Thursday, May 31, 2007

Power cut off - zounds

This poor woman dying in South Auckland after her power was disconnected (notice I didn't say because her power was disconnected) is a little ripper is it not? Let's get over the facts of the case because we don't know them. I am much more interested in the field day it has given the media. They must think all their Christmas's have come at once. What could be better than a cake where none of the ingredients are missing and even better, are delivered f.o.c. to the front door. Big nasty electricity company that only a week or so back announced profits that would make a strong man weep, a family from the Islands, South Auckland, pictures of the mourning family freely available - there is even footage of guitar playing and singing. Marvellous. We then get the calls for enquiries from all the usual suspects, the Greens, Coalitions for this and that. Yawn, Yawn, Yawn. But it sell newspapers.

Don't get me wrong this woman's probable premature demise is a tragedy and someone has stuffed up royally but I am very sure that the truth should we ever come to find it out is far from the 'Electricity company kills mother of family' that the media would currently have us believe.
Page 2 has Lee from Auckland regional Council taking Hucker to task and accusing him (Hucker) of lurching to the right. Eh? This is a bit like Ronny Kray calling Tony Soprano a big girl's blouse. This tiff of the left in Auckland is centred around water. This has crept up on me when I wasn't looking and I don't really understand what is going on but it would appear that one side is objecting to having justifiable increases in water rates counted as rates increase by stealth. What's the problem - it is. I pay a shedful of rates and my only real objection to that is not what they collect but what they do with that money. If the North Shore spent less on peripheral crap like cultural this and that and spent more on keeping storm water out the sea etc. I would be a little happier. Also I should get a rebate as I get Bushie to collect my rubbish and not the council.
Zinny is called by his brother a 'lucky boy' but I would say 'silly boy' more like. However the best in today's rag is from Garth George.
This is no surprise. In general I like Garth's stuff. He is a good old fashioned, right wing Christian gentlemen. He gets a bit carried away at times like this morning where he wastes valuable column inches pleading for the return of knighthoods but in general he is a breath of fresh air. He lauds the recent opinion pollls hoping that they herald the dawn of a single political party being able to form a stable government after the next election. I agree and mainly for the reasons I alluded to yesterday about tails and dogs. This one party model only works if the party is that of my liking, of course, but I digress. Mr George then highlights the compromises the current hideous administration has to make to pander to minority parties in order to keep them in the tent.
He last mentions the Greens who he says 'are yet to realise that the environment exists for the benefit of mankind and not the other way round'. Good line - I'll file it away for future use.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Narnia & tails wagging dogs

Narnia and tails wagging dogs this morning.

C S Lewis's classic was a favourite of my daughters both in the book form and the original television adaptation. Little did I think that the rather tubby girl in the TV version would crop up twenty or so years later trying to protect stupid molluscs in the South Island. The leader of these dickheads is a twelve year old girl who I last saw in a wardrobe chasing lions and witches. The only difference is that the original was scared of the Wicked Witch of the South and the current incarnation is a soul mate of Helen Clarke. This nonsense about a 'spy' in the midst of the snail brigade is almost beyond belief. At $100 a week we are hardly talking Aston Martins and vodka martinis here, are we? A conpany is protecting its interest against a bunch of know it all hippies who are patently breaking the law and they are giving beer money to a spotty youth to give them some info as to the activities of this bunch of scrotes. This corporate behaviour is now reprehensible and the bloody greens are demanding that heads must roll. We have had ample evidence in the last day or so that the warped thinking of these idiots is at last being given the short shrift it deserves by the majority of this country. One would hope that they would just go away and realise they are not wanted by people who want to get on with htheir lives and do something useful. I think I'll go and invent some sort of Mortein that you can spray over the irritating inconsequential pests of the world. I'd have no shortage of places to use it.
Tails and dogs. Burger King have been hit by this big time. I would no more eat one of Burger King's offerings than ingest a rock but they should not have to put up with the sort of crap they are getting from the Advertising Standards Authority at the moment. You know the drill. They have a few billboards/TV adverts/newspaper pages - who cares?- featuring women of child bearing age clad in chaste bikinis. The receive eight -just the eight- complaints and the adverts have to be pulled. Nuts. What of the thousands that find such images provide a little light relief to the tedium of a day in the People's Republic of Aoteoroa. Well they can sod off 'cos a handful of prudes have their finger on the pulse of what works in this looney bin and can get their way at the penning of a letter. Is Daniel Carter wearing less than his full playing strip removed from public view? No. But if I find his Jockey clad image deeply offensive how far will I as a middle aged, Anglo Saxon male get in getting it roused. I'll let you work it out for yourself.

I don't want to put ideas into people's heads but if I were a devout muslim I would not want the current crop of Sunsilk adverts to continue as I really should not be looking at a woman displaying her hair before men that are not her husband. Screening old movies (I watched The Italian Job on the plane) showing people smoking should be stopped forthwith. There was mention in Sideswipe this morning of condoms. This is a column that might be read by children. Ana Samway to the stocks - all it would take would be a couple of complaints. Stop this nonsense.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Settling back in

First morning back in the field and I have to say I have yet to get a handle on what is going on. I don't appear to have missed much and my main worry is to try and work out which of the protected ABs was not in the first squad of the season.

The only news I can glean this morning (as opposed to trying to make judgements on things that happened a couple of weeks ago) is the brace of opinion polls that have appeared since the tin bugies spat me out at Mangere in the pre dawn of Saturday.
These in themselves are, of course, not news as they are a reflection of things that have happened in the recent past. That they show this odious administration looking like lumps of meat on the conveyer belt to the mincer is obviously not a disapointment to me. But wait a minute. Is this what it appears? Don't forget that the only poll that matters is still seventeen months away. It is common knowledge that the third term of any administration is very hard (John Howard appears to be bucking this particular trend) but the Headmistress seems to be in deeper doo doos than just that. At last the populace appears to be getting fed up with social engineering (it took them long enough, the dozy buggers) and the Budget (details of which I know not) hasn't had an instant healing effect. This is no surprise from a history graduate. As RH and others quite rightly point out there will be a lolly scramble this time next year and one can only hope that this will be too little too late - I think it will be.
Then we have our old mate Philip Field. I see he has proper charges hanging over him with the possibility of more to follow. With the glacial speed at which court matters proceed here this should all come to the boil nicely at just the right time next year. Although this worthless wretch is now an independant, do not forget that that the time of his alleged transgressions he was a a Labour MP and even better a Labour Minister. I have great confidence, that if properly handled Phil can deliver the goods.
Having Labour 25% behind this morning is obviously way better than having them even 1% in fornt, but don't forget they are still in 'power' and there isn't even a fat lady on the horizen. Cautious optimism is all I can muster.
I see Rudman hasn't died and he is using his prime spot in the rag (how does such a one tracked mind get a billing on page 2?) to prattle on about who should control the distribution of water. Deary me, do I have to exist on a diet of this for the next few months?
I haven't read a paper for a couple of weeks (well you don't when you are on your hols, do you?) and I realise that Granny gives me a lot of amusement from very little substance.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Granny on Tour - America

I had intended to post entries daily on this protracted sojourn abroad but I have got a bit behind what with driving around, looking at tasty boats and, I nearly forgot, attending the conference that was the original idea of the whole trip. As I sit somewhere over Virginia finally and thankfully on my way back to a country in which I am comfortable it would amuse me to jot down a few random thoughts that have come to me during my week in the Land of the Free.

I think I wanted to hate the place (vide supra the comments about the woman who really got up my nose in Frankfurt Airport) but I haven’t. Washington DC is almost passable as a conurbation if you have to have such things. The local law that prohibits any building being taller than the US Capitol building gives the place an architectural ambience that disappears if you fill a city with glass and chrome monstrosities a squillion stories high. I don’t know where the city fathers go for their huge blocks of white stone to build DC but the quarry must be damned nigh empty by now. The streets are wide and green spaces are liberally dotted around downtown. That these are filled with the homeless and consumers of dry cleaning fluid is not my business as long as they don’t try to relieve me of my New Zealand dollars at the end of a firearm – which they didn’t. OK so the building blocks are good, what about the denizens and their habits?

A few random thoughts in no particular order.

Suits. What a singularly useless vestment is the business suit. Expensive, impractical, if not well fitting looks dreadful, has to be worn with a tie (a garment even more useless than the suit) and America is full of the stupid things. This in the land that gave us Levis. What is wrong with a pair of jeans when it is a bit chilly or shorts when it is warm? I was at a medical conference and everyone (except me – jeans three days, shorts one) was wearing a suit. Not a patient in sight and it was hot. Why would you wear a suit? There is a fellow conference attendee on the plane with me just across the aisle and he’s still wearing his bloody suit – and tie. Anyone who is so attached to his suit that he wears it on the plane deserves an ugly wife and a life of misery. I’m sure Dr 2A has both.

Which brings us nicely, or more correctly exceedingly unpleasantly, onto United Airlines. Because I bought a round the world ticket for this jaunt, I mean educational voyage of discovery, I got shouted a free upgrade to First on the cattle drove to San Francisco. This is ghastly. I, therefore, have enormous pity for the poor sods sitting in Belsen behind me. They have just been invited to buy (with money) beers at US$5 a pop and a ‘turkey wrap’ (something a turkey wears on a cold night?) at the same price. So they can, for US$10, drink dreadful beer and put on weight by eating high fat cardboard. A steward (not sure about this ‘bloke’ but the alternative blokess makes Helen Clarke look appealing) is about to give me a ‘meal’. The only advantage I can see to this Vis a vie the turkey’s scarf is that it is hot and I don’t have to shell out ten slides. I’ve just eaten bits of the ‘meal’ and it should be reported to the trades description wallahs. I really enjoying travelling and I don’t need United Airlines turning what can be a pleasurable part of a trip into an endurance course. And you pay them to do this to you. I suppose I knew this flight was going to be dire but my greed for Airpoints made me do it. Greed is not a bedfellow of sloth, avarice, lust, gluttony and all the other nice things of life for no reason. I would like to say ‘Never again’ but how else would you get from the East coast of the States to the West? Walk?

The price of things. How would you know? The price advertised on everything is not the price at all but a basis for negotiations. First, Tax is added on. I’m not sure whose tax this is - State, Federal, Holy Roman Empire - but it is always there and of an amount that seems to be calculated in the same way you would work out what time high tide is at London Bridge. If this wasn’t bad enough we than have the ‘Gratuity’. Stupid, naïve me thought this might be something you gave (voluntarily) to someone who had dished out exemplary service above and beyond what was expected by his job description – for which he gets paid. Oh no. Everyone who comes inside a hundred metre radius of you within five minutes of any commercial transaction expects a tip. Don’t give one and you get a knee in the groin. If I buy something I want the price to be that on the invoice and not that sum plus x% here and y% there.

Gushing insincerity. The Septics are quite rightly World Champs at this and I can’t see anyone getting even close at the next World Cup. ‘Now you have nice day, won’t you’ through a sprayed on plastic smile after you’ve just tipped them for not beating you up. F*** off.

Black ladies’ bottoms. I think these start off as normal bottoms but as the owner puts on vast amounts of weight they go feral. First they enlarge in a lateral horizontal plane at twice the rate of increase in either the antero-posterior horizontal or vertical planes. This makes them look like they’ve got an airbed strapped to the base of their spine. I’m sure you could actually lie down on some of these derrieres if you were brave enough. Then they start walking and the final piece of the puzzle becomes apparent. They’ve grown an extra joint somewhere near the bottom department. This makes the airbed move in directions totally independent to the rest of the body. I couldn’t quite work out the precise mechanics of what goes on here without staring long enough to get arrested. I’m not sure if these changes are reversible at Jenny Craig.

Everyday hi-tech. The Yanks really are very good at this. You can’t look the part in your business suit if you haven’t got a Blackberry in your pocket and a Bluetooth headset Araldited to your lug’ole. You are only allowed to buy a pound of spuds if you order them over the Internet. Every vehicle I have been in during the last week (except Mr. Hertz’s Korean junkmobile) has had a GPS navigator in it - and they are very good. If was ever foolish enough to live in a place that had big cities and lots of people I would get one. But I can’t see much point if my main highway navigational conundrum is going to be getting from Whangaroa to Houhora. All restaurants take orders on PDAs etc, etc. and they are in general well in front of everywhere I’ve recently been to in putting electronics into everyday life. I’m not sure it makes things better or more efficient. The Internet ordered SuperShuttle Van was still twenty minutes late picking me up from the hotel. You could do that with paper and a pencil.

Coffee. In the States this is a black art. A long black is an ‘Americano’ and you then have to specify whether you want it in a wheelie bin, a forty four gallon drum or a spa pool. You take your place ‘in line’ to wait for your order and the bloke behind you orders, wait for it, a trim soy milk decaf latte. I’m serious, it happened this morning. What the hell is that? It certainly isn’t a cup of coffee or ‘It’s coffee Jim, but not as we know it’. And we haven’t even touched upon ‘Do you want syrup with that?’ Syrup of Figs, perchance? I said ‘no’ not knowing what I was saying no to but certain it was the correct response.

I’ll try and post this in San Francisco during the four hour wait for NZ7 to take me to Auckland. I’m really looking forward to getting on a Kiwi plane and getting back to the place you appreciate best when you spend a few weeks away. I’ll put up with Keith Locke, political correctness, incompetent f***wits running the country, Auckland’s wet winters, bureaucracy on steroids, a Mickey Mouse economy, crap roads, a laughable pay packet, the worship of native trees, the inability of anyone ‘in authority’ to decide anything to live in the best place in the world anyone could bring a 30 foot American express boat to.

I suppose I’ll have to start reading Granny Herald again next week.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Granny on Tour - Henriques Day

Getting to the Carolina Classic was easy compared to the next quest - the Henriques 30. This was 200 miles away and it didn’t exist. Well it existed but Hull #1 had been taken away by its owner (not unreasonable as he had paid for it) and Hull #2 was about three weeks from being sea trialable. But what the heck, what is 200 miles? And I suppose I had better come back and it has to be done in a day. 400 miles in a junk car not to go on a sea trial. I musty be nuts. The arrangement was to meet the Integrity Marine bloke in the car park of a Lone Star Restaurant off I76 from where we would go to the factory. I gave this sort of nonsense up years ago. I couldn’t miss him because he was in a big (and he wasn’t joking) black (and that was true as well) Chevrolet Silverado. I parked my heap of Korean crap in the car park (I don’t know why we didn’t take it with us as it would easily fit in the tray of the Silverado) and I was taken another hour to the Henriques factory. This is in the woods and invisible from the road. Thoughts of banjos crossed my mind and Boulder got a little closer to his free boat. But no worries, this was the real deal and Jack Henriques himself was the first person to make himself known. We then spent a couple of hours crawling all over Hull #2 of the Henriques 30 genre. If I was impressed with build quality of the CC28 yesterday this thing was in a different league. The fact that this boat is being built to such a high standard was even more striking than the dimensions of the craft. This is a very big 30-foot boat – very big indeed. There were other hulls at various stages of completion in the shed, a 35 and a 42 and all the boats under construction were express boats. The H30 is pretty much a scaled down H35 and the hull shape is nothing like the H28 which is closer in size. The H30 is a deep vee, has a small keel, three turned down chines and the props are in semi tunnels.

The more I see of these boats and the more I speak to people here that actually use them the more I am convinced that this style of boat will fit the bill for what want from a fishing platform. The northeast coast of the US is not the tropics and these jokers routinely run 60 - 70 miles off shore before they start fishing. A standard ‘day trip’ here is to leave in the afternoon, steam out for a couple of hours (30 knots X 2 hours = 60 miles – get it?), troll for a couple of hours, drift fish for the night, troll again in the morning and then charge home. People here do not seem to live on their boats. I get the impression that these people camp on their boats and that is what I wish to do. Mark you they camp in some style – the H30 comes with air-con as standard. Everyone I spoke to told me that the trend from flybridge boats to the express has been happening for the last ten years or so and the pace of change is, if anything, increasing. I am sure the express boat is an under valued boat form in New Zealand and I don’t care what you jokers think. A pair of Iveco 400s powered the H30 that was nearing completion and the first hull had Yanmar 315s installed. The thought was that something in between was probably going to be about right and hull #3 was going to be fitted with two Cummins 380s. it will be interesting to see what ends up as being ideal. I suspect there will not be a ‘correct’ answer as everyone’s needs will be somewhat different.

Things I really liked about this boat (in no particular order). The windscreen. Tempered curved glass with great visibility and you are looking through glass and not clears.

The non – skid. It really is and is moulded into the surfaces. Handholds. They are everywhere and you would never be short of somewhere to hang on to whether you be going to the fore deck (stacks of room for this) or up in the tower. The quality of build and attention to detail. Oh, I’ve mentioned that before ( and may do so again). The degree of customisation. As long as you don’t change the hull shape you can have pretty much anything you want.

Things I didn’t like about this boat. There wasn’t one ready so I could have a drive. I’ll have to come back. Price. All this doesn’t come cheap and the H30 is about US$100,000 more than the CC28. Its only money.

After the factory tour we went to the local marina to see a H35 Express that was complete. The finished article of a Henriques is even more impressive than the sum of the parts I had seen thus far. This made it even more galling that I could not go for a spin in one.

I had to return to DC for a free dinner so it was back to the car park of the Lone Star to pick up the Korean junk for the 200 miles back to DC. I had never been to Philadelphia and it was sort of on the way back so I drove through it just for the heck of it. I really am going nuts. Mr Hertz got his so called car back and he is welcome to it. A top day was capped off by my being shouted a steak the size of a small country by a Japanese equipment company.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Granny on Tour - Carolina Classic Day

I’ve been looking forward to today for months and it has not been a disappointment. The only situation I could imagine that would see me in a Hyundai Accent was if had just picked it up from Hertz. And so it was that I found myself sitting on the wrong side of a perfectly serviceable but extremely dull piece of Korean automotive engineering. Bound for Turkey Point Marina, directions courtesy of Google Earth printed out in Milford.

The Turkey Point Marina is on a river that leads into the Chesapeake and this is boating country - big time. Loads of house with boats of all shapes and sizes at the bottom of the garden. A Carolina Classic 35, and the object of the trip the Carolina Classic 28, were ‘moored’ on airdocks which appear to be very common here.

’ve seen many pictures of a CC28 but obviously not one in the flesh and my first impression was that it was much bigger than I had imagined it to be. This is a big 28 footer and in particular was a lot beamier than I had visualised. The cockpit is big but most of this volume is from the beam – it is not as long as I thought it would be.

I’ve been looking forward to today for months and it has not been a disappointment. The only situation I could imagine that would see me in a Hyundai Accent was if had just picked it up from Hertz. And so it was that I found myself sitting on the wrong side of a perfectly serviceable but extremely dull piece of Korean automotive engineering. Bound for Turkey Point Marina, directions courtesy of Google Earth printed out in Milford.

The Turkey Point Marina is on a river that leads into the Chesapeake and this is boating country - big time. Loads of house with boats of all shapes and sizes at the bottom of the garden. A Carolina Classic 35, and the object of the trip the Carolina Classic 28, were ‘moored’ on airdocks which appear to be very common here.

I’ve seen many pictures of a CC28 but obviously not one in the flesh and my first impression was that it was much bigger than I had imagined it to be. This is a big 28 footer and in particular was a lot beamier than I had visualised. The cockpit is big but most of this volume is from the beam – it is not as long as I thought it would be.

I was first drawn to the express concept by my perception that it would give a very large and easily accessible fishing platform and I was pleased to be proved right. Moving up (and you do) to the bridge deck and you in the midst of a huge area for fishing that stretches from the transom past the capacious bridge deck with seating for four easily to the steering station. This is exactly what I had imagined and this is the sort of area I am looking for. The accommodation is also as I had imagined. Adequate to sleep three, have a shower and a dump and do a bit of cooking. Microwave, 12v fridge, fresh water sink etc. etc.

After about half an hour of crawling all over it we were off for my first taste of American boating. This boat was powered by a couple of Volvo 260HP common rail diesels that I thought was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting 300HP a side given the Yanks love of tooling around the ocean at 45 knots, I mean miles per hour.

These puppies gave about 30 knots at WOT (this was a new boat and had no electronics on it) and cruising was at about 3200 rpm giving 24ish knots –quite enough for me thank you very much. Using 20 gph per side at this speed into a pretty flat sea inside the inlet. I thought the motors sounded a bit rough to start with but I think it was just that, they weren’t warmed up and they sounded OK later. The Volvos are all electronic everything – gauges, fly by wire single level throttles/gear levers, synchroniser and very comprehensive electronic gauges. We appeared to have a quick turn of acceleration but not much was being learned in a sheltered inlet. Came round a corner and into the Chesapeake proper and this is more like it. A 22knot nor’wester raised a decent chop but there was no swell at all. The performance into the sea was great. Handled it without any trouble and the grossly flared Carolina bow kept any suggestion of spray away – a dry boat and the windscreen wipers could come off easily. Driving this was oh so different from driving Surprise Surprise. For starters at 6500 kg it weighs three times as much. Rudders and shafts (plural) steer very differently from a (single) outboard. The use of trim tabs is just as important though. Turn away from the sea and trim the bow up and the motion downhill and down a quartering sea seemed flawless. The bum seemed stay exactly where you put it but I wish we had been in a bit of a following swell as well as the chop. Powered up to Annapolis and the Naval Academy passing all the buoys on the wrong side (why do the Septics have to do everything different from the rest of the world?) and then back to Turkey Point.

Once back out of the wind I backed off and tried driving from up stairs. A Scott Esq. is right, it can get a bit parky up there. Plenty of room for two and the tower (welded aluminium with anodised welds) was as solid as a rock. Engine controls (more fly by wire and these take a bit of getting used to – very sensitive with no tactile feedback), engine alarms, a compass, trim tab switches and a horn control are up here. And the S/S Edson wheel has a knob on it like what you get on a combine – Driver Paul likes these. I like driving from up here and it is hard to come down, I’m sure poor weather or a bit of lumpiness would soon make up your mind for you. A tower it is, a flybridge it most definitely is not. I tried a bit of furious backing down but I could get neither black smoke, water over the transom or keep the boat straight. Practice required.

Will it plane on one engine? Yes, but you wouldn’t want to do it for fun. Tracked surprising straight as well and running on the starboard engine I could still put in a reasonable turn to starboard.

Conclusions? None yet. Off to see the Henriques boys tomorrow so will try and keep as open a mind as possible. Very easy to like the first thing you see. I read in my Bluewater magazine that the Deep Vee 31 is now being put out as an express and I will need to see that. But I can conclude that I like heavy deep V hulls and I like the express boat concept. The Carolina Classic 28 impressed but gently, gently catchee monkey.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Granny on Tour - En route to Washington DC - still

En Route to Washington, DC – still

I’m still in Germany (the aerial version) and getting rather fed up of existing in a land where they insist on speaking in a foreign language. Who won the war for Pete’s sake? Back in the Heinkel (an Airbus 340-330 actually and I’m very pleased to see it has two engines on each side) and it is more of English as the second language if at all. I really am the archetypical Kiwi/Pom abroad. Wogs start at Dover, the British Empire is all the bits coloured pink on the map and the world should speak English.

But at least I am in that seat again. I am an expert now and had the motors whirring away to get me into ‘drink, nuts and a bit of typing’ position without once having to consult the manual that is about the size of Auckland’s Yellow Pages. I have a good degree of confidence that this plane will get me to my destination (if it is not intercepted by a squadron of George’s finest) which is more than I can say for a plane we taxied past on our way to take off. Would you fly Air Uzbekistan? You wouldn’t if your saw the example of their fleet I saw you wouldn’t. Who paints a plane in light blue, lime green and white stripes? Even if it could take off I’m sure landing it all at the same time would be beyond it. No I’m sure the Dornier will get me to DC but I am increasingly worried that I don’t really want to spend six days in the Land of the Free.

I had my first dose of Septics in the brushed stainless steel Lufthansa Lounge and it weren’t pretty. The sort of woman I thought died out when JR left Dallas was telling all those who would listen (and all those that wouldn’t but couldn’t help it) about something. I can’t remember what it was but it was ghastly and very loud. She looked to be in her fifties which probably means she was nearer seventy, had hair that looked like it was the bits you throw away after a combine has been through your field and had teeth that would have cost the GDP of a small country to assemble. I am not sure I can take nearly a week of people like her. I’m sitting next to another Yank who seems a reasonable enough sort of cove so maybe there is hope. And there is always Carolina Classic Day and Henriques Day to look forward to. There is a small obstacle before we can get to this Nirvana however.

The cabin is full to overflowing with what I have the gravest suspicions are Kraut gastroenterologists. This is a chilling reminder of why I left Milford in the first place. I am going to a Conference and it starts, gulp, tomorrow. I have never felt less in ‘conference mode’ in my life. I really had better go tomorrow though as it is being paid for and I am basically an honest sort of a chap. I am already feeling a little (well not much really) guilty that I’m wagging Monday and Tuesday to drive all over Maryland and New Jersey to look at boats. I hope what I have taken to be Kraut quacks aren’t looking at me, nodding sagely to themselves and saying ‘That bloke looks like a sawbones from Aoteoroa and he looks like he’s off to the States to look at 30 foot express boats under the guise of going to a conference’. I’m sure I look very shifty. I wonder if that bloke in 8K has the HR Department of the University programmed into speed dial on his phone?

The AirShow shows we are flying over Norfolk and the flight deck has the effrontery to make an announcement in German. I’ll get on the blower and get the Wingco at Nether Wapping to scramble a squadron of Spitfires if you don’t start speaking proper. Ah that’s better. We now have a Bavarian version of the Queens English and what is this? We are going to be late? A German plane is going to be late. I hope the pilot hasn’t got too many close relatives and the family don’t get a bill for the bullet. But hello, another example of Teutonic slackness. The laptop power supplies for the whole cabin aren’t working so Mein Kapitain probably won’t get the luxury of a shot from a Mauser in the back of the head. They are, as I type, taking the Bosendorfer to bits in Lufthansa HQ, Washington for a more appropriate end to the poor wretch’s life.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Granny on Tour - En Route to Washington DC

En route to Washington DC

The Singapore part of the tour has done its dash and I’m now in Germany. The Lufthansa Lounge in Frankfurt Airport to be precise. This is not the comfy leather of Changi but all modern brushed stainless steel and you have to pay for your WiFi internat access. But in truth I’ve been in Germany for the last fourteen hours. I arrived in Singapore on SQ but, because they don’t fly to Washington direct and I refuse to change planes in New York, I left the Singapore girls and threw my lot in with Lufthansa. I’ve swapped a plane load of Miss World look-alikes for a bunch of blokes in liederhosen and buxom middle aged women with their blond hair plaited across the tops of their heads like handles in case you want to pick them up. The earphones are Sennheiser (they weren’t going to be Sony were they?) and the food is only passable. We haven’t had wurst and cabbage (although they might have in row 60) but the cuisine of Singapore Airlines is but a memory of last week. However counterbalancing all this is the seat.

I have just spent twelve hours in the most comfy airline seat my bum has ever had the pleasure to come across. A marvel of Germanic engineering that must have more motors in it than you could wave a stick at. Although I was somewhere over India before I had got through the instruction manual and understood its contents the effort was well worth it. If the movies or my book had been no good I could have wasted an hour or two just putting this marvellous chaise through its paces. However the object of the exercise was sleep and this Kraut number has yet to be bettered in my air travelling experience.

There is however a downside. I find my self in Frankfurt Airport all bright eyed and bushy tailed at 0550 in the morning and everything is in German. Even the cornflakes are in German. I have no idea how I can fill the next four hours before I can find another wonderful motorised seat to take me to George Dubbya Land. A shower and shave? Fifteen minutes. Twiddle thumbs? Two. Buy a new book as the current one will get me to about Portugal and no further? They’re all German, remember, and I doubt they’ll sell any of Jeremy Clarkson’s offerings here after what he wrote about in car GPS navigation systems in Kraut cars and their propensity only to take you to Poland. Perhaps I could learn German in four hours. Thumb twiddling is still topping the list.

What of Singapore then after I gave it a full week? Capt. A asked earlier in the week if I was missing the Land of the Long White Fuel Tax Hike. And I am. I see David Bain is out of clink and I don’t care. I saw a picture of Sue Bradford being hugged by someone (it didn’t look like Beelzebub) in Parliament after her odious legislation got passed. And then I read of forum members at the Boat Show. New Zealand is OK. Having taken a few days to get into Singapore and all its affluence I now know why I left and equally know it was the right thing to do. Singapore is not quite right. It has values that are very good for an existence but not really very good for a life. The flashy superficial is done supremely well but the core business of leading a worthwhile life are not well done. I harp on about New Zealand’s paucity of values in family and public life but Singapore fares not much better. Family values are way in front of ours but their conduct of public life is a different form of wrong. It is pragmatic which I like, it has not much to do with fairness which also sits well with me but it cuts very odd corners when you least expect it.

I went to a work meeting yesterday morning in a corner of my old field. It was the same as it was when I left except they were using new flash kit we won’t see in NZ for years if ever. Underlying all this, however, they were making the same errors of judgement that had me tearing my hair out twelve years ago and led me to reach the conclusion that the only solution was to leave as I couldn’t change things. I was right. The juniors when I left are now the seniors and are teaching the same flawed attitudes to the new juniors who were still throwing their breakfast around the room when I was getting on my bike. At least they gave me a round of applause as I walked into the meeting – felt a bit embarrassed by that before the warm glow of pleasure set in. No, New Zealand for me and I’ll keep Singapore as a repository of fond memories, the best friends I have and a cheap external hard disks.

Hope George has the calendars sorted in Washington as arriving in a German plane I would not want them to think it was 1942 and send out a welcoming committee of F-16s. Then it’s the Smithsonian, gastroenterology and a Carolina Classic 28.

Off to twiddle me thumbs – think I’ll try counter clockwise for a few minutes.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Granny on Tour - Day 5

If I was under any illusion that the two major passions of your average Singaporean were food and shops I have been bought back to reality with a thump over the last forty-eight hours. Eat, shop, shop, eat, talk about money, eat and then go shopping. Then after lunch………

If we in New Zealand are worried about an obesity epidemic then we should import some of the water from here. How can an entire country eat so much and remain so cadaverically thin. I have seen ten people I would gauge as overweight in the last five days and I can’t think of anyone I would call morbidly obese. None of the population should emigrate to Wellington as they would all get blown into the Wairarapa at the first narrowing of the isobars. Your average Singapore female would weigh 40kg and the blokes 41kg. Yet they eat like horses. There are opportunities to fill you face at every turn and at all hours of the day or night. Most of the food is terrific stuff but they also consume mountains of KFC and MacDonald’s and still they refuse to put on weight. I wonder if they put tapeworms in the Char Kuay Teow or Giardia in the Mee Goreng. Are there great forced vomiting parties in the depths of the HDB estates? Is most of the food an optical illusion? Not only does your average Singaporean have an ideal BMI despite his/her gustatory habits they drape the best cut clothes imaginable on these frames. Lunchtime at a food centre in the CBD is like watching a fashion parade. All the office workers look like they’ve just walked off a catwalk in Milan and that’s just the blokes.

Which brings us on to where do they get all these top of the line vestments? Shops, that’s where. The shopping here has got worse (or better if you are my daughter) than I recall. I don’t understand it. There has to be an oversupply of anything anyone would want to buy of about 10,000% and an oversupply of things no one would want to buy of double that. Walk down Orchard Road and enter any of the marble fronted shopping centres and there would be a choice of say ten shops in a hundred metres where you could buy a Rolex at $10,000 a pop. I have yet to see anyone buy one. These shops are paying top rent and all employ seemingly innumerable staff who spend there entire day polishing the displays and selling nothing. There are three Levi’s Stores in the shopping centre opposite my billet alone. If you go to cheap and nasty stuff the situation is magnified. How many things costing 45 cents each do you have to sell to turn a profit even if you are not in a top dollar rental establishment? I fail to understand how these people make the money.

At DA’s insistence I went on a techno shop. I didn’t want to go but DA is a good mate and you don’t want to let your mates down. Same thing. There are two main places to get your techo stuff here, Funan Centre and Sim Lim Square. I’ve been to both. Each is a six storey shopping mall selling nothing but computers and attendant bits and pieces. Twelve stories of shops selling the same stuff. Because of the proximity of one business to another the prices are pretty much the same everywhere. Bargaining is still possible but it is not like I remember it. If you have the bargaining skills of a pot plant like me you are OK in the fixed price places and not going to get ripped off – I think. How do all these people make their dosh? I have seen nothing much I hadn’t already heard of (except 3.5G phones – not really sure what the extra 0.5 gets you and don’t care) but it is generally a bit cheaper than in Harvey Norman. Speaking of H-N they have outlets here – why? I have allowed myself a few indulgences in the external hard-disk department but have otherwise been very well behaved.

Another day in the fields of yesteryear observing the latest line of agricultural machinery in action and I’ll then soon be lining up the tin budgie for the next stage of the tour.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Granny on Tour - Day 3

I knew it wouldn’t take me long to get back into the swing of things and today I rediscovered the truth behind all this dosh that hits you in the face at every turn. I have re-found the secret of why everyone here (even the not filthy rich) are so well off. They work hard. Out of left field, I know. Not what the Union of the Unemployed would have you believe. Not quite regarding buying a Triple Dip every Saturday as you retirement plan. But I’m afraid that is the answer. Head down, bum up and into it.

Returned to my previous place of employment for the day and made the trip on the MRT, the Mass Rapid Transit - the underground. Something very odd here. One. Cellphone reception on the train, even in the tunnels is superb. How do they do that? Two. If you are between the ages of fourteen and twenty five you are not allowed on the MRT unless you have a pair of earbud headphones inserted in your lugholes. The boys here have to do two and a half years of National Service at age seventeen. The arrival of the call-up papers is a well-known black letter day in most houses. It would appear that three years before the arrival of this epistle the youth get another summonsing them to the Earbud Insertion Centre. Here you earbuds are surgically implanted and you are free to walk the streets without being looked upon as a pariah by your peers. iPods would appear to be a bit passé. You should really have one of those all singing and dancing cellphones that have a built in MP3 player (and GPS, and PDA, and coffee maker, and nose picker, and…..) to really cut the mustard. Or a portable gaming machine. You can also plug your earbuds into these (well you have to do something with them as you can’t take them out) and I’m not really sure about these as most have two screens. I’ll investigate further when I have, at DA’s insistence, my technology arvo. This may be today, we’ll see.

Anyway got to the fields of my previous toiling and I realised how bloody hard they work and recalled with something of a shudder how hard I used to work. All my contempories looked knackered and all the juniors, who were still at school in my time, were preparing to look knackered. I had a cup of coffee with a Kiwi who I had placed in a year’s job and he looked knackered. He’d been there for three months and was yet to have a complete day off. When I arrived last Friday night my mate who picked me up apologised for being a tad late as he had not quite finished work. My plane got in at 9.00pm. Now I remember. I used to do this and I had been there so long that I thought it was normal. It didn’t even piss me off until after about eleven years I thought ‘There has to be a better way’

There is of course and it is, like so many things, a sensible balance between too much of anything and not enough of everything else. There is little point in having all this filthy lucre when there is no opportunity to do anything with it except grow it into an even bigger pile of cash. There is no point having all the time in the world and not have the wherewithal to do the things you want. That’s the answer balance.

Off to buy a pair of scales – there’s sure to be sale on somewhere.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Granny on Tour - Day 2

‘It’s golf, Jim, but not as we know it.’

If there were easily accessible game fishing off Singapore’s coast (which there isn’t) you would not do it from a 6m tinny. No, game fishing would definitely be a sport for the nobs and not the man in the street. You would drive up to the marina in your 7 series Beemer, and then stride a board your 65 ft Rybovitch in your Guy Harvey sandals whilst innumerable flunkies readied the spread of 80ws. You would almost certainly be required to wear a pink Ralph Lauren Polo shirt as you briefed your skipper where you wanted to fish. This would be a joke as you wouldn’t have a clue and your fishing knowledge wouldn’t extend beyond knowing that the best fishing gear was the most expensive and you were bound to catch more if you had your name engraved on your reels. You would then spend the day in the air-conditioned cabin eating food you had your man pick up on your way to the marina. Here the notion of money is strangely reversed. The best food is stuff cooked by some bloke at the side of the road in a sawn off oil drum because he had been there for forty years and you can remember eating his mee goreng on your way to school. You would then troll all day, catch nothing and put on weight.

So it is with golf. I play in Aoteoroa after having put my golf shoes on in the car park, hoisting my bag over my shoulder and stepping on to the first tee. If I played golf here I would first have to buy a BMW. I would then have to think it would be a good idea to have a large meal before changing in the lobby of the Ritz (complete with the fluffiest fluffy towels I have ever seen) and then repairing to the caddy masters domain. The caddy master is a being I had no previous experience of. He is presumably paid $10 a fortnight to reign over his charges (all of whom could afford to buy his family home every half hour) with a fist of steel. You don’t do anything without this bloke giving you the nod. We were due to tee off at 1.44pm and were on a course where you had to play from a cart. I hate playing from a cart. Two blokes per cart so two carts for us. Numbers J22 and J23, 1.44 on a sticker on the windscreen with a spreadsheet also pinned up telling you what time you were expected to arrive at each tee and what time you were expected to finish the hole. I didn’t see the part about the rotan if you failed to keep to this schedule but I assume it was in the fine print – I never read the fine print. The course is immaculate, the surroundings are silly, the players attired like wot you see on the telly and the standard of golf is crap. So, in order not to stick out like a sore thumb, I played very poorly. I was a guest so it would be most impolite to beat the host would it not? I also played poorly because after about the fourth I was barely alive. If man was supposed to play anything in 30˚ and 98% humidity he would have invented sauna shuff ha’penny.

No, I infinitely prefer both gamefishing and golf with the New Zealand hollandaise sauce as opposed to the Singapore chilli sauce. I could no more move back here to live, as opposed to exist, than fly to the moon. Sorry, Boulder, the free boat not looking a starter at the moment.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Granny on Tour - Day 1

Well it ain’t no cooler. How the hell did I manage to put in an honest day’s toil in the fields in this climate? Air conditioned tractor cab, yes that was it.

Whilst waiting for my mate to pick me up at the airport one’s perennial initial impression of the place hasn’t changed. This country is awash in cash. It positively smells of affluence. Standing at the cab rank I reckon about 10% of the hansoms were Mercs. We are not talking cheapskate C180s here but wall to wall E series. They all have the big numbers too – an E280 as a cab? Good stuff. But whilst that is all very showy, beneath it for the main part things get a little shaky.

I’m staying in a friend’s apartment – he has a couple of hundred of them – and it is housed in an enormous (25 storeys I think) flash building clad in what looks like a ploughed field. On closer inspection it is some sort of brick compound but from a distance it looks very impressive, which is the whole idea of course. I am shown to my particular billet by a liveried gent and I am almost gob smacked by the opulence of my temporary surroundings. Marble this, parquet that, hot and cold running the other. Very nice. But on closer inspection it is not. I mean it is all very nice and I couldn’t be more grateful but the standard of workmanship of the finishing is dreadful. Room Four at Milford Primary could have done better on a craft afternoon having spent $50 in Bunnings. I could do a better tiling job standing on my head, eyes closed, one harm tied behind my back, drinking a beer, smoking a cigar and singing Rule Brittania. Although I’m sure that the finer points of tiling take years to perfect, I’m equally sure that tiling 101 isn’t too tricky. They even make tiles square so that lining them up is somewhat simplified. The bloke who did my bathroom (and kitchen and hallway) must have had Salvador Dali as his tiling tutor. I’ve just been for another look and I can’t find a 90˚ angle between two tiles in the whole place. I won’t even start on the plastering or the joinery. But here is the point, if you don’t look too hard it looks fantastic. For the most part Singapore remains like that – a place that has had so much fertilizer put on it that it has outgrown the basic amount of nutrients in the soil. But that is not really a problem because if you run out of soil you just go and get some of Indonesia, put it on a barge and make the country bigger.

I thought the building boom here couldn’t last at its then current pace when I left (twelve years ago) and I was right – it has sped up. Was taken out to lunch by the apartment bloke. As an aside eating is to the Singaporean what rugby is to the Kiwi. No ‘G’day, how the bloody hell are you?’ for these jokers It’s ‘Hello, have you eaten?’ and that can be at any time from 0700 to 0600 the next day. So lunch was not going to be a pie from the lunch bar. All very nice and lasted three hours. Got to talking about (amongst many other things) building. And the economy. Everything always comes back to that common bottom line – money. If you tell someone where you live they are not interested in the view, the proximity to the pub or anything other than its current value per square foot. And the numbers are getting scary. As I type I am looking at a couple of Singapore’s national birds, the tower crane, beavering away (its late on Saturday night) putting up an apartment block that will be marketed at $4,000 psf. A 200sq. m. pad is going to set you back $8 mil. My friend told me that he had just sold a floor of offices in one of his buildings at a current S’pore record (until next Thursday presumably) price. ‘That must be very pleasing’ I offered. ‘Yes, but it also makes me sad’. ‘Why so?’. ‘Because I sold some of the other floors for less’.

These people think differently. Way, way differently. I’m not saying better or worse, but it is certainly different. I had forgotten this. Next we have the en bloc sale and it’s creation of the homeless millionaires. I have been here less than a day and a new phrase has to enter my lexicon - the en bloc sale. I had heard it several times and eventually had sheepishly ask what it was. It goes like this. A developer wants a block of land. Small snag, there is a twenty storey apartment block on it. Mr Developer thinks it would look a whole lot better (and his bank balance certainly would) if there were a thirty five storey apartment block in its place. What to do? Buy the current building (just so you can get the land, the building is surplus to requirements). He offers everyone living in the block a telephone number for his flat. As long as 80% of the tenants agree it’s a done deal. What of the 20% who don’t want to sell? They have a right to an appeal that will be turned down and its then take the money and shut the f*** up. So we have a fair number of people (and I know two) who have a wheelbarrow full of money and nowhere to live. This short sighted approach to wealth (greed) fails to take into consideration that the housing market that these people have been thrust into is now a bit more expensive than the one they left a few years ago. I don’t understand how it works but then I am not in practice in the art of thinking Singaporean. There will be an answer and it will involve impressive looking buildings with interiors crafted by primary school kids.

Off to play golf tomorrow. That will be different.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Granny on Tour - En route to Singapore

I’m in great need of a break from this ‘gwate country’. Now don’t get me wrong I voluntarily and even with malice aforethought left Singapore in the mid nineties having lived on the equator for a dozen years. New Zealand seemed an obvious choice for this bloke and his family at the time and it was one of the best moves I have made for many a year. When you do such a fundamental thing as move countries you tend to do it for mainly superficial reasons. I should know because I have done it twice now.

I’ve been lucky because both moves have turned out just fine. You never get to know a country by spending only a short period of time there. How much do you get to know about Fiji, for instance, by spending five days sitting by the pool in Denerau and buying a few useless souvenirs at the airport that no one will want? I moved the Obald tribe to NZ because it looked like a good cruisey sort of a place with excellent fishing and a reputation as a good place to bring up kids. The latter reason had to be taken pretty much on face value because how would you know? How, as an outsider, could you know about what the PPTA had been up to for years? Nothing that can’t be fixed by throwing a shedful money at the problem in the form of private education.

I knew a reasonable whare could be purchased for not much dosh and so it has proved to be. I obviously knew that the top rate of income tax was 39% and had a sharp indrawing of breath – for about a month. The significance of this usurious rate kicking in at $60,000pa registered somewhere in my consciousness and was filed along with piles, bad haircuts and unfavourable footie results – a bloody nuisance but not much more. But how could I be prepared for the profligate spending habits of those who would nick over a third of the profits of my toil?

The previous decade living under the auspices of a right wing, pragmatic, benign police state had certainly not prepared me for the brand of politics I was in for. Singapore doesn’t have politics. The country is run by technocrats as a large (not large enough for their liking) and, in general, very successful business. Their ‘Members of Parliament’ are really no such things. They are selected individuals hand picked to perform a particular company function. They are then ‘voted‘ on by the great unwashed, get an 80% slice of the poll and off they go to work. The selection process is simple. You want a Minister of Finance. Right oh, we’ll have a look in the Department of Economics in the University and wave $50,000 a month under the nose of the brightest and best. ‘All this can be yours as long as you work bloody hard, don’t rock the boat and perform. If you stuff up on any count you’ll find lawn-mowing rounds in Singapore don’t pay much as there ain’t no lawns. If you stuff up on more than one count you’ll find out that there is another establishment at Changi other than the Airport’. All this may not be very fair or just, but I can assure you it works and the place runs like a Swiss watch. I had been there for so long that I had thought the whole world was run along these very sensible lines.
Underpinning all this is the cultural belief of the population that the good of society takes precedence over that of the individual. Being a baby boomer from South London this took me a long time to get my head around. But get my head around it I did and it is taking an awful long time for me to try and get rid of the notion.

I was thus ill prepared to immigrate to New Zealand. I knew I couldn’t live my whole life in Whangaroa (although I now know this is entirely possible) but I had so many shocks in store for me. I had never heard of ‘political correctness’. I was used to a government that did things for the good of society. I was used to paying taxes that were employed sensibly on things like defence, nice big civil engineering projects and the secret police. What was such an innocent to make of a Union for the Unemployed? Why is the Government made up of failed school teachers? Why does the Minister of finance have a history degree? Why don’t we have a defence force? What the hell is a DPB?

Slowly I have come to get used to most of these aberrations. I don’t like almost all of them but I have come to put up with them. But over the time I have also come to realise that the daft way the country is run is not sustainable. I cannot see how having a third of a country’s population receiving a benefit of one form or other long term is sustainable. 65% of a population cannot support the other 35% in an economy of the size of New Zealand’s – the sums just don’t add up. The ever-increasing lurch to the left the current administration is taking us on has to end in tears. As Monty Python said many years ago ‘You can have you Marxist ways, but it’s only just a phase’. Centrally controlled economies propped up by a burgeoning bureaucracy don’t work. History tells us that and perhaps Cullen could eventually put his degree to some use and just stop it. He won’t of course.

What is the attraction of the left? I have never seen it even when I was a spotty youth? My younger daughter joined Amnesty International when she was in the fifth form. I smiled a paternal smile and passed it off as something you do when you are sixteen. She got to the sixth form, let her membership lapse, joined nothing at all and world order was returned to Obald Towers. The headmistress was apparently a student left leader when she was at University. OK for a year or so whilst you are waiting to get a decent haircut and a real job. But to go on and become Prime Minister? Why? What is wrong with buying a farm, designing cathedrals, going longlining, inventing Velcro or something and making loads of loverly money. What is wrong with leading your own life and keeping your bloody beak out of mine? Why do you have to waste my taxes on things I don’t want? Why do you have to, in nine short years, dismantle a system of running a country that has served us well for decades? (Topically, getting rid of the Privy Council is top of my list as I type.) Why, in order to live in the best country I have run across in my life to date, do I have to put up with such an incompetent administration made up of life’s failures? Why have we allowed a system to come into being that has the country run by such spectacularly useless people? Why have we allowed a system to evolve that invented the List MP? You not only bounce back into parliament having been rejected by the great unwashed, you bounce right into all the top jobs. Margaret Wilson wasn’t wanted as anyone’s MP so we’ll make her Speaker of the House. What’s that about?

So as I sit in great comfort somewhere over New South Wales on my way back to spend a week where I used to live I am ready for a big dose of pragmatism. I wonder if the things that used to get up my nose in the latter stages of my life there will still do so. I wonder what will have changed. I suspect very little – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I wonder whether a week will be long enough to get back into Singapore thinking mode. I have only spent a couple of days at a stretch in the place since leaving and never got even close to thinking Singlish. I wonder whether this time next week I will be hankering after Keith Locke, Sue Bradford and Mallard. If I do, I don’t think I’ll come back. Would someone please buy my wife an air ticket to join me (I’ll send you the money in South Sea Pesos) and Boulder can have my boat.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Granny on Tour - at Auckland Airport

The following few posts are a diary of a trip I took in May 2007 to Washington, DC for a conference. I needed to stop in Singapore for a week to break the journey.

Well we might as well get started.
There just happens to be a copy of yesterday's Straits Times in the Airline Lounge and it was like slipping on a comfy pair of old slippers. Things are very, very different. The old ads for weekend specials at Yaohan are the same as they were twenty years ago. There is no rugby news but half page badminton reports. The obituary columns are still fascinating with all their formal pictures taken of the dear departed about fifty years ago.
The tenor of the news has not changed either. Whilst the Herald is spending time reporting the latest Mongrel Mob (or Filthy Few, Headhunters, Black Power.....) outrage complete with name supression for everyone from the alleged perpetrators through to the paper boy, the Straits Times is telling us what countries who are serious about law and order do about things.
There is on the front page a picture of a bloke who is apparently a famous TV presenter. Name and inside leg measurement there for all to see. He is accused of drunk driving at a level of 53mcg/100ml breath alcohol. He is 'lucky' to have been released on $10,000 bail. Then there are the twelve anglers who hired a boat from a Punggol (north coast of S'pore) marina for an evening of piscatorial pursuit. They cut the engine for a spot of drift fishing and strayed into Malaysia's territorial waters. These are the standard 12nm from the coast and Singapore is about half a mile from Malaysia as the crow flies and so this transgression at the whim of the wind and tide is not hard to achieve. Anyway instead of going home to Toa Payoh with a sweetlips for tea these poor buggers are sitting in Kota Tinggi court house. There is of course a picture of all twelve and they don't look that chuffed with life. They are looking at $10,000 (don't they have any smaller denomination in S E Asian legal circles) fine and a few months in choky. Think on that next time you are drifting off Anchorite.
The financial section of the paper is almost twice as thick as the news section which gives you some idea as to where the priorities of this business - I mean country - lie. I left Singapore twelve years ago having lived there for over a decade and you can not imagine how much I am looking forward to spending a week there amongst good friends and immersed in a society for which I have an enormous amount of time. Maybe not everbody's cup of tea but I love it.
Now if we could just organise a work experience month for the S'pore government in, say, Wellington............

Au revoir

Off on my travels for a couple of weeks this afternoon and will be swapping the New Zealand Herald for the Straits Times (Singapore) and the Washington Post (Washington obviously). I'm well used to the former as it was my daily fare for many years a decade or so ago. It is a paper that is as bad as the Herald but for differing reasons. I got to the stage where I doubted the veracity of the football results on occasion. I am less familiar with the Washington Post. I shall try and be objective with it and not be swayed by its reputation. If I have the time (likely), inclination (less likely) and/or anything tickles my fancy (more likely) I might report back.
But I depart for foreign shores with a hiss and a roar. As I arrived in New Zealand David Blain was about a month into his sixteen year sentence so I was not around during all the juicy bits. But even that far after the original trial there was enough news detritus for me to be well aware that this was far from straightforward. The only time I have ever seen Joe Karam was at Twickenham when he was standing just beside Grant Batty (free ticket given to me by JPR Williams (who was a classmate at university) for a bit of name dropping) but he seems to have done well. One must be careful not to jump to the conclusion that the Priviy Council decision is correct and all the preceeding ones are wrong but it certainly looks that way. I have long thought that a country as small as New Zealand was treading very dangerous territory having its own Supreme Court and last night's decision form London may well be an example of what can happen.
Must dash - the Koru Lounge awaits.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Inorganic rubbish & Arthur Daly

There is much global warming this morning and most of it has already been done to death - no real news here until the great con is finally exposed. But there are a few interesting riders. The UK's C4 documentary 'The Great Global Warming Swindle' has disappointingly been caught telling porkies. They don't need to do this as their arguments are strong enough without gilding the lily. The adverse publicity this highly meritorious film is now getting we could have done without. However those who bark at the moon are I suspect clutching at straws. To prove they (the barkers) are totally nuts there are two other little climate change insanities in the Herald today. In Sideswipe (which may give some idea as to the level of seriousness this intelligence merits) some bloke suggest that having more than two children is environmentally untenable as the third child will produce more CO2 than all the aeroplane trips you could squeeze into a lifetime or some such crap. And speaking of airlines there is a complete wally who founded a backpackers travel guide (and has thus made his pile out of travel) saying that he has now seen the light and there is no such thing as an 'ethical holiday'. This is because flying to Benidorm (this pratt is a Brit) or even worse flying to go for a trek in Nepal (using one of his guides so you don't get lost) is such a threat to life as we know it that all holidays should cease forthwith. Why do we waste food on people like this?
Inorganic rubbish seems to be having its moment in the sun (pun intended). I can think of many things local councils should be spending their time on but this quaint Kiwi tradition is not one of them. Totally harmless. Makes the suburbs look a bit scruff for a week or so but who cares? If the council takes away last season's Bar B Q or it is removed by a rag and bone man from out of suburb is of no importance to me as long it is gone. The R & B merchants are, in my experience, a class act. Last year I wanted to be rid of aforementioned ten year old Bar B Q and a couple of rusting speaker stands. I took the speaker stands out, went round the back of the house for the Bar B Q so I could add it to my neatly arranged kerbside offering to find that the speaker stands had already gone. They were presumably in the back of the bongo van which was disappearing up the road in a cloud of dust. If the North Shore Council can approach that sort of efficiency in anything they do with my rates money I might look a little less malveolently on my next rates rise.
The Herald quite correctly points out that Mark Burton is Parliament's champion of bureaucrat-speak. His performances in both the house and on the Larry WIlliams radio show yesterday over the Government's pussy footing around over the Gangs were a wonder to behold. He makes Sir Humphrey Appleby look positively lucid when talking about anything. Everything is being given 'careful consideration', all problems are 'thoroughly discussed with all stakeholders' and so it goes on. The best yesterday was when asked what the government was doing about shutting down the gangs (real answer - nothing) Burton tells us that this administration has strengthened (whatever that means) the Second Hand Goods and Pawnbrokers Act. Give me a break. That's like trying to shut down the Kray Twins by keeping an eye on Arthur Daly.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Icebergs ahead

And what do we get after all that? We end up pretty much where we started, that’s what. The extraordinary events of yesterday down in Wellygogs with all the pollies holding hands and singing Cumbaya highlight several things.

One. Sue Bradford is totally devoid of anything resembling a brain. She has been tied in intellectual knots over the past couple of months by every one and everything that has had the misfortune to come across her. I reckon even the cleaning ladies at the Beehive have scored a few points off her. There have been so many contradictions in her stance over the whole affair that I’m not sure even she knows what she said five minutes ago let alone a couple of months back. She hasn’t got an original idea in what she tries to pass of as a head and is the most reactive person imaginable. I doubt she’d even make a very good doorstop – although the right shape she couldn’t keep still long enough.

Two. The Headmistress isn’t a bad politician. I hate every idea she has ever had but she is very good at what she does. Her playing of John Key was masterful. She has got herself out of the poo using one of his ideas and managed to a) make it seem like her own b) not demean Key and let him have a bit of kudos and c) cleared the decks for Budget time d) made sure that the smacking nonsense cannot be resurrected when it matters, next September. Even though I loathe her I have to acknowledge a master at work.

Three. John Key is not totally inept. He handled his side of the joint press conference (and how weird was that) very competently and gave a passably statesman like performance. Quite Prime Minister in waiting. No crowing, no ‘it was all my idea’. A- and shows promise.

That having been said what a total indictment of the whole political system. As I suggested above, we have ended up almost exactly where we started. The crux of the matter is that prosecution of smackers is now going to be left with police discretion and that is pretty much (bar a few legal niceties) where we are now. And how much time and money has been wasted to achieve this shining example of democracy at work? Months and squillions of dollars. East Ham. The law we are about to have is apparently much more complex than that which it replaces and all to achieve almost exactly the same thing. The full Barking.

Is this trivial nonsense what we have a Parliament for? I think not. Whilst this was going on Fisher and Paykel decided to stop making washing machines out of flax and scrimshaw and get them made in the real economic world in Thailand. They buggered off because the government has allowed a financial climate to exist that means they can’t afford to stay here. Whilst the ninth floor of the Beehive was pandering to the failed doorstop’s insanities they should really have been asking F & P what they (the government) could do to stop them axing 350 jobs and putting tom yum on the smoko menu. Oh no, not the real work of a proper government for this bunch of pratts. Farting around with social engineering is what they are about. It is totally intolerable and has to stop. We are all to blame. We should have insisted months ago that they stop rearranging the deckchairs and get the ship out of the bits of the ocean prone to ice. We are still steaming full speed ahead to the latitudes with the big numbers and I hope we don’t get to test the watertight bulkheads before we have the chance to get rid of this mob next September.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The most stupid man in the world

The only person you can really take stock of in this life is yourself. What other people think is no concern of yours and unless their behaviour impacts negatively on your life in a big way their actions are none of your business. However, that notwithstanding, I often find myself wondering how peopole get through their lives thinking as they do. I would hate to be all sorts of people, and that is not just the obvious candidates - Hitler A., Locke K., Minogue K., - but I also come across the most unlikely people who make think that I would prefer to be in my box than go around thinking the way they do.
An extensive preamble to introduce the total basket case who is arguing against the extension of daylight saving on the opinion page this morning. This blokoe holds a position of some seniority in an educational establishment which in itself is a worry. He wastes a quarter page talking total bollocks about how the extension of daylight saving is going to accelerate global warming. This will be on the back of people driving to work in colder conditions and therefore engines will be running less efficiently and hence push more evil carbon into the atmosphere. And this is just for starters. He then gets the anorak on and starts comparing sunrise times from April as it is now and April as it will be. We have a paragraph or two on the detrimental effect the change will have on kids learning because they will have to go to school in the dark and this will be in a car and not by walking. It is for the most part unintelligible and for the whole part totally bonkers.
This bloke is a sandwich short of a picnic, a stubbie short of a six pack, the lift don't go to the top floor, he's knitting with only one needle. The really sad thing is that he earnestly believes it all. How can anyone go through life so worried about everything? Who gives a rat's arse about the whole thing anyway? You can't stop the sun doing what it will and if someone wants to adjust the country's clocks around the inevitable, who cares? A few extra Bar B Q opportunities and an extra couple of weeks to go gamefishing a bit later is the way I look at it.
Poor sod. I bet he's worrying about the sodium content of his yoghourt as I type.