Scarface Claw Part Two – On the Road

The first rule about Fight Club is "You do not blog about Fight Club!"

The first rule about Fight Club is “You do not blog about Fight Club!”

Two weeks ago I had some more Basal Cell Carcinomas removed from my face.

But, instead of having it done privately here in Hawke’s Bay, I had them removed at Lower Hutt Hospital (apparently it’s cheaper or easier for NZ’s health system to pay for my travel to and accommodation in Lower Hutt than it is to send a surgeon up here).

It’s a trip I have made on three occasions over recent years – taking Mum down for similar surgery, the last time being two years ago.

Dad didn’t feel comfortable making the long drives there and back so I would take them down and take Mum to her appointments while Dad and I would mooch around Lower Hutt and occasionally go into central Wellington.

While Mum always seemed extra-stressed by the imminence of surgery, it meant I could spend some time with her and Dad – something you don’t get much chance to do as you get older. Dad and I, by comparison, always managed to have a good time while in Lower Hutt and I have very fond memories of our trips down there.

Those memories were made even more precious by my appointment being set for just over a year since Dad died. So I decided to make this trip for my surgery a bit of a homage to him.

I left Napier at ‘zero-dark-thirty’ on Monday morning, catching a beautiful sunrise over the Takapau Plains. The weather forecast for the Tararua region had not been too positive for the trip down and sure enough, the moment I left the Takapau Plains (Hawke’s Bay), climbed that first little hill, dropped down into the Butcher’s Creek valley and crossed the bridge into the Tararua district, the heavens opened and the wind roared.

I took a break for breakfast and sat out of the worst of the weather at McDonalds in Dannevirke (a regular stop on previous trips), followed by a stop in Masterton to visit some friends, then over the Rimutaka Ranges, into the Hutt Valley and to my hotel just before midday.

With some time to kill before my appointment and comfort food to stockpile, I walked across the road to Lower Hutt’s Queensgate Mall to get lunch and other necessary provisions (i.e.: donuts, chocolate etc.), before catching a bus to Hutt Hospital and going under the knife.

My surgeon on this occasion was a young Irish lady and removing five of the little BCC buggers took just under two hours.

Feeling a little tender and resembling Marv from Sin City, I took the bus back to Queensgate, before deciding to go for a wander around Lower Hutt’s CBD – Wellington’s notorious, snow-chilled southerly wind providing an uncharacteristically welcome relief on my sore face.

Queensgate had been a “base of operations” for Dad and I on previous visits, particularly our first trip some years ago, when Mum was an inpatient at the hospital for a week and we had a lot of time to kill. As a result I know the place back-to-front – especially where the food is!

Dinner came from a Chinese buffet in one of the mall’s two big food courts, followed by yet another wander around and one of two food homages to Dad.

On that first week-long trip down, Dad and I would have dinner in the food court each night before going back to our hotel. On the walk back through the mall, we would pass a Wendy’s Ice Cream and Hot Dog kiosk. Now I have a reasonably bottomless stomach and Dad would normally complain at how full dinner had made him, but whenever we went past this kiosk, he would ask if I fancied a “Shake ‘n Dog” (milkshake and hot dog combo) with him. How could I refuse? We sat on a nearby couch, ate, drank and watched the mall’s world go by.

Getting a Shake ‘n Dog became our “thing” each night after dinner that week and carried on to subsequent trips, so that was a stop I could not miss.

The next morning was cold and blustery, so I was keen to get on the road and home, but I had one more food stop to make.

Dinner and breakfast - "For Dad"

Dinner and breakfast – “For Dad”

Across the road from Hutt Hospital is a café that, due to its location, surely does a roaring trade. They also do a wonderful all-day breakfast of toast, eggs, bacon and chips that Dad and I discovered on our second trip down – this time Mum had an appointment like mine – travel down, in and out of out-patients, stay the night and then home. So, while she had her procedure, Dad and I would enjoy a nice cooked lunch together. It was so nice it became another of our “things”. As usual, it was lovely and I raised my coffee cup in his memory.

To break up the trip on the way home I stopped at the summit of the Rimutaka Ranges road, something I have never done before, for a wander and a nosey. The road really is a wonderful piece of engineering, clinging to the side of cliffs in a gorgeously rugged piece of natural New Zealand.

The Rough and Rugged Rimutakas

The Rough and Rugged Rimutakas

My next stop was another essential, but just for my wife and I whenever we pass through the region, at Schoc Chocolates in Greytown, followed by a pause for remembrance in Carterton and a visit to a business in Masterton I have dealt with through work for ten years, but never actually met in person until now were my last Wairarapa stops.

Another tradition Mrs In Frame and I have – a milkshake from “Tinkerbell Dairy” in Dannevirke was my last stop of the trip before skirting a hailstorm just north of the Danish-founded town, which provided the most entertainment of the last stage home to my wife and Baby in Frame.

A "Must-do" in "Dannevegas"! ;)

A No visit to “Dannevegas”is complete without a milkshake from Tinkerbell Dairy! 😉

Due to the nature of Basal Cell Carcinomas, I doubt this will be the last trip I make to Lower Hutt. But at least I now have some traditions to follow on the trip and fond memories to keep me company while I am away. 🙂

Lest We Forget

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Last week I had to travel down to Lower Hutt. On the drive there and back I went through Wairarapa. It’s become one of my favourite areas and drives on the way to Wellington and it was looking particularly pretty after recent rain across the region and a dusting of snow on the Tararua Ranges.

Maybe it’s just because of the focus on this year’s ANZAC Day being the 100th anniversary of the battle that would forge two countries’ identities, but while driving through Wairarapa’s smaller towns, like Carterton, Greytown and Featherston, I couldn’t help but notice just how prominent war memorials were in these towns. I dare say they had all been given an attention-seekingly timely spruce-up, but they seemed more prominent than usual.

On the drive home I stopped and had a look at Carterton’s memorial, noting the memorial’s broken main column. I don’t know if this was an actual structural break, but from an artistic point of view it would quite subtly and beautifully represent lives cut short, broken promises, or unachieved aspirations.

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I also noted on the “Roll of Honour” where the same surnames appeared grouped together on a couple of occasions and couldn’t help but feel for the Wairarapa families who lost multiple members – fathers, sons, brothers, cousins in places literally and geographically as far away from their Wairarapa homes as you could get and how devastating that must have been for those they left behind.

Whether it’s the hundred year old architecture of the region that has been lovingly preserved, or the smaller, closer-knit communities that these Wairarapa towns seem to have, but you can easily get a feel for life there a century ago when so many of their menfolk went off on a “great adventure” “to fight for King and country” and “do their duty“, from which many did not return.

In August last year young men, around the same age as those who went off to war a century ago, re-enacted the march from Masterton’s town hall to the railway station and off to war that their ancestors took. It looked like quite a remarkable and emotional recreation.

Hindsight can be a wonderful and terrible thing.

We look back now on “The War to End All Wars” with mixed emotions – pride at how our forces performed and how the ANZAC identity was forged. Love and admiration for those who returned; Sorrow for those who didn’t and Futility at the sheer number of lives lost, the level of destruction and the repetitiveness with which subsequent conflicts have arisen.

With modern communication and attitudes evolving, war is seen very differently nowadays. I would hope we never see scenes like those of 100 years ago being repeated again.

But memories are short.

War, like so many other things, has become a business and there are profits to be made, land and resources to acquire. Jingoism, intolerance and evil still abound.

Perhaps the best weapon we have to defend ourselves against these elements are these memorials across the country and our memories.

Lest we forget.

I Don’t Rate New Zealand’s Ratings System

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To figure out how popular televisions shows are 600 “Peoplemeters” sit atop televisions in as many selected households and monitor what the occupants of those homes (around 1500 people, allegedly) watch each day, with those results updated via internet each night.

That might seem like a reasonable good system. But, give or take, NZ has a population of 4 million people and quite amazingly 2 million televisions. Meaning those 600 meters equate to 0.03{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} of the nation’s televisions and 0.015{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} of New Zealand’s population.

Through the divine scriptures known as “Ratings” that this miniscule sample sized monitoring system puts forth, the deities of New Zealand’s television industry are told / tell us what is popular and what is not.

Last month they told us that TV3’s current affairs show, “Campbell Live” was not being watched by practically anyone and so was “under review”.

There was a “tink” noise as a thread holding the sword of Damocles (or should that be Demographics?) snapped above what is considered by many to be the last remaining bastion of televisual journalism in New Zealand.

The sword wobbled and Campbell Live was a strand nearer to “getting the chop”

According to the “Ratings System”, Campbell Live averages 250,000 viewers per night. Its direct opponent, TVNZ’s Seven Sharp has 400,000 and Shortland Street, somehow, tops them all with 450,000 – 500,000 viewers per night.

Given that 1500 people are supposedly watching what their Peoplemeter is watching, that means:

A mere 300 people still watch Shortland Street in the hope the acting and storylines might finally get better, equating to its “450,000 viewers”.

267 disciples of “The Gospel According to Hosking” miraculously become “400,000 viewers”

and

Campbell Live’s “250,000 viewers per night” are derived from a miniscule 167 actual people

The figures would seem rather foreboding – if you believed them.

I don’t.

Because somehow Campbell Live’s 167 / “250,000” viewers last year helped raise over $800,000 for KidsCan (a charity set up to help support underprivileged children and earlier this year, when Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, Campbell Live helped raise around $200,000 for aid to the stricken islands.

And when the news broke that Campbell Live was “Under Review” over 77,000 people put their signatures to online petitions to save the show.

Going by the maths and logic New Zealand’s ratings system uses that equates to 115,500,000 “viewers”, by the way. Just saying.

I know which numbers I’d take more seriously and they aren’t the ratings.

What ratings don’t take into account, AT ALL, is content.

Seven Sharp has been widely derided by public and media alike as “Fluff”. And let’s be honest, Shortland Street hasn’t been any good since “Muffin Man” Lionel Skeggins fell off a cliff in the late 90’s (His body was never found, by the way, so with the show re-hashing so many characters, there’s a pretty good chance he may yet resurface in his hometown Dannevirke after 20 years of amnesia..) .

Campbell Live HELPS people – like those in Vanuatu and organisations like KidsCan and their wards.

It gives a voice to those who have been done wrong, robbed, dismissed, cast aside, “suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and more often than not the show, along with its “167 viewers” helps those people get out of those situations. It rights wrongs.

I often hear people moaning that the show has done another item on the Christchurch earthquake and those still awaiting insurance pay-outs, repairs to their homes and getting some form of normality returned to their lives.

That doesn’t show Campbell Live losing touch and deserving cancelation – It shows how utterly ABYSMALLY the likes of EQC and insurance companies have treated their own residents and customers that these issues have still not been resolved four years after the quakes!

Without the likes of Campbell live highlighting and fighting for these issues like these, who would?

Sure as hell it won’t be the ratings system.

Pulling Stumps on a Great Season

Volunteering at McLean Park's Cricket World Cup games.  Photo c/o Steve Dykes

Volunteering at McLean Park’s Cricket World Cup games.
Photo c/o Steve Dykes

As the nights get longer, rain finally begins falling in Hawke’s Bay and soccer, rugby and netball become the weekend sports du jour, it finally gives me a chance to catch up on all the tasks around Casa Del NapierinFrame that have been ignored over summer and look back on what has been quite a wonderful six months of cricket.

As I’ve written before, I love cricket.

It’s the most endearing, frustrating, thrilling, tiring, exciting sport I have ever played. This season has been exceptional, though.

Along with playing club cricket EVERY weekend (for the second year in a row, there was not one single rained-out game), I was fortunate enough to take part in a whole lot of other cricket-related goodness.

For the first time in my ten year cricketing career I took up the mantle of captain of my team, the “Napier Old Boys Marist Hobblers”, for the season. To make things even more interesting, we had an almost entirely new squad from last season. But we gelled quickly, dismissing one team for a mere 44 runs and causing a few upsets during a run of good form.

I personally had a purple patch on the pitch, taking four catches in as many games and closing in on my elusive “double-figures for the season” target on several occasions – even hitting the winning runs in one game, but leaving me stranded on 9 not out.

In December I got to dress up in a duck costume, play epic air guitar and usher scoreless players off the pitch at the McLean Park edition of the “Georgie Pie Super Smash T20” competition.

In January, I was “bowled over” (the newspaper’s line, not mine) to be selected as the Central Districts winner of Specsavers’ “Favourite Local Cricket Umpire” competition for my years as a player-umpire in HB cricket – for which I won $500, two pairs of glasses and a Black Caps playing jersey!

In February, I and seven of my 4th Grade Hobblers teammates found ourselves in a unique position – playing Premiere-grade cricket!

Our regular Prems team was down in Palmerston North competing in the Central Districts Club Knockout Champs, so couldn’t play on the usual game day. Neither Hawke’s Bay Cricket or their opposition, Taradale Cricket Club would let them defer the game to a later date and HB Cricket told us if the team defaulted they would try to disqualify us from the CD competition, so a replacement had to be found.

Cometh “The Hobbler Prems”.

The welfare of my team is always forefront in my mind and going up three grades to play Premiere-level with some VERY fast bowlers and heavy hitters, my main concern was the safety of my teammates, so extra helmets and protective equipment was brought in.

With three Prem players, who elected to stay back and help us in the game and travel to Palmerston North afterwards, opening the batting and putting on 150, the rest of us were able to add an extra 97 runs (and more importantly no injuries), leaving our regular-Prem opposition a reasonable total of 248 to win.

But they didn’t!

In one long, gloriously cricketing afternoon, the Hobblers’ mouse roared. Our bowling and fielding effort was outstanding and we won by 22 runs! Quite possibly the most memorable NOBMCC game in recent history.

After the match I sent a text to our Prems coach that said “We’ve done our part, now you do yours!” They happily obliged – winning the CD Knockout Champs and going on to represent Central Districts in the National Club Knockout Champs over Easter.

Ironically, the prems game was the last one we won for the rest of the season and the Hobblers were out of contention for the finals, but it was a wonderful season.

Then, of course, we had the Cricket World Cup and New Zealand’s epic performance in the competition.

We may not have won the final, but were certainly the moral victors of the tournament.

McLean Park hosted three games (Pakistan v United Arab Emirates, New Zealand v Afghanistan and United Arab Emirates v West Indies) and I was one of the hundreds who volunteered. My job was as “Media Assistant” and I ended up looking after the reporters and photographers throughout the three games.

It was a great experience and I got to meet some of my cricketing idols – NZ’s Ian Smith, South Africa’s Shaun Pollock, England’s Sir Ian Botham and someone as tall as me – West Indies’ Curtly Ambrose.

During Napier’s games, I also helped Kent Baddeley in making a delectable degustation for some of my club-mates at Ten24.

To use the culinary term – it was the cherry on top of a glorious season!

An Easter Public Service Announcement

Funny Bunny

Dear consumers

The SPCCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Chocolate Animals) would like to remind you this Easter that if you are the recipient of a chocolate Easter bunny PLEASE eat it head / ears-first, so as to put the poor creature out of its misery quicker.

The “feet first” approach has now been officially deemed as inhumane by numerous international chocolate animal agencies.

Yours sincerely

George T. Caramello Koala
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SPCCA