Saturday, 24 March 2012


....I wear high heels
suspenders and a bra
I wish I'd been a girlie
Just like my dear Papa
(from Monty Python's Lumberjack Song)

When we arrived home last night we discovered that the storm during the week had knocked over a large tree and it was blocking the driveway.

No, not this tree but you get the idea.

Today I had to chop it up and remove it. Now I'm not one of those Hammer Hardware blokes nor an obsessive DIY joker like Second so I don't have chainsaws, grappling gear, chains and hawsers. No, I just have my handsaw and a small hatchet.

The job took for ages but I got it done and loaded into the caged trailer which fortunately I relicensed last week. Unfortunately the WOF has run out but bugger if I'm going to unload all the branches, trunk bits and other rubbish to take it to the garage. I'll just have to risk it.

The hose is OK but there must have been some torrential rain as the earth base under the house is saturated. The rain must have sluiced off the hills up back and gone under the house as well as down the drive. Bugger! It willtake ages to dry out. Next summer the plan will be to put extra drainage up the back. Oh, that and a new roof that the Old Girl wants (the current one is serviceable but has salt stains from being by the sea), paving out the back, maybe a garage, glass frontage for the deck .....Lotto!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


I felt like Bob Dylan the other night (not for the first time as now and then when listening to old Bob's songs I imagine that I had wrtten them - but that's another story) when I listened to Chris Prowse's performance at The Bunker in Devonport. Chris played the first set with songs from his excellent Trouble on the Waterfront album and the second with songs from his new There Goes Shiner album plus some other folk and blues. Excellent. The Old Girl and I thoroughly enjoyed it along with the chance to catch up with Chris ad Sue and also old mate Mike who was another acolyte.
So why did I feel like Old Bob? Well young Bob idolised Woody Guthrie and travelled to visit him on his deathbed. Some people (me) unfairly have said that Bob stole old Woody's as yet unreleased songs from a suitcase under the bed but Young Bob developed into a great songwriter in his own right so maybe it doesn't really matter.
I felt, watching Chris perform, that I would like to play a guitar like that and write songs like those. I was a groupie.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


I was never much cop at science. I used to enjoy chemistry at school probably for all the wrong reasons as I used to deliberately put too much of substance A into substance B to see if I could get a violent reaction. The violent reaction used to invariably come from Pygmy (Father McCann) who would shout out in an amazingly big voice given his diminutive figure "You moron! Cabbage! You're using up perfectly good air that someone else could be using".
At university I studied mechanics and geology as an intermediate to an architecture degree (after I'd abandoned law studies after three years). I've made a career in the wine industry so you can see how well that went.

Over the last week I've been listening to a spoken book while driving. It is called The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean. This is  the story of the periodic table told as a narrative on history, discovery, politics, war, sex, greed and obsession. Not since reading Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel or the sublime Bronowski's The Ascent of Man have I read (well listened to - I will buy the book) something that is riveting, stimulating and difficult but so rewarding. There is so much in this to process that it taxes memory retention but the stories are so interesting and interconnected that it makes dry old science fascinating. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone out there. I am sure that TSB has read it. I am looking forward to reading the book myself after listening to it (beautifully recorded) and hope that one day soon someone will make a TV series of it. With all the wastage of resources put into the creation of forensic porn, vampire soaps and unfunny comedy at present if only the money could be put into filming stuff like this. I live in hope and am cheered by the success of the recent David Attenborough's Frozen Planet series so maybe...

 The title The Disappearing Spoon comes from a conjuring trick where a spoon made of gallium looking and feeling like a normal metal spoon would, when put into hot water, melt. See here: DISAPPEARING SPOON

Thursday, 15 March 2012


For all of our twenty four years together Thursday night has been 'date night' for the Old Girl and I. We decided on this when our jobs were frequently involving us in dinners, functions and other activities. We just needed time to ourselves. Recently instead of always going to a restaurant we go to a film first and then grab a bite at a tapas bar or a cheap and cheerful cafe/restaurant. Tonight we went to see Headhunters, a black Norwegion film, It is very funny, excessively violent and black. There is a scene in it that I think Richard (of RBB) ought to see. In a recent blog-post he mentioned how much he abhors long-drop toilets. This scene will confirm his worst fears.
To see what amuses those strange people in Scandanavia see Headhunters. HEADHUNTERS

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


The Old Girl bought me a litre bottle of Macallan Select Oak from Duty Free last month. I opened it tonight while I was cooking dinner (tacos - kidney beans sautéed in chilli sauce and lots of garlic chilli paste in a taco with a mix of chopped lettuce, capsicum, cheese, tomato and spring onion - yummy!).
Now I love Macallan and favour the rich peaty styles with overt sherry oak. I have a few different ones of different ages and styles. This one is from Macallan's newly released 1824 collection. It is targeted at the US/Asia market and is only available at duty free stores. It apparently is from a blend of five different barrel styles and is blended to be smooth and sweet which makes sense for the market it is aimed at. For me, it is a bit Glenfiddich-like with a touch of J&B blandness but.... the quality of Macallan shines through.
The sherry tones are there so they have used first-fill sherry casks and the vanillin character also so good oak is evident. The flavour is smooth but unfortunately a bit short - not as lingering as I like but still a bloody nice drop for a Tuesday night.
The Old Girl is out tonight, schmoozing at a fancy restaurant somewhere with work colleagues so I thought I'd treat myself.
Two glasses - as I have a busy day tomorrow.

Saturday, 10 March 2012


This last week I have been interviewing some people for a new assistant position. I couldn't help thinking of David Brent in The Office when I was doing it.

A lot of the over 100 applications for an entry level/Junior marketing position are young women. Many have top commerce, marketing or communication studies degrees and a lot of them are 'passionate' about becoming a sales and marketing assistant. I hate the 'passionate' word being overused in C.V.'s and in job advertisements see: HERE

It is interesting when you are an old fart like me, discussing a job with a twenty-something young woman when, as it is a marketing oriented position and involves website editing, graphic design and social media management, you have to 'slip into the vernacular' using language that is still slightly alien to me.

This is why I felt as if I was David Brent.


Cat haters can go away now. TSB, go kick the dog or something. Richard, you bast bassist, go and lock the ginger bastard out of the house or something.

I really like my cat. She is named Willow. I am not sure why she is named that. Perhaps when she was very young she was slim. Nowadays visitors scoff at the name as she is hardly willowy, having put on a bit of weight around the middle. More likely though the name is boringly a reference to pussy willow, a garden weed. Pussy willow is a name given to many of the smaller species of the genus Salix (willows and sallows) when their furry catkins are young in early spring. These species include (among many others): Wikipedia

Pussy Willow (Note: It is best to have the browser set to Safe or Moderate when searching for images of 'Pussy'
As you may have surmised Willow had a previous owner to us. When we moved back to Auckland in 2000, Willow lived at the house next door to us. She was maybe a year old, not much older. When we arrived home from work each day she would come over from next door to greet us. She was well cared for by the neighbours but took an interest in us nevertheless. We were renting a house in Point Chevalier with a property that ran from the road right down to a private beach. The neighbours property was similar, only a bit larger and with a beach house or small bach at the bottom of the garden. When the family would troop down to the beach Willow would tag along right down to the water's edge, quite unusual for a cat.

After a couple of years things went awry next door. At first they seemed like a happy couple, living in a 2+ million dollar property with two small children and a couple of other cats besides Willow. He had a good and high paying job. She stayed at home and tended the gardens beautifully and looked after the children. When He told us that She had gone to Europe on her own for a couple of months holiday we wondered. Some time later we noticed that She used to take herself down to the beach house a lot, on her own (Willow would follow her down there).
Odd people used to turn up sometimes knocking on our door by mistake. At first they looked like hippies 

and later looked a lot rougher. 

The rows started next door and on one occasion took place in their garden one Sunday afternoon. "You are the one that is destroying this family" He shouted. On the Monday He had left. A couple of weeks later the children too had left, moving in with their father who had bought another house in the same road further down. She stayed. We noticed that a few nights a week She would light up the path down to the beach house with little candles and lamps and She would, I think, stay down there all night. 

Eventually the 'Sold' notice went up on the property and She moved away. After She had gone, curious, I looked in the beach house. It was set up as a studio and had a mattress on the floor with lots of candles around. Also around were little empty plastic bags including one full one. 'P'. 

Willow had gone with Her and the other cats. She had moved to the next suburb (someone had given us a forwarding address for mail or something - anyway we had a telephone number).
A week alter Willow turned up at our door. To be more precise she came in by her door - a previously unused cat-door. She greeted us and demanded to join us for dinner. We of course obliged and then rang Her to come and collect her.

This happened again a couple of weeks later and She came and collected Willow again.

A couple of weeks after this we went away overseas for a month. On returning, and collecting Rosie our dog from her holiday place (my sister's) Rosie furiously barked and chased something through the garden and into a drainage pipe. It was Willow. It took me a while to coax her out of the pipe and to bring her into the house. In the house, protective Rosie had taken up a position in the lounge by the fireplace. Willow, when I brought her into the lounge, leapt right up over a couch and onto Rosie giving her a thorough boxing around the ears. She is a feisty cat. She was very thin and we surmised that she had been living rough on our property for at least a couple of weeks. We fed her and telephoned Her to say that it was best that we kept Willow as we were worried at her travelling back to our place and having to cross at least two main and busy roads. She agreed and, to her credit came back twice to check up on Willow.

As a result we think of the experience of living rough and not having enough to eat Willow changed her eating habits. She would demand to have a full bowl of food at all times even if she was not going to eat it there and then. She would sort of panic if the bowl was empty. As a result she has gradually become more like wallowy than willowy.

We have moved house five times since Willow adopted us and have never had any problems with her returning to the original location. We even were confident enough to take her on holiday with us when we used to come up to the holiday house we owned (not far from our house up North). Willow would happily explore the garden and trees and wouldn't venture away.

After Willow's and Rosie's initial spats they settled in and became great mates. When either of them came into the house they would greet the other first, both vocally and by touching noses, before greeting us. In the winter they both slept on a large padded duvet, cuddling in to each other for warmth.

Rosie became Willow's protector, seeing off larger and more aggressive cats that might have a go at Willow when we temporarily moved house while ours was being renovated. Rosie would also come rushing inside to 'tell' me if Willow was doing something unusual like climbing a tree or getting up onto the roof.

Rosie: "I hate to bother you but Willow is up on the roof again"

When Rosie died Willow grieved. She roamed the house and made plaintive noises for some time afterwards.

Willow is a healthy cat. I have constantly taken her to the vets for check-ups and have discussed her phychologically induced eating disorder. The vets have agreed (maybe just to so I won't turn dangerous) and have said that I should keep  a bowl half full of a low-fat dry food to give her peace of mind.
Once, at St Michael's Ave. when I was out on the deck one evening enjoying a glass of wine and looking at the night sky, Willow jumped up on the deck rail to join me. It was slick with night dew and she went right over to a serious drop to the path below. See:  HERE
Fortunately she survived this although she had a slight limp for a while.

Willow enjoys living up North. We have a large elevated deck from which she can survey the garden and the bay. There are enough cool and sunny spots for her to be comfortable with. The house is large enough for her to explore and choose a different sleeping place frequently.
When I decided to work in Auckland each week I was in a dilemma as to what to do with Willow. We decided to rent a 2 bedroom townhouse with a garden (our one bedroom city apartment in Auckland would not be suitable). After moving in to the townhouse we realised that there were too many places on the property for her to get out onto a very busy road. What we do is leave willow at our house up North during the week. I have contracted a local schoolgirl to come in each evening and feed her. We get back here each Friday night and stay through the weekend. It is not ideal but I think is the best solution. Next month, when I have successfully recruited an assistant, I will reduce my working days to three and spend four days a week up North thereby leaving Willow alone only two or three nights a week.

    Wednesday, 7 March 2012


    Alabama 3 are certainly good musicians and have some damn good songs to their name. They were and still would be respected even if their Chosen song hadn't been - chosen - as The Sopranos signature song.

    I watch Justified, another good USA series and its signature song is  "Long Hard Times to Come" performed by  Gangstagrass.  I really like this - a delicious blend of country and hip hop or whatever, It works well. Maybe the Prowse Brothers could look at it.


    The Prowse Brothers have some nice tunes in their playlist but I think they need a few more songs that will engage the audience. I'll be there and I doubt I'll get up and pogo to 'My Gentle Giant'

    I suggest that they do this little number:

    Sunday, 4 March 2012


    Friday night and Saturday was very stormy. We had the fringe of the 'weather bomb' whatever that is that hit the middle of the North Island. There was rain and high winds but fortunately no damage.
    Sunday has been glorious all day. The sun has been shining, the sky has been blue, there has been no wind and the water is sparkling. We went for a long walk around the bay keepng mostly to the shoreline and went to places we have only kayaked to before. We made a mental note on a couple of spots to picnic at in the future. The Old Girl drove back this afternoon as she has to fly to Queenstown in the morning. As the day is so fine I'm staying through and will drive to work at 6AM tomorrow morning thus making the most of a nice evening. At times like this I'm glad that we made the decision to buy a house up here and also glad that I made the decision to reduce my working week to 3 days. I am recruiting an assistant at present so soon will be able to be up North for 4 day weekends each week. Kia Ora.

    Friday, 2 March 2012


    ...but I agree with Paula Bennett whom I heard on the radio today, speaking in Parliament about the government's plans to restructure the welfare service. Now PB is an otherwise useless MP who nearly lost her seat at the last election (although this stupid MMP system would have allowed her to stay as a high on the list person) and to date has done fuck all useful. The plan I heard of today was to re-categorize beneficiaries and make people who are reasonably able 'available for work' As I was driving through hills and valleys and the radio kept cutting out the gist of what I got was that the sickness benefits, DPB's and others may all be lumped together. The outcome will be a better fix on the outgoings and better identification of people who can contribute. Beauty! I thought. Why does a life-long socialist like me think this way? Well....gather around and I'll tell you.

    We rent a town-house in Auckland in a well-to-do suburb,. The town-house is a bit manky but still costs us $550 a week. We have to maintain the lawn and garden as well. Next door to us is a very big (maybe 6-bedroom) villa. It is a State House. It has the obligatory old cars in the front yard and parked on the grass verge (the grass verge owned by the council that if I parked on it I'd get towed away) and also the flash Holdens and Fords parked on the road. A lawn-mowing guy comes every fortnight to do the lawns. I pay him, or I guess my taxes help to pay him because the occupants of the house don't. They hang around and watch. I, after a day at work, mow our lawn a with the crappy electric mower the landlord has left in the shed and I weed the garden.

    Like Victor Meldrew I 'DON"T BELIEVE IT" when I find bits of rubbish in the garden - lolly wrappers, cigarette packets etc. Luckily I haven't found used condoms like he did but, I do find a lot of litlle plastic bags - 'baggies' littering the garden and the lawn. Where do they come from?

    Over the last couple of months since we have been living there (during the week while we work in Auckland) I have noticed the activities of the neighbours. The house has all windows covered with heavy cloth or black rubbish bags. Cars stop in our side street and the main road and the occupants of the house come out to 'chat with them' At first I didn't take much notice, then I wtached more closely. I saw car loads of young guys stop, make a phone call or send a text and within minutes two guys will come of of the house. One wanders a little way down the road (lookout?) and the other hops into the back of the car or leans through the window. An exchange takes place - a little plastic bag for something (obviously money). This has happenned several times in my view and, as I don't live there during the weekend and work during the day on weekdays most likely happens a lot then too.
    So what's in the baggies? Could be marijuana but I think 'P'.
    What have I done about it? I contacted the police via the crime stoppers website giving dates, times, descriptions etc. Has anything been done about it? Not to my observation but hopefully someday soon.
    Anyway, back to Paula Bennett. Now I don't begrudge OAP's and the sick and those in need in this country getting support. I am proud of this country's welfare system and our social justice. what I don't like is seeing fit and able young guys, living in a house at tax-payers expense, receiving benefits as they don't bloody work and then, dealing in drugs. It makes my blood boil. Am I wrong?


    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...