12 Days of Hawke’s Bay Takeaways!

As you know, each year the Frame family have a tradition of making a 12 day menu plan mirroring the traditional and Kiwi 12 days of Christmas, but with added deliciousness!

I have joked that the traditional version contains enough birdlife (partridges, turtle doves, french hens, calling birds..) that it could almost warrant a “Twelve Days of KFC”.

That gave me an idea:

Hawke’s Bay is blessed with some of the finest food producers and hospitality venues in New Zealand. The regularity with which we win big national and international awards give a general idea of just how great they are.

In recent years the number and range of these businesses has exploded. Gone are the days of Fish & Chips being the sole variety of takeaways available in the region – A multicultural smorgasbord is now available in your city, your suburb, or just at the tips of your fingers care of apps and smart devices ordering online.

So I thought, “Hey, why not do a “12 Days of HB Takeaways” and try and see just how much of a range of pre-prepared food can be sourced in the region?!”.

Now, I am based in Napier, as my brand suggests, so the majority of these will likely be Napier-based, simply because these are the takeaways I am most familiar with / have already brought from.

This isn’t sponsored content.

None of the companies listed have paid or given me free food to do this – It’s just something that I thought would be a cool idea and I thought they would be the most appropriate fit for their day / theme.

I believe in local Hawke’s Bay businesses and love seeing them succeed!

While it was intended to be a “12 Days of Christmas” list (did you know the 12 Days traditionally starts on Christmas Day, and isn’t actually a countdown to Christmas?) our regular annual “12 Days” list had a few hiccups and ran late, and with public holidays and different opening hours post-Christmas many of the places on my list weren’t open on some of the 12 Days after, so while I’m keeping the Christmas listing format, It’s essentially a 12 Days of Hawke’s Bay HOLIDAY Takeaways.

I have mixed up the Traditional and Kiwi 12 days of Christmas themes to give some variety, make it a bit easier, and diverse. There’s a good chance I may expand the list as other options arise, so come back and check it again at some later time.

So let’s take it away, with 12 Days of Hawke’s Bay Takeaways:

A Partridge in a Pear Tree / A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree = Hapi

In our usual “12 Days” menus day one almost always involves some for of vegetation or foliage – just like the Pear, or Ponga Tree.

Hapī Clean Kai Co-op is Napier’s award winning, premiere venue when it comes to healthy and vegetarian food.

Recently relocated from their original takeaway bar site down the road to Chantal’s shop on Hastings Street in Napier Hapī has gone from strength to strength and continues to gain in popularity with locals and visitors alike.

With healthy juices, vegetarian and vegan sandwiches and dishes, as well as sweet slices and, of course, coffee Hapī has become a go-to with those who want local “green” cuisine.

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Two Turtle Doves / Two Kumera = Mamacita

A visit to Mamacita, located on Havelock Road in Havelock North and Tennyson Street, Napier on the second day of the week will be auspicious, as it’s Taco Tuesday (*Available for Dine-In Only)!

Coming in hard and soft shell forms (like turtles) tacos are just one of the many options available from these favorite Hawke’s Bay’s Mexican restaurants.

Nachos, Quesadillas (“Quesadilla Thursday” is also available only for Dine-in), vegetarian and carnivore options with Ceviche, Camarones and Calamares seafood dishes available on their “Small Bites” menu.

Three French Hens / Three Flax Kete = Rock My Belly

“Chicken and Waffles” was something I had heard of repeatedly (mainly in American movies), but never tried. That was until we went to Rock My Belly, upstairs on the northern side of upper Emerson Street, Napier.

We are able to tick both theme boxes here with the French Hens AND the latticed Kete basket look of the waffles!

Southern Fried Chicken Waffles are a hit with Miss in Frame and I love the Chicken Curry Waffles.

The waffles themselves aren’t as sweet as regular dessert waffles, the thought of which was initially a bit of a put-off, making a nice flavor and texture mix overall.

Rock My Belly’s focus on great “comfort food” like this has proved very popular in the short time they have been open.

The chef’s name is Andrew, too, so you know it must be good! 😉

Four Calling Birds / Four Huhu grubs = Tu Meke Don

Again with the poultry!

Tu Meke Don, in Napier’s Ocean Boulevard (between upper Emerson and Dickens Streets) is run by Tim, Junko and their son Tane. It has been our go-to for Sushi for a number of years and a favorite for inner city workers and shoppers.

Their Karage Chicken in sushi, donburi, curries and just straight out fried is a personal favorite.

Five Gold Rings / Five Big Fat Pigs = Donut Robot

If five gold rings is what you’re after you can’t go past the delicious, crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, chocolate or berry-iced, custard filled, or just cinamon sugar dusted American-style donuts made fresh by Steve in his little “Toy Caravan”!

Donut Robot has been regularly stationed in the car park of St Paul’s Church on the corner of Tennyson and Dalton Streets, Napier for a number of years and has garnered quite a cult status and large fan base. Not only a master donut slinger, Steve is also good for a chat about the day’s local and inter/national events.

The pic above is actually of some Gua Bao I tried on a visit to Auckland a few years ago, but I intend to go to Funbuns VERY soon!

Six Geese a-Laying / Six Poi a-Twirling = Funbuns Pork Buns

A few years ago in our family 12 Days of Christmas Deliciousness we featured Tu Meke Don’s Rice Balls as Poi a-Twirling, on a similar Asian food theme here I’m nominating Gua Bao (Steamed Buns) from Funbuns to represent the Poi on this list.

Funbuns, on the corner of Heretaunga Street East and Warren Street Hastings, is a place I have yet to get to, but really want to, as I have heard lots of great stuff about!

“Can recommend pretty much everything on the menu (cocktails are frisky-fresh too). Barman is a multi award winner at HB Hospo awards. Their 12hr beef shin sharing plate & Chinese fried chicken with black tea mayo are yum!” Yvonne Lorkin c/o Twitter

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Seven Swans / Eels a-Swimming = Thai Lotus

Thai Lotus can be found right in the centre of the Taradale Shopping Centre. The building used to house the Taradale Library many years ago. Now it is home to delicious Thai cuisine!

With a wide range of stir fries, curries, satay, soups and more you’re sure to find the perfect dish – it might even be eel-like noodles swimming in a delicious curry or cashew sauce!

No photo description available.

Eight maids a-Milking / Eight Plants of Puha = Lick This

One of the best ways to cool down on a hot Hawke’s Bay day is with something Maids a-Milking can directly contribute to: Ice cream!

Lick This, in the old Marineland grandstand building makes their own ice cream on site in a massive, regularly changing range of flavors. From standards like Chocolate and Hokey Pokey, to seasonal and special flavors like Christmas Cake, Unicorn and Bacon, Banana and Maple.

They also sell gelato and, local legends, Rush Munro ice cream.

Nine Ladies Dancing / Nine Sacks of Pipis = Six Sisters

There aren’t quite nine of them, but they are all girls – Six Sisters Coffee House is in one Napier’s most iconic non-Art Deco buildings on Marine Parade, just towards the hill from Lick This.

The story goes Napier’s Harbor Master had six daughters, whom he had houses built next to each other for between Albion and Vautier Steets. These half dozen, two storey weather board buildings have become known as “The Six Sisters” and Napier’s best Bacon, Egg and Pesto Bagels (in my humble opinion) can be found at the sister second from the left when looking at the houses from the sea side.

Lucy and her team of lovely ladies (there’s about six of them all up, but they’re not sisters) serve bagels, Napier’s best coffee (again IMHO), scones, slices, biscuits, and smoothies looking out across Marine Parade to the stunning vista of Hawke Bay!

Ten Lords a-Leaping / Ten Juicy Fish Heads = Fish & Chips

It wouldn’t be a list of Kiwi takeaways without featuring Fish and Chips! (I prefer fish fillets to fish heads, personally, but won’t judge).

Napier is certainly not bereft of choice on this front, as I can think of at least three options within walking distance of my house alone!

Thank God its Fryday is my local in Marewa, but others like The Pirimai Chippy, Frying Dutchman and Charles Street Takeaway all have loyal followings.

Eleven Pipers Piping / Eleven Haka Lessons = Brave Brewing

It’s not Highland bagpipes and single malt whisky, but Brave’ Brewing’s iconic trumpet does involve pipe work!

Fast becoming one of Hawke’s Bay’s preferred craft breweries, Brave Brewing opened their new tap room and beer bar in the former Herald Tribune newspaper precinct site on Queen Street East, Hastings in 2020, after the nationwide Covid lockdown to promote and compliment their onsite brewing operation.

During 2020 and 2021’s Level 4 lockdowns Brave also took the initiative of delivering their beer direct to their customers around Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand (as you can see in the pic above). Cheers for that!


Twelve Drummers Drumming / Twelve Piupius Swinging = Vinci’s Pizza

One of Napier’s newer, and certainly most popular takeaway joints is Vinci’s Pizza at the cathedral / hill end of Hastings Street along from Hapi and Chantal.

What has made it so popular is that you can buy a single hot slice of their fantastic pizzas he perfect size for a snack or lunch, or buy a whole pizza which is about the size of a large snare drum! You can even mix it up and get a whole pizza’s worth of individual slices

Each pizza is hand-made by Vincent and his team 9nsite and, as with the personal touch of the other hospitality providers on this list, the range regularly changes with seasonal specialty pizzas along with the traditional stylea of Margherita and Quatro Fromagio.

Just before Santa went on his rounds last week I bought a slice of Christmas Glazed Ham pizza -It was fantastic!

So there you go – just a slice of the potential ideas to take away from 12 Days of Hawke’s Bay Takeaways – enjoy!

Perhaps it could be a New Year resolution to try thelist in the early days of 2022?!

If there are any local takeaways I have egregiously forgotten that fit into the 12 Days categories, please let me know and I can add them in.

Happy New Year!

AF

12 Days of Christmas Deliciousness 2021

This is, from memory, the thirteenth time Mrs in Frame has composed a special menu for the “12 Days of Christmas” in a countdown to the big day itself.

Each year we alternate between the traditional (Partridge in a Pear Tree) and New Zealand (“Pukeko in a Ponga Tree”) versions of the Christmas carol.

This year it was the turn of the traditional “Partridge” version.

Alan Partridge Shrug GIFs | Tenor

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 or some kind of bird reference to some degree.

Due to the rather prolific recurrence of birds in the traditional carol (Partridges, Turtle Doves, French Hens, Swans, Geese..), there may also be some sort of alliteration or similar tie-in, otherwise we might as well have the “Twelve Days of KFC”….

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 have some fun as I reveal what my true love made for me over the Twelve Days of Christmas Deliciousness for 2021:

Day 1 – A Partridge in a Pear Tree: Part-ridged Pear Tart

Pretty straight forward – as stated above we usually kick off with something involving pears, this pear tart is “part-ridged” – see what we did there?

Day 2 – Two Turtle Doves: Hard shell Tacos / Nachos

Tacos come in hard and soft-shells – just like turtles!

Day 3 – Three French Hens: Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a well known French dish. My wife has been vegetarian/pescatarian for a number of years now, so the hen aspect was off the menu, until…

Day 4 – Four Calling Birds: Karage Chicken Sushi from Tu Meke Don

Tim, Junko and Tane have been our go-to for Sushi for a number of years. and their karage chicken in sushi, donburi and just straight out fried is a favorite. (While I and Miss in Frame had the chicken, Mrs in Frame had Salmon.)

Day 5 – Five Gold Rings: 5 Golden Pasties

Pretty straight forward again – Golden rings of pastry filled with: Roast Carrot & Carrot Pesto, Mushroom & Broccoli, Asparagus & Onion, Roast Capsicum Dip & Feta, and Chocolate Ganache Tarts!

Day 6 – Six Geese a-Laying: Home-made Vanilla Ice Cream

I had to ask how she figured this one, too, but it’s because the vanilla pods’ contents give the ice cream a speckled appearance like the geese at our local park (she obviously spends more time there than I do).

Day 7 – Seven Swans Swimming: Squid Ink Pasta with Garlic and Lemon

Alliteration (using a number of words starting with the same letters / sounds / syllables) is a common trick we use when doing out 12 Days of Christmas. #FunFact: When the alliteration uses “S” sounds it’s called “sibilance” like in “Seven Swans Swimming”. The only swans I am aware of locally are the Black Swans down at the park and they are outright psychotic, so we’re not going anywhere near them. This Squid Ink Pasta is black, like the swans, starts with an “S”, and is far less homicidal.

Day 8 – Eight Maids a-Milking: Mac & Cheese

The predominant percentage of ingredients in Macaroni and Cheese are produced from what the titular maids have been extracting – Milk! (bonus points for it being such a glorious staple comfort food).

Day 9 – Nine Ladies Dancing: Chickpea Carrot Sauté with Homemade Focaccia Bread

While I initially thought the reasoning here was that the Chickpeas dance around the pan as they are sautéed, like the Ladies (“Chicks”), it was actually because most of the ingredients (sans Chickpeas) came from our garden and Mrs in Frame tells me her garden makes her happy enough to dance.

This was also the first time Mrs in Frame made Focaccia Bread by hand – and absolutely nailed it!

Day 10 – Ten Lords a-Leaping: Big English Breakfast for Dinner

Lords” is a word we generally associate with England (not to be confused with “Lord’s” – the home of cricket). And this big English Breakfast of sausages, beans, eggs, etc. is fit for a, well.. y’know…

Day 11 – Eleven Pipers Piping: Shortbread

To keep in theme with Scottish pipers piping I suggested a bottle of good single malt whisky. But apparently that’s “irresponsible parenting”, so shortbread – another Scottish staple it was.

In related Scottish news – Miss in Frame took up Highland dancing this year and in her first competitive dance WON FIRST PLACE! All the more reason for a celebratory bottle, but I digress… #ProudDadMoment

Day 12 – Twelve Drummers Drumming: Pumpkin Cake

Ending on another sweet note we aligned pumpkins with their drum-like appearance to create Pumpkin Cake with cream cheese icing. Pumpkins and their gourd relatives have been used as many things aside from food for centuries, including basic drums for Twelve Drummers!

So there you go – another Twelve Days of Christmas Deliciousness completed for another year. Sorry for the delay I usually try and get these out on Christmas Eve, but 2021 has been, well, 2021.

All the very best to you and your family for 2022 – May it be more fun and fortuitous than this year, and I’ll catch you in my next post – here’s a hint – the “12 Days of Takeaways” gave me an idea!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

AF

Hello My Name is Human

“What is wrong with me”?

It’s a question we have all asked ourselves from time to time.

“Did I say that out loud, or just think it?” “Did I say that in a normal speaking voice, or yell it and everyone is just being polite?”

Such little queries are often a constant companion. Some people ignore them, while for others these insecurities can consume them.

For the most part I am happy with who and what I am, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the occasional self-audit, or review / revision.

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Fortunate Son

My Mum and Dad had me quite late in life – Dad was 42, Mum was 37.

Spinster” was what was written in the “occupation” section of Mum’s section of their marriage certificate the year before I was born.

“Spinster”?!

Try calling a 30-something woman that today and see how many stitches you end up with!

Dowager Countess” must have already been taken in 1976.

This was the late 70s and a lot of the old attitudes and medical practices were still forefront. With my mother being an “older woman” there was a heightened chance I would be born with some form of disability, like Down Syndrome. Except they didn’t use that correct, technical name back then, they used the term “Mongol”.

I apologize for using that expression – I despise it, but I only used it to illustrate that it was something I was reminded of rather frequently for some odd reason. “You could have been a Mongol Child”.

My mother made a friend in the maternity home who had twins the day after I was born. One of those twins happened to be born with Downs Syndrome (and would later attend the Special Education unit at the same high school I went to), so maybe that was just some sort of constant reminder, or little voice of “what could have been” in my Mum’s head.

There were some worried moments when, as a child, I appeared to have a larger than normal head that required a trip or two up to Auckland Hospital for scans. But, as it turned out, it was just aware of how big I would be later in life and was getting a head start (ba-doom-tish!) on proceedings.

I grew up what generally qualifies as “normally” for an only child in the 80s – a time I remember very fondly, if not being quite lonely.

As I’ve written before television and my toys were my main friends early in life.

Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch influenced the levels of light and darkness in my world outlooks and the level and range of NZ-made television in the 80s inspired me to want to do it myself one day. It declared “We are New Zealand! We are stunning and capable of awesome things!”

School brought new challenges, but also new outlets.

As an only child you can become quite independent (you generally have to be) and very creative thanks to using your imagination to keep yourself busy or entertained most of the time.

It also meant I was a sponge for knowledge – I read and watched and listened to anything I could to keep myself amused, informed, or busy. I was a bit of a swot. It would pay off later in life when it came to quizzes, though.

My creativity took the form of writing (does it show?) and performance (mainly pretending to be presenting my own TV shows), things I excelled at until I discovered girls and those little queries started to speak up, making me think there might be something “wrong” with me.

Achey, Breaky Heart

I was a hopeless romantic when I was younger.

Well, “useless” would be a more accurate description.

I wouldn’t so much as hold a girl’s hand (other than when they had to in “social dancing” sessions of PE in high school..) until I was 21 and it was not for lack of trying!.

I shed numerous tears wondering why I was “unlovable” from Tamatea Primary School, right through to Tamatea High where I was sweet on several girls who had no interest whatsoever in this rather odd, tall, gangly young fellow.

Always the tallest kid in class, I was also always at the back, in the middle for school photos.

Perhaps the loneliness of only child-ness had just had enough, or maybe all the reading, watching and imagining had set too high a bar?

I’d read many books and watched many shows and movies about “true love” and “star-crossed lovers”.

I adored the romanticism of movies like “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, but was also somehow convinced I would be the one who “loved and lost” like Tom Hank’s character’s back story in “Sleepless in Seattle”.

John Hannah’s recital of W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” in Four Weddings was just so accurate and so heartbreaking. I included it as a reading at my Dad’s funeral.

I “tried too hard”, apparently, or “didn’t try hard enough”, or maybe it was just different mindsets? With having older parents and values perhaps things just wouldn’t align.

I’ve used the expression that “I think I was 35 for about 25 years” because it wasn’t until that age, by which time I was married and a new father that women seemed interested in me at all.

By then it was too late, of course, because my heart belonged to one lady and my soul to another tiny, new lady.

It just so happened that my engagement ring was The One Ring from the Lord of The Rings movie trilogy, but rather than putting it on making the wearer invisible, mine made me finally visible to the female populace.

Foreskin’s Lament 

“Unique” is probably the best word to describe me throughout my schooling.

“Tall” was another.

“Awkward” and “Dorky” would rate up there too. Basically any John Hughes era movie stereotype that wasn’t “Preppy”, or “Jock”.

My 90s New Zealand high school experience was nothing like those movie stereotypes, thankfully.

I was discussing the experience with a fellow old classmate a few months ago and we decided than, while there were still the general “Sporty” kids, the “Munters” and “Cool / 90210” kids at Tamatea High School from 1991-1995, there was nowhere near the level of extremity or tribalism you stereo-typically see in most (American) media of the time.

There was no hatred of different types. We all, by and large, got on and accepted each other, because these were still the same people you had spent the last 5-12 years going through school with.

I don’t think I ever fitted into any of the specific stereotypes, though, just floated around the periphery, occasionally temporarily osmosing into one cell or the other.

And I liked that uniqueness.

Maybe it was the only child thing – independence, or one’s self was the only thing I could totally rely on.

But it led to a moral conundrum: What am I?

Who am I?

What sort of person do I want to be?

I wanted to be my Dad. He was (and still is, even though he’s gone) my hero.

I was never the outdoorsy, or jack-of-all-trades type of person he was, but his moral compass always pointed true north and that’s what I aspired to.

In fifth or sixth form we did a school play (see, STILL love performing!) called “Masquerade” –  A big, song, drama and dance production about the masks we put on in life (just add teenage angst, stand back, cover your ears and brace for the shock wave).

One of the older students (It must have been 5th form, because I’m sure he was a couple years older than me) named Christopher Dann did a rendition of “Foreskin’s Lament” that was just captivating.

Chris was one of the students (I think he was Dux of his year) who was bound for great, oratory things – Either a lawyer, or investigative journalist / breakfast television host.

I still hear him delivering those last lines:

“What are ya?

What are ya?

WHAT ARE YA?!

<lights cut to black>”

I find myself asking myself that same question time and time again.

A self-audit.

So.

“What are ya?!”

What Am I?

Tall. There is certainly no denying that. 6’8″, or 2.04 meters in metric terms.

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This can make some things difficult: Legroom in cars and planes, long pants and big shoes can be difficult to come by.

While jeans that only come part way down your shins may be all the style at the moment they were the ultimate clothing faux pas when my growth spurts kicked into hyperdrive in the 80s and 90s.

Most people think doorways are my natural enemy and whacking my forehead on lower lintels is a concern. Not so!

As you get taller you learn to go through doors on the down-step, so if you do hit your head, it’s right on the crown and snaps the head backwards with a bright flash of stars.

Shorter people will never know the struggle.

My height also means being an asshole is never really an option. (not that it was ever in my disposition to begin with) – it’s not like I can easily hide away.

I prefer to be a BFG – a Big, Friendly Giant!

I smile at people in the street, help old ladies get stuff off the top shelves at the supermarket, that sort of thing.

“It’s better to be “always remembered” than “never forgotten”.”

Dad. The only thing I wanted to be in life was a good a father and husband as my Dad was. He was kind and caring. He never swore at, or abused me, even when he was angry with me. He was calm, measured and understanding.

We struggled to become parents, having to go through IVF and certain things, like having a “Testicular Biopsy”, were far from pleasant, but we got there in the end, and my daughter is the most wonderful girl and it constantly amazes me that she shares half my genes.

Maybe it’s the idol-status I have for my Dad, but it does lead to a level of insecurity that I’m not doing a good enough job.

Losing my Dad soon after our daughter was born was a massive hit for me. He was my biggest, most constant supporter. When I lost him I lost a lot of my confidence, self belief and motivation.

I’ve had the positivity of our wonderful growing daughter to spur me on and focus upon, but I lost my safety net, my support network. That has been very hard.

I’ve made sacrifices for my daughter and family (more on that later, but that’s just what a dad does, right?

I think my daughter gets a bit sick of me asking her if I do a good job, but the other day she said I was “the best Dad” when we were playing (no bribe or purchases required) so I guess I must be doing something right.

I can’t go past a good #DadJoke, either!

O

Loyal and Dedicated. I look after my family, friends and those who do the same for me. I love my hometown and region – it’s somewhere I’ve lived all my life, I love to see it thrive and succeed and want as many people as possible to know about it, so they can share the experience too. I do everything to the highest standard I can and see tasks through to completion.

While my cricket club recognized that this year, it’s been sadly lacking for a long time in other places.

Fair. I’ve always had a strong sense of right and wrong, fair and unjust and always railed against things I thought weren’t right. It has been a backbone of much of my writing and advocacy. I also believe everyone’s story deserves telling, not just a select few.

Creative. Writing, pictures, videos, models, dioramas, and occasionally woodwork are all things I enjoy. To make, or recreate something is really fun and something I love doing.

A Would-be Hawke’s Bay Media Magnate. I love writing. I love telling my own, others’ and Hawke’s Bay’s stories, be in in a blog, a video, or radio/audio format.

I also have the voice (and face) for radio.

So What’s Wrong With Me?

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”

Despite all those positives why can’t I seem to be happy, or feel fulfilled recently?

I haven’t had the easiest decade:

IVF, the birth of our daughter, the death of my Dad, buying our own house, a Global Financial Crisis, getting Mum into a care home, a month in hospital with a peculiar heart issue, Mum passing away, a world-wide pandemic, a growing child… Hardly a flat, calm sea!

Though, as someone pointed out to me years ago, life is like a heartbeat monitor – it’s supposed to have ups and downs. If it’s flat, you’re dead!

Gallows humor, certainly, but clinically correct.

I like writing and promoting my region and, by general consensus I am reasonably good at it.

My writing has achieved me some minor local renown over recent years, though as a PR friend told me a couple years ago “You picked the worst time to be good at it” given how many in NZ’s commercial news networks have preferred to gut local newsrooms and copy and paste irrelevant reckons from Auckland talkback radio hosts into regional mastheads as rage-click inducing “editorials”.

“Premium” is not the word for the constant enabling, monetization and multi-platforming of terrible, regionally irrelevant takes like these.

Despite my best efforts over the years, I have yet to gain promotional employment here in Hawke’s Bay, and whether it’s just the pandemic, or current direction of content, but I’ve only been commissioned for one piece of local writing this year, not that I’ve had a whole lot of spare time, or motivation to write.

I’m taking what chance I have now to get some thoughts on the page, as I’m having a week off before the run into Christmas and am working the few days between then and the New Year holidays.

My broadcasting aspirations were dashed early last year with the loss of local cricket commentary opportunities and yet more centralized personnel resourcing, with the same people who do the rugby, Olympics, America’s Cup, and all the other events out of Auckland given yet more opportunities to the detriment of everyone everywhere else.

What little exposure I had been very grateful to receive on Radio New Zealand’s The Panel also quietly ceased last year.

As far as I’m aware I never said or did anything wrong on-air, or off air.

It’s not like I used the platform to tout Covid conspiracy, or was eventually let go for leaking private patient details like one of their far more regular guests who was still on multiple times after I was given the heave-ho after only a few appearances.

I was told my removal from the Panelist lineup was because the broadcasting equipment from the Napier studio was redeployed so the network’s presenters could work from home during the Covid lockdown in 2020 (and, no doubt, further extended lockdowns throughout 2021 in Auckland where many of them are now based). Water damage and repairs from Napier’s flood in November 2020 also temporarily put their office out of action not long after.

However that didn’t stop other Panelists from being on the show via phone, Skype, or other means.

While I am fully aware Hawke’s Bay has some of the best internet coverage in New Zealand, it must have escaped their attention, until they had Janet Wilson beaming in across the broadband from Haumoana on the shores of Hawke Bay a few weeks ago.

Man, they must feel so silly…

But it’s not just my creative aspirations, or dreams of local media stardom failing me this year.

After over 17 years of doing my day job, despite requests for advancement or training across multiple bosses going unheeded, I finally had the chance to apply for the position myself.

I was short-listed with the new office graduate, who has been with us for about a yearm for an interview.

Management chose the graduate, because they have a relevant university qualification – Something I have never been given the opportunity to do through work, nor the time with odd and early hours of employment, or money with a family and mortgage to do of my own accord outside of work.

All my writing and media-ing is something I have been able to do after-hours of my day job due to its odd and often early hours.

I call it “Breakfast Radio / TV hours, but without the fame or fortune.”

It has provided a constant, secure income (throughout very insecure times) that has enabled me to support my family, buy a house, pay a mortgage and raise our daughter.

But now that she is getting older and more independent I feel like I can finally do something for myself.

The inability to realise my dreams, or even gain advancement where I have dedicated myself for years has made me feel like a failure, or that I’m being selfish or don’t deserve to do what I want to do.

It’s like the rejections and disappointments of my volunteering days coming back again, and they were devastating enough the first time.

I really am done with being constantly overlooked and undermined.

So what IS wrong with me?

It’s not a lack of talent, or skill, dedication, or work ethic.

I’m tired and sad, but I am doing what I can.

I’m only human.

He’s Making a List…

Years of typing, texting & tweeting eviscerated what was already terrible handwriting…

I’ve never been one for self-help books or schemes.

My chakras are constantly out of alignment, and I’m more into Nasi Goreng than Feng Shui.

Though there is one thing I picked up from one of these sorts of books years ago that I have stuck with:

Each year one of the first things I write in my diary is a list of ten goals I want to achieve that year and ten “materialistic” things I want to do or get.

My goals for this year, 2021, can be seen above.

It’s a good little guide, or set of targets, for the year to come.

“Win Lotto” is never one of those things.

Until this year “Get a new job” was usually at the top, or near the top, of the list. This year I left it off out of sheer frustration. That turned out to be a portent of things to come.

“Effect positive change for Napier / Hawke’s Bay” has been another consistent goal that I like to think I have achieved throughout the years through my writing and social media advocacy.

But this year I feel I failed in that goal, as I got little chance to write or be published and certainly no chance of being broadcast other than social media.

When I HAVE had the time to write my motivation and self belief has been so eroded by external forces over the last 18 months that I could rarely be bothered.

I was, however, able to spend more quality time with my daughter, and that is certainly a great goal to have.

I was also recognised / rewarded for doing something I enjoy earlier this year when I was made a Life Member of NOBMCC – something I have loved doing for 15 years.

Given Covid restrictions “Travel Somewhere Nice” was something remarkable to achieve, especially as one of the places I traveled was Auckland – managing to squeeze in a visit between different stages of lockdown.

I probably would have enjoyed the overnight stay in Taupo the following Saturday more if I wasn’t still exhausted from the 10-ish hour return drive through the early morning darkness on the way to and from NZ’s biggest city..

I was also fortunate to meet more of my online friends in person, several of whom took the inability to travel overseas as an opportunity to see more of New Zealand, including my home town and region!

While I value the bigger goals more, the materialistic goals are also enjoyable – I’ve been fortunate enough to afford some luxuries this year – and helping our regional economy by buying from local businesses is a great way of helping everyone thrive.

The pile of books I have bought from Hawke’s Bay’s award winning Wardini Books this year has grown exponentially faster than I could ever hope to read them!

And there are more to come at Christmas…

Enjoying local hospitality businesses and the produce from local food and drink artisans has also been a highlight.

I still managed to achieve one of my other goals of losing a bit of weight throughout! (Only 5kg, but given the comfort eating I had been doing over the year, a rather miraculous goal…)

As we wind down 2021 and look forward to 2022 (dare we even look forward, or speculate on what could be?!) what are some of the things you would like to achieve, or buy, or do in 2022?

A Visitor From Hawke’s Bay: Part Three

 

 

If it seems like years ago since I was last in Auckland, that’s probably because it was!

In 2019 I drove and flew to New Zealand’s largest city several times for sinus surgery and related pre and post-operative appointments.

When Covid 19 landed in New Zealand last year I was due to go for my final appointment, but I was too busy working solo, so it was delayed. Until the first week of the country’s month-long lockdown! Unsurprisingly that didn’t happen, either.

Earlier this year I finally got a call for that appointment again, so early one morning I once again got in my car (our new one, this time, as you will remember the previous vehicle had issues when I got to Auckland, which led to us trading it in last year) and heading north long before the sun had stretched, yawned and scratched.

Once again I hit thick fog (or cloud in some places) from the Rangitaiki Plains all the way to Tokoroa, which made driving just that bit more nerve-wracking, but made it safely and smoothly to Auckland by morning tea time.

My first stop was Mount Eden, which I had intended to climb (after summiting Mount Victoria and Maungakiakia (One Tree Hill) in respective previous visits. However, the fog had followed me and I was met with a very muggy, humid day and limited visibility from the summit and crater rim.

I fuddled around Mount Eden Village before meeting a Facebook contact who was buying some of my vintage toys – primarily my old GI Joe Tomahawk helicopter and completing the deal, which have me some spending money for the trip.

After that it was time to check into my motel for the night and walk next door to Greenlane Hospital for my appointment.

The check-up went fine, I got the all clear,  though the doctor chose to snip a bit of scar tissue inside my nose there and then which involved some sharp objects going where they usually don’t go on Monday afternoons.

After a bit of recovery time I ventured out again to investigate more of Auckland than I had been able to previously. My new car’s GPS proving invaluable in guiding me around the suburban streets.

I visited and had coffee with Jeremy Dillon, creator of The Moe Show, that I have written of previously. Jeremy showed me his company’s latest iideas and nnovations. It really is a cool company with a real “Muppet” spirit.

After that I headed out to St Luke’s Mall – somewhere I haven’t been for 30+ years to get a gift for my daughter and some clothes on special for myself (I am apparently now old enough to rank this as a genuine trip highlight?!).

After sourcing dinner via Twitter recommendations from a Thai restaurant near Potter’s Park, and its giant Wally, I headed back to my motel, via an elongated and delayed route care of Auckland’s “rush hour” (a truly oxymoronic term in Auckland, as the mass of vehicular congestion prevents anyone from rushing anywhere) traffic.

With a near-constsnt stream of traffic outside my accommodation I decided that was it for the day and stayed in, staying up surprisingly late, given the level of exertion I had exerted that day.

I woke just as early the next morning as I had the previous and, rather than face more congestion hit the highway heading south, skirting Hamilton and Waikato University  due to the fact I had missed a turn on State Highway 1B in the darkness.

I stopped for breakfast in Taupo, mainly because my concentration was starting to lag, went for a walk along the lakefront and found two model kits I was after in a hobby shop to recreate a particular favorite movie scene of mine:

 

The final stage back over SH5, the Napier-Taupo road was much easier in daylight and I was back home before lunch.

In total I had traveled a little over 1,000km in around 30 hours. An I would he travelling even more that week, as we had a family weekend back in Taupo the following Saturday – quite a paradoxically exhausting experience for me overall.

It was fun and interesting to be able to get out and see more of Auckland than on previous trips. It was also a bit odd, as the city was just coming out of a localized Covid lockdown, and perhaps a bit of nervousness or paranoia accompanied the journey – scanning and sanitizing were common practices on the trip.

 

 

Hopefully I might get to take my family back there on a holiday that doesn’t involve poking, prodding, or doctors sometime soon as, while Napier is a fantastic place and our home, it’s good to be a Visitor From Hawke’s Bay every once in a while!

 

 

From “All of Us” to “Us vs. Them”?

It’s America’s Cup time in New Zealand, but I’m just not feeling it.Aside from all the global pandemic problems taking focus and fans away it’s just not the same any more.

Whether it’s simply that these sailing boats no longer “sail”, but rather “fly” on hydrofoils;

Or that the billions of dollars involved in a single competitor’s campaign would make any Auckland real estate agent’s commission look like loose change;

Or that Team New Zealand’s funding was allegedly caught up in some sort of online scam (Do charming Nigerian princes even sail?).

Or the childish squabbling between billionaire backers makes school-yard squabbles look civil and mature.

It’s just not what it used to be.

Set Sail for Nostalgia!

Cast your mind back to 1986-87 in Freemantle, Western Australia and how it seemed our entire nation got behind KZ7, made of fiberglass & Kiwi innovation – “The Plastic Fantastic”!

“Dirty” Dennis Conner saying “You’re a loser, now get off the stage” to NZ designer Bruce Farr.

Conner storming off the set of the first ever episode of “Holmes” – A set up, sure, but what drama! “Dirty Dennis”, a vaudeville villain of international sailing if ever there was one!

In the vein of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and USA for Africa’s “We are the World” New Zealand icons, TV and music stars even came together under the name “All of Us” to sing “Sailing Away” (I still have the vinyl record) – The only true New Zealand America’s Cup song. Listening to it 35 years later still brings a bit of a proud tear to the eye.

The New York Yacht Squadron could stick their Manhattan millionaires where the sun didn’t shine – We’ve had Barry bloody Crump SINGING A SONG!!

(Special musical mention goes to Dave Dobbyn’s “Loyal” for the 2003 America’s Cup campaign but, from memory, I think it got hijacked into a Lotto advert, sadly).

Even I got into the spirit of things – I would put my bike upside down on the deck of our trailer in the back yard.

The front wheel, turned side on, was KZ7’s steering wheel; The up-turned pedals were the grinders’ cranks.

The trailer’s triangular draw bar was the bow and the jockey wheel handle at its end cranked the sails up and down.

I raced for nautical miles and miles never leaving our grassy backyard in suburban Napier.

KZ7, of course, didn’t win.

Core samples, cries of bad sportsmanship and a yacht race that became billionaire backers racing lawyers.

Then came big boats, catamarans and bow sprits. The yachts may have floated on top of the water, but the tactics and mood would have given Davy Jones vertigo.

Fast forward to Peter Blake on NZL32, “Black Magic”

A nation of feet in red socks! 

The America’s Cup, is now NEW ZEALAND’S Cup!“, and three years later “The America’s Cup, is STILL New Zealand’s Cup!”
Great, patriotic times (even if still today most New Zealanders couldn’t tell their spinnaker from their forestay and think that a “Grinder” is a dating app on their phone)!

 

 

“All of Us” to “Us vs. Them”?

 

New Zealand last won The America’s Cup in 2017 after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in San Francisco in 2013. But something just didn’t feel the same.

The races were held in Bermuda, and the coverage and time difference meant it wasn’t as wall-to-wall as it had been in previous years.

There were even indications that our team, Team New Zealand, the ingenious kiwi battlers of the 80s were becoming.more and more like the rest of the syndicates and focused on money and power.

So was it becoming a case of “All of Us” becoming “Us vs. Them”? 

Perhaps.

In times of Global Financial Crisis and austerity the NZ government and Auckland City Council together granted the 2021 America’s Cup tournament around $250 million in funding.

In a time when the country was facing up to profound levels of inequality and housing unaffordability so much being spent on something so unrelatable to average New Zealanders, or seemingly frivolous given the overarching societal circumstances rankled with lots of people.

Even the fact the race seemed preordained to be hosted in Auckland no matter what riled a few.

Imagine the benefits it could have had for regional centers like Tauranga, or Napier – both sea-side cities with strong marine cultures and industry. 

But no. Like everything else over the past 20+ years it was sucked in by Auckaland’s grandiose gravitational pull.

Shame.

Imagine America’s Cup races on Hawke Bay, with the starting signal being a Rocket Lab launch from Mahia!

Possibly the greatest indication of how distant we are from those heady days of KZ7 and “All of Us” (history showed us that perhaps Barry Crump probably wasn’t such a heroic icon after all) rather than remix, or revitalize “Sailing Away”, or create another nationally-backed sailing anthem 2021 America’s Cup organizers are apparently atrenpting to target the “Boomer” market by streaming in Rod Stewart in some demented attempt at a nation-wide karaoke sing-along of his hit “Sailing” to somehow support Team New Zealand?

This isn’t the bloody Mission Concert, people!

Like so many of New Zealand’s sports since the dawn of professionalism, it has become far more about the money than the mana. And that really sucks.

I haven’t seen any of the races in this years competition and don’t plan to.

I don’t really care if the billionaires go Sailing Away with Rod Stewart, or the America’s Cup.

I’d much prefer to watch youngsters learning to sail Optimist Class yachts on Napier’s Ahuriri Estuary.

It actually looks like sailing and is far more relatable – something for “All of Us”!

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!