushroom Creamy Pasta
Reasoning: The Biltong represents drumsticks, while the pasta bowl looks not too dissimilar to a drum!

So there we go, another year of deliciousness done and dusted! Many thanks to all the Facebook and Twitter friends and followers who liked and commented on the dishes!

Wherever possible, we sourced ingredients from our own garden, the Napier and Hastings Farmers’ Markets, local greengrocers, butchers etc.

For the more specialised ingredients, we went to Gourmet Direct and Vetro – any Napier foodie’s best friends!

Have a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!

Summer Time in Hawke’s Bay – the Song!

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I was listening to the radio in the car the other day and one of my favourite Christmas songs – The Pogues’ “Fairy-tale of New York” came on, so I started singing along to it.

But then the unthinkable happened – and no it wasn’t that I started singing perfectly in tune.

I happened to be listening to a “Middle of the Road” station, so THEY CUT OUT THE ENTIRE VERSE of “You’re a bum, you’re a punk…!!””

Heresy!!

Sure it’s a “family-friendly” radio station and this was the “radio edit” of the song, BUT COME ON – you can’t play Fairy-tale of New York without the rude bits!!!

It’s what makes the song so Christmassy – There’s always than one friend or relative who has a bit too much to drink at Christmas and gets a bit… “Opinionated”…

Taking out that part ruins the whole song 🙁 

So that musical travesty inspired me to get writing – My own version of that song!

Using the same backing music / tempo, I came up with my own Christmas song – a special Hawke’s Bay one called “Christmas Time in Hawke’s Bay”!

I sent it to my friend at the offending radio station, who thought it was great. They were going to record a version using my lyrics and play it in the lead up to Christmas.

But that was over a week ago and I haven’t heard anything, meaning that any decent chance of airplay in the lead-up to December 25th has been lost – which is a great shame and waste of my fabulous lyric-writing skills.

But I am adaptable and with only very slight changes, please feel free to read along, while humming “Fairy-tale of New York” to:

Summer Time in Hawke’s Bay!

(If anyone would like to help me record this, please get in touch!)

It’s summer time
In Hawke’s Bay again
The man on the radio says “Another stunning one!”
We crank the music up
And roll the windows down
Smell the fresh sea air
And drive into town.

Gee aren’t we lucky ones?
Having so much fun
Living here in the Bay
There’s just so much to do
Over summer time
We love The Bay, baby!
Can’t think of being anywhere
Than Summer in Hawke’s Bay!

There’s trips to Kidnappers
Art Deco with flappers
Seeing New Years in
At the Soundshell
Hundreds of wineries
Restaurants with fineries
More fantastic cafes
Than anyone can tell

Playing backyard cricket
With a bin as the wicket
Smash a window,
Oh no!
That’s six and you’re out!
Cooking lunch on the barby
Man life is so hard, eh?
Spending summer time
Here at home in Hawkes’ Bay

The weather forecast on the TV
Predicts another stunning day
Just typical summer time
Here in Hawke’s Bay!

Geez you’re naff, urgh!
Such a Jaffa
A regional flaffer
You don’t even think the Magpies are great.
You don’t want a latte?
Just don’t even start, eh!
Then next summer time
Visit Manawatu

There’s cricket on at McLean Park
The Blackcaps are blazing away
And the crowds are yelling out
“Come on the Bay”!

We could live anywhere
But no, it wouldn’t be fair
With all the long summer days
And perfect Waimarama waves
A walk along the Parade
Eating yummy ice cream
Could this all be a dream?
These perfect Hawke’s Bay days!

All the rellies have come to stay
And Santa’s on his way
Just another stunning Summer
In Hawke’s Bay!

© Andrew Frame December 2015

No Such Thing as a Free Car Park

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Central business districts around New Zealand are suffering.

Shops that thrived for generations now lie empty due to drops in customer numbers, increases in rents and the rise of internet trading and ill-conceived council planning allowing giant malls to be built on city peripheries.

Currently the most popular panacea to injecting life into central cities seems to be offering free parking.

All the cool North Island cities are doing it – Rotorua, Hastings, Tauranga, Hamilton, Palmerston North

And now Napier is joining in on the fun, with our city council deciding to provide free on-street parking in Central Napier on Saturday November 28 for its (VERY EARLY) Christmas festival and in Taradale on December 5th for their festive fair.

There’s no such thing as a free car park, however, and NCC estimates “losses of (parking) revenue to the council of about $4200 in the city and $700 in Taradale) for these days.

But is there really a loss of revenue?

If having to pay for parking is such a turn-off to central city visitors, or the parking is too expensive, no one will park there, so no income will come from that parking space regardless of cost.

It’s like airline flights being too expensive.

If a seat on a certain flight isn’t sold – no matter how expensive of cheap the price may be, the moment the doors close and that plane takes off, the airline will NEVER recoup the money for that unfilled seat on that particular flight.

So is the cost of parking the actual problem?

Go into Napier’s CBD on any particular weekday when you have to pay for parking and the closer you get to the centre of town, the harder it will be to find an empty car park.

Having to pay for parking isn’t stopping people parking in town.

Heck, go to Wellington, where parking costs in the centre of town are ridiculously high and viciously enforced and you will have an even harder time finding an available car park.

To put it bluntly, price is no barrier to laziness. The closer people can drive to their destination and the shorter the distance they have to walk, the better.

Fifty cents or a dollar or two isn’t a great inhibitor to that.

The parking fines for over-staying your allotted time, however, might be.

When compared to other centres’ parking fines and fees, Napier’s are actually quite reasonable.

Putting a dollar in a central Napier parking meter buys you the right to keep your car there for, say, an hour.

But get way-laid and return fifteen minutes to just over an hour late and you run the risk of facing an additional $12-$21 parking fine (the time examples given being merely a reasonable representation of how long an appointment or lunch with friends might over-run their anticipated time).

Is the equivalent of twelve hours’ worth of parking time a fair penalty for being a quarter of an hour late?

How does 25c worth of time justifiably manifest itself into a fee forty-eight times that value?

Worse still, fail or forget to display one of the tickets from a parking-lot machine on your dashboard and you’re in for a fine closer to $40.

For some that’s a week’s worth of petrol and they just can’t afford to take that risk.

Parking fines that better reflect the value of the park that is being over-stayed in might be a better idea.

Lower fines would likely be more easily and promptly paid too.

If all else fails you can just do what I usually do – park at one of the hundreds of one and two hour “free parking” spaces that ring Napier’s CBD – Along parts of Marine Parade, next to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council building, up Shakespeare Road and down Munroe Street – soak up the wonderful Napier weather and enjoy the very short stroll from these already ratepayer-funded car parks into town.

Ultimately, there has to be something in town worth paying to stay and visit, too.

Rows of empty shops, vacated when landlords’ income expectations far exceed their current worth won’t attract people into city centres.

Neither will a lack of events or activities that enhance or compliment the CBD.

Bringing vibrancy and vitality back to our CBDs is what is needed to re-enliven our city centres.

If city councillors, or those tasked with looking after the heartbeat of our main business and shopping areas seriously think that a dollar or two is the only thing inhibiting our city centres from thriving, it’s beyond time they stood aside.

Why should a CBD’s vitality be fined for their over-staying?

Hawke’s Bay’s (and New Zealand’s) inner cities deserve better!

Who’s Looking After Napier CBD’s Vibrancy?

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After decades of under-use, Napier’s Soundshell is finally getting some much needed action.

A recurring event, called the “Napier Night Fiesta” will be held at the Soundshell on Marine Parade beginning this Friday, 20 November.

Events are set to run for around three hours, one Friday each month and along with entertainment, food and drink the event is aimed at being child and family friendly.

Food stalls at the inaugural event are to include Pipi Pizza, Paella a Go Go, Indigo, Berry Tub Ice Cream and Design Cuisine, with Craggy Range and other local wineries, craft breweries and other vendors set to take part in future Fiestas.

“When we look at what happens in the city throughout the year, and city spaces, you can see the Soundshell is an under-utilised venue. We think it really does lend itself to being used a lot more for events.”

“The Fiesta is one way of making Napier’s centre more lively and encouraging people to use it in a positive way.”

Napier City Council Planner Fleur Lincoln.

Napier City Council says its “City Vision” project was set up to look at “opportunities for creating more vibrancy in the city centre and surrounding areas”. WIFI connected “Chill-out Areas / Urban Oasis” and a “child-friendly Pop N Play” playground on Emerson Street are both City Vision concepts.

I’m a bit conflicted by this new “Fiesta” idea.

Napier has been in dire need of events and attractions for locals like this for years, so it’s great to see some action FINALLY happening!

It’s the sort of event I have been calling for for years and years. All too often, it felt, for nought.

So what took them so long?

In their announcement even the council themselves note it is something that has been missing in the city.

So why wait?

And isn’t this sort of event, rather than being the domain of the council itself, supposed to be something more suited to an organisation like Napier Inner City Marketing?

NICM’s goals, according to their Mission Statement, include:
• A people-centred city – a welcoming destination for tourists and locals to enjoy
• Uniqueness, vibrancy and prosperity
• Creativity and innovation
• Celebrating beauty – vibrant, attracting artistic and creative talent

NICM currently runs a handful of events each year including a city-wide sale in the slowest winter months and a “Random Acts of Kindness Day”, so you’d think something like this Fiesta would fit in nicely and attract more people into town, especially through the CBD and up Emerson Street on the way to the Soundshell.

So why didn’t NICM seize the initiative and take the lead with a project like this years ago?

Or did Napier City Council’s “City Vision” get sick of waiting and steal their thunder?

I have heard from CBD retailers that in recent times the council has organised and gone ahead with a number of decorative and activity-type things in the inner city without consulting NICM members first.

It looks like City Vision’s Chill-out Areas / Urban Oasis is one such development.

One of Inner City Marketing’s other mission goals is “A smart ‘I-city’. Napier City Council already operates free Wifi in parts of the CBD, but City Vision’s Chill-out Areas / Urban Oasis also act as Wifi Hotspots thanks to local telecommunications providers NOW.

Regardless of who is doing it, it’s great to see more activity in Napier’s CBD, especially heading into the summer months.

But you still have to still ask:

Who is really looking after Napier CBD’s vibrancy?

And what took them so long?

P.S.:

The night after Friday Fiesta, Hawke’s Bay’s Indian community will be celebrating Diwali at the Soundshell.

With music dancing and food, it has become one of Napier’s great cultural events and well worth attending!

A Priceless Home

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You’ve heard the term “A month of Sundays”, right?

Well, having finally gotten Mum into the care of a rest home, it’s taken me two months of Saturdays, plus any available time outside of that to clear out her and Dad’s old place.

It’s meant less time spent with my wife and daughter and even less time still spent on myself, which has been wearing me down faster than anything else.

It’s been very hard, dusty, heart-breaking, priceless and vastly under-valued work.

It was never going to be an easy task, but with the help of my wife on a couple weekends when the “outlaws” looked after our daughter we managed to get the job done.

When I say “hard” I don’t necessarily mean physical.

While there was a fair bit of heavy lifting involved, the hardest part was the simple fact it was essentially emptying out and dismantling keystones of memory in the house I grew up in.

I’ve gotten in trouble with my wife for calling it “home” in recent months, as we now have our own piece of New Zealand. But you can’t help but refer to the place you lived the first twenty-plus years of your life as “my home”.

So much stuff that I grew up with was still there.

In a lot of cases I mean that literally – There were packets of herbs and spices in the back of cupboards that were as old as I am!

There were quite a few keepsakes – photos, family heirlooms, mementos and the like I couldn’t bear to part with, but there was also a lot of stuff that, while it had no major sentimental value, did have a commercial value. It’s just a crying shame it was such a small value.

Chairs, tables and vases. Books I learned from and developed my thirst for knowledge. The crockery and cutlery that had fed me for over twenty years – all things that had been around me my whole younger life and were now no use to me, having plenty of my own in our own home needed to be sold, so we called in antiques and second hand dealers.

While we made a reasonable amount of money to put back into mum’s bank account, and while most of the stuff was “retro” and “vintage”, rather than desirable, expensive “antique” it still felt like they were worth so much more than what we got for them.

While I would understand or more readily accept a “buy for $5, sell for $10” policy, the predominant tactic of “buy for $5, sell for $15 or $20” left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

It seems commerce has no sense of sentimentality.

Other stuff, like clothes and random chattels, we donated to the Cranford Hospice Shop and St Vincent DePaul.

But in the majority of cases, like those herbs and spices, it was a matter of “get rubbish bag, open cupboard / drawer, tip entire contents of cupboard / drawer into rubbish bag, chuck on trailer, repeat”.

That happened so much I’m now practically on first name basis with the security guard lady at the dump!

One of the tasks that unexpectedly cut the deepest was the simple act of getting the phone disconnected.

The phone number I had committed to memory my entire life, the means by which company, conversation, consolation, congratulation and FAMILY was only a few button presses away is now greeted with a blank, “beep, beep, beep” dial tone.

I can no longer “phone home”.

Going through old boxes of stuff, especially Dad’s things, yielded many great memories and items. A lot of them tinged with sadness that he is no longer here to tell me the stories behind them.

I found a metal cash box / deposit box under a chest of drawers and I guess it spoke volumes about what Mum and Dad valued most.

There were no share bonds for Apple or Microsoft from the early 1980’s or gold ingots in this little box. No papers linking me to royal lineage, untold wealth or some mysterious twin I had never known.

In this box were well-wishers’ cards from Mum and Dad’s wedding, the registration papers for my first car (a Ford Anglia Dad helped me buy and get running) and report cards from my first years at primary school.

Family memories – far more valuable than anything else.

Friends of ours are now renting Mum and Dad’s old house, my old home.

They are taking care of it – doing the gardens, cleaning up the remaining bits and pieces we didn’t get to.

My wife, daughter and I went over there for lunch the other day and it’s so heartening to see the place being LIVED in again, as opposed to being merely existed in, as Mum had done since Dad passed away.

We kept some of the furniture in parts of the house like the kitchen, where there isn’t much space and the chairs and table Mum and Dad had there fitted perfectly.

Out of sheer habit, I sat in the place I’ve always sat in at that table as we had our lunch. When the others went back outside I just sat there by myself for a while.

I could hear Dad tinkering in the garage.

I could hear Mum cleaning in the sitting room.

I smiled to myself and shed a tear.

Stand-Up…

Photographic Proof! Photo courtesy of Raybon Kan

Photographic Proof! Photo courtesy of Raybon Kan

I keep getting myself into interesting situations.

The most recent happened just last Friday at The Cabana in Napier.

Kiwi comedian Raybon Kan is touring the country with his latest stand-up show.

Being a fan of his, I shared the gig details online and sent him a welcoming tweet offering to buy him a coffee and tongue-in –cheekily saying if he needed a warm up guy, I’d be happy to help – and thought little more of it.

Raybon’s reply was a little more than I expected:

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I like to think I’m reasonably funny – I get chuckles out of friends and colleagues, I’ve performed on stage many times and regularly MC cricket club events, quizzes and the like so doing a five minute stand-up gig couldn’t be too hard could it?

COULD IT????

Cue that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach for a couple days…

I formulated a list of my best, most trust-worthy jokes, but the presentation order – heck the presentation itself was left pretty much up in the air.

Friday night rolled around and I wandered into The Cabana, gently trembling with adrenalin, and met Raybon in person for the first time.

We discussed how things would go – I’d be on for five minutes – there’s no clock or timer visible from the stage and the problem with stand-up comedy is you have no real concept of time up there (If things are going terribly, a minute can feel like five. If things are going great, five minutes feels like one) so either Raybon or the sound-man would wave their cellphone when it was time for me to finish, I’d introduce Raybon and leave the stage.

Simple, really.

Then more waiting – The waiting is always the worst part, because all it does is increase the level of unknown, or time to worry over what MIGHT or MIGHT NOT happen.

Then it was show time – Music played and I made my way onto the stage.

It sounds horribly clichéd, but the worry vanished as soon as I set foot on stage. My brain went “Right, you’ve been here before, just do it!”

And I did

I told jokes.

No-one booed.

PEOPLE LAUGHED!

I didn’t stuff up!

I saw a waving cellphone, introduced Raybon and left the stage.

I’D DONE IT!

I checked the time on my phone and found I had been up there for 15 minutes – not five, so I couldn’t have been too bad.

I sat quietly in the back of the venue and watched the professional do his work – he was great!

At half time he came back and we talked. Raybon said I had been great, but said “Couldn’t you see us waving the light?”

“The one at the end? Yeah I saw that and then introduced you.”

“No, no, that was the last one we used, we’d waved a light at five minutes, but you mustn’t have seen it – we tried a couple”

“Oh.”

Cue that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach again…

Is the HB Farmers’ Market’s “Goose Cooked”?

The beautiful Waikoko Gardens in Hastings’ Showgrounds – Current summer site of the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market. But possibly not for much longer...

The beautiful Waikoko Gardens in Hastings’ Showgrounds – Current summer site of the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market. But possibly not for much longer…

Hawke’s Bay’s A&P Society wants The Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market out – of the Waikoko Gardens at least.

Word on the (Market) street is stall holders at Hawke’s Bay’s biggest weekly foodie and social gathering – not to mention nation-wide (and worldwide) tourist attraction are rightly fuming that they may soon be ousted from their current spacious and picturesque summer location in the showgrounds’ Waikoko gardens and relocated into a permanent, less spacious and, you would have to think, far from picturesque marquee elsewhere on the Hastings site.

The yet-to-be-built marquee is to be a permanent feature at the grounds, primarily to provide more “indoor” space for Hawke’s Bay’s “Horse of the Year Show”, but it will be a multi-purpose facility.

Currently the Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market has two sites at the showgrounds – the Waikoko Gardens during the summer and the under the grandstand and in the exhibition hall in the colder months and on wet days.

During the depths of winter, the grandstand and hall are far from ideal venues – often creating their own chilly wind-tunnels, but you could hardly imagine a marquee – some reports have it as being just more of a roofed-over area than a fully enclosed tent being much better.

The kicker, however, is I’m told this marquee is set to be the new summer location for the market too!

The Waikoko Gardens are what gives the market it’s wonderful, natural vibe!

Local growers and producers sell their wares underneath leafy, green trees.

The thousands of people, who attend the market each summer Sunday stroll around the gardens and stalls, socialise and lounge on the grass while they eat and drink their freshly made, picked, brewed, laid, baked and grown purchases, or seek shelter under the shade of nearby trees on hotter days.

To uproot all of that and plonk it into, essentially, a large tent in a bare field would appear to be a rather ridiculous – perhaps the more appropriate term would be “half-baked” – idea.

It would be killing the goose that lays their golden eggs!

What are they thinking??

Hawke’s Bay deserves better!

Palmed Off and Blocked Off on Prebensen Drive

Prebensen Drive's Phoenix palms - gone, but not forgotten!

Prebensen Drive’s Phoenix palms – gone, but not forgotten!

They say “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Well, in Napier’s case, the road to the port is paved with tree stumps and dodgy intersections.

A couple of months ago Napier City Council started a project 11 years in the making – the widening of Prebensen Drive from two lanes into four.

The intention is to ease congestion and hasten the trip of heavy vehicles to and from Napier’s Onekawa and Ahuriri industrial areas as well as the Port of Napier.

Built in 1990, Prebensen Drive (also known as “Tamatea Drive”) was created to help decongest Taradale Road and speed up the transit between central Napier and the suburb of Tamatea (hence the moniker). An extension linking it to Greenmeadows and Taradale came later on in 2005.

One of the first features added to Prebensen Drive was a line of Phoenix palm trees planted on either side of the road to give it a natural look not too dissimilar to Kennedy Road’s famous date palms and Marine Parades Norfolk Pines. From looking like tiny little pineapples, the Phoenix palms grew into big, wide, beautiful palm trees. Until earlier this year.

On a trip down the road, I noticed a few of the palms were missing, with the sawn-off remnants of other trees lying nearby. It wasn’t a good look and it even got some media attention, with international business visitors saddened by the destruction.

Napier City Council claimed they had tried to sell of, or move the palms, but there had been no takers and the palms had grown too big to economically re-plant elsewhere.

But it did raise the question – if four-laning Prebensen Drive had been in the works for at least 11 years (it’s not unreasonable to consider it was part of the larger plan upon creation of the road) could a solution, other than destruction of these majestic trees been incorporated earlier?

Despite lots of focus and advertising recently being put behind the constant creation and adjustments of council “Long Term Plans” the answer is evidently not.

But within the last few weeks the planning and traffic flow adjustments of Prebensen Drive and its’ surrounding industrial areas just got even stranger:

Some time ago, soon after Mitre 10 Mega moved onto its Prebensen Drive site, a roundabout was put outside the store on the corner with Ahuriri’s Severn Street.

For a time it appeared half the roundabout was there for the sole purpose of allowing easy access for Hawke’s Bay’s handy-men and women to the region’s largest hardware store. But other plans were afoot.

Ford Road, a minor side-street in the Onekawa industrial area was being extended over the creek that used to border it and past Mitre 10 Mega to join up with Prebensen Drive. This new extension opened only a few weeks ago.

But with the opening up of Ford Road, traffic flow into the Onekawa Industrial area via Austin Street – its main thoroughfare and entry / exit point was halted.

Where Austin Street used to have right-of-way from Taradale Road at one end all the way through to Prebensen Drive at the other, it suddenly had a stop sign planted at the Ford Road intersection, mere meters from the Taradale Road egress point.

While extensively publicised and signs on the road indicating the upcoming change for several months, it has been hard to break the traffic habit of decades and incidents at the new stop sign’s intersection have apparently been numerous.

But the news gets worse for Austin Street – From May 12th, due to the four-laning of Prebensen Drive, access into Austin Street from Prebensen Drive will cease permanently – essentially making Austin Street Napier’s biggest, busiest, most industrious cul-de-sac!

To enter the Onekawa Industrial area you will need to use the new Ford Road extension / Mitre 10 roundabout.

Once construction of the additional lanes on Prebensen Drive is complete, restoration of one-way, EXIT ONLY traffic from Austin Street onto Prebensen Drive (a tricky intersection at the best of times) is being considered.

But that doesn’t address a major issue this corner faces. Getting onto Prebensen Drive and heading towards Tamatea / Taradale at this intersection, particularly during morning and evening rush-hours accompanied with the rising / setting sun makes vision particularly difficult – especially with more heavy traffic set to thunder down the road at right-angles to merging traffic.

Ultimately the question for this whole project is:

“Is it necessary”?

“Does Prebensen Drive REALLY need to be four lanes?”

The prime focus of this expansion is to accommodate more heavy trucks and keep them off suburban roads and, of course, off Marine Parade.

But, while often busy, I must say I have never seen Prebensen Drive jam-packed with traffic (except when a particularly long train passes the level crossing at its central Napier.

We are a regional area, largely ignored by national economic development and internal immigration. So our suburban traffic along Prebensen Drive will likely never get to the levels of Auckland or Wellington rush-hour congestion.

And, to be honest, can Hawke’s Bay drivers really handle a four-laned road?

Many Hawke’s Bay auto pilots can’t even seem to fathom a two-lane roundabout without cutting across lanes, cutting other vehicles off, not indicating, or simply running into other vehicles? Is a four-lane road leading into a roundabout with four lanes just a few lanes too many?

I can’t help but think that, once again, there are bigger problems at play here which won’t be cured with the expensive, complicated projects that have been set in motion.

Napier, its road users, industries and palm trees deserve better!