Friday, 31 July 2009


No, not The Warehouse, sometimes at your local supermarket.

At our local Countdown (and I'm sure at all other supermarkets) there is often a shopping trolley or a display stand filled with odds and ends that are marked 'discontinued' or 'reduced'.

The funny thing is that most people ignore these specials most likely out of embarrassment. They probably feel that it is like fossicking at the tip (which incidentally used to be a pasttime of mine when I was young). Admittedly when I 'fossick' through the shopping trolley I feel like a bag-lady and do get some odd looks from other shoppers. The rewards are worth it though as I have discovered some great bargains. Some examples are - E&E Black Pepper Shiraz, one of the world's great wines which normally sells for around $100, marked down to $49.95. It was at this price because the store couldn't sell it even at the already reduced price of $89.95 they had it at. I bought 7 bottles. The morons however decided to stick a big ugly red sticker on the back label (others had the sticker on the front label which doesn't come off without damaging the label. So much for brand building (Wine Guy comment). - Gillette razor blades at $11.95 (normally about $24). These had a bit of water damage on the packaging which you throw away anyway. I bought 8 of these. A rubber duck set (for the Godson - honest) for $3, normally $12.

My advice - don't be embarrassed, check it out.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


We gathered on the wharf with the other friends and families who were farewelling loved ones. Streamers thrown from the wharf never quite reached the rails and softly arced down into the dark and oily water or, whipped by the ever present breeze, were draped across hawsers or wrapped around bollards. The streamers thrown from the ship fared better, landing amongst the crowd and being eagerly snatched up by little boys. The Maori III stood impressively with all of its 8,303 tons seeming much more. It hummed and rumbled like a big animal, and had an exotic atmosphere, alternately scary and welcoming. Strange, not quite identifiable sounds came from above - steam-like hisses, thumps and clangs, which mingled with the shouts, laughter and occasional female screech indicated the prevailing excitement. A bell, whistles and then a deep toned horn signalled that it was time. Silently the wharf started to move. The people standing felt slightly unbalanced and swayed. Sliding past the big ship the wharf left it stranded amongst the waves before the wharf stood still and the Maori III slowly and easily moved away into the dark harbour, its lights twinkling until it was swallowed up in the mist.

I remember those nights farewelling relatives who were returning to the South Island after visits to Wellington. This was in the 1960's at a time when whole families welcomed and farewelled travellers. Trips weren't taken for granted then. Everything was an adventure.

Sunday, 12 July 2009


My father never hit us. This didn't stop the threat of 'wait until your father gets home' leaving us waiting in trepidation after we had done something particularly heinous. Why was that? Did our friends receive beatings that we knew of or was it because at school we received strappings and canings for minor offences? Whatever the source the threat was always effective.

On one occasion I remember my brother and I 'caught' some intruders having the effrontery to play in our creek. This was a creek down a steep bank at the back of our property in Liardet Street Vogeltown. It was very lovely with creeper covered banks. This was an early casualty of sub-division as as early as 1961 Dad sold it to my Aunt Chrissy and the creek was piped and filled in to make room for (now) three houses. The intruders were kids who lived on properties up the back on Finnimore Terrace and who had approached the creek from the bush on their side. Terry and I hurled rocks at them - or at their voices as we couldn't actually see them. There was some retaliatory missile throwing before they went quiet. One of our rocks had caught one of the kids in the eye and broke his glasses. The kid cried and scuttled off home. My brother and I felt a bit bad but then forgot about it. My mother was telephoned by that kids mother and uttered the terrifying 'wait until your father gets home'. We waited nervously until about 5. Dad when told of what had happened gave us a very black look before walking around to visit the kids parents. On returning he told us that he had had to pay for a new pair of glasses and was very disappointed in us and gave us a lecture on the danger of throwing stones. He didn't hit us and I don't think that he stopped our pocket money. I do remember though feeling very bad that Dad had had to visit the kid's parents and pay for the glasses. I also felt bad that we had disappointed him.


I was run over in 1960 when I was eight. It happenned on the pedestrian crossing on Kent Terrace near the Basin Reserve in Wellington. It was a hit and run. The runner was an old guy on a bicycle. As I walked across the crossing he knocked me over, ran over my legs and kept cycling away as if nothing had happenned. Maybe he was pissed and didn't notice me. I had tyre marks across the backs of my legs.

I've only ever knocked two people over. That makes me one up.

The first was on the day I purchased my first car - a 1948 Austin 8. It was lunchtime at St Pats and I was in the 7th Form. Chelman, Christensen and I went for a 'burn' to try the car out (this was a 1948 Austin 8 remember so the only thing that burnt was the oil and the wiring). As I turned left from Buckle Street into Taranaki Street I bumped into an old guy on the pedestrian crossing. (not sure if it was the same old guy who had run me over 10 years before - ed.). It moved him a bit but didn't knock him over. I jumped out and told him off for getting in the way as I was driving there. He said sorry and shuffled off.

The second time that I knocked someone over was at University in about 1973. I was driving my third car a 1964 Hillman Minx. I'm not sure if it was Richard in the car but it was definitely a Prowse. Michael Wilson was the other passenger. We had been visiting at Chris Prowse' flat in Kelburn and were returning to University in the afternoon. Driving down Kelburn Parade I turned right at the bottom into Victoria University. A young guy on a motorbike swept around the corner and I bumped into him and knocked him over. I jumped out of the car and told him to watch what he was doing. He said sorry and I told him to not do it again. We continued into the university and went and had a coffee at the cafe. My passengers were flabbergasted.

Sunday, 5 July 2009


Christopher was excited at the prospects of a glittering career. It was 2003 and he had been born after a very lengthy and precision driven manufacture. He felt sore in places from the scrapings but these were mainly internal so didn't show and didn't deter from the immaculate finish on his gleaming hide. He looked about him at the other beautiful instruments and felt more than a little bit chuffed at how he and the other double basses dominated. He momentarily felt sorry for the guitars and violins as they seemed so small and insignificant but quickly forgot them as he caught sight of himself in the mirrored wall at the back of the shop. Unfortunately he also caught sight of the cellos and his Evah Pirazzi strings thrummed as he gave a little tremor of distaste. Only yesterday they had taunted him by saying that he would never experience the pleasure of being caressed between the thighs of a beautiful and talented woman like Jacqueline du Pre. His fate was to be manhandled by a big sweaty jazz musicians or an overweight geek in a provincial orchestra. Distasteful. Catching sight of himself again in the mirror he felt calmer and daydreamed about making beautiful sounds at the Metropolitan or at The Hot Club under the wise and talented fingers of a Charles Mingus or a Francesco Petracchi.
Time slipped by then...disaster! The shop owner has announced that he has to make cutbacks due to a downturn in business and a slow down in supply to the great music centres of the world. Christopher was to be sent away to the other side of the world to a cultural wilderness known as New Zealand. He was distressed and felt sad as he was packed away and readied for shipment, catching the gleeful expression of a cello as they zipped up his bag. He slept for a long time, occasionally being jolted awake by strange sounds and movements before drifting back to sleep. Eventually, years later he awoke to find himself in strange surroundings. It was a music shop for sure but he was the only double bass. There were only three other finely crafted acoustic instruments on display additional to himself - a rather dumpy looking cello (hee hee he thought), a fraught looking violin and an elegant if pompous looking Spanish guitar. The rest of the shop space was taken up with wild and noisy-looking electric guitars, drum sets, cheap pianos and music stands. Time went by slowly. No-one showed serious interest in playing Christopher. His beautiful Evah Pirazzi strings were only occasionally plucked by grubby-fingered children Christopher would glower and make his best droning noise to discourage them. One day the store owner had a telephone call and kept looking over at him. After the call the shop owner came over and dusted and polished Christopher's woodwork until he gleamed. Satisfied with the result he removed the 'Sale' sign that was around Christopher's neck and replaced it with another sign saying 'Rare and Exclusive' and increased the price by 40%. Christopher felt proud and stood even taller. He began to daydream again, imagining accomplished and elegant musicians taking him to the best music venues to play great music. OK, he might well be in New Zealand but at least it was Auckland, the largest city and with the greatest potential to show off his quality. Weeks passed and then the shop owner seemed a bit excited at the arrival of someone. He overheard a conversation that was about him. It was a man, or at least a male. Unfortunately it was not a Jacqueline but hey, a Luigi would do. His heart sank as the owner of the voice came into view. A scruffy guy wearing red pants who looked like he could use a good shave and a toilet stop. This guy looked like a truck driver and probably was. He took hold of Christopher and struck a pose. It was a bit effeminate for a big guy but at least his fingers were gentle and elegant (albeit splayed in a weird way). He played and Christopher came alive. The guy could play well and had a nice manner about him. Christopher for once though was glad he wasn't a cello as he didn't want to nestle between this guy's thighs. Soon he was zipped up, paid for (handsomely), put in a car and was off. Before a long and terribly slow drive there was a highlight in that he was taken to a lovely picture gallery owned by a very sophisticated and elegant man who asked Christopher's new owner to play some music. This was Christopher's first public performance and in such great surroundings he was overjoyed. The gallery owner, in an attempt to improve the look of Christopher's new owner, encouraged him to wear the bass bag with the intention of zipping it up. Unfortunately it wouldn't fit over the big guy and had to be worn as a type of hood. It was an improvement though. All too soon it was time to go and they were on the road again. Hamilton, Taupo, Turangi, Hunterville ... the strange names dawdled by and Christopher wondered where he was being taken to. Hours later a sign said 'Wellington' and his spirits rose. In his home land he had heard of music festivals being played there and he thrummed in anticipation. What the..? The car turned off before Wellington and skirted around the harbour going Eastwards before laboriously negotiating a long and winding hill road and arriving at a place named Wainuiomata. Christopher wept. So this was the end of the road. He was glad that those smug cellos couldn't see him. He had got the big guy to give back the bass bag and shrunk down inside it.
After a while Christopher settled in though. The big guy seemed to know what he was doing and looked after him very well. The downside was losing his beautiful Evah Pirazzi strings because they were replaced by Belcantos. He missed the pizz sound (and, if he could talk would have said to Richard (the name of the big guy with the red pants) 'are you taking the pizz? Ha Ha). The new arco sound eventually grew on him though and he settled down to his fate. Richard does love him though, he thought, even if he took away his manly name and re-christened him 'Gloria' He understood the reason for the name change though and gave his best sounds when played in honour of Richard's mother.
Richard was a bit erratic in his playing time, seeming to practice in fits and starts. He would go out each day for hours and hours and on returning spend more time at his computer rather than play with 'Gloria'. " I suppose that's what truck drivers have to do though" thought Christopher and resigned himself to it. Yesterday Christopher heard Richard announce that he was going to have a week off and was going to spend hours and hours practicing on 'Gloria'. Christopher felt a thrill of anticipation mixed with a bit of apprehension. "I hope he's gentle with me" he thought and reconciled himself with the fact that at least he wouldn't have to be between Richard's thighs.


Well why not since Robert's been banging on about the Catholic Catechism and its virtues even while there's a backdrop of priests, b...