A Medal Memorial for Dad

This is a 1/48 scale Valentine tank I built earlier this year.
My Dad drove them as part of his Compulsory Military Training in the 1950’s, so I built it to honor his memory and service.

I love making models. 

A few years ago I found a rare 1/48 scale model of a Valentine Tank – the type my Dad told me he drove when he was doing his Compulsory Military Training years ago.

While clearing out one of their sheds I even found the pennants from his intake!

I discovered a few years ago that he might be eligible for the New Zealand Defense Service Medal, as the government had opened the criteria to include those who did CMT.

Dad was never much of a medal person, but he was a hero to me and he spent a lot of time serving others – having been a public servant for various central and local government departments for years of his working life.

So I applied to get his military records and then applied for and, in turn, received his medal last year.

Dad always spoke favorably of doing his CMT and it was heartening to discover he got promoted from Trooper to Lance Corporal during his CMT service!

So with the tank and his medal as well as his old beret badges and a glass case I repurposed from a diecast model I had recently sold I wanted to make some form of memorial plaque, or diorama to honor him.

I headed onto social media to see if any of my friends had a piece of native timber that I could use as a base and Ben Keehan provided the woody goodies!

I’ve never been the most tool-crafty person (this was Dad’s department), but I wanted to make an exception with this project and, with the hardware of my father-in-law’s garage and some supervision from him, I was able to cut, drill and sand the rough piece of timber into a gorgeous, grainy goodie!

With the glass case seated nicely I made a few fine-tunings (including using our neighbor’s mitre saw to angle the front of the base in the middle of cutting posts for the new fence we were building between our properties) I gave it a couple spray coats of varnish and glued on some model train ballast to give a more realistic base for the tank.

The results were just what I wanted:

Dad’s medal memorial will take pride of place wherever it is placed.

A great reminder of my Dad, his service, commitment, and even a homage to his fine carpentry skills that may have not been completely lost on me after all.

It is a wonderful wee thing to look at now, knowing that I was able to do it.

For him.

2020: A Pain in the Annus!

2020 – It’s been a year and ah half, hasn’t it?

From plagues, to floods it has been an interesting 12 months. For me it’s been tiring and painful, but we’ve made it and I still feel like I have some fuel left in the tank, unlike 2019 which couldn’t have gone on for a week longer.

The year started off simply enough: Jokes about “2020 vision”, looking forward to an extra day tagged onto the end of February thanks to it being a leap year, Oh and Australian bush fire smoke turning our skies all shades of yellow and brown and almost blotting out the summer sun!

(We really should have taken than as an indicator!)

Over the space of one January weekend our neighbor and I drastically changed the landscaping of our properties’ border, cutting down several trees and clearing a ton of dirt and green waste in anticipation of building a new border fence (due to 2020 in general we hope to get around to STARTING this fence in January 2021..).

It was one of those very hard, manual jobs that you sit back and admire once completed with a real sense of satisfaction of a job well done!

When not using big, brutal tools, I also made a couple of delicate 1/72 scale models that had been sitting in my garage for too long: A Bristol Beaufighter and a North American Sabre. I had only built one kit in 2019, almost as an after-thought and really fancied making more, as my stash of kits was surpassing “sizeable” and heading into “hoarding” territory, so decided I’d better keep building while the flame was lit (possibly not the best metaphor for a hobby that involves flammable paints and glue..).

I commentated double-header Supersmash T20 games at McLean Park on the second of January – The Central Hinds and Central Stags played the Otago Sparks and Volts respectively in back-to-back matches. I got to go out to the central block and watch the coin toss for the Stags’ game – a bit of a dream come true.

As I’ve written before, I enjoyed the commentating – It was a great new, unexpected broadcasting opportunity that arose for me. Then it sadly evaporated even more quickly when, a month or so later, NZ Cricket announced it was not continuing with Radiosport as its radio broadcast partner and then, as if to plunge the dagger in even further NZME closed down Radiosport altogether as the wider effects of Covid 19 took their toll on gatherings, including team sports.

This wouldn’t be my only media let-down of the year.

After being invited onto Radio New Zealand National’s The Panel three times each year in 2018 and 2019 I didn’t get invited on at all in 2020.

I don’t know what I did, or didn’t do, to deserve this snub, as they never replied to my tweets enquiring why. But given they had Michelle Boag on three times in almost as many months in the early part of the year (and look how that ended up) it might have been a bullet best dodged after all.

I played my one and only game of cricket for the 2019/20 season in February and took two catches – A new personal best!

Then along came Covid 19

There had been stories in the news since late 2019 about a respiratory disease that had started spreading across the globe after ravaging China, Iran, Italy and a number of other countries. With the nature of international travel it was only a matter of time before it reached us here. On March 26th New Zealand went into a nation-wide isolation Lockdown.

The lead-up to Lockdown, for me, was madness.

For the last sixteen years I have worked in the same office as my father-in-law, splitting 5am starts between the two of us on alternating weeks. But my FiL has chronic asthma issues and has been sick off and on for elongated periods over recent years. He had gotten sick after returning from a trip to Australia in February (non-Covid related despite it involving a cruise too!), So I was on early starts, working solo for almost a month at the start of the year. 

I was still tired and worn out from 2019 and covering this February holiday when the Covid lockdown levels were announced. With his health issues putting him in one of the at-risk categories, he had to work from home from level 3, which meant I was working solo then, too. But with the added impending doom of a looming pandemic, in a job that involved interacting with hundreds of people each day (either personally, or via documents others had handled, so having to wear masks and gloves) I ended up having what turned out to be an anxiety attack one evening (I only realised this the next day when, using a work bathroom, a aptly-placed mental well being poster just happened to list all the things I had felt the night before).

The stress of getting everything ready for lockdown didn’t abate until the lockdown itself took effect. I wasn’t given a work computer or phone, so couldn’t work from home giving me, essentially, an enforced four week holiday.      

For the month of Marpril 2020 (yes, I do consider that a viable month) New Zealand stayed at home, in our bubbles.

We shopped sparingly for food, keeping personal distances at all times. Our children learned via the internet and “Zoom”, while adults primarily used the internet for social media and ordering alcohol for home delivery.

While I would have loved to have written more during lockdown I only managed to write one thing:

A Tale of Two Countdowns

Explaining the mystery of why Napier has two Countdown supermarkets across the road from each other.

Amazingly it has had over 4,000 views since then – By far the most viewed thing I have written on Napier in Frame!

Otherwise, we read lots, played games with our family, tweeted lots, I made some more models and, as a nation, we made a metric $hit-tonne of sourdough and other baked goods (because those 20kg bags of flour that were the only available purchasing option weren’t going to bake themselves!).

Personally, I got to sleep in more often than I ever had in the past decade and a half, and have more concurrent time with my family (and snuggles with my daughter) than in a long, long time.

By and large we survived!

I describe my lockdown as “the eye of the storm”.

Just like tropical hurricanes in the Caribbean the storm builds and builds, until you get to the “Eye Wall” – where the wind and rain are at their strongest and the worst.

Then you get into “the eye of the storm”. The sky is clear – often blue, calm and sunny. But with the worst part still on every horizon.

That is what lockdown was like for our family. The weather was warm and summery (despite it being Autumn) and things were quiet and calm, yet we knew there was danger all around.

Then, as the country went down to level three, I went back to work (still sans father in law), and the other side of the hurricane’s eye wall hit in the OPPOSITE direction as we played catch-up.

All up I worked solo for about three whole months this year. It pretty well buggered me. It took up lots of my time that would otherwise have been “spare” and, when I did have “spare time” I didn’t have the energy, or the motivation to do anything!

The day after it was announced we were going down to level two and I could relax a bit with father in law and others returning to work I got a call from the hospital asking to operate on me.

Late last year I had been in for a check-up on my BCCs (Basal Cell Carcinomas) and they had identified some more that needed removal. Covid and the lockdown had put any work on hold, so at the first opportunity I was one of the first people they called and a week later I was in getting seven BCCs removed in one fell swoop (more than on my previous trips down to Lower Hutt) at the Napier Health Centre.

Maybe it was the sheer scale of the procedure (I ended up with at least one significant scar from where one BCC which hadn’t been fully removed the first time years ago had grown back and needed removing again), or the overarching stress of the year, but my recovery was longer, and felt more physically and psychologically painful than any of those that preceded this year’s surgery and a few minor complications did not help matters.

I had only just recovered from the first round when a second lot of surgery removed some more BCCs a month later.

I felt ugly.

That didn’t seem like a regular thing for a kiwi guy to say or think, but I did. And I was annoyed at myself for feeling like that.

It was what had done so much psychological damage to my mum after her surgery over a decade ago and I had sworn to never fall into that trap myself.

I didn’t hide away like she did, but I still felt it.

Fortunately around the same time, as we headed into winter, I managed to get some new clothes, either on sale, or from vouchers I had earned from online Nielsen surveys and the like.

After months of nothing but fluro hi-viz, polar fleece and bandages I was able to treat myself to new jeans, a new shirt and a merino jersey. I felt like I looked better and at least one of my sartorial superheroes agreed.

After lockdown and surgery issues had abated I had some time to write, which was good, because Bay Buzz magazine would end up commissioning me to write three 1,500+ word pieces this year – another personal best!

One of the things I love about writing (other than getting paid occasionally) is all the new stuff you get to learn. This year I learned about Hawke’s Bay’s tourism sector recovery, council online communications, and those lesser known companies who help produce, provide and present our local foods to HB, New Zealand, and the world. All of which makes me even prouder of my home!

Rocket Lab’s continued launches from Mahia provided a regular reminder of how awesome our region can be.

Also making me proud of Hawke’s Bay was our local NPC team the Hawke’s Bay Magpies!

After last holding the Ranfurly Shield six years ago they beat Otago to reclaim it again this year, and successfully defended it throughout the rest of the season, with Hawke’s Bay now holding it over the summer months (and almost every single person in the region who hasn’t already had their photo taken with it pretty well guaranteed of the opportunity now)!

The Magpies also won the Championship title to cap off a great season.

There’s Something About those Magpies. It’s not just a rugby thing, either. When Hawke’s Bay’s rugby team do well it seems to lift the mood and spirit of the region.

We needed to recover from the lockdown economically, commercially, and socially and by most indications it looks like Hawke’s Bay is recovering better than other regions. It just so happened to be at the same time as the Magpies were collecting all the silverware!

I know.. “correlation does not imply causation blah, blah, blah…” but it’s worked for us so far, so there!

Although, perhaps it was more “pride coming before a fall”, because just before the end of the rugby season 2020 had another go at us.

On the 9th of November Napier, and in particular the city’s CBD and suburb of Marewa suffered significant flooding and related rain damage after one of the longest, most contunually persistent downpours in an afternoon than most locals had ever experienced.

We were caught on the edge of events, getting drenched picking our daughter up from school, then coming home via main roads that would soon be impassable to watch our front and back yards get slowly inundated with rainfall and yanking out our downpipes from the roof gutters as they had begun to overflow.

We stood at the window watching the creek we live across the road from rise and rise (about 15 meters across for every one meter up, just to give you an idea of just how much water this event involved.) The next day a “high tide mark” of leaves, sticks and so on would reveal the creek was a mere meter away from breaching its bank opposite us and overflowing into the street!

A kilometer or so down the same road from us people were not so lucky. Streets, and almost the entirety of Whitmore Park (the big, rectangular lake in the aerial shots of the area) were inundated, houses flooded, possessions lost and people displaced. Many have still yet to return to their homes, which still require repair as I write this on New Year’s Eve.

I must thank Alex Braae for giving an article I wrote about Napier’s drainage problems the last time we had similar issues a few years ago a boost when reviewing the November downpour. Getting a shout-out in The Spinoff was another unexpected turn that 2020 took!

With all the craziness going on, perhaps the best move for 2020 might have been taking the advice of David Slack, who wrote about stoicism on Stuff in early January:

“Concentrate on what is within your power to do. Disregard the hysteria and wrongness around you. Preoccupy yourself with doing what is in your power to be done.”

It’s just what David did, too, as Stuff (still under Australian ownership at the time) let him and several other womderful wordsmiths go around the same time other NZ media were being closed down or severely cut back by their owners in the face of Covid’s financial fallout.

David “preoccupied himself with what was in his power to be done” and started his own page “More Than a Feilding“. It has gone gangbusters!

He is a lovely, literarly inspirational man!

I needed stoicism for one of my new ventures this year, too: I became a Hawke’s Bay Cricket Umpire!

After about 15 years of playing and player-umpiring I was invited to join and have spent the first half of this season umpiring T20 matches, including two weekends of HB’s famous Kilbirnie T20 tournament.

It’s a lot easier and more enjoyable than player-umpiring I must say. As, rather than having to worry about what the score is, who is batting next and do I need to go and pad up, all I have to be concerned with is counting to six and deciding if the ball that just hit the batsman on the pads would have hit the stumps if their leg wasn’t there. Plus you occasionally get lunch and beer!

It has been a tough year. Lots of ups and downs, with lots of unexpected twists and turns, but we’ve survived!

For now.

New Zealand’s “Tyranny of Distance” turned out to be quite beneficial in some respects. But it will also provide lots of challenges in the coming months – just look at the backlog of cargo ships waiting to unload out off most of New Zealand’s ports right now.

I am, as always, thankful for my friends (online and real life) and family this year.

I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given this year (does that mean I get to be UNgrateful for those I wasn’t given?).

And I am most inspired, humbled and amazed by my wife, and my daughter who turned seven this year and completing her second year at primary school.

The care, compassion, intelligence and love she shows continually amazes me.

On her end of year school report her teacher closed it out with the phrase:

I had to Google what that line was and I have to say I teared up a bit because:

I hope your 2020 wasn’t too disturbed, wet, or worrisome and your 2021 will be steadier and more illuminated.

As always, thanks for reading and all the best for next year!

AF

Twelve Days of Kiwi Christmas Deliciousness: Vegetarian 2020 Edition

For almost 15 years now, Mrs InFrame 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 usually have a direct correlation to the songs (Five Big Fat Pigs = Pork/Ham/Bacon), others use a fair chunk of artistic license as, with the original “Twelve Days” song we’d be swimming in poultry with French Hens, Swans a Swimming, Geese a Laying etc. etc. otherwise.

As an added challenge this year, Mrs. Frame decided to make the entire menu VEGETARIAN (So long Swans, Geese, Turtle Doves and Partridge..)!

All but one day’s recipe were from Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” cookbook.

I’ll do my best to explain the pairing concepts as we go.

So sit back and enjoy as I reveal what my true love made for me over the Twelve Days of Kiwi Christmas Vegetarian Deliciousness for 2020:

 

A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree

Noodles with Wakame

While Pukeko, otherwise known as the Australiasian Swamp Hen, actually spend most of their time on the ground (and, more riskily, on or near roads in varying forms of dimension…), were they to reside in Ponga trees they would need a nest. Wakame and noodles would make the perfect nesting material!

 

Two Kumara

Two Potato Vindaloo

Kumara are a sweet potato. This dish combines kumara and white potato in a yummy curry!

 

Three Flax Ketes (“Kits”)

Brandy Baskets

This is the one non-Ottolenghi dish. Woven flax Kete are used as baskets and bags to carry things like food. Brandy Baskets make a sweet representation of them.

 

Four Huhu Grubs

Stuffed Onions

Huhu grubs are a creepy crawly delicacy at most “Wild Food” festivals, mainly for their gooey-squishiness when you bite into them. The onion layer looks just like them and a gooey vege filling adds to the effect.

Five Big Fat Pigs!

Polenta with Mushrooms

Pigs like to eat and one of their favorite foods is a mix of scraps called “slop”. Polenta s very sloppy while cooking. The mushrooms and gravy add to the “sloppy” effect.

 

Six Pois a Twirling

Mushroom Parcels

Poi are little bags on woven string used in Maori dance and cultural performances. Sans string, these mushroom parcels look like Poi, E(h)?

 

Seven Eels a-Swimming

Parsnip Dumplings in Vegetable Broth

The Longfin Eel are native to New Zealand. and can be found in lots of waterways – even the creek that runs past our house. The parsnip dumplings swim in the cloudy vegetable broth like the eels swim in muddy water.

 

Eight Plants of Puha

Mixed Veges with Parsley Oil and Halloumi 

Puha is a leafy, green, wild vegetable that usually grows near water, so the green of the parsley oil and courgettes represent puha.

 

Nine Sacks of Pipis

Stuffed Tomatoes

Pipi are a bivalve mollusc like cockles. The stuffed tomatoes represent sacks stuffed full of pipi!

Ten Juicy Fish Heads

Chilled Asparagus Soup 

Fish heads can be a bit stinky when left out in the sun. Miss Frame thought this was a bit stinky when her mum was making it.

It’s got nothing to do with the way asparagus makes your wee smell, apparently…

Eleven Haka Lessons

Royal Potato Salad

The Haka is, of course, synonymous with New Zealand’s national rugby team. Mrs. Frame considers seeing the haka as been very important. Royalty are regarded by many as being important, too, hence this connection.

Personally I think the eggs and potatoes are rugby ball shaped and the peas and pesto that goes on it looks like a green rugby field.

Twelve Piupiu Swinging

Soba Noodle Salad with Aubergine and Mango

Piupiu are a Maori grass skirt, as can be seen in the Poi e video above. When the dancer wearing it sways or spins the individual threads spread out and sway like soba noodles cooking in a pot.

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!

Come On, The Bay!

The Ranfurly Shield is the Hawke’s Bay Magpies’ for the summer again!

It really seems that when our provincial rugby team do well (especially holding “The Shield”), Hawke’s Bay as a whole do well (and vice versa)!

This is another great boost for our region that is already on the path to great things post Covid 19 lockdown and recovery this year!

I go on about Hawke’s Bay lots, but it’s because I believe in it & it believes in me!

It has been my life-long home, has allowed me to grow, live and raise a family.

It has given me an income, a home, and security in uncertain financial times, and wonderful friends!

It has a gorgeous climate, central location AND ULTRA-FAST BROADBAND!

I’m vocal because I feel we’re often ignored and looked down on because we’re not a cliquey Auckland corporate, or the Wellington “beltway”.

A new news website boss recently said nothing newsworthy happens in regional NZ.

Then his newsroom won an award for a story they did on the Oranga Tamariki child uplifts here in Hastings!

Our horticultural sector is world-leading, our wines, beers and coffees, restaurants and cafes national award winning.

The quality of our produce is only matched by the quality of the people we produce, hence one of our regional taglines: “Great Things Grow Here!

We work well with others:

We launch rockets into space in conjunction with Auckland-based Rocket Lab, which still amazes me 15 launches later:

We provide Tech hub support bases for Kiwibank, Xero and the home of Hawke’s Bay’s own award winning ISP: Now! 

Which is why I think the Magpies are such a great allegory for the region:

We punch way above our weight.

We are in the game for the full 80+ minutes.

If others drop the ball you’d better believe we’ll be there to pick it up and be over the try line before they’ve even noticed!

So please come to Hawke’s Bay!

Visit, stay, relocate!

After the Covid lockdown, even Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s first domestic holiday destination was a #Baycation!

You’ll be amazed at just how diverse & wonderful we are!

With international travel currently off limits I know many social media friends who have only just visited Hawke’s Bay for the first time recently and loved it!

We may even let you have your photo taken with the Ranfurly Shield! 😉

A Tale of Two Countdowns

Napier’s twin Countdowns across the road from each other: Countdown Napier (Left) and Countdown Carlyle (Right)

Two Countdowns, both alike in vicinity.
In fair Napier, where we lay our scene.
From Russian fudge, break to new Dilmah tea,
Where hand sanitizer on special ensures covid-cautious hands remain clean…

Napier’s two Countdown supermarkets across the road from each other have long been a source of confusion and mirth for out-of-towners.

In the shadow of Napier Hill (literally in winter – it can get bloody cold when the sun is low or its overcast/foggy), on Carlyle Street lies Countdown Carlyle (“Flash Countdown”).

Diagonally across Tennyson Street from Countdown Carlyle and opposite KFC, Burger King and Shell Kennedy Road which, as I have revealed before, isn’t actually on Kennedy Road is the rather more generically-branded “Countdown Napier” (as this one borders several roads – Tennyson, Dickens and Station Streets, it’s just called.. erm.. “Countdown”).

But why are they there?

Many have questioned, but few have been able to adequately answer.

Until now.

Back to parodying Mr Spokeshave to close out this prologue:

The existence of this Countdown mirror-image,
Which, by article’s end, sought to solve,
Is now the traffic of this digital page.

 

Quirky, or Smirky?

Napier’s twin Countdowns are not a unique coexistence – Johnsonville and Upper Hutt in Wellington both apparently have similar set-ups and until recently so did Glenfield on Auckland’s North Shore.

So why do people seem to think Napier is so different or unique?

Maybe it’s because the other two are in big cities?

The bigger population justifies having two supermarkets in closer proximity.

Napier’s population is around 65,000 (Combined with Hastings’ 75,000-plus population the two cities have a combined total of around 140,000, making us NZ’s fifth most populous urban area, just ahead of Tauranga), so perhaps not THAT big.

So maybe it’s just parochialism?

Another excuse for the big city mice to mock their “country hick” cousins?

We have certainly been exposed to more than our fare share of that over the years, be it the “A Visitor From Hawke’s Bay” stereotype, or those who insist on adding the prefix “The” to our region’s name.

New Zealand’s rather Auckland-centric television networks creating and airing shows about “quirky” regional New Zealand things probably hasn’t helped, either.

Rather than “Quirky” meaning interesting, they often tend to put more of a sardonic twist on things.

A reasonably well known example is 90s TVNZ series Heartland introducing “Chloe from Wainuiomata” to the country. Negative reactions to the show eventuated in Chloe having to leave Wainuiomata.

She has actually been living here in Napier for the past 13 years, though her preference of Countdown is unknown…

More recently TVNZ’s rival, Mediaworks, attempted a “Heartland-esque” show called “New Zealand Today”.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek host Guy Williams ventured to Napier’s twin Countdowns where he tried, and failed rather miserably, to shed any light on the phenomenon.

Rather sad, really.

Yet another chance to positively promote part of regional New Zealand lost.

All they had to do was ask a local!

A rare photo looking in the opposite direction to the cover pic. This photo was taken looking from Napier Railway Station yards back towards the hill at Easter 1988. The multi story building is NZR offices and train control.
Woolworths can be seen in the back left, and Station Court is far right.  Photo C/o Michael Kemp, Old Napier Facebook page

 

History Lesson

So have there always been two Countdowns in Napier?

No.

Countdown Carlyle has always been a supermarket, but Countdown Napier has always been a Countdown.

Before rebranding as Countdown in the early 2000s, Countdown Carlyle was a Woolworths and then a Big Fresh (complete with singing vegetables and swinging monkey (a la Hayden Donnell’s documentary).

WAY before the supermarket was even there my Dad and Granddad apparently lived in a house on Carlyle Street which was where the supermarket’s car park is now, opposite Dominos, but I digress..

While Countdown Carlyle was a Woolworths, the site of Countdown Napier had several lives in a reasonably short space of time.

Most recently it was a car sales yard and a group of shops called “Station Court”, as it was opposite Napier’s railway station (when we still had one).

Around the same time there was a bus station for Intercity or Newmans Coachlines at Station Court (I can’t remember which – the other had a depot further down Dickens Street in what is now Civic Court across from the currently empty Napier Public Library).

“Station Court” shops, Circa mid-late 1980s on the site Countdown Napier currently occupies. Photo C/o Trevor Cook Old Napier Facebook Page

In the late 80s/ early 90s Station Court was demolished and Countdown Napier was built on its site, with Countdown Carlyle still in its Big Fresh phase.

This is probably where Countdown Carlyle gets its “flash” reputation – If you wanted swanky cheeses, or “more refined” (i.e.. expensive) groceries, you went to Big Fresh (and to push the buttons and make the vegetables sing and the monkey swing – Geez, it must have been tortuous for the staff..).

Whereas, if you wanted cheaper groceries and generic family brands, you went to Countdown Napier (and to buy cheap snacks and lollies to sneak into the cinema across Station Street whose candy counter charged like a wounded bull..).

An important strategic commercial note is that at this time there was a very large area of vacant land opposite Countdown Napier, and behind the newly constructed Reading Cinema. It was abandoned NZ Railway land where Napier’s train station and railway yards had been for many years. But after NZR was filleted, gutted and sold by the governments of the day it lay dormant, as part of a Waitangi settlement, I believe.

Around the year 2000 a deal was struck and the land was sold to Woolworths/Progressive Enterprises’ (Countdown’s owners) arch NZ nemesis, Foodstuffs, who promptly built a rather giant Pak ‘n Save supermarket on it.

Not too long after Progressive went through a massive re-branding exercise and changed all their Foodtown and Big Fresh supermarkets to Countdowns.

So now this is where we find ourselves.

Napier’s twin Countdowns as seen from the Station Street entrance to Napier Pak n Save earlier this year – Roughly the same place as the right hand photo above was taken!

The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret

To put it bluntly: The existence of Napier’s twin Countdowns is purely commercial.

:To put it more technically, according to Reddit user “AGVann”:

“This phenomenon is known as Hotelling’s Law/Game. This video explains the concept excellently. For those that don’t want to watch the video, the short answer is that in industries where goods are essentially the same form and cost, the only difference for consumers is the location – people usually just go to the closest supermarket. If there was only one supermarket in all of Napier, a second strategically placed supermarket from a competitor would immediately cut the ‘catchment’ of potential customers in half. Countdown is essentially competing with itself to ensure that it is never financially viable for a competitor to set up shop in Napier. This is a tactic that Countdown corporate is known for doing over in Australia, so it’s not that surprising to see it here.”

If owners Progressive Enterprises closed one of Napier’s twin Countdowns, their competitors Foodstuffs, with the neighbouring Pak n Save supermarket, would swoop in and probably put a New World on the site, reversing the current 2-1 Countdown/Progressive majority.

While Napier’s public library future is in limbo, I suggested recently that if Progressive could be convinced to sell Countdown Napier’s site to Napier City Council it could make a great location for a new Library. 

The extensive site borders Clive Square on one side and tree-lined Munroe Street, opposite St Patrick’s Church, on the other – very calming and reflective. There is ample, much needed public car parking on site that the council could meter or lease for income and Progressive wouldn’t have to worry about the encroachment of competition.

Fortunately for Napier ratepayers it appears the council is strongly considering returning the library to its former site, once earthquake strengthening is completed – a far cheaper option than turning over a new page and building from scratch..

Unfortunately for television shows making places like Napier look “Quirky” because they’re not as big as Auckland or Wellington, it also means the existence of twin Countdowns isn’t Napier’s fault at all – It’s a corporate move from those same big cities!

Mystery solved – And all it took was a little bit of local knowledge!

Epilogue

A glowing piece, this supermarket article brings

The sun still shines, you can buy bread:

Go forth and spread the truth this blog rings,

Some mystery solved, some cynicism punished 

For never was there a story so profound

Than of Napier and its twin Countdowns!

Radio Silence

 

Listen.

Can you hear that?

Its the sound of waves breaking on Napier’s Marine Parade.

And that?

It’s a magpie calling on a fence in Waipukrau.

Then there is the roar as hundreds of cricket fans cheer when Ross Taylor sends the ball soaring over the boundary for six at McLean Park!

These are all familiar sounds to Hawke’s Bay locals, but may not be so well known to those outside the region.

Recently the chances of Hawke’s Bay locals and others further afield hearing Hawke’s Bay over the airwaves became slimmer and slimmer and one of New Zealand’s biggest media organisations, NZME (“New Zealand Media and Entertainment”), was at the centre of both.

One affected me indirectly, while the other had a more personal impact.

I wish this was a new problem, but it has been going on for as long as I’ve been a curmudgeon! 😉

“Larakin Lads? Local’s Loss!”

In February NZME announced plans to potentially replace their “The Hits” network’s remaining regional breakfast shows with the Auckland-based “comedy duo” of Jono and Ben, who they had head-hunted from rival network, Mediaworks, last year.

As I’ve written before there is already, in my opinion, far too little local input and regional relevance in networked stations like “The Hits” where, in 2015 I estimated around “158 announcing positions across the country are covered by the same 8 people in Auckland.”

New Zealand commercial media’s regional markets have been continuously written off and downgraded for years now.

It’s a self fulfilling prophecy – The media outlet cuts back on local content or relevance, so the local market switches off and / or turns to social media, so the media outlet loses money, so they cut back even further…

They just keep doing the same thing again and again while, somehow, expecting a different result!

Hawke’s Bay had been fortunate to retain at least some local content during this time via NZME’s “The Hits” and Mediaworks’ “The Breeze” breakfast shows remaining local, broadcast from Napier and Hastings studios respectively, but this Jono and Ben announcement certainly seemed to threaten that status.

New Zealand media’s talent pool is shallow enough as it is without just swapping the same people around and simulcasting them on yet another network.

We’ve already had that here: The current Breeze Hawke’s Bay breakfast hosts used to do The Hits’ Hawke’s Bay breakfast show, while one of The Hits’ current hosts used to do The Breeze’s breakfast show, and the other used to do The Hit’s local breakfast show in Taranaki, but moved to Napier to take over from the announcer who moved to The Breeze.

Their Taranaki show became simulcast from Auckland soon after they left.

Confused? I can’t blame you!

Imagine how frustrating it must be for new talent wanting to break onto the airwaves in Hawke’s Bay, or whatever region they may hail from!

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of either network’s local breakfast show, but at least they are Hawke’s Bay content on Hawke’s Bay airwaves.

As I write this NZME’s plan had been downgraded to see the Auckland duo replace only Canterbury’s The Hits breakfast show.

For now.

It’s a lucky escape for Hawke’s Bay and the other regions who narrowly avoided yet more locally-irrelivent media content taking over.

Telling staunchly proud and self-sufficient Cantabrians that:

“You’re getting Jono and Ben for Breakfast!”

“But, we don’t want Jono and Ben, we want relevant local content and talent!”

“Too bad, you’re getting Jono and Ben for breakfast!”

Is just dooming their operations there to failure, isn’t it?

When will media management ever learn?

 

“Chew For Chwenty Chew After Chew”

Not long after the Jono and Ben move was revealed NZME’s Radiosport and New Zealand Cricket announced they would be going seperate ways after broadcasting cricket across New Zealand’s airwaves for over 20 years.

NZ Cricket didn’t want to commit to Radiosport’s five year offer, citing advances in technology and a changing media landscape discouraging them from tying themselves into broadcasting on radio for that length of time.

(This opinion apparently failed to take into account that Radiosport has also been broadcasting over NZME’s online streaming service “iHeartRadio” for some time now)

So, from the end of this domestic and international cricket season the dulcet tones of Brian Waddle, Jeremy Coney and their cricket commentating colleagues were out of jobs and will no longer keep summertime gardeners company.

New Zealand Gothic:

Transistor radio playing test cricket,

Freshly mown lawn,

Reel mower quietly pinking in the background.

Ladders, planks & tin of paint set up

For a fresh summer coat on the weatherboards..

Cricket commentary from McLean Park, Bay Oval, Seddon Park, University Oval and all the other grounds around New Zealand will fall silent on the airwaves from April.

Personally, it meant an opportunity I never thought I would have was lost.

Because for three domestic Supersmash T20 cricket matches at my beloved McLean Park, I was one of those Radiosport commentators!

Late last year I got a phone call.

I had mentioned on Twitter earlier in the year about wanting to do cricket commentary, or had been doing my usual social media promotion of McLean Park / Napier / Hawke’s Bay, when I got an email from someone at RadioSport asking if I’d like to send in an “audition tape”, as they were looking to expand their regional roster, and Hawke’s Bay was somewhere they felt they were a bit thin on the ground in.

I was taken aback – Knowing what media in NZ is like (see above), this was not just something that comes along every week.

Unlike The Hits, cutting back regional resources, Radiosport was trying to expand – Having local voices at the likes of Hagley Oval and McLean Park.

So I recorded an ad-libbed over of commentary on my phone one evening after my daughter had gone to bed and emailed it off.

I didn’t hear anything back, so thought I must have sucked and forgot about it.

Until I got a call one afternoon in November.

It was Malcolm Jordan from Radiosport. “Did I get back to you about your audition tape?” he asked.

I replied “No.”

“Oh, sorry, we liked it! We’ve got some Supersmash T20 games coming up at McLean Park in December and January, would you like to commentate them?”

And so began what would unfortunately turn out to be one of the shorter careers I have had.

Which is a shame. Because it was great fun!

I love cricket.

I’ve played it for years, and followed it for even longer.

I also love my home town and McLean Park!

This was an opportunity to watch the game I love at a place I love and tell the nation (and anyone else listening online around the world) all about it!

And they paid me to do it!

But the money wasn’t the best part.

The best part was that they BELIEVED IN ME!

The day before my first match Malcolm phoned me and went through some pointers for commentating he had sent me.

“We didn’t pick you for no reason. We know you can do this!” he said (or words to that effect).

Self-belief is something I’ve struggled with for a while now.

Because while I believe I am capable of doing the things I want to do, that doesn’t mean a hell of a lot if no one else does, too.

I’d be a multi-media star broadcasting Hawke’s Bay to the world by now if it did!

It’s not even something I’m used to in my day-to-day, non-writing job of a decade and a half!

So to have someone believe in me, pretty much out of the blue was, well, unbelievable!

The games were played and I think I did a reasonable job for my few times in the commentary box.

A personal highlight was I got to step out onto the pitch block in the centre of McLean Park – the closest I would likely get to playing there!

My short stint was completed, pay was deposited, and I looked forward to possibly doing it again next season.

Except as it currently stands I won’t get to.

I know I’m no Richie Benaud, Ian Smith, Jeremy Coney, or Brian Waddle.

I was never going to be able to chuck in my current job and set off on an international cricket commentating career after a couple of T20 games.

But this was an opportunity – something that doesn’t come along very often.

It was a light at the end of the tunnel that said If I stuck at this and worked on it there was a chance, a possibility, AN OPPORTUNITY that somewhere down the track I MIGHT just be able to make a career of it.

With NZ Cricket and Radiosport parting ways that light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a freight train coming the other way.

As I wrote in a tweet about the Provincial Growth Fund recently:

“Opportunity really is the thing.

It is hope, it is promise.

Opportunity gives people a chance.

Without opportunity there is no future.”

“There are others out there far worse off than you are.”

I lost an opportunity I never thought I’d have which is a real mind bender on its own.

But that made it a bit harder. Beause it wasn’t just a job gone – it was the opportunity.

An escape.

Gone before it ever really got started.

I saw an interview with Frank Zappa a while ago about how the music industry lost its cool:

 

He talks of “cigar chomping executives” in the 60s taking a chance – Giving something they didn’t understand an opportunity.

Where as the more modern execs had a “we know what’s best for you” opinion.

We’ve seen both of these cases in Hawke’s Bay media already this year.

We need more opportunity for regional media, and the people who can make that happen.

And far less of the Auckland-centric “we know what’s best for you” executive mindset.

There may not be another opportunity for them to change, or fix the current system.

The Bird Was the Word

Caroll Spinney died on Sunday
You might not recognise the name, but you will certainly recognise his alter-egos:
An eight-foot-tall, bright yellow bird, and a green, furry Grouch who lived in a trash can.
Caroll was the pupeteer behind two of Sesame Street’s first, and most iconic characters – Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
Named “Caroll” by his mum, because he was born on Boxing Day 1933, Spinney first met Jim Henson at a puppeting festival in 1962.
They met again at the next festival, but due to a technical hitch with the lighting his performance did not go according to plan and Caroll was very dissappointed, but Henson saw potential and asked if he would like to “talk about the Muppets“.
Spinney joined the puppeting cast of Sesame Street for their first season in 1969 and  officially retired after voicing a few pieces earlier this year after being part of Sesame Street for FIFTY YEARS!
While still “Big”, Big Bird’s head was not so full-some of feathers in the first season and Oscar the Grouch was actually orange, not green! These features would change soon afterwards.

Launched in 1969 by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett one of the things that made so many people love Sesame Street has been its cast centrally featuring Jim Henson’s Muppets, puppets and Monsters.

Often zany and silly but never condescending to its young audience, Sesame Street has become the inspiration and benchmark by which many people judge not only children’s television, but all television since.

While teaching pre-school basics like the alphabet, counting, colours and opposites, it also deals with making friends, manners, feelings and other important social and personal issues.

Spinney’s Big Bird acted as the viewers conduit into the world of Sesame Street – While 8′ tall and feathered he still had the eyes, inquisitiveness and wonderment of a child – the show’s target audience.

Big Bird was often the one dealing with big issues – One particular Sesame Street piece has burned itself into my memory (have a box of tissues handy):

When Will Lee, who played shopkeeper “Mr Hooper” (“Hooper’s Store” still bears his name as a memorial) died in 1982, rather than recasting the role, or saying Hooper moved away or retired, Sesame Street’s producers decided to deal with the issue head-on and created an episode that taught their young audience about the difficult topic of death in an honest and straightforward way.

I would have been five when the episode originally aired and some of my earliest memories are of going to the funerals of elderly grandparents and relatives, while not fully understanding what was going on.

That episode made things much clearer and easier to understand.

I cried watching it.

I still cry watching it today.

I wasn’t the only one – Legend has it the piece was shot in one take and there wasn’t a dry eye in the entire studio, in front of or behind the cameras, once it was done.

The antithesis to Big Bird’s wide-eyed Pollyanna, was Oscar the Grouch.

Always grumpy, curmudgeony and liking the opposite of everything everyone else on Sesame Street liked, it was fitting that Spinney played him, too – the tragedy to the comedy, the cloud to every silver lining.

But what Oscar did was show it was OK to be different – everyone accepted him, despite his grouchyness.

One of the first gifts my now wife got for me when we started dating was Spinney’s book The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers. I read the entire book the night she gave it to me.

Jim Henson’s work and his creations blossomed from Sesame Street, as did the world’s love for them.

When Henson died in 1990, leaving behind a legacy of Muppets, movies, Fraggles, Sesame Street and many other beloved shows all his creations got together for one last show called “The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson”.

Whilst the special centred around Henson’s other most well-known creation – “The Muppet Show” for the finale – a song called “Just One Person” almost all his creations appeared to sing a gorgeous eulogy to the great man, the amazing talent from where they came.

I cried watching that too, because being an only child, television had been one of my biggest inspirations and windows on the world before I started school.

The Muppets, Fraggles and Sesame Street characters had become more than just puppets to me – they were MY FRIENDS.

I saw what Henson  and his Muppeteers could do on multiple levels – Not just cute, fluffy, talking toys, but almost sentient beings with a drive behind them – to teach, to care, to love.

I believed in them.

I saw myself in Big Bird, too – I was that same tall, gangly, wide-eyed kid with that same enthusiasm and inquisitiveness for everything, always asking questions – albeit thousands of miles away from a street in New York.

Like me, he was taller than everyone else, but they accepted him for who he was, and he accepted them.

In a roundabout way it made utter sense that Spinney, as Big Bird, sang “(It’s Not Easy) Bein’ Green” at Henson’s memorial service:

I never had the Bird’s penchant for rollerskating, though.

This feat was made ever more impressive / crazy, by the fact that Spinney COULDN’T SEE OUT OF THE BIG BIRD COSTUME!

Image result for big bird rollerskating gif

While he had one hand stuck straight up in the air to operate the bird’s head, mouth and eyes, Spinney got his vision from a small TV monitor strapped to his chest and got his references from the TV cameras viewing him’s perspective – working blind and/or backwards effectively!

Image result for big bird suit.

Big Bird almost didn’t make it to Sesame Street’s 50th season – He was initially meant to be on the disasterous 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle mission!
NASA had been in talks with Sesame Street to have Spinney record some segments on board the shuttle to teach children about space, but the costume’s sheer bulk in the small confines of the space ship inevitably, and fortunately, saw the idea canned.
Big Bird and Oscar will, naturally, continue to exist on Sesame Street, played by Matt Vogel and Eric Jacobson respectively (Vogel was Spinney’s understudy for the bird for almost 20 years!), but today is a sad day for generations of youngsters-at-heart around the world who grew up with Big Bird and Oscar, as another original member of The Muppets passes on.
Thank you Caroll.
You taught me it was OK to be tall and different, and inquisitive. But it was also important to be kind and caring. 
And that it was OK to be grumpy, and cantankerous sometimes, too.
I hope I can live my life to the standards your feathered and furry personas set.
AF

Who Are You?

New Zealand commercial media’s fixation on “fame” and too few consumers have made it short-sighted and threatens its own future.

Radio New Zealand’s Wallace Chapman posted a picture on Twitter a few weeks ago praising NZ’s medical system after a member of his family suffered an illness.

This is something I can closely associate with having experienced and written about a similar experience a few years ago.

Mainstream media site Stuff picked up Wallace’s post and made a story out of it.

Wallace’s original Twitter post was soon removed, and fair enough.

The post’s quick removal would likely indicate Chapman didn’t know about the picture being used as a news story and he deleted it to regain some privacy.

While he is a public figure, Wallace and his family are entitled to a private life, and it’s called “Private” for a reason.

Being the caring, social, media Twitter is, Wallace’s situation received a lot of sympathy – several hundred “likes” and loads of supportive comments.

But you wouldn’t know that from the article, because the item chose to focus on how:

Celebrities > Sub-Editors / Proofreaders, apparently..

This isn’t the first time Stuff has blatantly ignored mere social media mortals like myself.

While I was annoyed at that NewShub incident, it wasn’t so much because I might have missed out on “a Warhol” (a “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” unit), rather it was the terrible “netiquette” of using something I’d written or explained without the manners to ask first, or give credit where it was due.

But it does go some way to highlighting how commercial media seem to have issues with their “Social” counterpart.

“Local news” used to be precisely what local media did – Local people and local issues.

But corporate takeovers and simulcast networking ripped the “local” out of local news.

New Zealand’s regional centres started hearing less and less about their own neighbourhood, and more about the big cities, where their papers’ and radios’ management were now based.

It would be like Auckland getting its news feed via Sydney.

But that doesn’t happen, does it?!

Many places, like regional New Zealand, just “didn’t matter” any more.

And neither, evidently, did regional New Zealanders.

Given New Zealand’s abysmal mental health and suicide statistics, it would be incredibly irresponsible of our media to reinforce a perception that half to two thirds of New Zealand (the proportion of NZ’s population that isn’t Auckland-based) “doesn’t matter”!

Along with this “Big City” focus came more attention on “Big People” – The “Noteable“, “Famous“, and “Celebrities“.

Not only could a majority of New Zealand media’s “target markets“, “demographics“,  “consumers” and “customers” (all big words those in the media like to throw around to justify ignoring local news) no longer identify with where items their media was producing were from, they now couldn’t identify with those who featured in them!

So regional New Zealanders, in their usual “Number 8 Wire Mentality” took to social media – creating their own, locally-relevant news sites on the likes of Facebook and broadcasting their local news and issues on Twitter.

I went to a talk on “Media in Hawke’s Bay” last year where the editor of NZME’s Hawke’s Bay regional paper criticised the likes of Facebook, complaining it took so much of the press’ business away from them.

Yet his paper seems perfectly happy producing stories online and in print that have been reaped from local Facebook pages and groups in the days and weeks before newspaper publication.

Such items are often then mocked and derided by commercial media stable-mates and staff for their “regional New Zealand-ness”.

But don’t get me started on that

Recently the head of one of New Zealand’s commercial news media networks had a public whinge via his own network platform at how they were struggling to survive, while semi-“State Broadcaster” TVNZ no longer had to produce a dividend to their shareholders (the NZ government).

“The small public broadcasting news operations and the commercial players can no longer provide enough news to keep our society healthy at a local and national level.” he said.

“Can no longer provide”?!

For the last 15-20yrs NZ’s commercial media networks have actively gutted regional coverage & newsrooms to increase profits for their big city headquarters & shareholders!

If half to two-thirds of New Zealand is good enough to be an income stream for these commercial media networks, then surely, MORALLY, they are good enough to deserve equal news coverage!

And you know what?

If media outlets started paying more attention to their local consumers again, then the locals might become more interested in buying their LOCAL paper/news content again, rather than turning to social media!

Businesses might even start advertising in traditional local media again!

But what would I know?

These network execs “experts” have been regurgitating the same things for years and years and expecting a different result.

And I’m just a writer from regional New Zealand.

I “don’t matter”.

But if I don’t matter, then:

 

 

The Councillors Doth Protest Too Much!

Who is writing the script for Napier City Council these days?

It seems part Shakespeare, part George Orwell, with maybe even a touch of farce, or even Franz Kafka.

There certainly appear to be a lot of actors – An Acting Mayor, Acting Deputy Mayor and an Acting CEO.

There is also a lot of strutting and fretting upon the council and electioneering stage in reaction to what could readily be described as “Big Brother”- like activity from council management.

Napier’s Acting Mayor, Faye White, last week criticised her fellow Napier City Councillors for voicing their criticism and concern to media after it was revealed council management ordered the trawling of social media profiles of councillors who were opposed to the development of the Prebensen Drive pool complex in what appears an attempt find possible breaches of the council’s contentious Elected Members’ Code of Conduct.

How did the Acting Mayor air her opinion on the matter?

By criticising those fellow councillors in the media!

Acting Deputy Mayor Claire Hague had done similarly in an earlier August Talking Point that not only echoed the Code of Conduct, but also did the exact thing she was criticising her fellow councillors for – “publicly criticising (our council staff, not to mention the mayor and) other councillors”!

“These actions go a long way to eroding the level of trust and confidence that our community has in the council” she claimed.

But then went on to say, “Real or perceived errors in our work need to be discussed and remedied in private”.

Secrecy, this perceived “gagging” Code of Conduct, and a lack of transparency and public representation in council business have been major issues in Napier politics for years!

Discussing or remedying errors involving public money, public representation, or public facilities should NEVER be done in private!

THAT is what has eroded public trust in this council – potentially beyond repair.

If councillors are basing their votes upon incorrect, or potentially biased information who is in the wrong?

Those who have mis-represented data, or those who merely rubber-stamp everything put before them without doing their own due diligence, first?

Anyone with a thread of moral fibre must put accountability to the public they serve before their own dignity in these cases.

“Sorry” isn’t the hardest word and “denial” isn’t a river in Egypt.

Interestingly Councillor Keith Price claims the EMCC prevented him from going ahead with an interview regarding pollution in Pandora Estuary recently. “The (possible) breach being described that it may give me, as an incumbent councillor, an unfair advantage over those seeking new election.”

So, as the incumbent (“currently holding office”) Acting Mayor and Acting Deputy Mayor don’t these published opinion pieces criticising those standing for office (neither White, nor Hague are seeking re-election) breach NCC’s Code of Conduct?

Or would that only apply if they had voted against the Prebensen Drive pool?

White “would rather wait until I have all the relevant facts in front of me before deciding on next steps” in relation to what must quickly be becoming a serious employment issue between the democratically elected council and their sole employee – the council’s CEO, who council management and staff report to.

But where will she get these facts?

From the same people who recommended the Napier War Memorial needed renovating, its memorial elements gutted and packed away into a shed at the council’s Austin Street depot while the Eternal Flame is sheltered by what looks like a rubbish tin lid?

From those who said Napier Skating Club did not have the “operational expertise” to be involved in running what would become “Bay Skate” despite 61 years of NSC operation?

Hopefully not from those who caused the Friends of the Onekawa Aquatic Centre to lose faith “in council’s ability to negotiate a fair settlement out of court. After weeks of poor communication, misinformation and obstruction.”

Or those who seem so determined to have a new pool complex at Prebensen Drive, despite overwhelming public support for a 50-meter pool at the current Onekawa site prior to the 2018 Long Term Plan consultation, that they will apparently search through social media for anything to try and undermine the elected representatives who oppose it?

Maybe Napier’s Acting Mayor should pay more attention to the suggestions of “outside commentators”, rather than just dismissing them.

In 2017 Mayor Bill Dalton warned that “Napier City could be the first council destroyed by social media”.

Few could have predicted how prophetic those words would turn out to be!

They weren’t related to this most recent issue, but rather in relation to public criticism of an email obtained by media in which the Mayor encouraged councillors to support CEO Wayne Jack’s reapplication for his position, despite the recruitment agency overseeing the process receiving a number of applications for the CEO role.

This call to action prompted an unsuccessful complaint to the Office of the Auditor General that it gave the impression of bias, or predetermination – something not allowed in local governance – in the council’s CEO selection process.

Jack was reappointed CEO by the council soon after.

At that time, in her role as Deputy Mayor, Faye White spoke of her sadness that “the mayor can’t send a confidential email to his councillors” without it being leaked, saying “When the trust goes … it’s never quite the same.”

Indeed.

Napier deserves better!

 

*A copy of this post appeared as a “Talking Point” in Hawke’s Bay Today on Thursday 5 September 2019*

A Visitor From Hawke’s Bay: Part Two

“A Visitor From Hawke’s Bay”

It used to be a term of snide derision.

The moniker for any unidentified person in the society photo section of Auckland’s Metro magazine in the 80s.

Whether they had their back turned, or were wearing a lampshade, they were “A Visitor From Hawke’s Bay”

Some in our region may have even aspired to it, but not many.

Certainly not me.

Yet, over recent months I have been an actual “Visitor from Hawke’s Bay” to Auckland several times, on account of surgery I needed to undergo that could only be done in the city.

Rather than the local tourism board paying for my visit and lavishing me with luxury accomodation and gourmet food as Hawke’s Bay’s agencies do to visiting Auckland media, the Ministry of Health paid for my return travel and equal nights’ accomodation in both motel and hospital beds, and I had to hunt and gather my own food, except when my kind social media friends shouted me a coffee or lunch. (Disclosure statement ends.)

Planes, Trains, Ferries and Lime Scooters

A little over a month after my last trip to Auckland I am waiting at Hawke’s Bay Airport for the flight which will take me up for my operation in two days time to arrive. Strong cross-winds have seen the in-bound flight delayed and diverted to Palmerston North, with the plane eventually arriving in Napier two hours late.

It could be worse. Those on the flight from Auckland all had to disembark in Palmerston North and are being bussed up to Hawke’s Bay.

There’s always someone out there worse off than you are.

The flight to Auckland is smooth and far quicker than my previous commute.

I spend most of the trip with my head plastered to the window. While I’m almost 42, the “magic” of flight still fascinates me and I eagerly soak in the airborne views of our magnificent country – Forestry operations in the central North Island, glistening lakes and rivers and even the Firth of Thames and Coromandel Peninsula are all things I get to see far too infrequently.

I am due to be admitted to hospital for two nights, one either side of my operation, but before that I have a night in a motel equidistant between downtown Newmarket and Auckland’s Central Hospital.

As I ride there on an airport shuttle I become very aware of just how many cars there are in Auckland.

They are EVERYWHERE!

You get an idea of just how bad vehicle congestion could get in the city when you see the sheer volume of cars lining residential streets. They almost out-number fallen leaves on the more arbourous thoroughfares.

It’s strikingly evident that when/if the Zombie Apocalypse strikes it would be only the cockroaches and cars that remain in Auckland.

My accomodation is on the lower northern slopes of Mount Eden – a Maunga I had intended to summit on my last trip, before car trouble scuttled the attempt.

A look at the nearby clouds and realisation that I forgot my jacket scupper any thoughts of doing it on this occasion either, so I head in towards Newmarket as raindrops begin to fall.

After a couple laps of Broadway I have run out of things to see or do and with no supermarket nearby I hop on a train and head into the CBD.

I do some browsing and pick up a few bargains and some dinner along High Street and its lanes, including another trip to Krispy Kreme (for dessert), before searching out a supermarket.

My search takes me through the recently developed area around Britomart, which I have to say is quite stunning! Old and new seamlessly meld together for offices, restaurants and shops.

I wander back along the waterfront and catch a train back to Newmarket, walking back to my hotel past a wide range of asian eateries.

While waiting for a crossing light I absently look in the window of one restaurant and watch a young pakeha woman teaching her children how to use chopsticks.

Fusion cuisine AND fusion people!

I also feel a little homesick for a moment.

The next morning I am up and out early to see a man about a Travelator.

Yet another train ride reveals some odd train etiquette – Despite the train being quite full of early morning commuters, no one ever talks to, or looks directly anyone else! This is quite a challenge for someone like me who is usually quite chatty and inquisitive, but apparently its “a thing” all over the train-commuting world.

I get off the train at Britomart, cross the road and hop on a ferry to Devonport, to meet David Slack – another long-time (well, by Twitter standards) friend, who takes me for a tour around his neighbourhood and up his maunga – Mount Victoria – something I have been wanting to do again since I climbed it early one morning while on a course in Auckland a decade and a half ago.

A Man About a Travelator and a Visitor From Hawke’s Bay

David is marvelous company. We have coffee and chat at a village cafe after exploring Devonport and viewing its surrounds, then I must start heading towards the hospital.

The ferry ride to Devonport and back is great fun too – After my tachycardia episode I have taken greater pleasure in the little things like viewing things from different perspectives – Whether it be from the air or the sea they are fun experiences.

From the ferry building I slowly make my way up Queen Street, aiming to be at the hospital at my check in time of 2pm.

A Hospitable Host and a Visitor From Hawke’s Bay

I stop here and there to get gifts for my wife and daughter, before meeting another Twitter friend, Mark Graham, who has kindly offered to buy me lunch at “The Kimchi Project” – an smart, narrow “Asian Fusion” restaurant on Lorne Street with a great big garden bar out the back.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have been very fortunate to meet some great people on social media. When used correctly and kindly, as it should be, it really is a SOCIAL media!

I thank Mark and make my way to the hospital after eventually realising the “north and south” of my Google map does not necessarily equate to what passes as the M.C. Escher-esque reality of Auckland geography.

I cross Grafton Bridge on foot and make it to my ward for admission right on time.

My visits to Auckland have coincided with the boom of Lime E Scooters in the city. It is as impossible to miss coverage of the new mobility devices as it is to miss the scooters themselves.

You regularly see people riding past on them, but even more often see clusters of them on footpaths, awaiting their next hire.

I would have been more likely to give one a try were it not for the number of reported incidents and injuries involving them.

I’m already going to hospital for an operation. I don’t fancy a side-trip to the Emergency Department!

I stick to walking.

After some preliminary admission tests I am given licence to wander off until tea time, so, seeing the Auckland Domain and the War Memorial Museum beside the hospital I decide to go for a stroll through there.

On my stroll I find myself overcome with emotion.

When I was young I had an unusually large head for a child and we were sent up to Auckland Hospital for an MRI scan (apparently my head knew I would grow to be 6’8″ before the rest of me did and was merely getting the jump on things).

I clearly remember playing with one of those cheap 80s pull-cord plastic helicopters on a hill in The Domain with Mum and Dad (it must have been in between a scan and seeing the doctor about the results).

As I crest one of The Domain’s hills (likely the very one we flew the pull-cord helicopter on) I have a quiet moment & cry thinking of Mum and Dad, who are no longer with me.

While recovering from my operation the next day I have time to reflect on my recent experiences of Auckland as A Visitor from Hawke’s Bay.

Welcome Home

Auckland is a marvelously, multicultural city!

Middle eastern and African teenagers have served me American fast food. I ate at a Korean restaurant, was operated on by a Indian surgeon and a Sri Lankan anaesthesiologist, both of whom had “Oxbridge” accents, and the night after my operation I fell asleep listening to a sweet old lady praying in Tongan.

A week or so after my operation some perennially privileged, pathetic pakeha politician trys to make some sort of inference in mainstream media about who are “real New Zealanders” and who aren’t.

This is our country and these are all our people. We are all kind, caring, compassionate kiwis!

The “JAFFA” is Dead

With more modern, inclusive times upon us, it’s reasonable to say the term “JAF(F)A”, an acronym for “Just Another F***ing Aucklander”, is dead.

To be fair, it was usually used as a parochial term for the “small fish, big pond” sort of person who moved from Auckland to regional New Zealand to try and assert the authority they felt they lacked in the big city upon provincial plebs. So maybe not as applicable to Aucklanders on their home turf.

It is (or was) the antithesis of “A Visitor From Hawke’s Bay”.

Everyone I encountered in Auckland was polite, kind and considerate, no matter their race, sex, or National Provincial Championship rugby affiliation. I would gladly see the back of its use, and that of similar terms.

 

I’ll see You Again, When the Stars Fall From the Sky..

A few weeks later I am back at Greenlane for a post-op check-up.

Flown there and back in a day it is probably the closest I have gotten to being a jet-setting-corporate-business-commuter-type.

With a couple hours to spare either side of my appointment between arrival and departure I get to do some more exploring.

Still unable to get up Mount Eden (next time!) through a lack of logistics (maybe those Lime Scotters aren’t such a bad idea after all..) I take a stroll through Cornwall Park and mount Maungakiekie, One Tree Hill.

The view is spectacular – Literally a 360 degree view of Auckland!

 

 

It also brings into stark relief another issue Auckland has – Space and housing.

 

There is only so much land to occupy on the Auckland isthmus and from my viewing spot it looks pretty much all occupied.

While many suburban Aucklanders seem quite averse to multi-story townhouses and appartments in their leafy streets, it would appear, as 80s band Yazz sang, that “The Only Way is Up!” to ease this problem.

This could have been solved earlier, of course, had previous governments and corporate Auckland just spread some economic love and shifted more business to regions like Hawke’s Bay!

I head back to Napier a content Visitor From Hawke’s Bay.

Auckland is a neat city with lots of diversity, but also a few issues.

As with most problems, though, I’m sure those issues could be resolved with help from, or by listening to others like regional New Zealand.

As I board my flight home I notice something that Paul Brislen picks up on via Twitter a few weeks later.

While the snide side of “A Visitor From Hawke’s Bay”, just like “JAFFA”, is well past its used by date, there is something a large number of those bound for Napier have in common – We have all been “A Visitor to (Auckland Domestic Airport’s) Krispy Kreme“.

Perhaps there’s an opportunity for an alternative nickname (or, at least a new regional franchise) there!