Don’t You Forget About HB

DFAHB

Kermit the Frog once sang “It’s Not Easy Being Green”.

Over recent years it’s also not been easy being regional New Zealand after almost a decade of neglect and lack of economic development from central government.

Just like in New Zealand’s media, main centres, especially Auckland, ruled supreme and sucked up all the infrastructure, attention and economic prosperity, whilst regional centres just didn’t matter.

In 2014 then Finance Minister, Bill English, was visiting Hawke’s Bay and was quoted saying:

“Hawke’s Bay’s seasonal low-wage economy “isn’t going to change in a hurry, so let’s get good at it.”

What a pathetic cop-out by the person supposedly tasked with looking after the whole country’s prosperity and economy!

Fortunately, (depending on your political stripes) we have just had a change in government and the incoming Labour / New Zealand First / Greens coalition campaigned on platforms of regional development.

Hopefully places like Hawke’s Bay will soon start to see the benefits of such policy.

Because, over recent years, Hawke’s Bay has been all too easily forgotten.

Non-Nation-Wide Tours

When I saw the headline that New Zealand’s own native songbird Lorde had announced a “New Zealand Tour” I thought “This would be cool – I hope she comes to Hawke’s Bay!”

Imagine a Mission Concert headlined by New Zealand’s latest great songstress!

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But it wasn’t to be.

She was barely even scratching the surface of potential venues and destinations – more “whistle-stop” than nation-wide tour.

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Media Misses the Mark

As you may have perceived, I have developed a growing lack of faith in New Zealand’s simulcast network media.

This was only deepened a year or so ago, when one such network held a “Provincial Pick Up” promotion.

Starting in Invercargill and taking the “path less travelled”, by visiting regional centres like Timaru, Ashburton and Blenheim it started reasonably well.

But having crossed Cook Strait and stopped in one of Wellington’s biggest suburban areas of Porirua, its next stop was… Taupo.

Not Levin, not Palmerston North, and CERTAINLY NOT Hawke’s Bay where, you would think bigger population bases would have provided more coverage, attention and contestants.

To rub salt into the wound the “map” that accompanied the competition’s page featured a rather clear indication that the Provincial Pick Up would be heading to New Plymouth, when this wasn’t the case.

Provincial

As part of its final leg, the tour would make at least four stops in (as far as you can get from provincial New Zealand)” Auckland.

We Even Get Left Out of Memes!

Coldaf

During a recent winter cold-snap the entire country shivered through some very bracing temperatures.

In true wise-cracking kiwi fashion someone made up an alternative weather map of New Zealand to illustrate just how cold we all were.

The majority of regions labelled “Cold AF” (or “Cold as F***” for those who took English class Pre-2010).

All but Hawke’s Bay!

Now, we are known for enjoying a far more temperate climate than the rest of New Zealand in Hawke’s Bay, but I was here during that time and I can confirm to being one VERY “Cold AF” (the far more “G” rated, name-related acronym, that is) during that time!

Hawke’s Bay – A Technological, Astronomical Region!

Many may have perceived “Regional Development” as “Rural Development” – focusing on farming and other primary industries.

This is not necessarily the case.

The combined population of Napier and Hastings is around 130,500 – making us the 5th largest population base in New Zealand (Hamilton = 150,000 Tauranga = 128,200) – far from the sort of small, rural town that gets ignored more often than not.

Fortunately Hawke’s Bay has a lot of smart, adaptable and ingenious people, so while we were ignored by external assistance, we took the words of Napier’s Douglas MacLean:

“A country made progress despite of its politicians”.

A prime example of this has been the creation of a “Tech Hub”, with anchor tenants Now and Xero opening in Napier’s seaside suburb of Ahuriri.

This has been something I’ve been passionate about and pushing for years – even since one of my first Napier in Frame posts.I would love to think I had some form of influence over such developments, but no one has told me so and I haven’t received any medals, certificates or knighthoods as a result, so I guess not 

But the fact Hawke’s Bay has still been able to make these technical and economic advances as a region is still great to hear.

And how many other New Zealand cities or regions have their own rocket launch facility?

So slap that old John Hughes classic in the VCR, crank some Simple Minds on the stereo and pump that fist in the air.

Because this region has just started going from strength to strength, so Don’t You Forget About HB!

jZgre

Regional Media Matters

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TVNZ’s, “regional-focused” restructuring plan and Mark Jennings’ opinion piece on it not adding up deserve some more attention.

Jennings is right on some points – As a “cost cutting” move this saves very little considering TVNZ just spent $60mill refurbishing their Auckland Headquarters and at the quoted wage of $60,000, the network could afford to hire 16-17 new regional TVNZ staff for the price of their one CEO’s $1mill salary. So, no, it doesn’t stack up financially.

If TVNZ was truly serious about covering the regions they would invest far more than just one multitasking “Video Journalist”. They would build a studio; hire local camera, sound, editing and reporting staff – That’s a commitment to the regions.

But Jennings gets one thing very wrong in his opinion piece and it drives a chronic problem endemic to New Zealand’s broadcast media.

It’s seen viewership dropping, less advertising revenue and less reliance and relevance on traditional New Zealand media over the last few decades.

He doesn’t believe TVNZ having reporters in regional centres is a good idea because:

“Viewers in Invercargill don’t give a toss about Whanganui’s sewage problems”.

“There are simply not enough stories of national significance in Nelson or Queenstown or Tauranga to justify a full-time TV reporter in those areas.”

In other words:

“New Zealand’s regions don’t matter”

Apparently nothing newsworthy (other than the odd murder or natural disaster) exists outside of the main centres, especially Auckland where New Zealand’s main broadcast media are based.

Auckland is indeed a big city, with around 1.4 million residents a fair bit of stuff, some of it newsworthy happens there. But New Zealand’s population is nearing 4.5 million, meaning less than one third of New Zealand lives in Auckland.

Yet what do we see plastered across our news websites every day and on national television news every night despite our location?

Auckland issues.

Over recent years Auckland house prices and Auckland traffic congestion have taken a lion’s share of national news media coverage.

Ironically Aucklanders aren’t home in time to watch 6pm news items on traffic congestion because they’re still stuck in it!

Do those same Invercargill viewers Jennings refers to “give a toss” about those Auckland issues?

Is something that might be relevant to 1/3 of the country’s population “nationally significant” to the other 2/3?

No.

Using Jennings’ theory, what could be a serious public health problem for the people of Whanganui caused by corporate shortcutting for profit or council graft – problems not just limited to the main centres and deserving of airing nationally so those responsible can be held to account and the same problems don’t happen elsewhere is shelved because “no one cares about that”.

Yet everyone from Cape Reinga to Bluff needs to hear about a breakdown on the North-western Motorway causing a 15 minute commuter delay?

There’s something very wrong with that ideology and it’s not just limited to New Zealand television.

Non-commercial Radio New Zealand, by comparison, DOES cover the entire country with stories from regional New Zealand commonplace and it does so on a far smaller (and rather criminally FROZEN) budget than it’s commercial radio compatriots.

It also soundly BEATS those same commercial networks in their almighty ratings quest.

The only gripe I would have with RNZ is while the likes of “The Panel” do at least feature opinions stretching the length and breadth of New Zealand, main centre media, PR, political and pollster voices are still a bit too commonplace and not necessarily representative of a “true” or “honest” New Zealand voice or opinion.

Aside from Radio New Zealand, the widest geographical coverage of New Zealand by network broadcasters comes from Maori TV and TVNZ’s “Te Karere” featuring areas of higher Maori population and issues – Northland, East Cape, King Country, Whanganui etc..

Maori media, at least, readily present stories of “national news significance” outside of Auckland and other main centres.

Of all broadcast media, radio has always been the most “personal”. It’s just you and your radio.

Indeed, one of the first things they teach in announcer training is that you aren’t talking to hundreds or thousands of people, but to just one person listening at home, or in their car etc.

It used to be each regional centre had their own radio station or two. Broadcasting became “Live and local, 24 hours a day” (I know – I did the midnight to dawn part of the 24 hours).

If there was a fire in Hastings, you heard about it straight away. A crash blocked a road in Napier? They gave you detour directions as it was cleared. Some minor local celebrities were created, but it also kept you close. You often met announcers in the street.

In the 90’s profits started to take over. Individual stations were bought up, joined into networks nationally simulcast from Auckland and local content was stripped back and in many cases away completely.

Ring up your “local” station today to ask about a fire in Havelock and you will be asked “Is that Havelock near Nelson, or Havelock North in Hawke’s Bay?” There’s no longer that closeness or community, because in New Zealand media “the regions don’t matter.”

Last time I checked the reach of one of NZ’s major radio networks it had 25 frequencies / “stations” across the country. Each broadcasted five to seven different shows per day with one to two announcers hosting each show.

17 of those stations had a sole local announcer, usually on a breakfast show and three stations had two local announcers – again breakfast duos.

Four stations had no local announcers at all – their “local” announcer was simulcast from a neighbouring region.

In total the network had 31 “local” announcers, given the 8 announcers who were simulcast throughout the country from the network’s main studio in Auckland are technically “local” in Auckland.

This means around 158 announcing positions across the country – once covered by local broadcasters, covering local issues – are now covered by the same 8 people in Auckland.

That hardly seems fair on local listeners, local broadcasters or local issues.

But it’s no longer good enough for these Auckland-based networks to try and dominate one media platform – they must dominate ALL platforms across the country!

We now have the same “media talent” on simulcast breakfast radio, with regular columns in newspapers and websites owned by the same networks, as well as being the headline act nightly television news and current affairs shows!

As the reach of New Zealand media has expanded the range of content, opinion and input has drastically narrowed. And it’s not just news shows.

No matter how dire, repetitive, convoluted, or just plain rubbish New Zealand’s “reality television” offerings are, the networks that screen them will still promote them and sing their praises through their print, radio and online arms.

“Hey, did you see ‘Show Z’ last night, wasn’t it great!?” they will broadcast, tweet and opine.

“Oh, look! Who just happens to be walking on to the set of “My Kitchen Garden Rebuild is New Zealand’s Top Singer” – it’s Dave and Jane from ‘Bland FM’ with the contestants’ latest challenge!”
How convenient…

Need a host for your new show? Why have auditions for someone new, when you can just shimmy a current staff member over from another of your network’s brands?

New Zealand’s media “talent pool” has become a puddle and it’s evaporating fast!

Can’t someone else have a turn, please?

Yes they can!

This is where the wonder of social media comes in and why our current “traditional” media networks seem so scared and threatened by it.

Because the likes of Facebook are doing the job TVNZ used to do with shows like “Top Half”, “Town and Around” and “Today Tonight”.

Ideally they should STILL be doing this today if things weren’t so Auckland-centric and fiscally focused.

Our major “State Broadcaster” is called “Television NEW ZEALAND” after all.

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New Zealand’s network media gave up on two thirds of New Zealand years ago, so it’s only fair that the majority of New Zealanders switched off their televisions and radios and turned to Twitter and Facebook on their computers, Ipads and smartphones.

Social media does what it says on the packet – It’s a SOCIAL media! It has a (world-)wide broadcast range, but it can also have the most personal of touches and community spirit. It works superbly.

Ask online about that fire in Havelock and you will be told precisely where it is, when it started, how big it is and likely get pictures and video live from the scene.

Social media is everywhere and people disenchanted with a lack of local coverage will create their own groups covering the news and issues important to them in their cities and regions.

If traditional broadcast media’s income, reach and influence are hurt by that, then they have only themselves to blame.

Because regional New Zealand DOES matter. 2/3 of the country is too big to ignore.

New Zealand viewers, listeners and media consumers – regional and metropolitan alike deserve better!

But what would I know – I’m from Hawke’s Bay.

Apparently I don’t matter! 😉

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!

I Want to Believe

Andrew's self-confidence, last seen heading into the gaping vacuum of space...

Andrew’s self-confidence, last seen heading into the gaping vacuum of space…

“If just one person believes in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough, believes in you…
Hard enough, and long enough,
It stands to reason, that someone else will think
“If he can do it, I can do it.”

And when all those people,
Believe in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough,
Believe in you…
Hard enough, and long enough

It stands to reason that you yourself will
Start to see what everybody sees in
You…

And maybe even you,
Can believe in you… Too!”

The Muppets – “Just One Person”

Self-esteem has a major, critical failing (ok, maybe several).

Whilst, as the name suggests, it is focused on esteem or confidence in one’s self, it really helps if there are others there to encourage confidence in that self as well.

So it kind of figures that self-esteem has been as hard for me to come by as real-life recognition or praise recently.

I’m trying to remember the last time someone complimented me in person – said “well done!” “good job!” “You’re hired – here’s $100,000!”(ok, I’m pushing the limits of reality there..) and nothing comes to mind.

Twenty years ago I finished working in radio (for the record, I started working in radio on New Year’s Eve 1995).

While I’m confident I could still wipe the floor content-wise with what qualifies as “on-air talent” today, you will likely never hear my beautiful bassy voice on the radio ever again – and not just because I’m inclined to swear lots more than I used to.

I tell people my dream radio career lasted only six months because I had too high an IQ and too low an ego (the other reasons were rubbish pay and trying to stay awake for 24 hours each Saturday).

I just couldn’t fake the level of self-belief required for radio.

And this was ‘90s-radio-level bravado I’m talking here – absolutely nowhere near the stratospherically narcissistic / Ninth Circle of Dante’s Inferno that it has become today.

But, while my radio career was muted, my voice was not silenced.

From an early age I learned the power words can wield.

So I started writing.

I’ve written stories, poems, radio ads, press releases, pieces for work newsletters, letters to the editor, Man About Town columns for “BayBuzz”, opinion pieces in Stuff and even a couple articles in the local paper many years ago about growing up in Napier in the 1980’s and my love for my home town.

My Dad was always my biggest supporter.

He believed in me.

He kept newspaper clippings of every letter or item I had in the paper and even some of the more colourful reactions!

Three years ago I started writing Napier in Frame.

It’s not a profession – I make no money from my writing.

I have a full time job and a young family to support which is my priority, so I can only write when I have the time or inclination.

I still wrote the occasional letter to the editor, when something utterly atrocious stood out – Art Deco buses and the miss-management behind MTG’s construction were stand-outs.

But I steadily shifted towards writing on this site and promoting it via my Twitter and Facebook profiles.

People who know me even say “I haven’t seen your letters in the paper recently” when I see them in the street. I tell them about this site, but they seldom seem interested or even aware of a world wide web beyond traditional print media.

Two years ago my Dad died suddenly.

I kept writing – it helped me cope and process things, but it kind of felt like any support, luck, or belief anyone had in me died too.

I’ve written, what I at least think, is some of my best work since then – The coverage of my recent stay in hospital received plaudits, but these are predominantly from friends online.

This is where things get a bit confuddling.

FM

Positive reactions are always good to receive, but self-doubt (self-esteem’s arch-nemesis) can begin to creep in.

Someone (usually a friend) gives you a compliment on Facebook or Twitter and you automatically discount it – “Of COURSE they’d say that, they’re your FRIEND!” Or “It’s ONLY social media – it’s not ‘REAL’” – sabotaging yourself and your abilities.

Even when you point out something that you think is blatantly wrong – Like hypocrisy over the Ruataniwha Dam, or the local newspaper covering Hastings District Council bailing out Horse of the Year, when the event’s board said in the same paper just weeks before they themselves would cover the loss and nothing is done.

The “bad guys” win.

Worse still can be spending years developing and making your case for a way to improve the city you love and the region you were born and raised in.

That idea gets local and national coverage.

Heck, even John Campbell likes it!

JC

But when you approach people you believe have the resources, funds and it’s in their best interests to actually enact your idea and the response is nothing – silence.

In this gaping vacuum of space no one can hear you scream in frustration.

I’ve had similar responses trying to rejig New Zealand’s flailing mainstream media – But the general consensus there is

“What would he know? He’s only from Hawke’s Bay!”

If I’m wrong that’s not a problem. You can learn from mistakes and correct them.

But no one has told me I’m wrong.

People tell me they “admire my passion” and am constantly queried on how I would achieve the goals I seek.

I tell them, but they don’t offer to help and “passion” won’t pay the bills, or finance what I have planned.

What if I’m right and no one cares to help try and make a difference, to help effect change or fix the problems I’m trying to remedy?

Ignoring problems doesn’t solve them or make them go away.

But ignoring people who are trying to fix problems makes the people go away – lose hope, lose self-esteem and confidence.

Imposter

I’ve become quite philosophical and theological about it:

“If Andrew makes a factual statement and no-one notices or cares, is he still right?”

“Before THE WORD, or there was light, or even the Big Bang, Andrew was wrong”

When the negativity or gaping vacuum of ignorance gets to you and makes you glum, sad, or grumpy and strips away your self-belief, you’re STILL wrong – Because being glum, sad, or grumpy isn’t allowed – You’ve apparently got to be happy, positive and smiling All. The. Time?!

This isn’t one of those inspirational stories of the little struggler, the battler, who overcomes adversity to triumph.

It is the tale of someone who has been told they’re wrong when they’re not, who has been ignored and unappreciated long enough for it to essentially become a default setting – a shitty-mood Stockholm Syndrome.

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

Having to spend a few weeks in hospital pales in comparison.

Shakespeare said we only have an hour upon life’s stage to strut and fret before we are heard no more.

I want to make a difference in that hour, but I can’t do it alone.

I need support, I need people to believe in me.

I need to believe in myself.

I want to believe.

Dis-Carded

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When I saw it crumpled up on the floor of that hall, maybe I should have just given up there and then – Saved myself 20 years of work, stress, time and pointless hope.

Because it was right – A portent of things to come.

No matter how hard I tried or what I did, it wouldn’t be enough. I wouldn’t be good enough to achieve the goal – the DREAM it symbolised.

It was 1997 and I was volunteering for the Hawke’s Bay Cancer Society as a “Youth Health Promoter” – particularly aimed at Smokefree initiatives – the “cause célèbre à la mode”.

I had been doing it for a couple of years, having decided I didn’t want to go to university upon finishing high school, I instead worked at a local radio station for six months and when I saw the Cancer Society’s “proper” health promotion lady in a community newspaper promoting some event, I thought I’d like to help out.

So I did.

I’ve always had great promotional / “sales” skills (though I much preferred “selling” ideas rather than the unrealistic, ever-increasing “sales goals” variety) and, like radio, I got a kick out of the performance aspect of promoting stuff – being unconventional, finding different, memorable ways of doing things.

We gave presentations in schools, held a camp for high school leaders to help spread the Smokefree message, went to Wellington to film a segment for a youth TV show called “Get Real” (that never made it to air because the “tape got lost”) and held Smokefree Speech Contests.

clippings

I had even been selected to be a (expenses paid) New Zealand representative at an Australasian youth health conference in Sydney (my first overseas experience) – So I must have been doing something right.

I was having a great time. I enjoyed the work (although I also had to work part time in a supermarket for income). I did interesting things and got to meet great people.

I was meeting so many people I wanted to learn from and keep in touch with that I made up my own “business cards”.

Inkjet printed on green cardboard, they weren’t the pinnacle of professional imagery, but I was merely a volunteer and it was all I could afford.

That is when it happened.

I had only just made them the week before one of the speech contests and handed two out at the event. I can’t remember who I handed them to, but I remember seeing one in someone’s diary – used as a bookmark as they left.

Then I saw the other one.

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It was scrunched up, lying on the floor close to where I had given it to whoever it was.

The purpose of the card dead before it hit the ground.

I felt a bit crap and hurt about it at the time – That what I was doing had been discarded so thoughtlessly, but I moved on.

The compulsion behind throwing the card away didn’t.

It persisted – An origami albatross around my neck.

I had been doing this work voluntarily for two years and loved it so much I wanted to make it my career – to make a living out of it.

I asked those involved professionally what I should do and was told I had to get a tertiary qualification in marketing or something similar.

So, combining my volunteer work and an actual paying job, I added a one year, full time “Diploma in Marketing” course from Napier’s own Eastern Institute of Technology to my work schedule.

I passed, acing the communication aspects of the course and graduated with an A4 certificate, a few thousand dollars’ worth of student debt and, as it turned out, nothing more.

I applied for well over 50 marketing-type jobs in the years immediately after my graduation and equally got well over 50 rejections.

Many years later I was asked to do a short video for Baybuzz on what I thought Hawke’s Bay needed – in a take that ended up on the cutting room floor I symbolically crunched up and threw away a copy of my marketing diploma – that was what it is worth to me.

I still volunteered for the Cancer Society. They were great and very supportive, but being a charitable organisation they couldn’t afford to pay me.

In 1997 I had been to the (“Smokefree” it was at the time) “Stage Challenge” at the Hastings Municipal Theatre.

I fell in love with it.

High school students perform a piece of theatre on a (usually social or historical) topic of their choice to music over eight minutes.

It was loud, energetic, colourful and amazing – If you haven’t seen a performance before, it’s basically a Baz Luhrmann musical movie amped up to 11 by teenaged hormones, pheromones and whatever the loudest, most energetic music of the day is.

So in 1998 I made direct contact with the company who ran it at the time from rural Victoria Australia and offered to help and went around Hawke’s Bay high schools getting as many as I could involved in the event.

The previous year two HB schools had taken part; I managed to up that number to five, with another two schools I had approached joining in the following year.

Our local DHB’s Health Promotion Unit was the “official” local supporter of Stage Challenge in Hawke’s Bay. So I approached them to see if we could team up promoting the event – going around schools, getting stuff in the paper and on the radio.

In the end it was just me that ended up doing those things – The DHB set up a table with some health-related pamphlets at the theatre on the day of the show. That was pretty much their entire involvement.

The 1998 Hawke’s Bay Stage Challenge was a high energy, feel-good success and enjoyed by almost all involved.

I say “almost” because I was the exception.

I loved the performances, the energy, the music and the passion the teams put into and got out of their performances. The school teams thanked me for my help and input.

Having spent several months going around the region, promoting the event and almost TRIPLING the number of local schools competing I had to ask the show’s producers for any form of thanks. Even then it wasn’t forthcoming

For their table of pamphlets, the DHB got a framed gold disc as a sign of appreciation.

I got nothing.

It was the beginning of the end for me.

With the promotional and entrant numbers success (but appreciation fail) of Stage Challenge added to over two years of voluntary work experience, promotion, publicity and interaction, as well as my “tertiary marketing qualification” I applied to numerous local and national health promotion and similar, youth-orientated, agencies to try and get a foothold in paid employment at something I enjoyed doing and had been recognised (by a few at least) as being very good at.

The response: Nothing.

I gave up.

It wasn’t easy – When you dedicate all your free time over several years to something you believe in, enjoy and are good at, only to be shot down at every opportunity for advancement or even thanks it gets very physically and emotionally draining very quickly.

I packed up all my Smokefree things, returned them and walked away.

I went back to working for money, rather than enjoyment. It was all rather capitalistic and soulless.

I eventually found a job I loved in a bookshop. In that job I met someone I would go on to love and be loved by and end up marrying.

After some struggles the two of us would have a baby girl who we both love VERY much.

Love inspires – It encourages hope, it rekindles dreams, it makes you want to be a better person.

I started writing and promoting / “selling” ideas again – so I could be a better inspiration for my daughter, like my dad was for me.

But the shadows of an origami albatross started circling again….

Owner of a Broken (but not Lonely) Heart

heart

When last we saw our ruggedly deluded protagonist he was in the Coronary Care Unit of Hawke’s Bay Hospital having been defibrillated after having Ventricle Tachycardia for over 12 hours.

The day after I was admitted to hospital, the cardiologist visited to check up on me and let me know what was going on.

The news was good and bad.

Good in that I was alive and very fortunate to still be here after such a long cardiac event.

Bad in that I would be in hospital for about a week or so to ensure the VT didn’t make a reappearance, and if it did, I would be in the right place for immediate treatment (so technically “good”).

I would likely end up being fitted with a mini pacemaker-like device called an ICD (“Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator”) that would shock my heart back into line if it started miss-firing again.

So that was kind of bad (operation, pain, more recovery), but also good in that I would then have new awesome cyborg parts!

But more shockingly to me, I would not be allowed to drive for six months.

SIX MONTHS!!

I love my independence and my work is a 15 minute drive away, with un-flattering hours, so not being able to drive anywhere for half a year was a bit of a blow to say the least.

Hell, not being able to bugger off out of the ward and go home to my wife and daughter for a week was a big enough blow.

The driving ban was mainly precautionary. If I was driving and had another VT event I could blackout / die at the wheel, crash and cause untold carnage – hardly the sort of picture NZ’s health system would like to paint – so while crippling it was understandable.

I was scheduled to have various tests over the following days, so the main thing I had ahead of me was lots of waiting.

In Coronary Care “Waiting” is practically a competitive sport, because everyone is doing it.

But the gold medal is for Humility and everyone in the ward deserves a medal for that, and not in a wishy-washy NCEA, “Everyone gets a prize” way.

In Coronary Care the level of humility is a wonderful thing.

There are people needing stents to open blocked arteries, new heart valves, pacemakers, heck, even multiple bypasses – medical conditions that so little as 20-30 years ago were still largely lethal.

But rather than focusing on their own problems, the constant theme and saying amongst patients is: “There’s someone out there worse off than me”.

That is quite something.

The other thing that being in this situation opened my eyes to is the kindness of others – There’s a lot of help, love and chocolate out there.

My wife and daughter visit regularly, of course, which is a necessity for my sanity, but also bitter-sweet because then they have to go again and I’m once again alone.

I was only in the ward for a day before my work colleagues sent me a gift basket full of goodies – fruit, sweets and a crossword book to fill in time with.

One of my wonderful nurses sensed I was getting cabin fever and offered to escort me down to the cafeteria while she got some lunch. It was only a short trip, but just being able to re-enter the “big, wide world” for a bit was gloriously refreshing.

My wonderful Facebook and Twitter friends – many of whom I have only met 140 characters at a time were offering their good wishes, help and more food (I like where this is heading!).

Attitude and positive vibes are a large part of being in a situation such as mine, so these well-wishers have certainly been a big, positive part of the process.

And I would need it, because there was more news on the horizon and it wasn’t too good.

During one of my scans they noticed two things:

1/ My heart was a bit bigger than usual – I wasn’t too surprised by this, because I’m 6’8” tall, so a slightly larger heart made sense in that there was more body to pump blood around

But, more concerning:

2/ A growth had been picked up on or near my heart – they couldn’t quite tell its proximity, but it was obviously of concern. This could explain an increase the size of the heart and the dysrhythmia, from the heart being irritated.

I couldn’t feel anything different – in fact I felt (and still feel) fine, which added to a general sense of detachment in not knowing it was there at all – The tachycardia might have been a good thing after all.

The growth is unlike anything my cardiologist has seen before which, believe it or not, I take as a good thing, because it means its not something he knows is immediately bad.

I was the headline act in HB Hospital’s weekly teleconference with their Wellington coronary specialists, who are equally intrigued – at this rate I might be the Mr April centrefold in the next edition of The Lancet!

But mainly I just hope I survive.

So I’m on a bit of a roller-coaster at the moment – Ups and down, highs and lows and even the odd corkscrew.

I don’t know what to expect, other than next week I will be flown down to Wellington Hospital by Air Ambulance (My own private plane, Woo-hoo!) undergo more tests, a biopsy and.. who knows?

Sometimes in quiet, dark moments the bad things and possibilities creep in. Other times I just miss my family, or being able to simply get out into the big wide world that I can see through the window next to my hospital bed.

But I’m keeping positive as much as I can.

There are others out there worse off than I am.

Not for the Faint of Heart

Lead

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to sit down and do some writing, but now I find I have a fair bit of spare time and not a lot to do, because I’m in the Coronary Care Unit of Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

Last Saturday I was playing cricket (well, when I say “playing” I mean I fielded for 30 overs and umpired for another 30 – total number of times I physically exerted myself = <5). We lost by one run, but rather than being stressed or nervous I was a bit bored and disappointed that I didn’t get to bat. It was very hot and I had been out in the sun all game, so when I felt a bit crap sitting down in the dressing rooms after the game and noticed my pulse was going a bit fast I thought I just had heat stroke. I went home, had dinner, went to the clubrooms for our club’s regular after-match speeches and came home. Toddler in Frame had a broken night, so I was up and down a few times to give my wife a break and still felt ill, but managed to have some sleep. On Sunday morning I was feeling a little better, but not a lot, so went to the medical centre, where the nurses quite quickly had me on a bed, hooked up to monitors and soon afterwards two St John’s Ambulance staff arrived and I was taken to the Emergency Department of Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

Not a good sign.

My heart was indeed racing – going at around 200 beats per minute – my usual rate being closer to 80-90bpm.

I was suffering from something called “Ventricle Tachycardia” and had been, it seems, for over 12 hours – There didn’t seem to be a member of the medial fraternity who wasn’t reasonably impressed by this over the next few days. They kept saying it must be my “youth and fitness” that helped me stand it for so long.

I have no idea what those two words mean.

If I had been in one of those whiz-bang medical-soap-drama TV shows they would have been running around, yelling I was in “V-Tach” (in America) or said I was in “VT” (everywhere else) getting “Crash carts” ready and “paddles charged”.

As we are in New Zealand, things, while still very professional and serious, felt a bit more laid back (this could have just been the drugs, of course). I was put into an ED bed, hooked up to even more wires and lines and given drugs to try and slow my heart rate but told, if that didn’t work, they would more than likely sedate me and shock, or “Defibrillate” (yup, that thing they do with the paddles – “CLEAR!” to people whose hearts had stopped) – my heart back into its regular scheduled programme.

I got the shock, but sans sedative.

Because after around 14 hours of VT my body decided it had had enough of this medical marathon and my blood pressure dropped, I suddenly felt even crapper (No bright light, or long tunnel, btw, just REALLY dizzy and sick)

The ED staff sprang into action and Renee, the head ED doctor said “Ok, Andrew, we’re going to shock you now”, I had just enough time to grunt a “Huh? / Ok” and someone hit me in the chest with an ethereal, electrified baseball bat.

For the record (and not solely for theatrical effect) I did lift off the bed with a loud grunt.

What passes for “normality” in the Emergency Department then resumed, my heart rate returning to a more regular rate and things quietening down.

A guy in the next cubicle came in with the same thing as I had, but had the time and benefit of sedation before he was zapped and had no recollection of it.

After some blood tests and a chest X-ray I was eventually moved to the Coronary Care Unit of the hospital for overnight observation, hoping / expecting to be released the next day.

Things never quite seem to work out that easily in real life.

R.I.P. DSE

DSE

The knives are out over the carcass of Dick Smith Electronics.

And, surprisingly, it has nothing to do with their completely confusing advertising campaign last year that featured “The Mad Butcher”, Sir Peter Leitch.

At least they didn’t advertise “55 Inch LED TVs – only $9.99 a kilo!”

A couple nasty viruses called “Greed” and “Private Equity” fried DSE’s circuit boards and the damage seems irreparable – our memory files of Australasia’s most well-known electronics stores have been forever corrupted.

I remember going to Napier’s first Dick Smith store with my Dad in 1980-something-or-other.

It was a tiny shop on Latham Street, just a couple hundred meters towards Marine Parade from and on the opposite side of the road to McLean Park.

It was packed full of the “latest” 1980’s innovations – Car radios with cassette tape players and the most basic of digital watches not to mention shelves full of plugs, switches, wires, diodes and solder.

The epitome of tech DIY!

There was so much stuff in these small shops you almost expected Arkwright or Steptoe to pop their head out from around the counter corner and try to sell you half their stock.

But they didn’t.

Instead there was a small, quiet man – almost certainly wearing glasses and a sleeveless knitted vest that answered your questions and pointed you in the right directions to get just what you needed.

There were no bells and whistles (unless you were looking at wiring up an early home security alarm) because the shop manager was an electronics hobbyist himself – he knew where each gauge of wire, light emitting diode and self-returning switch was and exactly what they did.

They weren’t rocket scientists, but by 1980’s provincial New Zealand standards they weren’t far off.

We purchased our first ever computer, a Sinclair ZX81, from that shop.

ZX81

You had to plug it into the TV via the aerial lead and tune it in to get a picture. With no on-board memory, programmes were loaded and saved via either plug-in cartridges, or a cassette tape recorder that also needed to be plugged into the tiny keyboard / motherboard unit.

While there appears little doubt these private capital chumps are guilty of killing Dick Smith Electronics off financially, it could be argued that advances in technology had been undermining the chain’s original core customer base for many more years before that.

As technology developed it got considerably smaller, phenomenally cheaper and required far less input.

Where once, back in the 80’s, someone would spend weeks and hundreds of dollars building their own computer or some other type of electronic timesaving gadgetry, today you could pick up the same item for $10-$20 at any one of hundreds of discount electronics stores, who bought the item in bulk from some massive production facility where workers are paid five cents per item produced.

When that item breaks or stops working, do you try to fix it like my father’s generation did? No, you just buy a new one at an equally cheap price.

There has been a generational attitude change from “Do It Yourself” to “Cheap and Nasty”, which is a great shame. Because not only does it enable those who pay a pittance for the production of electronics and then make massive profits themselves, it also detracts future generations from investigating just how things work, thinking up ways of improving them and making improvements themselves – we’re wiping out a skill set!

Dick Smith himself lamented the change in culture. When Supermarket chain Woolworths bought him out they steered away from core basic electronics into these dangerous waters of cheap, premade electronic goods.

The service in the stores seemed to echo an equally cheap supermarket mind-set.

Gone were the studious, knowledgeable old men. In came fresh faced teenagers – cheap to employ, apparently not worth training much beyond cash register usage or incentivising in sales – just as disposable as the goods they sold.

In the last few years I went into Dick Smith stores several times and am still waiting for anyone to ask if I needed any help finding what I was after – I did, so left the store empty-handed and found what I was after elsewhere.

The loss of Dick Smith Electronics is a sad one, especially for those who are now left out of pocket and potentially jobs by those who blew smoke, erected mirrors, took the money and ran. But it was not unforeseeable – just like the demise of the video store.

Perhaps if someone could make a time machine we could travel back thirty years into the past and warn those in charge of Dick Smith to focus on their core products and put passion for what they do ahead of profit.

If only there was still somewhere we could by the parts for a Flux Capacitor..

H.O.Y. A Gift Horse, or Trojan Horse?

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

The digital ink (?) on my previous post about volunteers being worth far more than they weren’t paid had barely dried over the Christmas break when I read that Hawke’s Bay’s multi-million dollar equine extravaganza – “Horse of the Year” was looking for around 400 volunteers to assist with the 2016 edition of the event.

Nothing too unusual there – as previously stated such big events rely on volunteers to make them successful – although it pushes the limits of credibility to claim anything requiring dozens or even hundreds of people working for free as a “success” – from a financial perspective at least.

BUT…

400 sounded a rather excessive amount of people working for free – the Rugby and Cricket World Cup games Napier hosted in 2011 and 2015 respectively required only around 150-200 by comparison.

And the last time I had read something about Horse of the Year they were asking local councils for money – LOTS of money:

Last year chairwoman of Horse of the Year’s board of directors and HDC Deputy Mayor, Cynthia Bowers, went around local councils asking the event’s hosts, Hastings District Council – to increase their funding of the event to $150,000 – more than quadrupling the $35,000 they put forward last year, and $100,000 from the Napier City Council – TEN TIMES last year’s amount of $10,000!

In 2012 Councillor Bowers was appointed by Hastings District Council to a board investigating the formation of what would become “Horse of the Year (Hawke’s Bay) Limited” – she was quoted as saying:

“The working capital expected from the council was not likely to be more than $100,000 and the money would be repaid from projected profits from the 2013 show, which would be the first event run under the new company.”

These requests for more funding may be looking a bit shaky as they come not long after the event posted equally big losses in recent years:

In February last year, the month before its 2015 event, Horse of the Year reported a $297,000 half-year loss:

“The accounts show the company received income of $554,000 during the six months to the end of November, $297,000 below the $851,000 it budgeted for and $62,000 below what it received during the same period a year earlier.

However, in a report to the committee, the council’s acting chief financial officer, Bruce Allan, said: “Given the nature of this organisation and the event that it runs, the first half of the year financials provide limited insight into the potential full-year result.”

The show sends out invoices for deposits for booked trade sites during the half-year covered by the report, with the bulk of its income generated in the following six months.
The company said trade site sales for this year’s show had been strong “and indications are that virtually all sites will be sold”.

In October 2014 Horse of the Year had recorded a $108,000 full-year loss.

Horse of the Year were reported as expecting 2015’s event to be a “no growth” show in an attempt to make up for previous losses.

Hastings District Council said the lost revenue in 2014 was “due to problems with security fencing which allowed non-payers into the show.”

But it’s a bit hard to believe such significant losses were due to people sneaking in for free, considering even if tickets were $50 each, that would mean over 2,000 attendees got away without paying.

A more likely cause was the “Further development of relationships with Chinese equestrians, who were funded to attend last year’s (2014) show, had been “put on hold until 2016”.”

In other words “An international equestrian group were PAID to attend two years ago, but didn’t turn up and it doesn’t look like anyone asked for the money back.”

So what was the extra $205,000 Horse of the Year was requesting supposed to be going to?

Certainly not paying up to 400 workers…

Perhaps is going towards debt consolidation?

Perhaps they are paying for even more international equestrians to not attend?

Or perhaps they are looking at diversifying – Just how much are Pegacorns these days?

Horse of the Year is a great event for Hawke’s Bay that brings in hundreds of visitors and millions of dollars – and not just from the Range Rover / Multimillion dollar horse float crowd – Because for every futuristic horse-float-come-campervan there are dozens of regular horse loving attendees who stay in tents and motels, scrimping and saving where they can.

Investments and outcomes need to match up.

This is certainly one gift horse Hawke’s Bay cannot afford to look in the mouth!

Pegacorn

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!