Monday, 30 April 2007

Ode to the Midnight Rambler

The Midnight Rambler, my midnight blue 1989 Honda Prelude, has gone.

It was sold today, sacrificed on the altar of the OE, after 18 months of putting up with my driving. It went to the McDonalds car park at Auckland Airport, to pick up Lauren. It went to Rangariri, with its graveyard, its pa and its pub. The harbours of Port Waikato, Raglan and Kawhia. Opotiki, and all around the bays of the East Cape. To a hotel in New Plymouth. To a home in Wellington. Palmerston North, the Ashurst Domain, the Wanganui River, Castle Point, Cape Palliser, Makara.

It was the first car I ever owned, quick, comfortable, good on corners. The headlights popped up, and the roof opened. What more could you want?

Of course, the tape player was dodgy, the radio was worse and the CD player didn’t work at all. The steering rack needed fixing, the clutch hose went, as did the power steering fluid hose, the brake pads, and the clutch itself. If sports cars were rockers, it would have been Paul McCartney – decaying, with its best years long behind it. But I still thought it was cool.

I got $580 for the Midnight Rambler, only a fraction of the money I put into it to keep it running. But it was worth every cent.

Long may you run.

15 reasons I love winter

I am sitting at home, wrapped in polar fleece. If I could make the cord reach further, I would be writing this while sitting on my fin heater. I have the kind of cold that is caused by germs and bugs that obviously thrive in wind, rain and biting temperatures. The spectacular view of the Wellington Harbour from our window is obstructed by a dense wall of fog. Guess this means, then, that winter has finally arrived.
Last year I moaned about winter to anyone that would listen, and plenty of people that probably didn’t even do that. This year, though, I’m determined to start off winter on a more positive note. So, here’s a list:
15 reasons I like winter:

1. It’s snugly inside by the fire
2. Soup seems extra delicious
3. I lose my craving for ice-cream
4. There are fewer temptations to go out on the weekend and spend money
5. It’s a great chance to do lots of reading
6. As well as DVD and movie watching
7. Sunny days are treasured all the more
8. Hats
9. Scarves
10. Big coats
11. We spend much more time at home in the evenings
12. I never feel guilty for catching a bus home from work, unlike in summer
13. Winter is when I leave for overseas. Ergo, it’s getting closer.
14. Sunday roasts are tastier, as are baked potatoes
15. Board games are more likely to get cranked out
And anyway, there is no way any Wellington winter could be as bad as any of my 3 worst winters ever:
1. Pietragalla, Italy, 1998: The snow was so biting that the only way to combat it was to wear a fake Calvin Kline beanie around. I will also never forget that day that the roads got closed due to snowfall and I couldn't go to see The Titanic as a result. 17 year old me was sad indeed.
2. Christmas in Milwaukee, USA, 2001: Yes, having a white Christmas was neat. I couldn't help but feel mocked by mother nature though while shivering on the phone to whanau in NZ who were talking about the picnic they were about to have outside. In the sun.
3. Dunedin, 2001. This was the year that the road uphill to our house got so iced up that it was impossible to leave home without using the trees along the roadside to help us get down. Sadly, exams were not cancelled either.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

The Caps half empty

On Wednesday morning, I dragged myself out of bed before dawn and went to meet a friend for a regular, patriotic and ultimately tragic ceremony.

Anzac Day? What Anzac Day? I’m talking about the cricket World Cup semi-final.

It’s a hard thing, being a fan of the New Zealand cricket team. Unlike say, supporting the All Blacks or Manchester United, you aren’t guaranteed a steady stream of trophies. No cushy flow of victories with the Black Caps, oh no. It’s a rollercoaster of hopes raised and hopes shattered.

Inzamam ul-Haq in 1992. The nine-wicket slaughter of 1999. And now, our best chance of winning the World Cup, with a team boasting perhaps the world’s best strike bowler in Shane Bond, quality spinners and a hatful of hard-hitting allrounders, has ended with a thumping by Sri Lanka. Bond chose the most important game to have far and away his worst performance of the cup, the spinners were helpless in the face of a brilliant Mahela Jayawardene century, and then our normally gutsy middle order folded like workaholic mail clerks.

No team’s flattery is quite as deceiving. Well, except the South Africans. We can rely on them to choke even more spectacularly.

At least that’s something.

Tane's Reviews: Pan's Labyrinth (and Hot Fuzz)

Fantasy often gets labelled as escapism, a rather patronising but accurate description of the allure of the genre. A decent fantasy enmeshes you into another world, a more wondrous one, with magic, monsters and heroes, a place where the whites are whiter, the reds redder and the blacks blacker than the fields we know.

Of course, when it comes to darkness, the real world throws things up that are grimmer than almost anything we can imagine. Check out an account of the Khmer Rouge’s reign in Cambodia, or Stalin’s in Russia.

Pan’s Labyrinth brings together these two things – escapist fantasy and bleak reality – in one superb film. Set during the tail end of the Spanish Civil War, it’s writer-director Gillermo del Toro’s story a young girl who goes with her heavily pregnant mother into a forest, where her cruel stepfather is fighting left-wing rebels. While there, she is lured into a series of dangerous quests by a being living in an ancient labyrinth.

Be warned: this is NOT a film for children. Pan’s Labyrinth is dark fantasy, very dark indeed. It contains some of the nastiest scenes I have seen. Even for a film about a brutal period of history, some of the violence is excessive.

That is my only criticism of the film though, which is magnificent on all counts - acting, story, cinematography, costume, makeup, sound and special effects. It does bring you into other worlds – though ones you’re more likely to want to escape from than to.


Also highly recommended is Hot Fuzz. From the makers of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz is like that film in that is both a tribute to and pisstake of a genre. It’s a hilarious merging of hard-boiled action film, rural English village murder mystery and outright kookiness. It goes on a bit long, but it still the most I’ve laughed in a cinema for a long time: 8/10

A do run run run

There are three types of people in his world. The first type are made for running. If they were an animal, they would be something of the sprinting across the Savannah to feast on a Wildebeest variety. These are the people that get a placing in school cross country runs, and do not hesitate to pull on some Lycra that looks tight enough to cut off circulation to their vital regions and go for a jog. The second type are physically incapable of running, perhaps on account of having no legs. The third type, though, are those that find running a real chore. Perhaps it’s because they are too wobbly, or just too uncoordinated. These are the people that came last in the school cross country, and go running in baggy T-shirts that came free at a university orientation years ago. If this third group were an animal, they would be the Wildebeest.
I sit very easily within the Wildebeest camp. Running is such an effort, I used to like to think that I was allergic on account of the fact that it made me sweat and puff. Treadmills scared me because I was sure that it was only a matter of time before they hurtled me into the air. Running outside was even scarier as people could actually see me there. Shudder.
Earlier this year, I decided that I was sick of feeling like a spaz every time I tried to run and decided to lose the Wildebeest demons. The only way to truly motivate me to learn how to run, though, was to set an exercise goal that would scare me into running - hence my current training for a half marathon at the end of June.
I am so scared at the idea of running 21 km I have been motivated to go running more times in the last three weeks than in the last three years. I am constantly sore, and even got blisters on the soles of my feet. I'm pretty determined though, and luckily have Tane to egg me on and run effortlessly beside me as I pant and wheeze. I've got to say, it feels pretty good to learn how to do something I've never been able to do before. And if, while doing it, it feels like the earth has been replaced by burning hot coals and the whole experience makes me want to crouch in the foetal position and suck my thumb, I just won't do it again.
And I knew that I had to post my half-marathon intentions on the blog because then I couldn't back out for wussy reasons :)

Friday, 20 April 2007

A self-indulgent Anzac Day rant

I bought an Anzac poppy this morning on the walk to work to celebrate Poppy Day. Well, to be accurate, Tane bought me a poppy as my wallet was lurking in the bottom of my gym bag. Unbeknownst to the naked eye, reaching into the Bag of Gym Gear of Doom for even a seemingly simple retrieval can be a deceptively time-consuming affair. Regardless, I now have my 2007 poppy, and have worn it happily all day. Except the time that I pinned it into me rather than by jumper. But I digress.

At lunchtime, I met my sister for a Coke as she had been at Archives studying for her thesis about the Pioneer Battalion of World War One. After noticing all the poppy-clad Wellingtonians around us, we started asking - why do we care about Anzac Day? Why are so many Kiwis going to Gallipoli every 25 April to drink so much that the Turkish government has banned liquor there?

I know why I like Anzac Day. As anyone who knows me (or seen my bookshelf) is aware, the two World Wars are of interest to me. I have written a thesis on the Maori Battalion of World War Two, and presented a paper about the same. Due to this interest (and Stephen's nagging), I've also been to a number of dawn ceremonies. Getting up that early is hard work, but a simple reminder that the trenches would have been a whole lot worse generally does the trick. A dawn service is worth going to if you haven't before, and if you go more than once it really hits home how the number of World War Two vets are steadily decreasing.

I like wearing the poppy, and I like sparing a thought for people that have fought in various wars. I like Anzac Day because it reminds me of my Granddad (who was in the Airforce) marching in the Anzac Day parades back in the early 90s. I also like remembering the war records, dairies and letters I trawled through honours year, and the fascinating content of these. Anzac Day to me isn't about national identity, but about remembering the multitudes of people that fought in a number of wars. It isn't even about the two World Wars specifically. We forget that Boer War vets used to participate in Anzac marches before they all died.

Daniel Keenan c. 1945

If I had to put why I like Anzac Day in a simple sentence, it would be that Anzac Day reminds me of the uniquely NZ experience in events that encompassed the whole world. It isn't about Gallipoli alone, but Guadalcanal, and fighting in North Africa and Italy. It's about having to put gun emplacements on Somes Island in the Wellington Harbour, and Paekakariki women being swept away by the American GI's posted there. It's about the stories featuring Kiwis that are unlikely to ever be made into a Hollywood blockbuster a la' Saving Private Ryan. And I am clearly a filthy liar as that is well more than a simple sentence. :)

I am curious though - why do other Kiwis care about Anzac Day? Are their reasons the same as mine? If you click here you'll connect to a site about why Anzac Day is significant to New Zealanders. It's interesting, although the reasons given aren't same as the ones I've just listed. Having gone on this self-indulgent rant, though, I have to conclude though by saying that I am enjoying wearing my poppy. And I sure am looking forward to going to Gallipoli in September.
Horray for poppies!

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Our Civil Union - a blow by blow

Two days ago, Tane and I declared in front of a room of rowdy friends and family (as well as a a silent yet dignified portrait of Queen Elizabeth II) that we were, in fact, Lauren and Tane. After the rowdy friends and family did not respond to the questions 'is there any legal impediment to this union?' and 'do you agree that these people are who they say they are?' with anything inadequate (that the registrar heard), the official part of the ceremony began. First, we had to solemnly declare, not just declare, that we took each other as civil union partners. Second, we got to swap rings and say mushy things to each other. Third, we signed the official papers, as did our witnesses Richard and Stephen. Stephen even treated our audience to a Nixon-esque victory gesture. The ceremony was excellent, both moving and fun.

Us solemnly declaring
The ceremony was held in a little room off the Births, Deaths and Marriages office. I was a bit dubious about this at first, but (not wanting to gush too much), it was perfect. It was intimate, low key and lacking all the pomp of most weddings. I also liked the fact that the audience could heckle us, which made it all very, very fun. The NZ flag also made for some very patriotic posing.

The Day was made all the better by the enthusiasm of our whanau. Mum and Ray flew down from Auckland for the occasion, and Tane's parents and youngest brother had driven down from Opotiki. Dad and Gaylene provided us with excellent food, and Mum and Philippa a stunning cake covered in marshmallows. Mmmmm. Marshmallows. Ngaire and Erin were fabulous also, decorating both me and the house.
Erin decorating the house

Ngaire decorating me

Following the ceremony, the festivities began. It was fabulous fun - pizza with our nearest and dearest, a speech by my Dad, and a great party with friends. So great, even, that the word 'great' deserves italics. All up, our Civil Union day was perfect. I couldn't have imagined a better day, even if I'd tried. It feels wonderful to be hitched. Me and Tane felt like a team before, but now it feels even more so. Having so many friends and family in one place meeting each other was a real treat as well. After the last few days, I have become firm in my view that Civil Unions are the new black.
With our parents
Louise, Richard, Tane, Me, Stephen, Sarah and Geremy

At risk of sounding like an Oscar speech, we really do want to thank everyone who helped out with the ceremony, and those of you that came and celebrated with us. Thank you also to those of you who have sent your well wishes from far flung places around the globe. And, of course, I'd like to thank the Academy ...

For those of you that asked about rings

Sunday, 8 April 2007

5 reasons I love Easter

1. Chocolate eggs and hot crossed buns

Need I say more? Except that the new Cadbury Pineapple Lump eggs get an honorable mention this year. Mmmmmm.

2. Sweet, sweet mooching

I love Easter because it is four whole days to relax right when you need it. Every year I forget it's coming, and get that moment of sheer joy the Monday beforehand when I remember that it's only a four day week. Bliss. It is also a public holiday without the drama of Christmas, and without any obligation to go anywhere. Except, of course, the supermarket to stock up on buns and eggs. This Easter has been especially fabulous for sweet sweet mooching, and I feel thoroughly relaxed and happy.

3. Easter always makes me think of Italy

Nowadays, I hardly ever think about when I lived in Italy. Easter always reminds me, though, of being a cold, culture shocked foreigner living in Pietragalla back in 1998. While living there I decided it sounded like fun to partake in the Easter procession and eagerly volunteered. I hadn't realised, though, that this meant getting up at 4am to wrap up in my brown jumper covered in sheep and joining a small group of locals to walk around the village, behind a cross, singing carols about how much it sucked to be Mary the Mother of Jesus when Jesus was crucified. Every Easter I think about this ritual which no doubt continues to be practiced there.

4. It's a chance to do stuff that I've been meaning to do for ages

I have done so much this weekend that I've been meaning to do for ages. I have finished In Cold Blood (which was excellent), caught up on sleep, and even cleaned the kitchen. Momentous.

The highlight of the long weekend, though, was Tane and I doing a walk we had been meaning to do for ages - the walk to Pencarrow Head. Pencarrow is at the Eastern mouth of the Wellington Harbour, and getting there was a lovely 4 1/2 hour meander on a beautiful day. As always, the scenery was stunning, and it was very satisfying seeing Wellington from a different angle. The highlight, though, was reaching and having lunch at the lighthouse. As Tane put it while we were sitting, reading above the harbour: "It's a good life."

We also took a moment to reflect on what the lighthouse would have looked like back in 2001 when someone* apparently painted it like Mr Blobby. Interesting.

5. It's a chance to do something challenging

Last Easter, I pushed my physical boundaries walking around Waikaremoana. This Easter I pushed my physical boundaries too. With the help of my three sisters, I broke a personal record - five hours of shopping at Queensgate Mall. I think that I will need to start a strict training regime if I am ever to attempt that again.

*not naming names

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

To bling or not to bling?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a large showy diamond ring must be in want of a feminine finger. It is a less acknowledged truth, however, that the owner of these fingers would much rather spend money on travel than on a piece of shiny jewellery.

Tane and I went ring shopping for our Civil Union the other day with high hopes and a low budget. We walked into one shop, and walked straight out again. The number of zeros on the little signs under the rings had scared us away. We went to a couple of other shops where we were shown lots of beautiful pieces of jewellery. A green ring that could have passed for costume jewellery. Stones so sharp they could double as a secret weapon and take your nemeses eyes’ out. Intricate designs that look like they must have been made by an army of elves - and all well outside our price range.

Each time, it took me a little while to say to the over eager assistant “that’s lovely, but do you have anything simpler?” The shop assistant would often look at me like I had two heads, blink a few times, and motion to a corner of the cabinet where the ‘simpler’ rings lived. Unadorned, unpretentious rings, hidden by ostentatious bling and elegant diamonds. I admired these simpler rings, all the while feeling that I had somehow betrayed the sisterhood by wanting a non-blingy ring. I wonder if, as a girl who doesn’t really care about bling, I am in a real minority?

The way I see it, I am getting a Civil Union because of the regular corny and clichéd reasons. Not because I want a shiny ring. Having said that though, I am absolutely stoked with the snazzy little number that Tane found me after going ring shopping alone yesterday.

P.S. Click here if that little sad feeling you have every now and then is due to not knowing the origin of the word bling