Friday, 27 May 2011


When I was living in a 19th century villa on a farm in Papatoetoe years ago, rumour had it that the property was haunted. I am sceptical about such things but even so try to keep an open mind. My folks from both sides were 'fey' in that there was a history of 'feyness' in the family going way back. My mother for example would say things like "Bernadette is going to call" and a minute later Aunty Bernadette would telephone. On these occasions the aunt or other person may not have made contact for a year or more so it wasn't a regular call that was expected. We got used to such things. On my father's side the ancestors on the West coast of Scotland were reputed to be 'seers'. They weren't burnt at the stake but did relocate to Nova Scotia as part of the Highland clearances and expatriation programmes so you could say they were deported. In this Papatoeteoe house one Sunday afternoon as I was walking up the long hallway I saw a shape at the end. There were no strange tricks of light, it was just late afternoon winter light inside. The form I saw was almost transparent but there. When I walked up the hallway towards it it disappeared. Strange and creepy.

What I want to tell you in this post is a similarly strange occurrence. Some friends have just bought a house in Auckland. It is not an old house, it was built in the 1970's. A couple of days after they moved in J. was talking to her 4 y.o. son about something and he said "the old lady was here again". J's scalp prickled and she asked him what old lady. He said "the old lady came in the front door and went into the kitchen. She stood at the sink and pointed down". J. went to the sink and looked into one of the dual sinks, the one with the garbage guzzler. She got some long tongs and fished around to find the missing plug from the other sink. This had been missing from the time they moved in and no, the boy had not been the one to 'disappear' it. J. asked him if he had seen the old lady before and he said yes that she had come in through the back door to visit him in his bedroom. J. is a very sensible woman who is not afraid of the occult and related things. She told her son that if the old lady visits again and does anything to frighten him then he should call for her. She didn't want to raise any fears in him. Discussing it later with her partner they pondered as to what triggered the story. The house they purchased was owned by an elderly woman who, the family who sold the house to them said, had recently moved into a rest home because she couldn't cope with living on her own. They don't know if she has recently died or not and were going to make enquiries. Strange? Yes, but not necessarily scary.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


I completed my face to face assessment yesterday so have now completed all of the assessments required for my real estate agent's qualification. I'll have to now fork out another $1100 for the certification and registration process, this on top of the $1400 for the course and $500 for ancillary courses. I also bought a new laptop yesterday that is essential for the business. Luckily Warehouse Stationery are running an amazing special on HP dv6's which have all the grunt needed. They are below cost at $999.
After my assessment, as I was in town, I went to Countdown supermarket for groceries. Going around the store and filling the cart trying to seek out the specials I realised (after overhearing conversations of other shoppers) how expensive Countdown really is. Having just spent a lot of money I was damned if I was going to give a whole lot more to Progressive so I abandoned the cart (after replacing perishables back where I got them) and headed off to Pak 'n' Save. Items were noticeably cheaper there and I was able to find nearly everything on my list. They don't do a great line in luxury goods but have all staples at better prices. Looking around the store though, at the customers, I resolved to work bloody hard at this real estate caper. A lot of them looked as if they hadn't had a bath or even a wash in ages. I don't want to be as poor as some of the people that I was surrounded by.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


"Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member".
(Attributed to Groucho Marx.)
I was asked by someone to join MENSA years ago as my IQ ‘score’, established via several different testing methods when applying for jobs and in internal assessments in jobs I had, qualified me. IQ tests try to put a number to a person’s intelligence and identify whether you are exceptional, ordinary or, frankly, dumb. A lot of people rated exceptional like to join organisations like MENSA in order to fraternise with others with high IQ’s. Interestingly enough mensa in Spanish means stupid so, like Mitsubishi who unsuccessfully tried to introduce their Pajero into South America (pajero in Spanish means wanker), they should have researched the name a bit before deciding on it.
Psychologists who don’t teach psychology, or, who don’t go on to study medicine and become psychiatrists, tend to get jobs in personnel departments of commerce and government. They tend to use IQ tests to justify their existence and to keep tabs on employees. Sometimes, as a sideline, or when they are made redundant, they sell the tests on-line and in books to make a bit of money. Fear and reward are the triggers that they use to induce people into spending money on them.
I have a problem with accepting all of this. Obviously the ‘store bought’ charlatans peddling their trash need to be avoided, but companies who sort staff into categories, or refuse to employ people who don’t come up to their arbitrary IQ mark are also suspect. It is kind of like school where all the students at my secondary school had to sit a pre-secondary school test which dictated the class they were in and even, within those classes, the seating order was in rows numbered by the ranking of the individuals performance. (No wonder I never saw Richard (of RBB) for the 5 years that I was at the same secondary school in the same years).
I can see that tests given to people who share the same culture and who have had similar education might be a means of seeing who has retained some of the knowledge and how they might have learned to evaluate things and to solve problems, but what about people from different countries, cultures and languages? I’m pretty sure that people from ‘third world’ countries that haven’t had the benefit of education would score very low on most, if not all, of the various intelligence tests. Are they all stupid? I think not. MENSA and equivalent organisations are elitist and a little bit scary. They can lead to some pretty bad things.

Monday, 23 May 2011


....I hope so but in blundering along has he irreparably damaged our reputation?
Intelligence is a strange thing. It is really difficult to measure - sure we have IQ tests leading to ridiculous clubs like MENSA where a whole lot of wallies try to work out how to tie their shoe laces or how to keep their pants up. We also have groups of idiots who by nature of having been successful in business get together to form councils, chapters and guilds and, often these dickheads let their egos get the better of them and try their hands at politics - see Roger Douglas, John Key, Don Brash, John Banks et al. But real intelligence, in the public arena is a rare and wonderful thing. We, in our lifetime, have been fortunate in seeing it represented in the activities of David Lange, Helen Clark, Robert Muldoon etc.

We have also been unfortunate in seeing some very embarrassing exhibitions from Bolger, Shipley, Moore and others in recent times which have put us in a bad light but not as bad as Shonkey has subjected us to. Remember the cringing performance on the Letterman show? Well, forget that and watch his pathetic debate with Stephen Sackur in Hardtalk (BBC) last week. Gordon Campbell in his blog describes Key's performance thus: "At times, the interview does look like a very large cat (interviewer Stephen Sackur) playing with and batting around a seriously stressed mouse. It is also a model of how rewarding it can be to watch a polite, persistent and well researched interviewer engage with a public figure".

Shonkey is bright but not intelligent and failed to properly engage with this interviewer. Muldoon, Lange and Clark could have winged it and properly defended New Zealand's position without appearing to be a whinger or having something to hide. Shonkey couldn't. He is basically a wide boy, a con man who has dome well in the international money market selling junk investments, robbing pension funds and acting like all those other cheaters and scoundrels who have robbed us of a future. A few years ago, when a prime minister of this country was interviewed anywhere in the world, particularly in the UK we would have had the interview screened on our most important TV channel TVOne. Where was it? I had to trawl the internet to find it. This is a travesty and an example of how TVNZ has given up on screening quality and important news and documentary programmes in favour of reality shows, competitive cooking garbage and the new American craze crime-forensic porn.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


My brother and I used to listen to the Ying Tong Song years before we were old enough to properly appreciate The Goons. It is still great to listen to. Apparently Spike Milligan had a bet with his brother Desmond that he couldn't get a song into the UK hit parade which only had two chords - G and D7. He won as it went to number two or three.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


OK, I know that I have been mean about double bass players in the past but that was before I knew that women played the instrument too. Somehow they add a little Je ne sais quoi to the equation.

I can't quite put my finger on it.

My discovery came after browsing and seeing some clips from Esperanza Spalding. I am a convert.

Monday, 9 May 2011


We have had a few storms recently with high winds, water spouts and even a mini tornado which overturned the deck furniture, carried my kayak life-jackets out to sea and made my recycle bin disappear but today is absolutely marvellous. It is sunny and warm and there is no wind. Lovely.

The bay out the front today

I have a lot of work to do - the charity race-day planning, open polytechnic assignment and some real estate seminar preparation which is keeping me indoors most of the day but this afternoon I think I'll climb Mount Manaia.

Mount Manaia from the side deck today

It looks pretty good at the moment. This should be a couple of hours walk along and up a nice bush track to the top. The views from the summit are sensational, especially on a nice clear day like it is today.

Views from the summit and Lynn sitting on a ledge half way up.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


Sunday and the Old Girl is away at the Auckland apartment. She rang earlier and said that she had finished the housework - it took her all of about a quarter of an hour there. I looked around me at the mess that I've created here with her away and suddenly missed her.

I've got to vacuum, wash windows, do dishes, dust.........

It'll be good to have her home again soon.

Friday, 6 May 2011


I went to Auckland on Thursday for my niece's graduation on Friday. I stayed in the new apartment for the first time. It was good. Today, after the graduation ceremony I went back to the apartment to pack up before catching the bus back North. It was about 1PM and I heard a Muslim call to prayer. I opened the ranch slider and stepped out onto the balcony to see where the sound was coming from. The apartment is on the 7th floor and I was looking straight down on a courtyard below. Just as I looked down about a hundred Muslims on prayer-mats bowed down, seemingly to me.

I felt like the Pope standing on the balcony.

I was tempted to bless them and say "In nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.....Amen,
but, fearing a machine gun volley I just waved.


What I like about inner-city living is that now, there is such a wonderful mixture of cultures and nationalities. We have Japanese, Malaysian, Chinese, Lebanese, Korean and other restaurants and cafes nearby (the apartment is right next to AUT and close to Auckland university). The graduation ceremony (Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries) represented all the nationalities with some of them wearing native costume beneath the graduate robes. Great.

Monday, 2 May 2011


I asked The Old Girl if, when I go to China, I should tell my Chinese joke when I am at a banquet. She said no (in emphatic terms). My Chinese joke is quite old. I first heard it when I was at intermediate school. It was part of the skits that were put on at the Marist Newtown end of year concert. This was in about 1965. Does anyone remember those old school concerts? Perhaps nothing has changed and they still run them. There were and probably still are, the obligatory speeches from the headmaster and teachers; the prize-giving; the sports announcements; the skits and songs; and the play, musical or christmas performance.

I remember one year the school was putting a play on. There was a female lead character, a young woman and of course no one wanted to play the character. I was ordered by Brother Paulinus

 (see: Oh Brother Paulinus Where Art Thou 


to play the part "because I have the nicest legs". Dodgy? Yes, when I think of it now, but at the time the comment didn't seem strange. I played the part having borrowed some of my older sister's clothes (and no Richard, I didn't make a habit of it).

 I can't remember what the play was, probably an Oscar Wilde or Noel Coward one. Once I had gotten over the initial embrassment and stage fright it went OK. I got a little bit of ribbing from class mates but as I was respected (prefect and class leader) it didn't amount to much. I seem to remember that all the school concerts went along OK except for one at my brother's secondary school one year. He went to Wellington Technical College (I went to St Patrick's College) which was a big rambling building next to the old Wellington museum (now part of Victoria University and Wellington Polytechnic I think. At this particular concert I remember sitting with my mother and sisters watching  the usual hideousness when a security person came down the aisle to find mum. He had my brother by the ear and another kid by his tie (the good old days when you could do this).

He had found these two breaking into the headmaster's study. My poor mother was mortified. She was embarrassed (all this in front of several hundred people), angry (our family just didn't do such things) and disappointed (my brother had let the side down). We left the concert/prize-giving early (Terry wasn't up for a prize after all - maybe he was looking for compensation in the headmaster's study). I didn't perform in any of the St Patrick's College end of year shows. These were always a bit more up-market and to be a part of it you had to be a member of the drama society or the band (Richard and Second were part of the school band). Needless to say being a member of these organisations was even a few steps lower on the social standing and cool ladder as being a librarian or a member of the 'friends of Jesus' group).

Oh, and before I forget my Chinese joke goes like this:

Question : "Why don't they have telephones in China"?
 Response:  " I don't know. Why don't they have telephones in China"
Answer:  " Because they have so many Wings and Wongs , they might wing the wong number"

Sunday, 1 May 2011


.... said the Old Girl, showing me a terms of reference document for a wine marketing consultancy project in China.

I got the hint, said yes and submitted my details in an appropriate c.v. to the government and hey presto, it looks like I'm going there for 2 or 3 months.
China is a huge wine producing country, a fact unknown to most people, has been growing grapes for 6,000 years and has been producing wine for a couple of thousand years. With a population of over a billion and a third people even though the per capita consumption of wine is low at less than a litre per head (compared to NZ and australia at over 20 litres per head) still accounts for consumption of over 126 million cases per year which is growing at nearly 20% per year. Things are rolling. The new Chinese consumer is becoming more discerning, more worldly and, through greater affluence is spending more on luxury items.

Most of the wine consumed is made in China (90%) and of this mostly is red wine (75%) which is growing at a faster rate than white wine off the much larger base. Interestingly enough there is almost a 50:50 split between off-trade (take home) and on-trade (drink in bars and restaurants). This is radically different than in New Zealand which has a 80:20 split in favour of off-trade. Wine consumption in China is seen to be fashionable and sophisticated and is attracting more of the upwardly mobile younger people, male and female, whereas their affluent parents would have consumed cognacs and whiskies. There is still a long way to go yet though in wine-drinking practice as by far the majority of premium wines are drunk at banquets where drinking games still predominate, and off-trade by way of gifting where the more expensive the item the grater kudos can be achieved.

That said though the optimum reach for wine would mean attracting rural drinkers to buy and consume it but this is unlikely to happen in our lifetime. Out of the 1.3 billion however, it is calculated that there are at least 200 million potential consumers. This makes China a potential wine market 10 to 20 times better than any other country including the USA. 
There are a lot of unusual practices that need to be sorted out though. The traditional look, colour, style of wine etc. has not necessarily applied in China in the past so some pretty unusual names, packaging, colours etc. have abounded.

No doubt you have heard stories about fine wines being mixed with Coca Cola and other soft-drinks. Sprite apparently is very popular. Richard (of RBB) would be in his element - he who used to mix the great Chateau Margaux ( from many a fine vintage) with lemonade.

The wine Guy tells me of being told by the general manager of Opus One (one of the most expensive US wines at at least 100 USD a bottle) that when he was in China on a selling trip he telephoned back home to Mondavi the boss to say that sales were going well. He was at a dinner party and the buyers were consuming copious amounts of Opus One from magnums. He said to his boss "you'll like to see how much they are drinking and the orders that they are placing but you won't like how they are drinking it. They mix it with Coca Cola!"

Anyway, if the paperwork and visa's etc. are approved

I'll be off sometime in June.

Hui tou jian!


I like John Oliver. His retakes of the news are insightful and very funny. Have a look via the link below at his latest review of Facebook...